Exercise for Beginners – Setting Up a Complete Program

A well-rounded program includes cardio, weight training and flexibility. Knowing how to put these together in a week of workouts can be confusing. Should you do cardio and strength training on the same day? Which one should you do first? This will depend on your goals, schedule and fitness level, which means there are endless ways to set up your workout program. Below are some basic guidelines for getting started with a complete exercise program.

For Beginners: You should start slowly with a basic cardio program and a full body resistance training routine. You’ll want to have recovery days to allow your body to rest and your muscles to heal from your new routine. A typical beginner program will include about 3 days of cardio and 2 days of strength training. Below is a sample schedule just to give you an idea of a typical week of workouts:

Sample Routine for Beginning Exercisers

MONDAY: Cardio 20-30 minutes

TUESDAY: Total Body Strength and core training

WEDNESDAY: Cardio 20-30 minutes

THURSDAY: Stretch and Rest

FRIDAY: Total Body Strength and core training SATURDAY: Cardio 20-30 minutes

Weight Training: How Many Reps (and Sets) to Do

You can’t design a strength or weight-training program without knowing two terms: rep aand set.

Reps refers to repetitions and the number you will complete of each exercise

Sets refers to how many times you complete the desired number of repetitions of each exercise.

For example, you can say, “I did two sets of ten reps on the chest press.” This means that you did ten consecutive chest presses, rested, and then did another ten chest presses.

How many reps should I do?

The number of reps you should do depends on where you are in your training (new, experienced, coming back from a long layoff) and your goals. To become as strong and as big as your body type will allow, do fewer than 8 or 10 reps per set. To tone your muscles and develop the type of strength you need for everyday life — moving furniture or shoveling snow — aim for 10 to 12 repetitions. Doing dozens of reps with ultralight weights (weights you can barely even feel) doesn’t bring good results of any kind, because you’re not stressing your muscles enough.

No matter how many repetitions you do, always use a heavy enough weight so that the last rep is a struggle, but not such a struggle that you compromise good form.

If you have a few different goals in mind, you can mix and match the number of reps you do per workout. If you want to get bigger and stronger and also improve the endurance of those muscles, you can do a heavy workout one day and a lighter workout the next time out. Keep track of how you feel as your body may respond better to one type of training than another.

Be sure to adjust the amount of weight you use for each exercise. In general, use more weight to work larger muscles like your thighs, chest, and upper back, and use less weight to exercise your shoulders, arms, and abdominals. But even when doing different exercises for the same muscle group, you’re likely to need a variety of weights. For example, you typically can handle more weight on the flat chest-press machine than you can on the incline chest-press machine.

Write down how much weight you lift for each exercise so that next time around, you don’t have to waste time experimenting all over again. But don’t lock yourself into lifting a certain amount of weight every time. Everyone feels stronger on some days than on others. Eventually that weight will appear slighlty easier and you will be able to manage all the desired reps, make a note of this, then the next time you come to that exercise increase the weight.

By Phil Downing

Personal Trainer in Liverpool at Liverpool Personal Training Studios