I want to pump ME up...
May 28, 2008 7:35 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to start working out... But what should I do?

My friend and I decided to finally start using the gyms at our apartments. We live about 3/4 of a mile from each other, so we'll alternate biking to the other's complex and work out there.

We both do a bit of biking on the weekend, but typically not more than 20 miles at this point.

I've never worked out before, except for starting to ride a bike again late last year. I'm 25, 5'2", and between 130-140 pounds. I want to get and stay somewhat lean and have the same routine each week just getting progressively more difficult (e.g., Mondays are always abs, Tuesdays arms, etc). I'm not overly concerned with losing weight - I just want to be healthier overall and get the typical benefits that a regular workout routine provides.

The gyms have the "usual" gym equipment as far as I can tell, but I'm at a loss as to 1.)what and 2.)how many times to do things.
My semi-cardio warm-up and cool-down will be walking or biking to/from our respective gyms, but what should I do in the middle?
posted by odi.et.amo to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Just ask the beefiest person at any place for advice. Chances are high that you'll get it and that other person will probably be very flattered. Asking for help is very ok at the gym.
posted by uandt at 8:15 AM on May 28, 2008

First thing first. One of the best ways of staying lean and in shape is to have an actual cardio session that is more rigorous than walking or biking for only a couple of minutes. I would suggest a 10 minute run to end your session in the treadmill will be really helpful, since you are just a begginer you can start just "jogging" at about 4.0 and increase this velocity little by little. However after a couple of weeks (or maybe after a month) you should progress to more minutes and a higher speed setting.

Second, you cannot reserve a day just for "ABS", your abs will not become more noticeable merely by exercising them, you need to get rid of all the fat around them and then they will become leaner (and the fastest way of doing this is by running).

Third. From your height and your weight I think you would benefit from the following: I would reserve one day for legs, Abs, shoulders, another day for Arms and back and one overall day for some sort of aerobics section. If you want to you can divide arms in triceps and biceps and work the biceps with back and work on your triceps with your pecs (these can also be switched. You now have a total of four days.

Now the following should be a very very easy work out schedule:

1) 10 Minutes 1st part of your body
2) 10 Minutes second part of your body
3) 10 minutes cardio (which I really really think you should bump to 20 minutes)

I think this will get you started. Remember to watch your diet. Breakfast is a must and dont eat dinner too late.
posted by The1andonly at 8:22 AM on May 28, 2008

Here is my response to a similar question last year.
posted by charlesv at 9:06 AM on May 28, 2008

2.)how many times to do things.

Don't worry about reps. Buy a stop watch and set it for a minute and a half, or one minute, depending on the exercise. Every rep should be slow and controlled. Work to fatigue. Usually by the time the minute and a half comes up you'll be dying.

Work the big muscle groups and move quickly from machine to machine. You'll get your heart rate up and you'll burn more calories.
posted by LoriFLA at 10:48 AM on May 28, 2008

I'd also recommend an inexpensive heart rate monitor (check Amazon; either Sigma or Polar are good brands).

It's an excellent way to gauge your level of fitness. Your heart rate uniquely identifies what is 'fit' for you.

And if you choose to run/walk on a treadmill, vary the incline. The world you walk/run/bike in does not exist at 0% !

Finally, be sure to keep it fun. Not much worse than seeing folks all glum and mad at their workout session.

posted by sandpine at 12:09 PM on May 28, 2008

IMHO, free weights are much better than the machines. They have a wider range of motion, which means that they tend to involve more of the small muscles in your body. This will improve your core strength for everyday activities. Free weights also help build balance and stability. Plus, you can very easily get everything you need for a home free weight gym for less than $200 -- try that with the machines!

Here's the free weight program I follow:
Hammer curls
Forearm curls (both fore and back)
Triceps Extension

Shoulder Press
Upright Row
Front Raises

Bench Press
Dumbbell Flys

Bent-Over Row

Calf Raises

Remember that the most important exercises are compound lifts, which exercise many different muscles. Of the above, the big ones are bench press, deadlift, squat, bent-over row, and shoulder press. Concentrate on these; make sure you get them right & hit them hard every time, and you can skimp a bit on the others. :)

I do 3 sets of 5 reps. The aim should be controlled, slow movement with perfect form. When you can manage 5 reps with perfect form, increase the weight. It's OK to drop down to fewer reps at this point, if you can't manage the proper form. Then work your way back to 5 reps, increase weight, and repeat. IMHO, for lifting you should stick with reps rather than timed exercise (sorry, The1andonly), because otherwise it is sort of hard to tell when it's time to increase the weight. A spreadsheet or notebook is also a good idea, because then you won't forget the weight and number of reps you lifted last time.

