Getting Started with Strength Training

Back when I started training with weights, some 20 years ago.. in a galaxy far, far away..
Star Wars anyone? Back when I started lifted weights there wasn't nearly as much information available as there is now.

We had magazines like Men's Health and Muscle and Fitness and we had the big guys at the gym who we learned from.

I took a little bit from the magazines, a little from the guys at the gym who looked much bigger and stronger than me, and I also had some advice from my dad who was a big, strong guy. He was more than gym-strong, as he worked in home improvement and had what is called 'farm boy strength'.

So I put together a 'program' and got to work. I ran and lifted weights. 3-4 days per week. I did the old bodybuilder split- back/biceps, chest/triceps. shoulders/legs. I tried to lift more every time I went to the gym.

This worked! For awhile, at least.  Like most new programs or when you are new to lifting just about anything will 'work'- have an affect.

What would I do differently?  If I could go back I would have focused more on the big lifts and less on the small stuff- the isolation movements- curls, flyes, leg extensions etc..

But hey, you live and learn. In a way, it was good to have no internet back then.

We learned as we went along. Injured? You find a way to train around it, adapt and learn what NOT to do. (usually involved poor form with too much weight)

So what's the perfect program for someone just starting out with strength training?

There's "Starting Strength" and other legitimate programs, of course.  Proven plans that will help you get stronger with the basics.

If I am coaching a new lifter I will have him/her start with plenty of bodyweight exercises: pushups, squats, lunges, pullups, dips, ab movements. We will also start with the core movements- squat, push, pull, upper, lower, carry, single leg/arm.

3 days per week is a great starting point. Sessions of 30-45 minutes. Also do 2 days of low-intensity cardio for 20-45 minutes. That's a good amount to start with.

I have had guys start with 2 days a week or even just 1 but often it's better to do more days, quick sessions, to really build that fitness habit.

It's not just getting stronger or losing weight or burning fat. It's building habits. Fitness for life. Making your physical fitness a part of your every day activity. So even if you only do 15 minutes of bodyweight at home on your 'off day', then that's better than total rest. 

If you're new to fitness and the world of weights or you're coming back after a layoff, you need to build habits. A foundation before the rooms can be laid out.

Sure, there are a million programs out there.  And truthfully, most all will work for awhile. Anywhere from a month to 3 months. You can seeresults quick. This is exciting! Take advantage of this time.  Gains will come much slower as you progress.

The other thing I like to include is some mobility work. Like my post from yesterday about the 5 minute flow you will feel much better if you do something in this mobility realm. It's not that fancy or hard. Just moving your body around and getting your joints to go through different ranges of motion to feel great each day.

This is especially important as you get older. If you played sports, have lots of wear and tear on your body or just feel like crap from your job and/or lifestyle.

There you have it. 3 lifting sessions per week. Find a program that appeals to you. The program is not as important as you think if you're just trying to get into better shape and aren't an athlete or high-level competitor already.. Add in 2 sessions of cardio to start and do some 5 minute mobility work each day.

Not a huge time commitment but it's your body, the only one you have. Give it some attention damnit. Don't be a slouch or think that the "dad-bod" is ok because some magazine said so. Hold yourself to a higher standard. I know you do. Just time to get to work on it. Don't wait another day.

You never know what the future will bring. So make today the day you start to take control of your body and your health.