Hi everyone, I need to build a little muscle and tone up everywhere, unfortunately I feel like I am reading a foreign language when fitness stuff is being discussed. I have never gone out of my way to do any specific physical exercises because I have always worked physical jobs. I'm a small gal though and need to strengthen up. Anyways, I have a couple "dumb" questions: Are pull-ups and push-ups all you need to work your upper body including pectorals? You will work out every muscle this way or is other exercise required? For lower body- lunges and squats will work out every muscle? Also, can someone recommend any videos out there on YouTube or where ever that can give a nice, simple example of different strength exercises one can do without equipment? I am confused by all the info out there and just want to make sure I don't hurt myself and do all the movements correctly. Thanks so much for any help!
As someone who went from a complete novice to a reasonably fit person (which took about 3 years so be patient), here are a few things I've learned in my travels.
-Ignore "muscles groups". The "back and bis, chest and tris" stuff is part of a bodybuilding culture that has been accepted as the norm. IF you are looking to bodybuild, then yeah you need to do things a bit differently. But if you are simply looking to tone up and get stronger, focus on multi-joint dynamic exercises. These include push-ups, pull-ups, overhead presses, squats, lunges, deadlifts (my absolute favorite and the bane of pretty much everyone else), cleans, snatches, and rows. A lot of these movements work every muscle group. A deadlift targets your legs, primarily your glutes and hamstrings, but your quads and hip flexors will fire too, you need to keep your core tight and your back straight to prevent back injuries, and if you keep your shoulder retracted you will have a stronger lift and strengthen your rotator cuff. Ignore the cable machines at the gym, ignore the Curves circuit training model. Circuit training can help if you are using it every so often to shock your system but it's a waste of time. My personal recommendation is if you are doing more than 4 exercises at the gym at once, you're wasting your time. You should do an upper body pull, upper body push, lower body exercise and then some sort of conditioning drill (intervals, rowing, tabatas, crossfit metcon, etc...) No mas.
-Eat right. I can't say if eating whey protein after a work-out has helped me recover or if it's the placebo effect of my body relaxing and feeling better so I recover faster. There is a lot of research that says protein post workout is critical but others that suggest fasting can create more growth hormones. In any case, I recover best when I have protein after a hard workout and I skip it after having a lighter one. Find what works best for you but make sure you are eating enough quality protein and anti-oxidant rich foods. The last thing you want to do is to eat pasta and nullify your gains at the gym.
-Take it easy. Don't push yourself too hard too fast. I made this mistake and I still have some lingering shoulder and elbow discomfort from it. I have a trigger point deep in my neck I attribute to going to hard with an overhead press right away (first week at the gym) and it still throws my shoulder out of wack. Push yourself at a reasonable pace and give yourself plenty of rest to recover. Strength gains are not made in the gym, they are made while your body rests.
-A little money goes a long way. If you plan on doing multi-joint exercises but fitness lingo seems like arabic to you, find a professional to help you with your form. Come in with specific requests (I want to learn this, this, and this) but get someone who can show you exactly what to do. The last thing you want is to tear some tendons or blow out your back because you've been using bad techniques. Get your technique and form down and your results will follow. Find a quality gym, don't go for the wal-mart brand crap box gyms that have only cable weight machines and no free weights. Spend some money on equipment at home. Be selective, don't go around blowing your money, but if you spend a little now, it will go a long way later on.
-STRETCH! You're going to be sore. A lot. Work on stretching AFTER work-outs and do it the right way. Check out Pavel Tsatsouline's Relax into Stretch. Helped me SOOOOOOO much. Mobility and flexibility will also help you get strength gains down the road as well.
Honest short answer - push ups, pull ups and squats is a great start. Hits most muscle groups. Throw in a bit of sprinting for building fast twitch muscle and promoting HGH spurts, which will help muscle growth generally. You can always move on to more complex bodyweight exercises or weights later if you're interested.
Stay away from conventual wisdom which preaches repetitive movements. You are not building "real" strength. Forget weights or machines and get back to working with your own body weight and focus on short, intense, full-range body movements.
The key is to break through your aerobic threshold and fine tune the anaerobic system. Once you do so, you trigger the body to do all kinds of wonderful things: strengthen the heart, increase lung capacity, burn fat, build lean muscle, etc.
Since you are looking to just build a "little muscle and tone up everywhere", you SHOULD focus on the classic calisthenics exercises like squats (all variations), push-ups, pull-ups (regular & underhand grips), dips, sit-ups (all variations). By doing just these exercises alone, you ARE working out your entire body!
