January is officially in our rearview mirror, and it’s time to reconcile the progress you’ve made in the new year. Did you do it? Did you join the gym and gain access to Zumba, a suite of yoga classes, a spinning room, and have accepted that you need to do some weight training? If so, you’ve probably found that the steps to start your fitness resolution are both wonderful and overwhelming at the same time. Also, with the current health issues in the world right now, being active in a group setting might be a little daunting. If you elect to join a gym (or have already), pay attention to their safety practices and ensure you’re also doing your due diligence.
When you sign up for a gym membership, there is no lack of choices. There’s the machine weights, cardio machines, dumbbells, not to mention the cables, and more.
The question that remains unanswered by any of these choices is, “Where do I begin?”
There are pros and cons to any option. Whether you meet face-to-face with a boot camp instructor, go to a class, or wander into the weight room alone, you want your exercise to meet three criteria:
Music, movement, and inspiration from others right there in the throws of busting a move with you can be seductive. Yet, big live group opportunities are a bit impersonal. The missing link in book camp is that an instructor can’t watch 20 people at once and correct an error in movement that could cause injury. This time of year, crowded classes mean, yes, you get to remain anonymous in the back, but yes, there’s less chance an instructor can pay attention to you when you need it.
What about on your own? If you’ve decided to attempt it on your own the downside is you won’t receive any feedback to warn you if your form could cause an injury. You also won’t have anyone to tell you that you’re not going to get the benefit you want. One common error you might make as a new exerciser is doing what a friend is doing or observing someone else in the gym and jumping on the same machine right after, confident that you’ll use it correctly.
If you’re in start-up mode, consider getting some one-on-one advice that takes into account your complete health history and current fitness status before you go it alone or in a group.
If you compare the way scientific studies that observe untrained subjects are set up against the menu of classes and boot camps in fitness centers, you’ll realize there is a big gap. There are few options that start for beginners and progress safely over 3-6 months. Many programs promise weight loss in four weeks or less, leading to a feverish rate of progression that attempts to promise on that delivery.
You don’t want to be one of the fatalities saying, “I was in the best shape of my life, right before I got hurt.” Make sure to follow the tips below to stay on the “active” list.
When you’ve assessed your current need for help or decided you’d prefer to go it alone, use the following exercise plan modified from a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. In addition to providing a step-by-step guide, the study found you’ll get the same results no matter which order you do cardio or strength training as long as you have adequate recovery.
Hint: Use the number of repetitions indicated to choose your weight. As the number of repetitions indicated decreases, the weight should increase. Your goal is to be temporarily fatigued at the indicated range. Perform twice a week with 48-72 hours in between sessions.
Repeat this series of progression for another twelve weeks. Include the following exercises in your circuit: leg press, chest press, standing or seated row, lat pull down, tricep pushdown, bicep curls, leg extension, hamstring curl, and core exercises. Include bodyweight or cable exercises and avoid machines for the core. Plank, rotation, back extension, and lateral flexion using side planks provide a good variety.
Perform cardiovascular exercise either before or after your weight training, following the guidelines on the plan below. Add at least one additional cardio exercise in the form of a long walk.
To get the most out of your cardiovascular training, start with the basics:
Repeat this cardio program from the beginning for a total of 24 weeks. In this example of periodization, you alternately increase intensity or duration and allow plenty of recovery time when the most adaptations occur.
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