One of the biggest obstacles that people face when beginning a workout routine is simply not knowing what to do. It is one thing to understand and acknowledge that you need to exercise, but it is another whole enchilada to know how to structure a safe and effective workout routine. Where do you begin? What do you do? How do you do it?

There are many factors to consider when planning a workout regimen. Things like specific goals, your level of fitness, how many days a week you want to train and how much time you are willing to commit. Generally speaking though, here are a few tips to follow:

1. Always warm up on any cardio machine of your choice for at least 5-10 minutes at a moderate pace before beginning strength training.

2. Do at least 1-2 exercises for every major muscle group, i.e., chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and don't forget your core.

3. Keep the rep range between 8-12 unless you are elderly or have severe arthritis; then, you'd do a rep range of 12-15.

4. Choose a weight that makes the last two reps very challenging yet still doable in good form. If you can't do at least 8, it is too heavy. If you can do more than 12-15, it is too light. Of course, your rep range for abs (core work) may be higher (no more than 25 should do the trick providing you are performing them correctly).

5. Rest about 30-60 seconds between sets then go for a second set. Rest another 30-60 seconds and move onto the next exercise. (Short rest of 30 seconds between sets keeps the heart rate up and burns more calories while strength training; hence, killing 2 birds with 1 stone.)

6. Stretch the muscle you just worked between sets; you have to rest 30-60 seconds anyway, why not spend it stretching and incorporate flexibility training into your routine?

7. Always do large muscle groups first and biceps and triceps last for upper body exercises.

8. Never work the same muscle group 2 days in a row.

9. Use slow and controlled form whilst lifting.

10. Exhale on exertion, making sure to never hold your breath.

Once you are done with your strength training you can finish up with your cardio. Many people ask me if they should do cardio and strength train on the same day. Best case scenario is to do cardio one day and strength train on another. If, on the other hand, you want to do both on the same day, you may split your time between them; however, if you do I suggest doing strength training first. This will augment the fat burning process during your cardio and will allow your best glycogen to be utilized for strength training.

If you are doing more than 30 minutes of cardio on the same day as strength training for 45 minutes or more, I would suggest you put a few hours between them if possible in order for your system to recuperate a bit.

For example, you could do cardio first thing in the morning and strength train later in the day. Your entire workout should last no longer than 60-75 minutes tops. If you are going longer than that, it can be counterproductive. If you start burning into your muscle during your workout for energy, instead of stored glycogen or fat, then can you see how that is counterproductive?

The theory behind this reasoning is: Once you go past your glycogen stores (stored carbs for effective exercise) your body begins to strip the protein (ouch!) from the muscle to use it for energy instead of being used for its intended job of building tissue, enzymes, hormones, etc. That is so NOT what we want to do!

You need to be strength training at least 2-3 times a week and up to 5 or 6 according to which muscles you are working per workout. You need to be doing cardio 3-6 days a week according to the aforementioned info, what your goals are, and your current fitness level, etc.

Be sure and read the cardio guidelines and strength training guidelines to ensure safe and effective workouts. Plus, don't forget to stretch. Flexibility is important, especially as we age. Lastly, always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise, diet or fitness program. Now, go work out and have fun! No, really!

If you have any further questions about strength training, check out strength training FAQ. If you have a question I haven't answered there, you can submit your own in the form on that page and I'll be sure and get back with you ASAP!

This is the part of the newsletter where I picture an exercise and give explicit instructions on its proper execution.

This is absolutely my favorite triceps exercise ever! It truly hits the spot if it's the jiggly part of the upper arm that's bugging you. Try it and shape up those arms once and for all!

Lying Triceps Cable Extensions
Primary Muscle Group Worked:
Triceps. (Back of upper arm.)
Variations: You can also perform this exercise with a barbell, an E-Z bar, an E-Z bar cable attachment, and dumbbells.

To see a video of this exercise go to: lying cable triceps extensions vid.

Preparation: Lie on a flat bench and grasp the straight bar attachment of a low pulley with a narrow overhand grip. Tip: The easiest way to do this is to have someone hand you the bar as you lay down. With your arms extended, position the bar over your torso. Your arms and your torso should create a 90-degree angle. This will be your starting position.

Execution: Lower the bar by bending at the elbow while keeping the upper arms stationary and elbows in. Go down until the bar lightly touches your forehead. Breathe in as you perform this portion of the movement. Flex the triceps as you lift the bar back to its starting position. Exhale as you perform this portion of the movement. Hold for a second at the contracted position and repeat for as many reps as you can until failure (8-12 reps).

HEREIN LIES THE CHALLENGE: Go slow. Do Not Rush This. Pull out as many as you can working to failure. Always choose a weight that makes the last two very challenging yet still doable in good form.

Okay, peeps! This is the inspirational part of the newsletter known as the "Ponder Pond" where you're welcome to take a swim in the sweet waters of inspiration.

Speaking of swimming, this month's video makes you ponder what your pets do when you are not at home. These people were always finding water all over their pool deck and furniture, every time they came home, after being away for a few hours. They thought the neighborhood kids were watching for them to leave, and using the pool. However, they could never catch them doing it. So, they set up their video cam and left. This is what they found out. Hilarious or what?!?! I hope that inspired a little chuckle.

Well, that's about it for this time! I hope you enjoyed this month's newsletter and until the next issue, may the wind be at your back and improved health and vitality your new reality!

If you enjoyed this newsletter, please feel free to pay it forward to anyone you think would like it too. That is the best compliment you could ever pay me, and I appreciate it very, very much.

And don't forget to tell everybody about where they can get all the free fitness info their heart desires and sign up for this newsletter while they are there.

From my heart to your health,

Linda Burke, CPT

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