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Start Slow if You Want to Grow

The last few weeks, we've been talking about setting goals, proper diet and warming up. Now it's time to hit the gym and start changing your body.

If you're working out for the first time or returning after not being in the gym for a few months, it's better to work your entire body the first few weeks. This is called a full-body routine.

The goal is to get your muscles used to the movements, allow you to learn the equipment in your gym and train yourself to go to the gym regularly.

When you start, get help from the gym staff or a personal trainer. They can help you choose the specific exercises that will benefit your body and teach you proper form. If you exercise using bad form, you won't maximize your efforts and might even hurt yourself. Who wants to work out for months without results or be forced to stop because of an injury?

For the first two weeks, I have many of my clients work out two days each week. You can workout any two days you want; just make sure they aren't one right after another. Your muscles have to recover at least 36 hours after being worked.

Here's a typical schedule.

Week One: Monday and Thursday. 10 different exercises. 1 set of each. 12 to 15 reps.

Now you're probably wondering what are sets and reps? Let's say you're doing a particular exercise for your chest, like the "Bench Press." In this exercise, you will be lying flat on a bench, holding a bar up with your hands. You bring the bar down to your chest and then press back up again. Each time you bring the bar up and down is a "rep" or "repetition." When you finish (after say 12 to 15 repetitions), you have just completed 1 "set." As your body starts adjusting to working out, you may do up to 4 sets and anywhere from 6 to 15 repetitions per set. Got it?

When you start, only rest as long as it takes to go from one exercise to the next.

Weeks Two and Three: Monday and Thursday. 10 different exercises. 2 sets of each. 10 to 12 reps.

The first few workouts probably won't take that long, typically 30 minutes. Just remember this does not include the time you take to warm-up, stretch or cool-down. You may feel like you can do more, but don't. You must let your body get used to exercising.

When you go into weeks two and three, you'll be doubling the amount of sets, and your workouts will take longer, but you should still be done in 45 to 50 minutes.

Rest between each set. 30 seconds to 1 minute is usually good.

If you get to your 15th rep and it's still easy, you need to add more weight. Choose a weight that allows you to complete your reps with perfect form and increase the weights slowly, so your muscles have time to adapt and grow.

Week Four: The same as weeks two and three, but if your body is recovering well, you can start working out three days each week. Whatever days you choose, make sure to have one rest day between each workout day.

While you're working out, make sure to write everything down. You don't know how many people I see in the gym working out, month after month and even year after year, but they never see the results they're looking for. If you don't write it down, you don't know exactly what you did the previous workout OR where you can be making improvements.


  1. Work out with a full-body routine the first month.

  2. Use gym staff or personal trainer to learn perfect form.

  3. Workout two days a week to begin, progressing to three days at the end of the month.

  4. Write everything down!

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.