A Beginner's Guide to Exercise
If you're reading this chances are you’re planning on starting a fitness journey (congratulations to you for taking that step) or you’re currently stuck in your fitness journey and don’t know where to go next. Either way, you’ve come to the right place. One of the most overwhelming tasks for beginners and underutilized strategies that seasoned lifters face can be the numerous forms that exercise can take. They can be applied for each individual for varying results, and with enormous amounts of variables that can be experimented with to help you progress toward your goals.
First thing you should start by narrowing down what your goal is and why you are exercising. Let’s take a very common goal like weight/fat loss. Well how are we going to get there? That’s the fun part! There are thousands of ways to do this, but let’s start with my personal preference for fat loss from an exercise standpoint in the form of cardiovascular and endurance work.
Endurance and cardiovascular work is usually done through long duration exercise like going for 2-3+ mile runs, walks, or hiking. Repetitive bouts of relatively fast exercise mixed with breaks like interval running (running then walk breaks in between or changing speeds while running), or extremely explosive bouts of exercise followed by brief rests (e.g hill sprints) can also be good for improving aerobic capacity, heart health, and fat loss, but more on that later.
Exercise isn’t a one size fits all model and how would somebody modify these exercises to fit themselves. The FITT-VP Principle is a great place to start.
FITT stands for Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type; these are the different variables that can be manipulated to make exercise types a more effective fit for the individual performing them.
Frequency is how often you perform the exercise (3-5x/wk).
Intensity is how hard the exercise is; a common way of measuring this is heart rate.
Time is how long you are performing the exercise at the prescribed intensity and finally,
Type are the different methods of cardio that you are performing (e.g Long slow duration aerobic exercise, intervals, tempo, or high intensity intervals as mentioned earlier).
As a general rule, the average person should aspire to hit at least 150min/wk @ a moderate intensity or very close to 64-76% of their heart rate max or at least 75 min/wk of vigorous intensity exercise corresponding to around 77-95% of their heart rate max.
The VP, in FITT-VP, stands for Volume and Progression; these are products of the model and are used to improve upon the exercises respectively.
Volume is a product of FITT and in the case of endurance exercise can be simply put terms of calories expended per week. This is important because fat loss requires a nutritional component to be truly effective.
Progression is how you change exercises through various cycles and phases to become harder by increasing Frequency, Intensity, Time or by changing Type to something that is more challenging.
The FITT-VP principle may also be applied to resistance training as well. Frequency is still days/wk. Intensity is more closely related to the amount of resistance/weight placed on a given exercise. Time can be attributed to rest times between sets or exercises or duration of the entire session, and Type would be the region of the body the exercise is meant to target. Volume becomes the product of the sets and reps you have completed for a given exercise, and progression is still using any of the variables beforehand to further challenge yourself.
I mean there isn’t a vast amount of equipment and machines for no reason. Every single piece of equipment and machines in the gym were created for a reason and have multiple uses. The possibilities are truly limitless. I’m hoping the beginners can gain more confidence in using some of the equipment and a solid foundation for their fitness journey. The rest of you, hopefully I can inspire some creativity into your workouts and pull you out of a slump or just going through the motions and back to having fun with your workouts.
This is just a small look into how huge the possibilities of exercise hopefully this starts you on the right foot.
Brandon Mgeni CSCS, CPT
Personal Trainer, The GYM @ Milford
B.S. in Exercise and Sports Science