UPDATE: As of 8/24/2010, this easy workout can be yours as a free e-book, with additional helpful information, just for subscribing to the Tao of Bachelorhood! Just enter your e-mail address to the right of this article for your free download.
If you’ve never really worked out seriously before, the amount of information out there can make your head swim. I’m going to help you get started quickly with an easy workout plan I devised a couple of years ago.
I had let myself go just a little bit – with a new job it took a while for me to fit a workout into my day, then I pulled an abdominal muscle (You know how they say you involve your “core” in everything? Yep, true). Eventually I healed and found a gym near the office so I could pop out at lunch, get my pump on, and eat at the desk back at work.
But I got to thinking about efficiency in my workout plan. I needed to incorporate a mild cardio workout with my weights – there wasn’t time for both. Also, I wanted something that kept up my intensity better than the standard “guy workout”: 12 reps, rest, 10 reps, rest, 8 reps, and then move on to the next exercise. (As we’ve discussed, intensity is critical to good results.)
I came up with something that filled the bill perfectly. I started seeing better results, faster than any plan I tried from books or magazines. The whole routine took not much more than a half-hour a day and after I was done I felt beat, but great. And it’s so simple my guess is that I’m not the first to figure it out – I wouldn’t be surprised if someone somewhere has developed it into a book and DVD set, with 30 testimonials and a catchy name.
Well, I’m giving it to you free, and you can call it whatever you want. Let me walk you through it, and then I’ll give you some help preparing.
Start with a cardio warm-up
You can do this just about anywhere – a public gym, a hotel fitness center, or your home gym (some dumbbells and a mat and there you are).
What you’re going to do first is five minutes of whatever kind of cardio you prefer: running, jumping rope, the elliptical or stair machines, anything. Keep a solid pace but don’t kill yourself. You should feel yourself breathing more heavily than usual, and sweating is fine too, but you shouldn’t have to pause to catch your breath afterward.
After your five minutes are up, you’re going to move to the weights.
Break up your body parts
The first day you perform this workout you’re going to do chest and back exercises. There are a lot of different exercises you can do here, but for this first day let’s make it these:
- Chest press
- Lat pull-downs
- Seated rows
These are exercises that should be available at any gym, and while they’re all done using machines, they’re relatively safe for your joints. After you get accustomed to having a plan, or you want to work out at home, you should substitute free-weight exercises, which will not only help shape your body faster, but will enable you to mutter “machines suck” under your breath like the pros do. (For example, no-machine substitutions for these exercises could be a dumbbell or barbell chest press, pull-ups, dumbbell flyes and bent-over rows.)
You’re going to do one set of each exercise, at a weight where you can do around 10 reps, give or take one or two, before your muscles “fail.” Plan at first to do much less weight than you think you can do. Perform each exercise smoothly – don’t jerk the weight or release it too fast. You should be in control of the weight the entire time.
After you finish your set of chest presses, move immediately to the pull-down bar and start your set there. Drink some water while you’re on the move. Then do the same with the flyes and rows, until you’ve finished one set of each exercise. Then head directly back to your cardio, and this time do three minutes.
Lather, rinse, repeat
After your second round of cardio, move back to the weights and finish another set of each. Then three more minutes of cardio and a third set of everything.
Congratulations, you just finished your first workout! Before you hit the shower, it’s a good idea to stretch the body parts you just worked on.
Tomorrow you’ll do the same program, substituting arm exercises for the chest and back exercises you did today:
- Barbell curls
- Tricep pull-downs
- Shoulder press
And on the third day you’ll work on your legs and your core:
- Leg press
- Hamstring curls
- Back extensions
If you’re just starting out, I recommend a rest after the third day, then go back to the chest/back and continue through the cycle. At the very least, rest one or two days per week. As you get more accustomed to this, you can substitute new exercises (like squats instead of the leg press, or push-ups instead of the chest press), remembering to alternate body parts each day, and opposing muscle groups within each workout.
Prep makes perfect
A key to starting out on a workout program, especially a weightlifting workout, is knowledge of both the exercises and yourself. If you don’t know how to do an exercise, ask. There are also examples available on the ‘net (YouTube is a treasure trove). And bring a small notebook or other paper and a pencil so that you’ll remember the weight you’re using.
And on those first days, use light weights – if you’re unfamiliar with a movement, you might even want to try it with no weight at all. Just performing the movements and moving between the exercises will be plenty at first.
Bring water – always keep hydrated, especially as your intensity increases. And if you feel faint or chest pain or any kind of pain other than the “burn,” stop immediately and take a break.
I hope this gives you the little nudge you need to get started in your workouts, and remember, I’m here to answer any questions.