Beginners Guide to General Fitness Programming

The gym can be an intimidating place to someone who feels insecure about how they have treated themselves, so the thought of joining is put off because of fear of embarrassment. For anyone who feels this way; EVERYBODY WAS THERE ONCE! If you get made fun of because you are overweight or weak or don’t know what you’re doing then on behalf of every person with an ounce of compassion I apologize. Rise above the fear of negativity and get your butt in gear for the best decision you made in your life, good health!

If you’re a male, then you most likely have decided you can do it on your own and don’t need help… if you’re female then you aren’t afraid to ask for guidance, or directions. Either way, this guide will help you out, male or female! Myth buster, there is really no different training techniques between genders… women, you will not look like a man if you lift heavy weights, and men, you won’t die if you include cardio in your routine! What isn’t a myth though is that without some form of resistance training, your muscles WILL atrophy (shrink, disappear, weaken, go bye bye).


First things first, time. How much time do you need to put into a healthier, new you? If you haven’t been active in quite some time then any amount of time you dedicate towards better health is a step in the right direction! What you want to think about is making a lifetime commitment to keeping your body healthy. This is not a fad or something that you should do now and can quit in 3 years. If you want to live until you’re 103 years old and loving life then you better realize taking good care of your health is the only way it will happen. Put in whatever time you can to start, because after you start feeling great and enjoying the process you will make more time. If you feel like you are putting in a lot of time and effort and are not seeing results then you may need some professional advice. Try your best to be active everyday in some form, but you will get quality results with 3 days a week of cardio and resistance training.

What to do when? I am a big fan of full body routines for clients that are training 2 or 3 times a week. This means training the most important part of the body, the core, and the 5 movements of the body; pushing, pulling, squatting/bending and lifting, single leg, and rotational. The easiest way to split up a program is into 2 workouts, A and B. Workout A can have more leg exercises to emphasize work on the lower body, and workout B can have more upper body exercises, but do your best to get all movements of the body in each workout. Always begin exercising with a warm up, something non strenuous to get the body moving such as walking on the treadmill or a slow pace on the bike. If you want to focus on weight loss, spend 20 minutes of cardio to get your heart rate up before resistance training. If your focus is strength, save the cardio for after or even a different day.

Reps and sets, oh my! Studies have shown that people see the same results in resistance training if they do 2 sets or 5. So it comes down to which part of your body needs the most attention. If starting out you feel that your pulling exercises are a real struggle, putting a few more sets on that exercise would be beneficial. When it comes to repetitions (reps) the best thing to do is cover all the ranges. I use what is called the double progression, which is working for more reps before increasing weight. If you did 8 reps with 50 pounds last workout, this time get 10 reps, and next time 12 reps. Progressing reps means you are getting stronger, which means you are ready for heavier weight! Once you progress the weight, the reps will drop down and you will begin to climb the rep ladder again until you’re ready for the next jump. You can do this until you reach a plateau (you are unable to get more reps or weight for the life of you) on a specific exercise, at that point its time to pick a different exercise for the same movement. Strength reps: 3-6. Hypertrophy (building muscle) reps: 8-12. Endurance reps: 12-20. Don’t be afraid to try more weight if you are able to get 14 reps of something… you’ll be fine going a little heavier!

Tracking tracking tracking! Write everything down so you can effectively progress. Look at the last time you did your workout and force yourself to get 2 more reps than before, even if that means taking a break on the 10th rep cause you struggled and then getting 2 more after a 20 second break. Pushing yourself and challenging yourself is when you will really see results! Don’t get me wrong, doing the same weight and reps every time is better than nothing, but if you want to find out your potential you’ll find it on the struggle bus!

Lastly, recovery. Resistance training and exercise tears muscle fiber. Thats what happens, you cause the body damage, and it responds by getting stronger… I know, amazing! Once the bug bites you and you want to bench press everyday, you’re gonna have to tug on the reigns and slow the pony down. Tearing fibers means that you need time to heal. This can take 24-48 hours depending on the amount of damage done. This doesn’t mean that you can’t train the same group if it’s sore, or that you didn’t work hard enough if you aren’t sore, soreness doesn’t determine results. Some people will respond differently so pay attention to how you feel and if you are able to make progress or not. If you are not progressing, chances are that you haven’t recovered, its been too long since you last did the exercise, or you need to change the exercise if you’ve been doing it for a while.

Plan out your workout routine, find out the weight the makes you struggle a bit for the desired sets and reps, use the double progression, get 8 hrs of sleep a night, take a day or 2 between the same workout, go for a jog or bike ride, eat healthy food, and LOVE LIFE!

Ryan Sensenig