FITNESS

Working Out for Beginners

Our top five home-friendly exercises to get you started

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By Maddy Barney

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Kicking off your fitness goals can be difficult. Most people just say they want to start lifting weights, or going running, but what does that even mean? Is it cardio? Sprints? Circuits? Because there are so many ways to work out, a lot of people don’t know where to get started. If you’re a beginner to this whole exercising thing, then you’ve come to the right place.

First of all, cardiovascular activity (or cardio to you and me) is not just a tool for weight loss. It’s also a great way to strengthen your heart and boost your health. If you’re not a big fan of running, but don’t have access to other cardio equipment, then heading out for a jog might be your only option, but you can also try these running-free forms of cardio. If you do fancy giving running a go, make sure you start small. Set a five minute timer on your phone and just go for it! Once the timer is up, reset it, and run back. Progressively increase the timer or distance throughout your training, and you’ll improve. Remember, it’s all about just getting started. Baby steps!

It’s also really important to have a basic strength training regimen to help develop your muscles. This can also raise your metabolism, allowing you to eat more food to fuel your muscles. More muscles means a more toned look, which might be your goal. However, most people don’t even know where to start when it comes to lifting weights. Here are some basic strength training exercises that can help develop those muscles and get you closer to your goal.

Bridges

The bridge is the most fundamental movement when it comes to activating and developing your glutes. Would you believe that most people actually do this position wrong? Usually, people engage their hamstrings, which is the muscle group located on the back of your thighs. Instead, bridges are meant to primarily engage your glutes.

To properly perform a bridge, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground hip width apart. Then drive your heels and create tension by pushing your feet into the floor. Squeeze those glutes! Remember, you’re not just lifting your hips. You’re pushing your body back and squeezing your glutes to bring your hips up.

Dumbbell Chest Press

The chest press. For some, the only exercise they ever do! To others, a functional shoulder stability and chest exercise that works your entire upper body. Start by lying on your back with your feet on the floor and your knees bent. While holding dumbbells at a weight that’s comfortable for you, have your elbows resting on the ground with your armpits at a 45 degree angle. Bend your elbows with your hands straight above them. Press your lower back into the ground to engage your core, and pull your shoulders away from your ears to engage your lats — these are the big swimmer muscles on your back, which are also a common muscular anchor for your body. Next, press the weights towards the ceiling as if you were pushing them away from you, not lifting them. Once your arms are straight, lower them back down into the starting position. Remember to keep your wrists straight! 

Dumbbell Bent Over Row

Bent over rows not only strengthen your back, but also your core. It really is the best of both worlds. To get into position, start by standing upright. Push your hips back and lean forward, being careful to keep your back straight. Once you feel the stretch in the back of your legs, bend your knees. Your torso should be parallel to the ground by now.

With weights in your hands, have your arms straight below your shoulders. Remember to not let your shoulders drop or hunch with the weight, and squeeze your core to support your lower back. Next, bend your elbows, bringing the weights up. As you lift, create tension by imagining you are pushing something away with your elbows as they go back. Once your elbows are fully bent, the weights should be near your shoulders. Lower them in a controlled manner to complete a rep. If you want a little more of a challenge, try pausing at the top of the movement. Phew!

Reverse Crunch

The reverse crunch works your transverse abdominis. This muscle is one of the more important core muscles. It supports your lower back, so strengthening it can help improve your performance in other exercises. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet in the air, and hands by your sides. Engage your core by pulling your belly button towards your spine, but make sure not to suck in your stomach or hold your breath. Continue to breathe as you raise your hips off the ground and bring your knees towards your face. Then lower your hips down without letting your feet touch the ground.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The shoulder press is an excellent way to tone your arms and is super flexible for all abilities as it can be performed sitting or standing.

There are many different forms of shoulder press, but for a standard beginner, hold the dumbbells so that they are resting on your shoulders with your thumbs pointing back. Squeeze your core, and push the weights up until your arms are fully straight, keeping your arms in line with your ears.

As you press upwards, don’t let your back arch, and keep your hips tucked in to engage the core. Control the movement slowly as you lower the weights back down to the starting position. Easy, right?

Next comes combining all this information. Start your workout with a basic warm up. This should involve moving the body around, but not stretching or holding. Go for a quick 10 minute run. Next, perform each of these exercises three times with 10-12 reps. You can follow that with another 10 minute run to cool down, then stretch your body out. There you have it, a basic beginner workout for getting started.

All this talk of workouts can be really intimidating for beginners, but a lot of people are in the same boat. Just remember that consistency is key, and the effort you put in will pay off. Give it time, keep going, and you’ll soon see the results you’re looking for!

Maddy has worked in the health and fitness industry for 5 years. She has a bachelors in Exercise Science and has recently received her Masters in Exercise Physiology. She has worked with a wide demographic of clients as a Personal Trainer and loves helping people reach their goals and continue to grow.  She is an outdoor enthusiast and dedicates her workouts to rock climbing, hiking and whatever new experiences may come her way.

Main Photo Credit: Gorodenkoff/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: LightField Studios/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: UfaBizPhoto/shutterstock.com; Fourth Photo Credit: Estrada Anton/shutterstock.com