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March 22, 2011 6:07 AM   Subscribe

Going back to the gym after a winter of poor health and need to recover muscle tone (not debilitated, just a weakling). Help me devise a weight-training regimen that I can do in about 30 minutes, incorporates both arms and legs, and includes opposing muscle groups.

I have been walking and doing yoga for several weeks now, and feel ready to add some more targeted muscle-building into the mix.

The idea is to alternate the yoga and weight training. Can you make me a plan? Or is there a good website you recommend?
posted by thinkingwoman to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
A: Squat 3x5
Press 3x5

B: Deadlift 1x5
Bench 3x5

That's probably the simplest, most minimal full-body routine you can do and still cover all the bases. You should be able to do it in 30 minutes or less. Do it 3 times a week, alternating A and B each workout. Do a few lighter warmup sets first, then do all your work sets at the same weight. Rest 3-5 minutes between work sets. Start with a weight you know you can accomplish and add a little bit every time.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 6:18 AM on March 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


You might find GAIN Fitness helpful. You can organize a workout based on your fitness goals, time available, gym or home, and the equipment (or lack thereof) you have access to. Haven't used it myself yet, but seems pretty slick after a quick review.
posted by qwip at 6:19 AM on March 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


Have you read New Rules of Lifting for Women? I read it last week and started the program on Friday. My first two sessions took just under 30 minutes, it's definitely a full-body workout, and the program changes often enough that I don't think I'll become bored.
posted by OLechat at 6:55 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Starting Strength. Read it. AP above gives the basics, but you need to know how to do them.
posted by rr at 7:04 AM on March 22, 2011


Squat, benchpress, deadlift. 8-12 reps. 5 sets. 2 minute rest in between sets. Work until failure each set. 3 times a week.

I think what Anatoly suggested above is the weightlifting equivalent of couch to 5k, right? It looks good, though 3-5 minute rest is too much (the benefits don't stack much after 2 minutes).

I know, it doesn't incorporate arms, you might say. But what you are pressing you need your shoulders and arms. When you squat you need you core. When you deadlift you need the arms and forearms. This is the simplest total body workout you can do in about 30 minutes (about 45). And when you have such a tight schedule you aren't going to see as good results doing anything other than a total body workout.
posted by munchingzombie at 7:11 AM on March 22, 2011


Squat, benchpress, deadlift. 8-12 reps. 5 sets. 2 minute rest in between sets. Work until failure each set. 3 times a week.

I will clarify my recommendations for the OP's sake. She said she wants to gain muscle tone and stop being a weakling, i.e. get stronger. Muscle tone is a passive contraction of a muscle at rest and is increased most efficiently by lifting at high intensities, which means lower rep ranges. Higher reps with lighter wights can have more of an effect on size and endurance, but less on strength. Fatigue also becomes more of a factor at higher rep ranges, which increases the risk of form breakdown and injury in a beginner. Same thing with training to failure -- risk of injury, not necessary for strength progress.

Bench pressing to the exclusion of the overhead press, over the long term, can pose a risk of shoulder imbalance and rotator cuff injury.

5 worksets on the deadlift is way too much volume and poses a risk of stalled progress, burnout, or injury.

It looks good, though 3-5 minute rest is too much (the benefits don't stack much after 2 minutes).

This is not true. There can be a hypertrophy benefit to limiting rest periods, so it may make sense for a bodybuilder or someone focusing on muscle size to train that way. For strength training, full recovery is required between sets, which may take 3-5 minutes, or sometimes even longer.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 7:47 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


FYI--not just lifting. Machines are good. Better, probably--our gym has a lot of barbell hogs.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:49 AM on March 22, 2011


If all the bars are in use, ask someone if you can work in. Most will be happy to oblige. You said you're time-limited, and you will get a lot more accomplished in a lot less time, strength-wise, with barbells than with any machine. There is no machine that can substitute for a squat or a deadlift.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 7:55 AM on March 22, 2011


Stumptuous has a few good lifting routines to browse. And lots of other useful articles and stuff on the site.
posted by lollusc at 8:22 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I must have phrased my question wrong. I appreciate the lifting suggestions and when I have time to go at a not-peak hour and maybe can afford a trainer, I'll implement them but for now would still like help creating a decent workout using machines (and dumbbells are OK, I've used those before and know the proper technique).
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:37 AM on March 22, 2011


Machines are not good -- they generally focus only on singular specific muscles, and so don't build the synergy with other muscles that results in actual strength. Stay away in particular from the Smith machine which is badly designed and dangerous.

