The Newbie’s Guide to Working Out and Getting Fit

July 11th, 2011 by Nick Notas 1 Comments

Bruce LeeA healthy body breeds a healthy mind. Once I got in shape, everything about me changed – my daily mood, energy levels, and even sex drive. I finally took pride in my appearance. Now that it’s become a part of my lifestyle, I can’t imagine going back.

In my previous article, I gave you my diet and nutrition guidelines. This post is centered on my fitness beliefs and how to look your best through exercise. I’ve spent many years refining my routine into the most simple and effective method for myself. I hope this provides as much use for you guys as it has for me.

  1. Do cardio a minimum of three times a week. It improves breathing (VO2 max), resting heart rate, and overall health.
  2. Do resistance training a minimum of twice a week. Weight training is as important as cardio. It burns fat, builds muscle, and keeps you in top physical shape. These workouts can be done on the same days as your cardio if preferred.
  3. Get inspired to run. Unless you’re seriously handicapped, 99% of us are capable runners.  Don’t believe it? Read Born to Run, it’s an incredible book, or check out Christopher McDougall’s Google talk. Walking is better than nothing but doesn’t have nearly as many benefits as a good jog.
  4. Run correctly. Eight out of ten people get injured every year from incorrect form and traditional “running shoes”. These shoes force you to use a heel-strike rather than safely landing on the balls of your feet. The padding prevents the nerves in your feet from obtaining necessary feedback and exerts force on your joints instead of your muscles.

    Minimalist running using Vibram FiveFingers will prevent injury. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can go barefoot. Read ChiRunning to fix your form as well. If you’ve never run and are interested in starting, an awesome beginner’s program is Couch to 5k.

  5. Lift heavy. Don’t worry, you won’t get huge and bulky unless you eat an insane amount of calories for years. Heavy lifts (4-7 reps) build strength the fastest and produce the leanest muscle mass. If you’re going for pure size, lifting lighter (8-12) creates hypertrophy, which makes them appear larger.
  6. Start a weight-lifting program. I recommend StrongLifts 5×5 or Starting Strength, you’ll get amazing strength results in a very short amount of time.
  7. Use free weights. Exercise machines limit your range of motion. They create muscle imbalances and don’t utilize the potential of your stabilizer muscles.
  8. Bodyweight exercises are excellent, too. You can start with a program like SimpleFit and eventually move onto something harder like Beast Skills. Also, Brain over Brawn is a great free e-book for working out at home.
  9. Tone up.There are no special exercises for toning or getting the “ripped” look. It’s all about gaining muscle and losing the excess weight to show them off. The secret to six-pack abs is a low body fat percentage (under 12% for men). You can do crunches all day but it won’t matter if there’s a layer of fat in front.

    By the way, you can’t target fat areas. Your body chooses where it sheds the pounds. For men, the abdominal area is usually the last place to go. Concentrate on dropping your overall body fat rather than one place.

  10. Focus on compound exercises. Exercises which use multiple muscle groups rather than isolated exercises (like curls) are the best option. Some examples of these are bench press, squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, and push-ups.
  11. Lift smarter. Take your time to let your body acclimate to exercises. Learn the proper form so you don’t get hurt and develop the right way. It’s better to do 3 full pull-ups than 7 sloppy ones. It’s not a race.

Additional resources:

Reddit Fitness FAQ – The most comprehensive guide I’ve seen on fitness, definitely worth a read-through. It’ll answer all your questions and give you plenty of links, books, and other references to check out.

Exercises and Muscle Directory – List of almost every exercise and the muscle groups they target.

StrongLifts Guides:

Additional tools:

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  1. Bill Myers on August 5, 2014

    You know your shit.