Here are a few simple guidelines to follow when putting together a workout routine:
Gradually work up to three sets per exercise. To avoid injury, start with one set per exercise for 6 to 8 weeks (or longer). Rest between sets. This is the time to stretch, get a drink of water, or psyche yourself up for the next set. Stick with 8 to 12 reps per set. Less than this and you’re powerlifting. More than this and you’re not taxing your muscles enough to accomplish much.
As a beginner, training your core muscle groups (chest, back, legs, and abs) should be your top priority. Core muscle groups are like the foundation of your house; you wouldn’t want to fix up the outside just to have the foundation cave in. The squat, deadlift, chest press, and pushup are basic exercises to start out with. So if you only have time for a short workout, then these are the exercises to do. And don’t forget to work those abs!
Compound Vs. Isolation
Compound movements should be performed before rotary (isolation) movements. Compound movements are either multi-jointed or using a core muscle (like abs). Isolation movements do just that – they isolate the muscle worked.
Compound exercises include shoulder and chest presses, squats, deadlifts, rows, and pushups. Isolation exercises include chest and back flyes, shoulder raises, and bicep and leg curls. For example, if you’re working your chest, do presses first, then flyes.
Muscle imbalance can lead to injury, so be sure to assess your body’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, if your chest is weaker than your back, then train chest first in your workout. This allows you to train your chest when it is fresh, so you can train it harder.
Keep Track of Your Progess
A journal can help to uncover which exercises work best for you. Write down reps, sets, how you felt that day, how you felt the day after, and whatever else motivates you. Write down small, realistic goals to keep you on the road to progress.
Lifting weight builds muscle, but only a sensible diet will give muscular definition. Six-pack abs and horse-shoe shaped triceps will be hidden underneath a layer of fat. A good diet includes protein for muscle repair, carbohydrates and unsaturated fats for energy, and overall quality calorie consumption.
In your journal you may want to write down what you eat to ensure that your basic dietary needs are being met. However, just being aware of what you eat is enough. Read labels and make better food choices or eat smaller amounts of your favorite foods. The most important thing to remember when changing your diet is to not go to extremes. Calorie consumption that is too low or too boring will bring your energy down and, consequently, the progress of your training.