Exercise 101

Exercise 101: Fitness for Beginners

By Ted Bodenrader

You all remember your very first day of school.

Your lips quivered with cold anxiety. Knots were bundled up in the thick of your throat. Your eyes were wide with blind fear.

Your mother had her hands full, all right, dragging you by the arm to the bus stop that morning. There may have even been a little kicking, screaming, and crying involved in this frightening excursion.

A decade and a half later, hopefully, after thousands of days just like that first one, you were unleashed from high school, a wiser, sharper, more mature individual. Hopefully, you departed school with a wealth of knowledge between your ears, a wisdom that you've contributed to the society among us.

Now, you courageously prepare to take on your next mysterious endeavor. It bears an eerie resemblance to that chilling morning so many years ago, when you were just a diminutive schoolyard rookie. It's a day that you've been continually putting off and putting off and it has nothing to do with tax sheets or W-2 forms. No, this day is far more dreadful.

It's your first day at the gym.

The terror that comes with wandering into a foreign element, especially one as intimidating as a beef-infested health club, it can easily stray one far from the premises. In this institution, it is often far more tempting to drop out than to graduate.

However, that very first day at a gym is crucial to the success of your fitness life. In other words, it can either make you or break you.

So, instead of wandering into the gym a nave and misguided freshman, here's a three-step tutorial that will direct you through a rewarding fitness education, one that you'll hopefully graduate from with honors.


Before you lay your very first fingerprint on an iron weight, wipe your mind clean of all the typecasting and preconceived notions you've amassed regarding weightlifters and bodybuilders. This is not a Rambo movie nor is it WCW Tuesday Night Nitro. In other words, it is not an exercise in machismo and manliness. Rather, you are merely trying to develop a stronger, healthier body by fortifying your muscle tissue.

After warming up with a light stretch of your muscles, perhaps partaking in a five-minute warm-up on either a treadmill or a bicycle, it will be time to drown out your fear with a positive, courageous attitude. The most important concept to be taught on this day - and on any other, for that matter - is that your form is top priority. Close out all the surrounding gorillas, pushing their two tons of plates toward the ceiling. You must establish proper range of motion in all exercises before taking on weighty challenges. Start off with light, manageable resistance in your quest to perfect your form.

The best way to accomplish this is through the use of the modernized machines, since these devices are designed to perform the range of motion for you. Perform slow, strict repetitions, concentrating on your form and your specific muscles.

Take between 1-2 minutes rest period between sets, being particularly conscience of safety. If you feel any peculiar muscle strain or joint discomfort, stop immediately!

Otherwise, break your training regimen into three divisions, each one compiled of two muscle groups. Here's one such suggestion:

DAY 1: Chest and triceps.

Your chest workout can consist of three or four exercises, two or three sets per exercise. Bench presses followed up by incline presses will target the entire pectoral region. Most gyms offer the machine version of these exercises but in the event yours does not, barbell presses at a light, manageable weight will work here. And don't forget a spotter!

After presses, jump on the pec deck machine and perform two to three sets of flyes, before finishing your chest workout with a couple more sets of cable crossovers. This workout will give you a balanced assault of both building and isolating maneuvers.

Since the triceps is a much smaller muscle, you will be performing only two exercises, two or three sets apiece. Begin your triceps workout with machine dips, stimulating the muscles, before grinding out three sets of pressdowns on either the machine or cable apparatus.

In all of the aforementioned exercises, try to perform between 10-12 repetitions per set at a weight that will allow you to reach failure on the final rep. This means you will likely be dropping the weight continually throughout the workout.

DAY 2: Shoulders and back.

Hitting the shoulders first, begin the workout with two or three sets on the shoulder press machine before moving along to the machine version of lateral raises, where you'll add another two or three sets. For the frontal region, perform two or three sets of front raises on either the cable machine or with light dumbbells. You'll also need to work the traps, and for this stingy muscle, a couple sets of upright rows will do the trick.

Your back workout will begin with wide-grip pull-ups. Yes, the same ones you used to do in gym class. You probably called them chin-ups back then, but these will probably require a spotter, since tapping your chest on the overhead bar is far more vigorous. After the pull-ups, perform two or three sets of behind-the-neck pulldowns at a light resistance, before concluding the lat workout with three sets of seated rows, preferably of the machine variety.

DAY 3: Legs and biceps.

