Let me first say that being a Personal Trainer encompasses far more than I can cover in just this post. Still, the message I want to convey is that to develop the knowledge necessary to take control of your health and fitness is very achievable. It may take some time to find your groove but, once you do, it will be absolutely liberating.
When you are able to design a workout on your own, you become the master of your fate..and in this case, master of your shape.
As a former Certified Personal trainer and sports coach, I’ve had many clients and friends tell me their previous experiences didn’t feel right. In more words, they knew and felt something about the training was off but they couldn’t tell what it was. For those who love getting trained by someone, that is a great thing! However, it benefits you to have an idea of the basic philosophies of training so as to not be reliant OR deceived.
The following overview is meant to help the average individual with little to no experience gain more confidence and control over their health and fitness
The 4 basic pillars:
The exercise l Volume l Intensity l Rest → The Program
What to do?
Think macro before micro. This means to start with the entire body before isolating individual segments of the body. Why? Because your body exists as a unit. Your overall health will improve in direct proportion to your overall body fitness. We want to improve heart and vascular function (macro) and then construct the aesthetics we desire.
Envision movements that require the whole body to be in-sync. It helps to utilize YouTube and other various instructional platforms. If you’ve been inactive for some time, avoid plyometric exercises (jumping) for the first 3-6 months to reduce the incidents of injury and allow your body to regain its equilibrium and rhythm of movement.
In the beginning, the more you can do-the better the results. Let me explain. Before a home-exercise program can really take-off, we have to prime the body. The scary part, we want a lot of repetitions. The nice part, no weight-to-light weight. This is about getting the heart, muscles and vascular systems to sync up.
Intro to sets & reps. A rep, or repetition, is the number of times you perform the exercise. A set is a grouping of reps. For instance, pushups: 2 sets of 15 reps (standard for the beginner). After completing 15 pushups, we take a break and do another round (set) of 15 repetitions.
A good rule of thumb. When introducing workouts at home, doing AT LEAST 2 sets of 15 reps will produce wonderful results in the long-run.
Once you’ve applied this volume to all of your exercises for a few weeks/months, then you can and should adjust the reps and sets to the desired results you have for each body segment.
Go hard or go home….Yeah...NO. When your home exercise routine starts with that ideology, you’ll soon quit (since you’re already home). Start with an intensity of mind and commitment to self-improvement. Strengthen your power of will and muscles of discipline FIRST.
Always increase volume before intensity. Why? Because the philosophy remains the same, prime the body before you push it. A few weeks or months (depending on your initial fitness level) down the road, you can add weights or increase the level of physical load via speed or plyometric design.
If the body isn’t primed it will collapse under intensity and lead to injury. A good way to slowly introduce intensity is with the use of resistance bands. Generally, different colors indicate varying resistance. This allows a safer matriculation in intensity.
Enter: the best and most proven way to produce results in fitness...INTERVAL TRAINING.
It doesn’t matter if the most physically demanding thing you do all day is cleaning the house or you just happen to be a professional athlete; interval training allows the body to develop mechanisms to give you great results.
In “Interval Training: Conditioning for Sports and General Fitness”, Fox and Mathews suggest, “Interval training...is superior to continuous exercise training programs. The relief interval avoids excessive production of fatigue products.” Fatigue products are often the reason many people give up on fitness. The pain and discomfort they feel initially serve as a deterrent to future exercise.
The proper use of rest intervals with your exercise program will greatly improve your success rate and the chances of you sticking with it in the long-run. Remember, the key is to have an initial philosophy and adjust as the mind strengthens and the body becomes more primed. For example: 4 sets of 30 second step ups: 1 minute rest. Before changing the volume or intensity (in this case speed), we can reduce the rest to 45 seconds after the two weeks. Once you can handle a 1:1 work/rest ratio, we can increase the rest back to 1 minute and change the volume, intensity or duration.
Why is rest important?
The body runs on many different systems to provide it with energy. Depending on the duration and intensity of the exercise, those systems require a certain amount of time to replenish itself for use again. Think of each system within the body as individual cars.
1 system runs on gas. 1 works on electricity. 1 works on water. And another on air.
Each produces a certain level of energy and work, but also has varying times to recharge before use again.
I would suggest beginning with a ratio of 1:3. Time how long it takes to do the exercise and multiply it 3 times (rounding up). So if your 15 band-resisted hip abductions take 30 seconds, rest for 1.5 minutes. Feel free to use that rest to stretch and re-hydrate.
As your fitness improves you may consider introducing the super-set. Simply, this means that during the rest interval for the initial exercise, you use that time to do an exercise using a different body segment. This is not suggested during the priming stage because the heart and circulatory system need to re-learn during that interval. Adding an additional exercise takes away from that priming process.
For me, having done this for years, I rarely write down my workouts because I’ve developed an understanding of the philosophy and a catalog of exercises specific to my desires. If you are starting out, I suggest creating 2 written workouts and alternating between them for 4 days out of the week. Two of the remaining 3 days should be used for stretching and 1 day for complete rest. As you progress, increase each of the 4 exercise days according to the suggestions above before increasing the number of days working out.
As you begin to improve both physically and your understanding of how the philosophy works continues to grow, then you can integrate different workout routines followed by varying volume, intensity, and rest.
Remember, the goal is to develop the entire body and mind first. Once that foundation is set, then you can begin sculpting the body of your dreams.