You’ve taken the first step and joined the local gym. Your plan is to workout three days/week prior to going to work. Good for you! It’s 6am on January 7th and you walk into the gym for your first workout, the mild anxiety you felt on the drive to the gym turns into full blown panic upon your first glance at the gym floor. Thoughts of doubt start racing through your head, it’s packed, and everyone seems to be in such great shape, I have no clue what I’m doing here, I don’t want to look like a fool, maybe I’ll just watch what other people do from the treadmill today, you think to yourself. Although I find this acceptable on day 1, as you’re trying to adjust and feel more comfortable with your surroundings, this isn’t a good long-term plan.
Before I dive into a better plan to start you on your new fitness journey, I’d like to address a few common fears. First, everyone at a gym shares a common goal - they want to improve their life through fitness. Second, nobody is looking at you! They’re too into their own workouts to pay attention to much else. Third, most gym-goers are very nice people who are more than willing to share their knowledge with you, want to see you succeed, and will gladly let you work-in on a piece of equipment they’re using (don’t let one a**hole every gym seems to have ruin your experience). Fourth, most everyone in there doesn’t really know what they’re doing (although some seem to think they do). With fitness, the more you learn, the less you seem to know. There’s just so much information out there that once you start to dive into it a bit you realize it’s just the tip of a giant iceberg.
When designing workouts, it’s best to use the K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle, especially when you’re first getting started. The goal is to build a fitness base, learn proper technique, and stimulate your metabolism, not to destroy yourself. For this I would choose an old school program that looks something like this.
Exercise Tempo Sets & Reps Rest
A1) Leg Press 3010 3x12-15 75 seconds
B1) Lat Pulldown - Pronated Grip 3010 3x12-15 75 seconds
C1) Lying Leg Curl - Dorsiflexed 3010 3x10-12 75 seconds
D1) DB 45° Incline Press 3010 3x12-15 75 seconds
E1) 45° Back Extension 3010 3x12-15 75 seconds
F1) Seated Cable Row - Neutral Grip 3010 3x12-15 75 seconds
The beauty of this workout is in its simplicity. By focusing on one exercise at a time, it allows you to familiarize yourself with it and focus on correct form and technique. It’s also great because you don’t have to jump all over the gym from machine to machine while you’re still trying to familiarize yourself with your surroundings. This workout won’t “crush” you, but it doesn’t have to for you to reap the benefits (you’re trying to stimulate, not annihilate). You could start out performing this two days/week and increase to three if you’d like, although I’d recommend writing another workout modeled after the one above that you can alternate with. Here’s an example of what you may progress to in month two.
Exercise Tempo Sets & Reps Rest
A1) Leg Press - Petersen 4010 4x8-10 60 seconds
A2) Lat Pulldown - Supinated Grip 4010 4x8-10 60 seconds
B1) Lying Leg Curl - Plantarflexed 4010 4x6-8 60 seconds
B2) DB Flat Chest Press 4010 4x8-10 60 seconds
C1) DB Romanian Deadlift 3010 3x8-10 60 seconds
C2) Seated Row to Neck - Rope 3012 3x8-10 60 seconds
In month two we step things up a bit by alternating between an upper body exercise and a lower body exercise. We also change the lifting tempo, sets, reps, rest periods, and slightly progress each exercise. This will certainly be more strenuous than the previous month, but you’ll be ready for it. You should finish these workouts feeling like you could do a bit more and definitely feeling better than when you first walked in the gym. In a month two I would recommend at least three days of weight training each week and would create a second workout modeled after the one above to alternate with.
If you or someone you know wants to start a new fitness program but isn’t sure what to do, give this program a try. It’s simple, but effective, and all of the exercises should be easily found on YouTube if they’re unfamiliar. Enjoy the workout!