Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Part III Getting started with an exercise routine: Strength Training

Any well-rounded exercise routine will include strength training as one of its components. The problem with this is that so few people know where to start or what to do. Here are some suggestions for getting started.

The best way to get started would be to find a personal trainer with a good educational background. Of course this isn’t financially possible for everyone. Just about anyone can become a personal trainer, so it is important that you check him or her out before just jumping in. Two excellent certifications are by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). This does not mean that trainers from other backgrounds aren’t good or knowledgeable; however, these two associations have the best reputation. If you are already a member of a gym, I would suggest finding out which trainers are certified through these associations and then keep an eye on them while they’re training others. If they are doing any of these things, move on to someone else:

1. They fail to correct their client's form.
2. They are talking on their phone or texting.
3. They aren’t giving their client undivided attention.
4. They are giving their client a lot of nutrition information (beyond the basics) without being a registered dietitian.
5. They push supplements sold at the gym.

Whether or not you have this opportunity to do a little observing, make sure you talk to him or her before signing up. You want to make sure that you click with that person and that they support your goals and interests. You’re paying a lot of money, so make it worth it! Although you could continue with a trainer forever, you don’t have to. Once you learn some basics, you may feel that you want to go out on your own with your new knowledge.

If you do not have access to a personal trainer, as many people do not, consider a few other options:
1. Use a video at home such as “The Firm”.
2. Visit or subscribe to their magazine. They have some good ideas about at-home exercises and do a good job of describing how to do the exercise. They also make sure to point out common mistakes and how to avoid them.
3. Sign up for a group strength training class where the teacher usually does a good job at helping you with form.

Lastly, let me leave you with a few tips!
1. Never do strength training with the same muscle group two days in a row. Give your body 48 to 72 hours to rest that muscle group. The abdominal muscles are NOT an exception to this rule!
2. Begin each session with a light, five minute warm-up.
3. Start with multi-joint exercises and then move to isolations. For instance, a chest press involves moving two joints; however, a bicep curl only moves one joint and isolates the bicep.
4. When doing squats, lunges, or anything of the like, never…NEVER let your knees stick out further than your toes. I see this mistake a lot!
5. Don't lock your joints when performing an exercise.

Unfortunately, there are limitations to this blog in that I can’t train anyone over the internet. However, if you have questions, please leave it in the comment section!

Check back tomorrow for a Thursday extra! I'll be telling you about my experience with a new piece of exercise equipment!


  1. Thanks. What do you recommend in terms of numbers of sets/reps for toning versus "muscle building"?

  2. Busy-Dad-E: You're like that student in the front row who is always ahead of the teacher! (good for you!) I love your about if I cover that in a post next week?

  3. You mentioned doing a light 5 minute warm up. Are you supposed to warm-up the muscle group you are using (ex. use a light medicine ball to warm up if you are doing upper body) or is it a general warm-up light jogging, to get the whole body warmed up? Also, what about streching? Should you stretch after a strength training workout like you do after a long run?

  4. Great questions, Matt! I love questions! Technically, you should warm up the specific body parts that you will be using. If you're doing lower body, a light jog or even walk will definitely suffice. However, it is probably a better idea to specifically target the upper body if that is what you intend to work. You could even warm-up the upper body with a few sets of very light weights.
    Stretching does not prevent muscle soreness, does not prevent injury, and does not make you a better runner. Stretching is important to simply improve and maintain flexibility. That said, you should stretch while the body is warm, but it doesn't matter if you do it after a strength workout or after a light jog.

  5. Great tips for how to find a good trainer. Enjoyed this post!

  6. Great tips! I really need to get into this routine!

  7. Exercise is an important way to manage diabetes. Not only can exercise help you achieve beneficial weight loss, but every time you exercise, it helps to lower your blood sugar and helps your cells accept insulin more efficiently