Legs are as physically taxing as anything you'll encounter in the gym (deadlifts aside) so it is wise to begin the workout rifling your stems.

After adequate stretching, begin with three to four sets of leg presses on the machine, before taking on two to three sets of hamstring curls and another two to three sets of leg extensions. Perform slow, tedious repetitions to insure that you're stimulating the targeted muscle. At the conclusion of your extensions, perform three to four sets of calf raises on the calf machine.

You'll feel weak in the knees - literally - by the time you whirl around to working your biceps. Six total sets is about all you should target for biceps, 10-14 repetitions per set. Begin with standard curls, preferably with a curl bar, and perform strict sets at a weight that will not sacrifice proper form. After this, try a few sets of concentration cable curls, alternating sides, for the same number of reps.


Every three days. Three letters: ABS.

These are vitally important. Abdominal muscles are often abandoned in the weight room, yet, a washboard stomach can often differentiate between the perception of 'fit' and 'fat'. And when we're talking abdominal training, there's one basic word to speak of: Crunches.

Pull up a mat and begin with a few sets of 15-30 basic, standard crunches. Contrary to popular belief, abs should not be trained everyday. Like any other muscle, it requires a recovery period, albeit a shorter recovery period.

And do your crunches slowly and effectively. Remember: haste does not necessarily make a thin waist.


You can do it in the morning. You can do it in the evening. You can do it in your home. You can do it in the park. You can do it at the gym. You can do it for a while. Or you can do it all night long.

But just make sure you listen to the Nike folks as you slip into their athletic shoes. In other words: Just do it.

You can train your arms, legs, shoulders, chest, back, and abs until you're ready for a rest home, but there's one such muscle that should be prioritized over all the aforementioned. Your heart.

Reserve at least three days per week for cardiovascular training, with a bare minimum of 20 minutes per session. Many trainers prefer doing their "cardio" at the conclusion of weight training. Others prefer it first thing in the morning.

Nonetheless, it is imperative to exercise your ticker on a regular basis, whether through jogging, walking, swimming, cycling, aerobics or whatever your heart desires (no pun intended). The choices here are endless.

However, what you should be selective about is your approach to such a new endeavor. In other words, you are not in boot camp and you should thrust forward with a gung ho approach at first. Ease into your cardio schedule by taking on measures at a moderate pace, eventually working up to a 60 percent heart rate.

Overtraining with cardio will sap both your energy and your motivation and will ultimately prove detrimental to your fitness goals. So, while it's

imperative that you do it, be sure not to over-do it.


A professional football player may be on the official time clock from September through January, but in essence, his workload doesn't exactly end when he exits that arena after the final game of the season. On the contrary, his work schedule consists of a 12-month regimen.

Your fitness training should be no different.

When the pulling, curling, stepping, rowing, and kicking has all subsided for the day, and the droplets are falling from your hair from your post-workout shower, you must remember that the game is far from over. Rather, it is just heating up.

There are so many more integral elements involved with maintaining a sound, fit existence aside from what you do in the gym or at the neighborhood athletic track. Being healthy is a 24-hour commitment, it is a way of life, not just a passing fad or hobby. So, be sure to:

Indulge in moderation. The ice cream, the burgers, the pizza, the beer, it can all be enjoyed from time to time. But make these tempting indulgences a rarity, not a regularity. Healthy eating is perhaps the single most important element to maintaining a trim, fit physique. And if you've never been one to drink water and lots of it, now is the time to take on a new favorite beverage. Spring water can spring a slew of healthful results.

Fuel your body. You'll need to consume the proper amounts of carbohydrates (35 percent of your caloric intake) and protein (another 35 percent) to maintain a healthy balance and adequate energy levels.

Get your eight hours. By that, we mean a good, hearty night of sleep. In order to manage a full, hectic day of work, chores, and exercise in the day ahead, you'll need to do one last thing when today is complete: Give it a rest!

Of course, the best education one can attain is not in a classroom. It is through experience. Your fitness education is no different. Your knowledge will gradually increase through osmosis, through dedicating time, effort, and energy into improving your overall lifestyle, whether it is in the gym or in your own home.

Continuously challenge yourself with stiffer tests, and you'll be met with rewarding results. Eventually, you'll be cruising along with passing grades.

As for now . . .

Class is dismissed!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Article provided courtesy of RaiseYourPulse.com, encouraging you to get out and raise your pulse by participating in regular physical activity!