Over the past couple of months, I have received a few PMs from people asking for workout advice and training tips for beginners...mostly girlfriends or wives who have NEVER spent time in the gym and want to get themselves started on the right path.
I laid out the following plan for someone as a starting point for a woman who has never trained before. I figured I might as well post it for others, and to see what tips and advice others may have for beginners in the gym.
In general, I am not a huge fan of circuit training, but I do think it's a good place to start for someone who has never trained with weights.
I'm sure there are alot of other good tips for beginners, so please post them here if you have any.
OK, so here's what I would recommend for starters.
If she's going three times a week, or maybe four (which would be better), and if she's a total beginner, I would recommend setting up a circuit-type training program versus the BB-style that hits a different muscle group each day.
Circuit programs hit multiple muscle groups in one workout, which is better for a beginner to get themselves familiar with basic exercises and techniques, and also promotes calorie burning by getting blood to more muscle groups during the workout. It's a good approach for a novice who wants to lose weight and tone up.
If it's three times a week, I would do two upper body circuits and one lower body circuit (upper monday, lower weds, upper friday for example). If it's four times a week, I would do two upper body and two lower body circuits alternating, or three upper body circuits and one lower body circuit (just don't do back to back upper body days, give at least a day of rest in between).
-For upper body circuits, two exercises for back, shoulders, and chest, and one for bis and one for tris works pretty well, although you can switch this up a lot and mix things up as long as you hit each muscle group at least once during the workout.
Two sets of each exercise is fine, but three is better. For circuit training, you don't sit at the same machine and do all three sets...you go through the whole circuit once with little rest, and then go back and repeat it two more times (or one more time at least). Reps around the 12-15 range, and she should be struggling with the weight (or at least working hard) by the end of the set. Alternate exercises between major and minor muscle groups (see example below).
-For lower body circuits, focus on compound exercises like squats and lunges. Use very little weight at first until she gets a feel for the workout. Again, 2-3 sets, 12-15 reps.
-Use primarily machines and light dumbells. Do not get fancy with the exercises, and keep it basic. If she is new to weight training, introduce her to free weights with basic exercises like shoulder presses and bicep curls. Work into the more advanced free weight exercises as she gets more comfortable in the gym.
And be sure to tell her what each exercise is doing, which muscles it is working, etc. so that she gets a better understanding and doesn't just go through the motions.
An example of an upper body circuit could look like this:
1. shoulder press machine
2. cable tricep pulldowns
3. wide grip lateral pulldowns
4. dumbell bicep curls
5. chest press machine
6. dumbell lateral raises
7. close grip cable rows (or a row machine)
8. flies on the pec deck
Like I said, you can mix it up alot, so you can add more chest and take away some shoulders during one workout, for example, or add more back, or whatever...as long as you hit everything in the upper body.
Go through each exercise one set, and then go back to the beginning and repeat. ideally you would go through it three times, but two is OK too. You can increase the weight on the second time through if she does pretty well the first time.
An example of an lower body circuit could look like this:
1. squats (with no weight, or light dumbells, or a light barbell on her shoulders) - wide stance - you can change up the stance from time to time to focus on different parts of the legs - wide stance, narrow stance (a little more advanced), and also face the toes outward in a wide stance to hit the inner thighs
2. hamstring curls (lying hammy curl machine is prolly easiest)
3. leg press machine (start with a nautilus-type machine rather than the leg press sled)
4. calf raise machine
5. lunges or step ups, or both (with light dumbells)
Same as above except that you may want to go higher rep on the leg workouts (like in the 15-20 range)...Go through each exercise one set, and then go back to the beginning and repeat. ideally you would go through it three times, but two is OK too. You can increase the weight on the second time through if she does pretty well the first time. You can also add more exercises or switch them up over time, depending on how she does with the workout and how her knees respond.
If she does some cardio while at the gym, it should be done AFTER weight trainning...20-30 minutes moderate intensity or intervals. Ideally, she would do 30-40 minutes two days a week on NON-weight training days, and then 20 minutes after each weight training session. Cardio is really important for fat loss and should not be overlooked.