Getting to know the fundamentals of training - A 10 Step Guide
Are you a first timer when it comes to training? Do you dream of joining a gym to get fit but have no idea where to start? Are you unsure of how to train or what is required? You could possibly even be a ‘gym junkie’ and in need of a few reminders about the fundamentals of training?
I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately in regards to this topic so I decided to put together a 10 step guide on what I personally believe should be considered as the basics of training. This can be beneficial to people who are just starting out or even to someone who has been training for a long period of time.
1. Train regularly:
You’ve heard of the old proverb “use it or lose it” well I hate to say it, but it is true and it applies to all types of training. Whether it is cardiovascular efficiency, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and gaining lean muscle mass. You’ve probably also heard that the body is like a ‘machine’ in regards to biomechanics and the way we move, what you might not realise is that the body’s efficiency improves with regular use and deteriorates with neglect, unlike machines where their value depreciates with overuse.
In no way do you have to work out every day but it is important to know that in order to maintain or improve your individual fitness levels you need to work out regularly.
2. Warm up/ cool down:
Try to remember to warm up before every training session. This allows for your muscles to become better prepared for the challenges or stresses you are about to exert. An active warm up such as brisk walking or jogging is ideal followed by stretching. A cool down period is also important to allow your muscles to recover!
3. Progressively Increase Intensity:
“Train the same, remain the same” - The body’s ability to adapt, improve and become more enduring or stronger can be compromised if the intensity of our training is hit-or-miss, kept at the same level each time or over a period of time. So, if the body adapts and changes when we train regularly (as mentioned earlier) this means it will also get used to the workload or stresses we put on our body. To continuously improve, achieve hypertrophy (increase in muscle size) and see results we need to progressively increase the intensity of our training over a reasonable period of time and this can be achieved by either doing more quality reps or increasing the weight.
4. Quality reps:
“Quality is better than quantity” - Technique and speed are important factors when it comes to producing QUALITY repetitions. An emphasis is put on ‘quality’ because doing more reps in an exercise regardless of technique does not go simultaneously with improvement. You need to have a good sense of cadence when it comes to performing each rep. In saying this, for an experienced or advanced exercise to develop power some explosive exercises are necessary but as a beginner your desired movement should be slow and controlled to prevent injury.
5. Incorporate rest days:
Incorporating rest days into your training regime is important and beneficiary not only for our muscle fibres to recover and replenish but to gain strength, muscle endurance and size. Injury is the first sign of fatigue in most situations in everyday life, whether it is too much work or too much exercise. Rest days are important because our bodies need to have a break in order to recuperate and improve. By building days of rest into your program it will also help to avoid injuries, hitting that plateau phase, or a drop in performance.
6. Eat smart:
When we exercise, we put our bodies under stress and great demands therefore we need nutrients to encourage our body to adapt and to improve. It doesn’t make sense to put your body through an intense work-out if you are not eating meals that are nutritionally adequate. If you are serious about your training and want to see results then you must not neglect nutrition. Nutrition is required as it helps maintain bodily functions during exercise and resting conditions. Try to eat complex carbohydrates rather than simple carbohydrates and unsaturated (mono, and poly) rather than saturated fats. It also helps to think of fats and carbohydrates as an ‘energy yielding’ source and protein as source that ‘repairs’ the body.
“DO NOT GIVE UP; the beginning is always the hardest”
You need to be able to push yourself to the uncomfortable point of muscle failure during your sets for each exercise. Will power plays a huge role in the ability to endure through the discomfort (not necessarily pain) that is assimilated as you reach this this point in your exercise.
Having perseverance and patience is important in the initial stages of training as it is a new learning curve where your mind needs to become familiar with engaging your muscles for specific movements. The neuromuscular system (your brain, muscles and nerves) also needs to learn and adapt to the stimulus of exercise. So don’t be disheartened if you don’t see immediate results, they are soon to follow if you persevere and put in the effort. Remember, this should be an exciting part of your training so don’t look at exercise as a chore - your attitude is a dictation of the amount of future improvements you will experience.
Whether you’re new to training or have been training for a while and you’re looking into supplementation and have no idea about all the products out there, I personally believe you should just stick to the basics.
Everyone can benefit from supplementing with a great Multi-Vitamin. Multivitamins contain vitamins B & C, magnesium and zinc (just to name a few) which assist the body to absorb nutrients correctly, repair cell/tissue damage and create a strong immune system.
I can’t stress enough how important protein is and how it can be beneficial for everyone even if you don’t exercise. Try to go for a Hydrolysed Whey Protein immediately after your training session, this type of protein is a fast digesting protein that is absorbed quickly; this promotes a faster recovery of our muscles which is essential in order for our muscles to grow.
Glutamine is another important supplement that I recommend using. Glutamine is our body’s most ample amino-acid which are considered to be ‘building blocks’ for protein. Our muscles are made out of protein therefore by supplementing with glutamine this will aid in recovery and the prevention of muscle breakdown.
9. Medical clearance:
Know your body and listen to it! If you have previous injuries or health conditions then it always pays to visit a doctor/physician prior to beginning your training.
10. Proper training-room etiquette:
Going to the gym shouldn’t be different to any other sport, make sure you understand certain rules and courtesies that go along with training. Most rules are because of safety matters, but if you don’t want to be the most hated person in the gym, then it comes down to being courteous. A few hot tips:
· Put equipment back in its original place
· Avoid performing exercises close to someone else,
· Offer to share equipment
· Don’t perform overhead exercises while another person beside you is in a supine position (e.g. bench press, ab curls).
One of the most vital aspects to remember in order to achieve your desired goals is to essentially remember the basics of how to perform a task in order to succeed. Implementing or following through with the basics when it comes to a training regime can assist in setting yourself up for continuous progression throughout the entire process.