Starting Strength Training From Absolute ZERO (Video Guides)

 

Strength training is growing in popularity among average Joe’s and Jane’s, which is friggin awesome!

I write about it’s importance all the time, and how it is literally the fountain of youth (when done correctly).

But what if you have absolutely no experience, are afraid, or have zero clue where to start and what to do?

I will try and lay it out in the post, step by step, as clear as possible. If you have any questions feel free to post or email me – mike@mgfitlife.com.

1) Focus on all the fundamental movements – push, pull, squat and hip hinge.

What the heck are these?

PUSH – think push up, or pushing AWAY from your body, like a chest press. Can’t do a push up? Try hands elevated pushups. Any pressing machine, or dumbbells will work as well.

PULL – pulling weight towards you. Start with a form of horizontal pull like a dumbbell row, a body weight row, or cable row.

SQUAT – pretty much exactly how it sounds. The squat is more of a knee dominant exercise and it tends to work the quads, or front of the legs more than the hamstrings, or backs of the legs.

Start with just body weight, then add weight once you can sit down to the point where your thighs are parallel with the floor.

HINGE – this is also a lower body exercise, but focuses on hinging from the hips – and works more of the backs of the legs – hamstrings and glutes (butt).

Start with a slight bend in the knees, but then push your hips back keeping your spine straight. Go to the point of feeling a stretch in the backs of your thighs then return to the top.

If using weights, keep them close to your legs, and shoulders back and tight.

So these are the 4 basic movement patterns that will cover most muscles of the body, now what do we do with them?

Start with ONE workout, because one is infinitely more than zero.

First – warm up. This can be as simple as a 5-10 minute brisk walk followed by 20 forward and 20 backward arm circles to warm up your shoulders.

Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions (reps) of the first exercise before moving to the next. Give yourself about 1 minute rest in between sets.

What weight should I use??? Use a weight that allows you to get all 10 reps, but it somewhat challenging by the final rep. If you are unsure, do one warm-up or “ramp up” set first with light weights to gauge the difficultly.

You shouldn’t go to failure on your working sets, and you shouldn’t force sloppy reps.

I often use the cue – leave a few reps in the tank. Meaning, if you absolutely HAD to do 12 or 13 reps you could.

How does this look?

Example:

  • 10 push ups or dumbbell presses – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 push ups or dumbbell presses – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 push ups or dumbbell presses – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 rows – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 rows – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 rows – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 squats – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 squats – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 squats – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 hinges – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 hinges – rest for 1 minute
  • 10 hinges – rest for 1 minute

That’s it!

See how you feel 2 days later, and if you feel up to it, repeat the same exact workout once or twice in the week,

Then what?

The most simple way to progress is to add reps until you get to about 20. Then go back to 10 reps and add weight. This will cover you for a decent amount of weeks and if you are truly new to lifting weights you will be good to go.

Example:

  • Week 1 – 10 chest presses with 10 pounds
  • Week 2 – 12 chest presses with 10 pounds
  • Week 3 – 15 chest presses with 10 pounds
  • Week 4 – 18 chest presses with 10 pounds
  • Week 5 – 20 chest presses with 10 pounds
  • Week 6 – 10 chest presses with 12 pounds
  • Week 7 – 12 chest presses with 12 pounds
  • And so on and so on…

That is literally the most basic form of weight training you can do, and if you are totally new to it this will be a great place to start!

Don’t try to get ahead of yourself and add weight every workout. It takes time for muscles to grow, and slow and steady is always the way to go!

 

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When It Comes To Workouts, Stop Chasing a Feeling

 

I, and many others in the industry have said it before, ANYONE can make you super sweaty and feel like puking during a workout.

It’s really not hard.

Run 50 sprints, do 100 burpees then jump up and down on a box 50 times (PLEASE DONT ACTUALLY DO THIS) – and you will probably want to die…


Does that mean it was a good workout? Far from it.

That type of training and mentality needs to change.

Chasing an arbitrary “calorie burn” on your heart rate monitor is really just marketing BS. “Burn 1000 calories a workout!” sells much more than “feel great, get stronger, and lean up over the next 6 months to a year”.

First, the “calories burn” of a workout is really just a function of you age, gender, and heart rate during a workout – as created by whatever HR monitor you use. It can be a good indication of effort put into a workout, but still, it’s not the tell tail proof needed of calling a workout good or bad.

This type of justification was popularized by certain TV shows that did lots of unhealthy things to get people to lose weight super fast…and we all know where most of those people are now…

What is your goal? Want to get stronger? Then monitor your weights used over time and see if you get stronger. Here’s a “secret” – if you are getting stronger, you are likely creating more muscle and muscle burns calories when you are just sitting around better than fat does…so do that.

Want to lose inches? Take measurements and track your food. If you lose inches and maintain muscle – chances are you are doing things right. (No clue where to start? Send me a message!)

Instead of chasing the feeling of being completely exhausted and weak after a workout, chase the results over time.

This may be hard for some to swallow, but if you have only been chasing a feeling or a calorie burn and haven’t seen the results you are after – maybe you need to change it up?

While diet plays a HUGE role in any type of compositional change – your workouts also matter. Train for strength and mange your diet accordingly is really the best way to go about things.

I have been seeing some amazing results with a lot of my female clients especially who have “bought in” to the idea of strength training, and frankly – training more like bodybuilders – for muscular hypertrophy. They aren’t getting bulky, or manly looking as many will still tell you – but are getting strong and tight in all the right places, and losing body fat at a great rate.

Here’s the caveat, they leave the gym feeling GOOD. Not crawling out like a puddle of a person, and sometimes they hardly break a sweat (there is always some by the end, but not the dripping, puddle forming, holy crap I might puke kind of sweat)

While this may sound like I am ain’t bootcamp or high intensity training – it is not quite that simple.

