Exercise information for beginners.



I need help finding an exercise program to obtain my fitness goals. Help.

Try the programpicker website. It has collected all the standard information we have in this FAQ, reduced the number of questions to a bare minimum, and recommends the best program for you to meet your fitness goals.

I want to get toned, how do I do that?

People often ask this question without understanding what muscle tone actually means. Muscle tone is the amount of tension a muscle maintains when it's at rest. It is a neurological phenomenon, and if one wanted to increase muscle tone, the most efficient way to do it would be to lift heavy weights for low repetitions, increasing neuromuscular efficiency.
However, many people use the term "toned" to refer to a person with visible muscle definition. In this sense, there are no special "toning" exercises for your muscles. Fitness advice for women is often guilty of purporting to have the "secret" to a toned body. For men, the question is often 'how do I get ripped?'
The answer, in fact, is extremely simple: build up muscle mass and lower your body fat.
Fat people may have huge muscles, but they will never be "toned" unless the fat is removed to reveal the muscle underneath.
Skinny people have an easier time getting "toned", as any muscle they put on is not covered by fat. However, it is often harder for a skinny person to add muscle.

Doing high reps of lighter weights will help me get toned, right?

This is completely untrue. Higher reps help with muscle endurance, which may be useful for some sports. However, if your goal is to get "toned," you should be focusing on increasing muscle size. The larger the muscle, the easier it will be to see.

I don't want to get too huge/bulky!

Do not worry about getting bulky. It's not easy to put on muscle, and it is very doubtful that you'll accidentally put on too much. Even if you do, it's not hard to shrink down to your desired size by reducing caloric intake and continuing to lift.
A note to women: Some women are averse to heavy weights because they don't want to "bulk up" or "look like a dude". However, most women will never get as bulky as guys because they lack sufficient testosterone. The female professional athletes you see with large, "toned" arms got that way through of a much more vigorous workout routine than you will ever attempt. A woman's lifting routine should not be that different from a man's.
If you start to look more muscular than you want, simply reduce caloric intake.

Will doing 1000 sit-ups give me a six pack?

Short answer no, long answer no definitely not. Your abs are muscles same as your calves, quads, deltoids etc. The way that you build muscle is by stressing it then resting, muscles grow when rested not when being stressed. Over-taxing the muscle will lead to muscle wastage and possible injury. Also, everybody on earth currently has an eight pack, it's just hiding behind a layer of fat.
If you're fat then no matter how many crunches or how big your abs get if the fat on top of it is concealing them you'll still look fat. For men body fat of about 10% is normally considered to be the cut off point to have your abdominals show, for women it's about 18-20%. Doing sit-ups will not target fat burning on your stomach. Your body takes care of fat burning itself internally so it decides where to lose fat from (i.e. men typically find lower abdominal region of fat hardest to lose). To get that killer six/eight pack you need to get to about 10% body fat.

I'd like to isolate a specific muscle using barbells/olympic bars/body weight/a cable. What exercise can I do?

Check out this click map (for males) or this one (for females); click on a muscle, it will take you a list of appropriate exercises, with full descriptions on form.

I have a bad injury, please help me train around it.

Joint Injuries
Joint injuries require lots of extra help. Joint mobility work is necessary and should be done every morning. This typically involves joint circles (except for the hinge joints: elbow, fingers, knees, etc. Never "circle" hinge joints). The best recommendation I've seen is to do a number of joint circles equal to your age, both clockwise and counterclockwise. If you have a popping or creaking joint, double this number. If it is painful, move slower and triple the number.
It may also help to put light pressure on the joints and work them out. For instance, doing standing pushups against a wall is a great way to help a shoulder injury. Doing "squats" while lying on your back will help a knee injury. The key is to move them, and put stress on them, but not a lot. Your body will respond to stress by making things stronger.
Muscular Injuries
RICE - Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Additionally, non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are helpful to reduce pain and swelling.
As for applying ice, there are many recommended ways to do this, I will provide one: apply ice for 10 minutes, then no ice for 20 minutes, and repeat as often as possible. Ice causes a vasoconstriction. When you remove the ice the vasodilation brings fresh nutrient dense blood into the injury site to speed recovery. This is similar to contrast bathing. There is a good break down of how to implement RICE here.
If an injury and pain persist for longer than a few days, you should see a doctor. Do not trust Fittit to heal you.

