posted on July 12, 2011 08:00
“I feel like Bambi taking his first steps.”
Looking back, it was a statement that would prove as historically profound as it was accurate at that point in time for me personally. I climbed gingerly (pun intended) off of the incline leg press. Officially birthed into the world of weight training, a long, arduous journey had begun. Fittingly, the person administering the punishment on that fateful day was none other than my own mother.
Mom has always been a pretty strong lady, and she had been training for some time when I decided to try to keep up with her at her gym one day. Her work on the leg press – a seated exercise where weight is forced upwards at approximately a 45 degree angle – called for sets of twelve repetitions. I labored through them with the same weight she applied for herself. A single plate in this case...a whopping 45 lbs in addition to the weight of the machine.
Rugged. I know.
I was there, humbled and weak, because I had finally committed to the idea of incorporating an exercise routine into my life. While this may be a critical first step towards improved health and fitness, it is hardly the greatest obstacle one faces along the way. Many people indulge their ambitions of better health. Few stay the course.
For the next couple of months I scuffled about the gym in no particular direction, by myself, until eventually consulting with a personal trainer friend. Having realized how frail I was at the hand of a woman who cries during Meg Ryan films she has seen no less that fifty times, a women who had also recently knitted me a scarf, motivation was high and no longer an issue.
What I needed was a realistic, proven channel for my energy, and I needed to find it before the frustration of poor results defeated my young efforts.
I needed a routine.
What he outlined for me was almost embarrassingly simple, yet I carried his instructions on a small sheet of paper for a little over a year.
Incline Leg Press
Weight Assisted Pull-Ups
Seated Compound Row
Push...chest, shoulders, triceps, quads and abs. Pull...upper back, middle and lower back, traps, biceps and hamstrings. Muscles that when worked would also exercise muscles I didn't even know existed. I was to do sets of 3 or 4 and repetitions of anywhere from 8 to 20, depending upon the weight.
It was simple. It was straightforward. And it even offered a degree of freedom, which I very much appreciated.
Plenty of information is available on these specific movements and the muscles they challenge, so I am not going to go into all of that. And it should be noted that this was an introduction to the gym and its equipment that a novice like myself needed to master prior to attempting a more rigorous practice. But in that it created “core” strength, balance and stability by focusing on the larger muscles (relative in my case at the time) and their "antagonists" (opposing muscles), as well identifying a routine that I could place my trust in, it was perfect.
Regardless of your level of exertion or your individual fitness goals, this is where your routine should begin and – while there will be adaptation and expansion – it is in this vein that it should remain.
A workout will evolve over time...or at least it should. Nautilus and weight-assisted machines give way to barbells…barbells give way to dumbbells…more and more synergist and stabilizing muscles are involved and personal objectives are modified as their predecessors are realized. But a strong foundation is imperative, not only in reducing the risk of injury, but in creating faith in a system and the confidence that the results will be there.
And take it from a guy who not so long ago had that baby deer-in-the-headlights look and the legs match…the results will be there if the right habits are formed.
Need help? Hit me up.
J. Adams is a writer and a personal trainer. Follow him on Twitter @Intangiball or send your questions, comments, training inquiries or general talk of smack to firstname.lastname@example.org