Thursday, July 21, 2011

Getting Started With Strength Training

A lot of my previous posts focused on preparing yourself mentally to make positive health changes.  I've talked about setting a goal, identifying why you want to make changes, carving out time for yourself, etc.  One request I received said, "Great!  I've got a goal, I'm motivated, I'm ready to change....but what do I actually do?"

When I first hopped on the fitness train I was in the same position.  I knew I had to do something but I wasn't really sure what.  Picture a 19-year-old me at Penn State starting to make regular visits to a small fitness loft on campus.  This would be the first time I set foot in a gym and had no knowledge or training to date so I made up my own routine which went something like this: 
  • Warm up for 5 mins on a stationary bike
  • Head to the mat area to stretch, do crunches, and whatever random pilates exercises I could remember from my mom's pilates book
  • Play on the assisted pull-up/dip station trying out all the different grips not knowing what any of them really do
  • Attempt to stay on the elliptical for 20 minutes  (at first I could barely make it to 10 without feeling like I was going to die)
  • Go back to the mat area and do some more ridiculous stretching
  • Pat self on back for being a stellar specimen of fitness
Gosh, I can't believe I just admitted that.  If I knew then what I know now, that visit would look drastically different.  I would be certain to follow my Top 5 Training Tips for Real Results

For those of you ready to take action and for my 19-year-old self if time travel were possible, here's a basic program I'd recommend.  Most of these require body weight or a set of dumbbells.  Shoot for 2 to 3 sets of 12 repetitions.  If you fall significantly below 12 reps, try an easier version.  If you do all 12 reps and could bust out a few more, make it harder next time.  Be realistic with your capabilities.  It doesn't matter where you start, as long as you better yourself each workout.  Increase the weight, rest less in between, or do another set.  Just do something to make it more challenging each time.

The exercises are arranged in alternating pairs.  Which means you'll do 12 goblet squats, rest, 12 bent rows, and rest.  That is one set.  Start from the top for a second set and again for a third.  Try to keep your rest to 60 seconds or less.  Without further delay, brace yourself for some low budget videos of yours truly demonstrating each exercise.

1a. Goblet Squat

  • Focus on form:   Keep chest lifted and back flat, hips should move down and back, weight should be in your heels
  • Make it easier:   Ditch the dumbbell and use only body weight
  • Make it harder:   Steadily increase the dumbbell weight
1b. Bent Row

  • Focus on form:   Maintain a straight back, push the hips back so the spine doesn't round
  • Make it easier:  Lighten up on the weight
  • Make is harder:   Grab a heavier set of dumbbells

2a. Glute Bridge

  • Focus on form:   Engage the hamstrings (the big muscles in the back of your thigh) and the glutes (the muscles in your butt) for the movement instead of the lower back
  • Make it easier:  Work your way up to the recommended amount of repetitions
  • Make is harder:  Elevate feet on a small bench, do a single-leg version (pictured below), or a combination of the two
Single-Leg Glute Bridge

2b. Push-ups

  • Focus on form:   Brace the entire core so the hips don't drop, body should be in one straight line, only the elbows bend
  • Make it easier:   Elevate your hands (pictured below), gradually lower them to the ground as strength increases
  • Make is harder:   Elevate your feet on a small bench
Modified Push-up

3. Plank

  • Focus on form:   Position the body on the elbows and toes. Brace the core and take deep breaths.  The body should be in a straight line, meaning the hips aren't above the shoulders or sagging toward the ground.  Hold as long as possible with good form.  This is one set.  Rest and repeat. 
  • Make it easier:   Hold for a shorter amount of time.  Add 5-10 seconds each workout to progress.
  • Make is harder:   Work up to a 60 second plank. 

Try to do this routine two or three times per week, making sure to leave at least one day of rest in between.  Don't forget to listen to your body when it comes to intensity.  But, be prepared to surprise yourself with how strong you truly are and how quickly you advance.  I'll have the next step ready and waiting!

*Always consult your physician before starting an exercise program.  Additionally, it is highly recommended to consult a reputable fitness professional to learn proper form.  Any exercise can result in injury if done incorrectly.  Taking part in this and any program is done so at your own risk.  Amanda Kopeski will not be held liable for anything other than awesome results.  Listen to your body and don't do anything stupid.


Valery said...

All I can focus on is your view in each of the pictures. I doubt that was your intention, but oh well. :)

Amanda Kopeski, MPH said...

It makes working out a bit easier when you have something nice to look at :)

Anonymous said...

I'm very impressed!!!!!