As a beginner, it’s not unusual to feel a little lost when trying to figure out the best workout routine for you to follow. After all, there are literally thousands out there to choose from. Keeping your workout plan as simple as possible is important when first starting out. An easy to follow plan that will help tighten and tone your body involves alternating cardio and resistance training days. This is a flexible workout regimen with very few rules to memorize.
Aerobic exercise, or cardio, is important not only to help you burn calories and lose weight but also to help boost your cardiovascular health. Do three cardio workouts per week starting at 30 minutes per session. Move at a moderate pace to get your breathing and heart rate elevated to about double its resting rate. You can choose from a variety of exercises and feel free to mix it up. Examples include brisk walking, swimming, light jogging, cycling, kayaking, skating or aerobics.
Aim for two resistance training sessions per week on the days you’re not doing cardio. As a beginner, it’s important to use light weights until you perfect the proper technique of each exercise. On your first resistance training day, focus on the upper body muscles, including the chest, arms, upper back, abs and shoulders. Some good upper body exercises include the bench press, the shoulder press, seated cable rows, bicep curls, tricep extensions and exercise ball crunches. Your second day of resistance training for the week will focus on the lower body, including your legs, glutes and lower back. Some effective lower body exercises include deadlifts, squats, the leg press, calf raises, leg extensions and reverse leg curls. To start, choose three or four of these exercises per workout session. Do three sets of each at 10 to 12 repetitions per set.
Don’t Neglect Rest
Rest is a critical part of exercise, particularly resistance training exercise. Muscles need time to recover, heal and grow. When first starting out, you should never do resistance training workouts two days in a row – leave at least a day in between workouts. Get seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and don’t be afraid to take a day off from exercising if your muscles are too sore to workout. Just don’t make a habit of it!
Progressing up the Fitness Ladder
A beginner will start seeing results rather quickly compared to someone with years of gym experience who has already reached the pinnacle of fitness. Within a few weeks, you’ll notice your pants fitting a bit better, and not soon after that, your abs may start to peek out from behind some flab. Use these small successes as motivation to keep you going. Remember to progressively increase the duration of your workout sessions a few minutes per week up to 60 minutes once you get settled into your exercise routine. Also, increase the weight slightly each week on resistance days. It’s the best way to keep progressing toward your fitness goals.
Joseph Eitel has written for a variety of respected online publications since 2006 including the Developer Shed Network and Huddle.net. He has dedicated his life to researching and writing about diet, nutrition and exercise. Eitel's health blog, PromoteHealth.info, has become an authority in the healthy-living niche. He graduated with honors from Kellogg Community College in 2010 with an Associate of Applied Science.