At my gym, there's a lot of hogging/hiding of the low weight dumbbells, which can make building arm strength annoying. But the barbells and the olympic freeweight setups are rarely used. Your mileage may vary.

You can get a lot of benefit from doing bodyweight exercises -- pullups in all their variation, pushups in all their variation.

ExRx is a really good site that is essentially a dictionary of exercises, along with graphics and related information.
posted by felix at 8:46 AM on March 22, 2011


I would suggest NOT doing any squats or deadlifts until you can get someone to train you on proper form. Otherwise, they can be extremely dangerous.
posted by halfguard at 8:58 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I've found Anatoly Pisarenko to be a knowledgeable poster in other threads, and the advice given here only reinforces my opinion.

Also, I'd like to nth the fact that machines are lame (and, more importantly, not as much fun as freeweights) and that it's worth your while to have someone who knows what they're doing show you how to squat and deadlift (which are both useful skills to have in life). Maybe you could kill two birds with one stone and ask one of the more knowledgeable/approachable barbell hogs if they mind giving you feedback on your form while you work in with them.
posted by Dr. Eigenvariable at 9:53 AM on March 22, 2011


As mentioned, start with 5x5.

Deadlift, squat, military press, bench, bent over rows.

When you get used to this I would start a full body routine. It's really the best way to hit every muscle group in a short period for me and I haven't lost any size of strength because of it and I've been on this for 10 months now. Do the above but not 5x5. Instead, do 7-9 reps of 2 sets at a more moderate weight, 60-80% of max. Add in some isolation exercises that focus on triceps and calves. Like tricep extensions or kickbacks or dips and calve raises.

You can do these with dumbbells very safely if you can't get someone to teach you the proper form right away. Like it was mentioned, you could hurt yourself if you do the squat wrong especially with a bar (Even using a smith machine).

Stay away from machines (Smith machine not withstanding). You can do isolation exercises with dumbbells that are much better.
posted by penguinkeys at 9:58 AM on March 22, 2011


If you want to stick with machines and dumbbells, I think the plan below is a simple and effective option. Do 3 sets of 5 or 8 reps (your choice, see above for details) in the listed order, with three minutes rest between each set (add another minute or two if you need to).

-Bodyweight squat progressing to dumbbell squat. Get someone to teach you how to do this properly. Or substitute the leg press machine, the one that looks like this. Squats are much better if at all possible, though.
-Dumbbell bench press / Seated dumbbell overhead press (alternate these each workout)
-Chin-ups/pull-ups (alternate each workout), 3 sets of as many as you can do properly. See that link for advice on how to make these easier, if it's hard to do one or two (or substitute dumbbell rows, 3 sets of 5 or 8 reps).

However, Anatoly has the best answer -- the squat/press/DL/bench routine he outlined is better than this one, especially when it comes to core strength and the lower body. It is really worth learning how to squat and deadlift with the bar.
posted by vorfeed at 12:29 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is not true. There can be a hypertrophy benefit to limiting rest periods, so it may make sense for a bodybuilder or someone focusing on muscle size to train that way. For strength training, full recovery is required between sets, which may take 3-5 minutes, or sometimes even longer.

I will have to reread my source material. Thanks for the clarification.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:27 PM on March 22, 2011


Here's a 45-minute workout from Figure Athlete which is specifically geared towards women and is a subsite of the always informative T-Nation. Just be sure when before you start any exercise that you learn how to do it first. There are plenty of places on the internet to find out about them by just googling or checking out youtube.

Maybe I'm misreading you as opposed to some other people here, but it doesn't sound you like your strictly looking to get stronger. You could look into just bodyweight circuit training. Tabata mixed with some dumbell stuff. Scott Sonnon does a lot of interesting stuff
posted by P.o.B. at 4:53 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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