Before starting any exercise program, it’s important to have a doctor evaluate you in order to ensure you are physically ready to start a new fitness program. Once you’re checked out and ready to go, the next step is finding a professional at your local gym who can guide you through the basic exercises while showing you the proper technique for each movement. This is very important since you want to get started doing using the most effective exercises and performing them with spot-on form to get the most out of the movement. Most gyms have a free trial period where they provide a trainer to help you for a few sessions so take advantage of this feature and learn as much as you can from the professional. If you can afford it, you might even want to buy a training package which is an excellent way to get started down a path toward fitness.
I always suggest that beginners start off with a basic layout of 1-2 sets with 10-12 repetitions and begin with compound multi-joint exercises preferably performed on a machine. Free weights are excellent but a beginner needs time to condition the body toward this level of training and machines will help to target the stabilizer muscles and strengthen them to eventually work with free weights down the road. The main muscle groups to target with these movements include the legs, shoulders, back, chest and core. I did not forget arms but being that they are isolated (single joint) they will come into play later on. Once again, form and technique are absolutely crucial here because this is where your body is learning most, so make sure to focus and always be strict with your form.
I recommend beginning with your legs by starting out with the leg press machine. You can find training guides with detailed photos and instructions by accessing ShapeFit’s exercise guides database which has a collection of over 500 different strength training exercises. Make sure to start with a light weight and even though you might feel that it’s light, be patient as you will increase the weight later but for now focus on progressing slowly and be safe while training because an injury will put you out for a while and you definitely do not want that. Keep your knees positioned so that your mid knee lines up with the outer top of your foot and bend your knees to about 90 degrees (or whatever is comfortable) and do not speed through each repetition. Your rep count is 1-2-3 and then 1-2-3-4 on the return phase (eccentric portion). This slow and controlled tempo is critical for getting the most out of each exercise.
Next, you move onto a shoulder exercise. The machine deltoid military press target the entire shoulder area and it’s a fantastic exercise for building up size and strength in your deltoids.
Your third exercise can be machine rows which target your back muscle and hit your biceps as a secondary muscle group. As indicated, this movement hits the mid back region in general but the rest of back does come into play during the exercise. This is a safe choice for beginners who want an effective exercise to stimulate growth in the muscles of their back.
The fourth exercise will be the machine bench press. This is a great introduction for later moving onto the bench press with a barbell or dumbbells. The bench press is the king of all chest exercises so it’s important to get your form down on the machine version so you can make a smooth transition to the free weight bench movement. Your chest muscles (pecs) are targeted as the primary muscle group and your triceps (back of the arms) are the secondary muscle group that is activated during this exercise.
Last but not least is your core which represents your lower back and abdominals. This area is crucial for supporting and benefiting all of the other exercises and also for functional movements in everyday life (picking up groceries, lifting your kids). Doing medicine ball crunches on an exercise ball for 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps is a great way to target this area and end your workout!