I think it's best to shoot for exercising each muscle group (i.e. legs, chest/back, arms) no more than twice a week, assuming you're working out pretty hard. Muscles need rest in order to grow, so I like to take a day off between workouts. Thus, either work everything on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday sort of schedule, or do a M-legs T-chest&back W-arms Th-break F-legs Sa-chest&back Su-arms sort of thing.

Have fun and good luck!
posted by vorfeed at 12:34 PM on May 28, 2008 [7 favorites]

Really, really good advice here, but I have to offer two things:

1. Please don't ask the "beefiest person" at the gym.

Oftentimes these guys are teenagers who spend an awful lot of time at the gym. Some may even be on steroids or packing away serious amounts of very expensive supplements and vitamins that you may or may not need.

2. I strongly encourage you to seek out and employ a certified, accredited trainer.

I used to work out strongly with my Dad when I was younger. When I went back to the gym 10 years later, I over did nearly everything because I overestimated my abilities. It's EXTREMELY simple to severely injure yourself with weights and strength equipment. I'm not talking about crushed skull or torn ligament. A pulled calf muscle because you lifted too much (or too many) on the standing calf-raise is pretty easy and painful With Every Walk. Since your "gym" is in your apartment, you will have to bring someone out to that location (or meet them at their gym), but you can double-team this with your friend and, man, if you get one who has a long history and experience, the fees will pay for themselves and you'll love the results.

(Just be careful about nutrition advice unless the trainer is also a registered dietitian.)


posted by tcv at 2:35 PM on May 28, 2008

Please don't ask the "beefiest person" at the gym.

Uh, let me rephrase that as "the most regular person" at the gym. That person will probably be beefy or toned enough. It might even be a girl

At least IMO the gym is a terribly boring place without the social aspect. You go there to hang out with a bunch of people you know - but might not even talk to - almost as much as you go there to work out. If you don't feel comfortable hanging out at the gym you wont go there and all the mefi advice is just useless.
posted by uandt at 5:34 AM on May 29, 2008

The workout plans at stumptuous.com were exactly what I was looking for!
The apartment gym has plenty of weights so I will also try Vorfeed's suggested exercises and mix them in with the plans from the stumptuous.

posted by odi.et.amo at 6:28 AM on May 29, 2008

My advice to all women (girl, right?) who want to generally shape up is to combine mid-range weight training with interval cardio. In my opinion this is most beneficial and complimentary to the female form. Men are generally better served with specialized endurance, strength or hypertrophy routines.

I would combine high intensity interval cardio for 20-40min (of the intense, heart-pounding variety) about 3x a week, with a basic lifting program like this:

Monday: lower body/posterior chain
5x8-15 squats
4x8-15 front squats
4x8-15 leg press
4x8-15 calf raise
4x20 ab exercise of your choice (like bicycle crunches)

Wednesday: shoulders, arms, upper/outer/lower back
5x8-15 seated row
4x8-15 lateral pulldown
4x8-15 goodmorning or deadlift
4x8-15 bicep exercise of your choice (like dumbbell curls)

Friday: shoulders, arms, chest, misc
4x10-20 barbell or dumbbell bench press
3x10-20 incline or decline bench press
4x10-20 barbell overhead/military press
4x8-15 tricep exercise of your choice (like cable tricep pressdowns)

Add anything else that you like, but you need to be squatting, deadlifting, rowing, bench pressing, and overhead pressing to hit all the largest muscle groups in your body. If you are looking for a very streamlined athletic look, that's the way to go.

One thing to keep in mind, when using a lifting program that works your entire body - you may want to be ready for a demand of 500-1000 calories more each day than you were used to eating. It will need them, as it will continue to burn calories and metabolize throughout the entire day, unlike a sedentary body. Eat clean, and be happy.

Please message me if you have any questions.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 10:05 AM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

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