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Greg Carroccio

Goal Oriented: How to start a training program when you are scared

For the past few months your friends have been telling you that you should start to lift weights. You understand that by adding resistance training to your weekly training routine that you could potentially improve your muscle mass as well as your bone density when you start to lift weights.

Maybe you understand that by strength training you could increase your metabolism therefore allowing your body to burn fat even when you are sitting at work typing away. You know that you should start to lift weights but for some reason you are scared to start.

I often hear responses like this from people who are hesitant to lift weights:

  • “I have a bad back so I can’t lift weights”
  • “I am intimidated by all of the machines and weights. I have no idea where to start”
  • “The people over there lifting weights will laugh at me because I have no idea what to do”
  • “I’ll just run or do the elliptical instead of lifting weights. I am interested in burning calories and I don’t want to get big and bulky”

I do understand the hesitancy by some people when it comes to strength training. However, if you are on the fence as to whether or not to start, I would recommend that you give it a shot and here are some tips to help get you started.

Tip No. 1: Work with a qualified coach

Why is this important? If you work with a qualified coach who can provide a screen like the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) or an orthopedic assessment from a medical practitioner, you can be assured that at least the coach you are working with will look at your movements and set up a plan that is geared more towards your level of expertise. Instead of a “cookie cutter” program, you will have the chance to sit down and talk about what you can and can’t do in Phase 1 of your program.

Tip No. 2: Start with body weight movements. 

By allowing yourself to start with body weight movements, you will take your joints and muscles through a full range of movement that will allow you to progress at a comfortable pace. Bodyweight training is often underestimated and can be as hard as you want it to be. For beginners, starting on the ground is a great place to begin (i.e. bear crawls, push-ups, etc) and allows you to feel comfortable in the beginning.  As you progress you can challenge yourself with some advanced body weight movements that will challenge you as an athlete. You can always make ANY movement harder but it’s wise to master the basics.

Tip No. 3: Always warm up before the training session. 

It’s so easy to skip the warm up and jump right into a training session. Most people look at the warm up as a waste of time. For me, I look at the warm up as a gauge to see how I am feeling for that particular day. For beginners I would set aside a minimum of 10 minutes to do some breathing, foam rolling/yoga tune-up work and some mobility/movement work.

Tip No. 4. Do full range of movement exercises. 

If you received a movement screen or assessment, your coach should have written a plan that gives you exercises that follow a safe progression. A great way to build some muscle, as well as burn some fat, is to incorporate total body exercises into your routine. Don’t worry about if a certain exercise is “training my biceps”. Right now you should not be worrying about individual muscles, but rather about total body training to perfect your movements over time. By doing this you will develop a great base to build upon.

Tip No. 5. Ask for help. 

If you are unable to afford a coach to give you a screen or assessment, you can always ask a trainer at the gym to show you some basic exercises to get started. Ask the fitness director if you could speak to one of their best trainers. Any good trainer should take the time to teach you the basics.

By helping you in the beginning, they will gain your trust if they did their job. In the future you may hire them to coach you, and the time they spent showing you some basic exercises will lead to a good relationship down the road. Don’t ever be afraid to ask a coach to show you how to hold a dumbbell or pick up a kettlebell. It is their job to keep the people in their gym safe.

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