In my previous posting (Click HERE to read the introduction to “Exercise for a Shy Beginner”) I tabled a checklist for a beginner wanting to start an exercise program. I will now get down to specifics and give an example of a beginner’s aerobic and strength training program. There is no need to go out and buy any expensive gym equipment and all the exercises in these workouts can be done in and around your place of residence.
It is important to exercise most days of the week and to start off with a light schedule and slowly increase the workload. All exercise sessions should consist of 3 stages; warm-up, training period and cool-down.
When initiating a totally new aerobic program it is advisable to choose an activity that you enjoy. Walking is generally a good option as it can be done anywhere and does not need any special equipment. Key points:
a. Warm-up for 5 minutes by moving along at your normal walking pace.
b. Speed up to a level that is just above comfortable and continue at that pace.
c. Maintain the comfortable pace for an initial period of 20 minutes and then, over time, gradually increase this to between 30 and 45 minutes.
d. Finish the workout with a cool-down of between 5 and 10 minutes. This will consist of slowing down back to normal walking pace for 3 to 5 minutes and some static muscle stretches.
e. Static stretches should include a hamstring (touch your toes), calf (heel raises) and quadriceps (front of thigh) stretch.
f. Repeat this aerobic workout 2 to 4 times a week.
2. Strength/Resistance Training
The following strength training program does not need specialized gym equipment and comprises of own body weight resistance exercises and the use of objects commonly found around the house. As always you should start with a 5 to 7 minute warm-up routine which will include up to 4 minutes of cardio and a few stretches. Conclude the warm-up with 2 sets of 10 incline wall push ups (per figure 1).
Good form and technique are vital with resistance exercise. Ensure that you breathe during each repetition and that each one is done slowly. Core muscles should be engaged and your back should be erect and straight.
i. Kneeling push-up – Chest and Triceps (per figure 2). Kneel on hands and knees and Line hands up with your shoulders. Bend your arms and bring chest close to the ground. Inhale as you go down and ensure you have a straight back at all times. Push against the ground lifting the body back into the starting position. Exhale as you come up. Do 8 to 15 repetitions.
ii. One arm bent-over row – Back and Biceps (per figure 3). I suggest you use a shopping bag with some household objects inside it to provide weight. Kneel over the side of a bench by the placing one knee and the hand of the supporting arm on the table. Grasp the weighted bag from the floor and pull it up to the side of your body, until your upper arm is horizontal. Allow your arm to return to the extended starting position and repeat. Do 8 to 15 repetitions.
iii. Arm curls – Biceps (Per figure 4). Hold a full water bottle in each hand, at your sides (for more weight, use shopping bags as above) and place the feet shoulder width apart. Lift one water bottle toward the shoulder, with the rotation coming from the elbow. Lower the arm back to the starting position and perform the same movement with the other arm. Do 10 to 20 repetitions with each arm.
iv. Seated triceps extension – Triceps (per figure 5). Once again a weighted shopping bag can be used to provide weight. Sit on a bench and hold bag with both hands overlapping one another. Take the bag straight up and over the head, keeping the arms next to the ears. Lower the weight behind the head until elbows are at about 90 degree angles. Squeeze the triceps to straighten the arms without locking the joints. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
v. Squat – Legs and Buttocks (per figure 6) Use two weighted shopping bags. Stand with bags grasped to sides. Bend knees forward and allow buttocks to move down towards the ground. It is imperative to keep your back straight and knees pointed in the same direction as your feet. Bend the knees until the thighs are parallel to the floor. Then straighten the knees up to the upright position again. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
vi. Leg raise (per figure 7) – Lie on your back. Keep your lower back in contact with the floor at all times and feet and legs straight and together. Place hands by your sides for support. Lift legs upward until they are straight above hips and then lower them down to the starting position slowly. Do 10 to 20 repetitions.
vii. Cool-down – do 3 to 5 minutes of static stretching for both the upper and lower body.
Start off with 2 sets of each of the above exercises and slowly build up to 3. Increase the weight as you get stronger. Resistance workouts should be done 2 to 3 times a week and not on consecutive days so that the muscles are given time to recover. You can do this work-out on the days you are not walking.
It is important to add variety to a fitness program to ensure that you do not get stale. These two workouts will, however, give you an excellent starting point and can be added to once you have established a routine.