In the end, stay away from doing the typical "gym" repetitive movements. They are useless (sorry, it's true). In the end, your body thrives on spontaneity, so mix it up ALWAYS! There are many variations on each of the exercises I recommended, so play around and build some fun routines (Yeah, it should be fun!). Keep your routines to 30-45 minutes max. 25-30 minutes would be better. Remember, short & intense ;-)
Concerning videos or links that could be useful, look into "tabata" workouts. They are a perfect example of the "short, intense" stuff I am taking about ("The toughest 4 minutes of your life" lol!). You can just google tabata and a wealth of information will pop up, but I included a few favorite links below.
http://www.intervaltraining.net/tabata.html (Basic explanation)
http://www.squidoo.com/tabatatraining (Bunch of exercise ideas and videos)
http://www.beach-fitness.com/tabata/ (A great tabata exercise stopwatch for your computer)
One more thing, it's the still the 80/20 rule (80% diet/20% exercise). If you're not feeding your body properly, you probably won't achieve the results you want. Since you are already on this site, I don't think I need to explain what you should be avoiding and consuming for best results....I'll give you a hint...."paleo".
Best of luck!
My favorite videos with good instructions on how to scale appropriately are from Again, Faster at http://www.againfaster.com/the-micd-instructor/. I know he covers pull ups, push ups, and squats.
When I first started out trying to build some strength I used the CrossFit "warm-up" at CrossFit Ozone's site: http://crossfitozone.com/archived-scaled-wods/ (scroll down to Warm Up). When I could manage three rounds of this I then really started heavier and harder workouts.
If you're looking to work your legs, and you are low in equipment, try wall sits instead of squats. Less dangerous, form is easy, and they work quite well. Why risk your knees when you don't have to?
hi, first of all - don't feel discouraged. There are many of us here (I think) that started from very modest point... I also was very confused with the lingo, muscle groups, complicated systems and what not. I've been going through many books, some more some less useful. Here people really helped me by pointing out a few simple things, and to relax. what I am doing now is push ups and being in plank on time (push-up position or on elbows if it's too difficult and try to keep it for 30s or 1min) - both regular and side (on one hand body side ways - your obliques work like crazy!), with squats, wall sits some simple dumbbels exercises... I try to copy natural movements, I think - what if I had to use an axe? or lift heavy tree trunk? I workout at home, and I feel it's totally enough for me. I try to change things around just to make it more interesting - I will add tabata, or try something from kick-boxing for fun, another day will "dance" a bit to salsa music as a good warm up. it's supposed to be fun as well!
and same as others already said, make sure you take enough time for stretching and cool down.
You may want to write down how much simple exercises you are able to do now and compare it with the results in three months to come or so. You will be astonished with your progress!
What it sounds like you want/need is a workout plan that is simple enough to be approachable.
Recently I settled on doing something called 'Simple Fit' which I'll be trying out for a while. It seems to be pretty simple to start, stay on track and advance. It's comprised of Pullups (or pullup susbstitute exercices like rows, assisted pullups, etc) Pushups, and Squats. You work out 3 times per week, 1st interval is 15 minutes, the second is around 20ish minutes depending, the last is 5-10 minutes. So time wise it's pretty reasonable.
The forums seem pretty helpful, and one of the moderators posts on the marks daily apple forum quite a bit under the name 'cheapo'. People have posted before and after pics doing this workout.
Hi, Hannah. I'm in a similar boat though it sounds like you're be ahead of me because you say you have a physical job. I've been doing the one hundred push-up challenge but was in such bad shape that I had to do mine against a counter in the kitchen. Still, the other night I was able to do two actual, real-life, full-length push-ups that I've NEVER been able to do. I also plan on starting the related squat and sit-up challenges soon.
push ups and pull ups are only half of what you need for upper body.
your routine should include:
Horizontal push (pushups/dips) AND horizontal pull (inverted rows, if you have no equipment)
Vertical push (overhead press) and vertical pull (pullups)
if you ignore your vpress and hpull you will have imbalances and injure yourself.
keep the squats see about adding deadlifts.
Body weight exercises are the best way to go - You don't need a gym membership or buy any equipment. Push ups are not only great for arms and shoulders but holding the start position is a better ab exercise than sit ups. Just google body weight exercises are push right in. Second- nothing builds strength better than lifting HEAVY objects, so after a few months of Body weight exercises ADD some dead lifts and squats. Do worry about getting too much muscle- you need intent to to that.