Starting Strong

Starting Strong.  This is not going to be a post about blasting your way into murderous workouts or crippling routines.  This is going to be about how I got started, what I did and what I believe it is the reason I am relatively pain free and still getting stronger. With that being said, I am not a doctor so consult a physician before beginning any exercise/training program, take your health seriously and be certain you are prepared by first seeing a doctor.  Now with that out of the way.

So for simplicity sake, let’s just say I was in shape, then I wasn’t, then I was in shape and now I’m not. Weighing in at 305 a few months ago was a big big wake-up call. Something had to change.  The problem is getting started.  You see at this level of poor shape, you can severely set yourself back by going too hard.

This is where I am directing my attention, Starting Strong.  When I say Starting Strong I’m talking about starting out in such a way that you make progress without set-backs and you prepare you body to deal with increased strength and increased load over time.  Training stresses the body, and that fact is the entire point if you want to get bigger and stronger.  However if your body is unprepared for the types of stress you are about to activate you can over stress your body before it is ready and that can lead to injury. Now I’m not talking about over-training, which is a huge buzz phrase in the fitness industry these days and it has its place.  So no I’m not talking about over-training.  I’m talking about unpreparedness.

So in the beginning you need to check your ego and ignore those around you. In order to be successful you need take this time, your training time to focus on yourself, to start simple to Start Strong.  Simply said if you haven’t done push-ups in a few years and and you begin banging out several sets of 20 reps back to back, not only will you be sore but you can potentially injure yourself in fact I’ve done it. Sore shoulders suck, they affect your sleep, your mobility and a ton of everyday activities.  Sure you also need to warm up, but honestly you need to take stock of the types of movements you want or intend to do in your training program and prepare those muscle groups and movement patterns in a way that mitigates possible injury. Focus not only on training but mobility and hell even breathing but I’ll save that for another post.

I’ll circle back to push-ups.  Push-ups are great. They work almost the entire body which is great for general strength and conditioning but they also put a lot of load on the shoulders and to get the most benefit out of them you need to do a significant amount which also means repetitively stressing the shoulders.  In order to Start Strong take real stock in your conditioning and lighten the load or rep count.  Start with push-ups from your knees to prepare the muscles, ligaments and tendons for the load you intend to apply in the future.  If it has been a really long time perhaps start with wall push-ups again focusing on the movement pattern and conditioning the body’s response to a lighter load on those areas.

Sample of how I got started:

Week 1 Every Morning:

  • High Knees 30 reps
  • Jog in Place 20 seconds (Swing the arms as if running)
  • Shoulder circles 15 forward/15 backward
  • Push-ups from knees 2 sets of 10 reps
  • Plank 5 seconds for 5 reps
  • Body weight squats 5 reps

(Reason for each of these movements: The High Knees engage the legs and the core as well as initiate balancing.  The Jog in Place gets the blood moving this can be a light exercise, no need to run here. Shoulder Circles loosen and strengthen the shoulders and prep them for upcoming load from the push-ups. Push-ups in my opinion are one of the best overall exercises it engages a lot of muscle groups in the body and is great for general strength. Plank really activates the core and finally, the Body Weight Squats begin the leg and glute strengthening process.  These exercises loosen and strengthen the body preparing it for load.)

Week 2 Every Morning:

  • High Knees 60 reps
  • Jog in Place 30 seconds
  • Shoulder rotation 20 forward/20 backward
  • Push-ups 2 sets 5 reps
  • Plank 10 seconds for 5 reps
  • Body weight squats 10 reps
  • Glute Bridges 10 reps

(Reason for these movements: The previous movements remain the same, we’ve just upped the impact a little and added extra reps in many cases.  The glute bridges are to begin retraining glute activation which is something that most of us are lacking due to our 9-5 desk jobs.)

If week 1 scares you then we have a pre-week workout just for you to get things started.  You can start here and do this until you feel strong enough to take on week 1. You can increase time and reps every week until you are confident to take on week one.

Pre-Week Every Morning every:

  • March in place 20 seconds (only pick the knees up as high as you can but swing your arms as if you were running)
  • Swimmer Arm Circles 10 forward 10 back each arm
  • Wall Push-ups  2 sets of 10 Reps (place you feet to create an angle that provides some load without overloading your strength)
  • Sit-Stand 10 reps.  (This will require a kitchen chair. Sit down Stand up as if you were squatting.)
  • March in place 20 seconds

Here is the truth about training, it will benefit all of us but we also have to work within our limits and not make excuses for things we simply can’t do yet.  There is always a way to modify and prepare for new movements.  The fitness industry tells you that you have to overwhelm yourself; push to the point of puking or breaking but that is just wrong.  Smart training and programming to prepare for the next level is not only better than nearly killing yourself working out it is the first step in smart lifelong training.

Looking back at martial arts training and using how I was taught as a template, I have found that you need to start with the basics before you can move on to the complex stuff.  You don’t teach a martial artist a side kick before he can stand in a proper stance without falling over.  Why would you teach a barbell squat or a bench press before someone can air squat or push-up with proper form and application? You simply shouldn’t.