Should I work out if I'm sick?

Over the internet, it's very hard for others to evaluate how sick you are. Missing one workout because you're not feeling well is not the end of the world, but repeatedly begging off workouts may have an impact on your longterm goals.
The general consensus is that, if it is a mild head cold (runny nose, sore throat, etc) you should be good to workout, but with a chest cold(coughing up mucus) it's probably a good time for a rest day or two. There are some other concerns for those that dont have a home gym. If you are fairly sick you should stay home for the health of others that go to your gym(especially during flu season). If you are sick, can't get to the gym, and still feel the need to workout try an at homebodyweight circuit. Keep in mind while you're sick, you should lower the intensity of your workout to keep the body focused on the task at hand(fighting your sickness) and to prevent injury, as your body overall is in a weaker state than normal.

I have muscle soreness two days after my last workout. Should I workout again today?

It sounds like you're experiencing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). You should workout again today, and you'll notice that this decreases in intensity over the next couple of weeks.

If I don't feel Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) the day after, am I working hard enough?

Yes. People generally feel DOMS after they recently start a new workout program. Over time, DOMS goes away.

What type of shoes should I wear for _?

Consider barefoot/minimalist running. These types of footwear have become quite popular in recent years. However, if you prefer "regular" running shoes your best bet is to go to a running store and get fitted for some shoes. They can analyze your feet and your gait and will recommend shoes just for you.
Weight Lifting
Flat soled shoes (Vans, Airwalks, Converse, etc) or minimalist footwear such as Vibram Five Fingers, Feelmax shoes, or even water shoes. Barefoot is also ok, but be careful not to smash your toes. If you're going to be squatting a lot or doing the olympic lifts, dedicated weightlifting shoes with a raised heel can help your form. exrx article on weightlifting shoes
Martial Arts / Yoga
None. Barefoot or in socks is best. You want to train ankle and toe mobility and support here too.

Which should I do first, cardio or weights?

Since fatigue from cardio first can result in poor lifting form, the general consensus is to lift first. Read more about it in this thread.
However, concurrent strength and endurance (cardio) training should be avoided if you want maximum results from strength training. Cardio inhibits the muscle building effects of resistance training on a molecular level. Periodization is the best solution, but if you must do both, put them as far away from each other as possible (eg. on different days). You will still get big and strong if you do both simultaneously, but it will take longer.
Sources: http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Abstract/2006/11000/Concurrent_Strength_and_Endurance_Training__From.13.aspx

My posture is all crappy. How do I fix it?

Note: Click the links in the text below for solutions to each of the problems presented
Lower cross syndrome is a posture issue generally caused by sitting all the time. The erector spinae (lower back spinal muscles) and hip flexors tend to be tight, and the glutes and abdominals tend to be weak. This typically results in an anterior pelvic tilt - causing one's butt and gut to stick out.
Similarly, some people can end up with a posterior pelvic tilt. People with a posterior tilt tend to look as if their lower back and butt are completely flat.
Upper cross syndrome is another posture issue caused by sitting while hunching forward (at a computer, over books, etc). The pectorals and the upper back/next tend to be tight, while the scapular muscles (shoulder blades) and neck flexors tend to be weak. This tends to manifest with a hunchback "computer guy" posture.
You can find the exercises for APT and hunchback condensed into this document, which includes images and a short description of each exercise.

I'm trans. Do I need a different plan?

M to F
If you have not yet started hormones and wish to gain a female shape, it's probably a good idea to avoid lifting until you do start the hormones. Cardio is fine, bodyweight stuff like gymnastics, yoga, and pilates are fine. Your dietary needs are unchanged - work with the BMR for a male until you start hormones.
If you have started hormones, you can follow the standard advice in this FAQ. The hormones will keep you from putting on male-pattern muscles.
Additional information in this 3-part series: part 1part 2, and part 3.
F to M
If you have not yet started hormones, shape change will likely need to wait until you do.
If you have started hormones, you'll likely find yourself stronger than you used to be. Lift to gain size and male pattern muscles.

All credit goes to Reddit Fitness

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