I have nothing wrong with these types of workouts, and still offer them to many – BUT this has to be done appropriately and accordingly.

If all you do is plyometrics, jumping, running, and explosive work – your body can become worn down, joints brutalized, and central nervous system fatigued out. Especially if you are on an extreme caloric deficit.

You have to take some time to STRENGTHEN your muscles, joints and connective tissues to withstand that kind of beating if that is what you are into.

This brings me to my next point – when you are supposed to be lifting weights for strength – do just that. Strength training is for strength, cardio is for cardio – keep it that way (most of the time)

Don’t rush through a set of squats or bench presses because you “have to keep your heart rate up” – those are meant to create strength and essentially cause a little micro trauma to the muscles. Thats how we get stronger. Focus on the INTENT of the exercise and FEEL the muscles working. Slow down the tempo, feel each rep, and squeeze the hell out of the muscle that is being worked. Here is an example for hamstring curls:

Yes things like dumbbell complexes, and kettlebell work is a little of both, and thats fine. But you will get so much more out of a lift when you FOCUS on the intent within the muscle, rather than trying to fly through your reps.

While this got a little ranty, the one thing I want everyone to take from it is this:

Rather than chasing a feeling; chase a result. Have a plan, know what you are going to do when you set foot into the gym, do it right.

Lift your weights with intent, go fast when you are supposed to sprint, and control what you are supposed to control.

 

 

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[Guest Post] The Best Exercises Your Not Doing

Hey All,

Real quick here. I was fortunate enough to be featured on an awesome collaborative blog post earlier this week on The Barbell Physio.com along side some pretty big movers and shakers in the industry.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 8.09.41 AM

CLICK HERE –> http://www.thebarbellphysio.com/2016/04/11/great-exercises-you-are-not-doing/

It was a great honor to be featured on this list. Make sure you check out all the other great coaches and see what crazy exercises they are throwing our way!

Thanks again to Dr. Zach Long over at The Barbell Physio for this great opportunity!

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 8.08.53 AM

Back to the Basics: The Barbell

Sure, it’s not neon colored or made of a ultra-durable rubber coated shell and have 5 attachment points for accessories on it, but the barbell can still be super adorable (see above again).

*Lately it has started to make a comeback with the help of Crossfit workouts and their high usage of barbell lifts, especially the Olympic lifts.

With this being said, I still feel that full size barbells still are kind of kicked aside in a lot of gyms for “cooler” things like kettlebells, BOSUS, and even their little brother the dumbbell. Not saying these other implements are inherently worse than the barbell (I could argue against one of them), but the barbell has its huge upsides over the previously mentioned tools of the gym

Not these tools of the gym…

The benefits of using a barbell for any given exercises include:

  • Very simple, minimal complexity of exercises. Easy for newer exercises to learn some of the essential strength exercises.
  • The weight is fixed and stable. You usually are holding the barbell with two hands, thus have more control over the weight, as opposed to holding two dumbbells.

These benefits lead to the biggest benefit of the barbell:

  • You can lift some heavy weight, and get much stronger.deadlift

***OMG SHE IS LIFTING A TON OF WEIGHT, BUT SHE ISN’T BULKY!, WTF?!?***

(Click here if you don’t get my sarcasm) 

The barbell isn’t perfect and some of the downsides include:

  • You must be able to lift 45 pounds to use a full size barbell.
  • The only way to progress a barbell exercise is to add more weight, and everyone has their limits.
  • Because you can go heavier, there is more risk for injury without proper technique or through overload of the muscles and joints. Train smarter, not just harder.
baby-weightlifting

Getting swole at a young age…

With these pros and cons out of the way, I still feel like the barbell could maybe get more love than it does at a lot of gyms. You can train any and every muscle in the body with the barbell, so why not give it a shot? Before you jump in a try every single exercise you can think of with a barbell, I recommend the following:

  • Make sure you have a spotter/trainer with you, especially if going heavy or unsure of form or weight being used.
  • Just because a squat or deadlift looks basic, they are NOT basic lifts. Get proper training on technique and how the lift should FEEL.
  • Olympic lifts are even more advanced and are not for your everyday gym goer. These lifts include the power clean, the jerk, and the overhead snatch. I would say if you have never heard of these lifts, then don’t bother trying them, as they are very advanced.

Now that we have that out of the way, lets look at some of the basic movement patterns that can be worked with a good, ol’ fashioned barbell (lots of videos here):

Horizontal Push:

Bench press (chest, arms)

Close Grip bench press (chest, more tricep emphasis)

Skullcrushers (triceps)

Vertical Push:

Shoulder press (shoulders, duh!)

Horizontal Pull:

Bent over row (back)

Bicep curls (biceps)

Hip dominant lower:

Deadlift (glutes, hamstrings, lower back)

Romanian Deadlift (same, with bigger hamstring emphasis)

Hip Thrust (glutes, glutes, and more glutes)

Knee dominant lower:

Back squats and front squats (quads, glutes, and hamstrings)

Split squats (glutes and quads)

Step ups (quads and glutes)

 

Next time you are looking for the next crazy thing to do with your workout, maybe you don’t need something more advanced, but need to look to the lonely barbell in the corner of the gym, and give it a little love. It’s not just for the muscle heads and powerlifters, it can be your friend too!

Single Arm Dumbbell Row: Correction!

The single arm dumbbell row is a great back exercise that puts extra emphasis on core stabilization. However, many people tend to pull with their upper trap muscles, bring the dumb bell too far out from the body, or set up in a rounded (kyphotic) back posture.

Check out this quick video I shot to make sure you are rowing like a pro!