Once you commit to working out, knowing the basic principles are crucial to an effective workout. Our exercise guide is for those who are at the beginner to intermediate stage of training, so these basic principles will help understand this guide and provide the fundamentals for any fitness journey you set out on.
The exercises can be performed a number of different times and adapted to your level of physical ability, with the goal of leaving the body or specific targeted muscle group(s) feeling fatigued.
In a home program where equipment is limited, like this guide, increasing the number of repetitions of an exercise will be the best marker in tracking progress. The method of increasing repetitions has the benefit of improving endurance of the specific muscles involved.
Completing a single type of exercise with a certain amount of repetitions, without rest, is called a set.
You can maintain the number of reps in every set (i.e. three sets of 10 squats), or decrease the number of reps per set (start with 20, then 16, then 12) to ensure progress if muscle fatigue is preventing you from completing the same number of repetitions from set to set. This will also help mitigate the risk of injury.
To progress, increase the number of sets from one week to the next; for example, go from two sets to five sets of the same exercise within a four-week program.
3. Rest time
Take time to rest your muscles between each set. It is important to listen to your body and respect its physical limits to avoid injuries. Rest time in a fitness program is always a suggestion, so it is not a problem if more rest is needed between sets while maintaining the total time of 30 minutes. The important thing will be to note your rest times and make an effort to decrease them gradually over the subsequent weeks, keeping in mind that the goal is to be active while respecting your body's adaptive processes.
If you have the necessary accessories to monitor your heart rate (HR), you should give yourself rest anytime your HR goes above 85% of your max HR (see tip #6 for more details on heart rate).
Warm-ups are used to prepare the body for moderate to intense physical activity. Warming up will increase your resting heart rate and blood flow to your muscles, preparing them for physical activity. Some signs of a good warm-up include feeling your heart rate increasing, slightly labored breathing, or even the production of little sweat.
There are two types of warm-ups: general and specific. General warm-ups are used to increase the blood flow to the entire body, which can be achieved by performing light cardiovascular activity for approximately five minute (i.e. jogging in place, skipping rope, or jumping jacks). Specific warmups are used to prime the body to perform a specific exercise and are important for exercises that require good, specific technique, such as weightlifting.
For the purpose of our exercise guide, it is advised to perform any general warm up for about five minutes. It will also be important to commit to dynamic stretching prior to your workout (stretching that takes joints and muscles through active range of motion).
5. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
It is normal that, after a workout, muscles feel warm and might tremble, your body should feel good and full of energy. It is common for muscle inflammation to settle gradually after exercising (18 to 72 hours ), which people refer to as “feeling sore.” The peak of these sometimes-painful sensations are felt 48 hours after the workout, but note that this pain is not an injury. In fact, this process will lead your body to adapt. The first workout will usually “break the ice,” but , the inflammatory pains will either decrease in severity or disappear are you follow this daily exercise program.
6. Target Heart Rate : 220 minus your age
Someone’s maximum heart rate (number of beats of an individual's heart per minute) can be estimated by the formula "220 - age" and will be very useful to know your maximum heart rate (HR) during exercise and after rest to understand the intensity of the workout and whether it can be increased. While it is possible to find the direct value of your max HR through a maximum effort test on a treadmill, the “220 - age” formula will always be a valid approximation of your max heart rate.
A heart rate monitor like a Fitbit is essential to calibrating fitness sessions, whether it be aerobic or weight training, and is a smart purchase for those who want to adhere to an active lifestyle and participate in regular endurance training.
7. Using visual feedback
Exercise is not just about gaining muscle mass: it is also about becoming aware of your posture and having dynamic control of your limbs in space while keeping your body in balance. Getting visual feedback by means of a mirror is helpful to controlling movements and balance, which is why using a mirror has always been part of the basics of learning a new movement in physical education (but not a requirement). This helps in achieving visual awareness of your body and ensure proper execution.
8. Tracking progress
The goal of any fitness activity should be to make progress. It is important to take notes to track your progress and notice areas of improvements to set new goals. Doing this will also help your allied health professionals be aware of progress over time and provide appropriate guidance.
Here are four simple key metrics to keep track of:
- The date
- Number of repetitions
- Number of sets
- Amount of rest
9. Cooling down
Cool downs are used to bring the cardiovascular system back to its baseline state. For example, after performing vigorous cardiovascular activities such as sprints or hard running intervals, the body is in a highly fatigued and distressed state (think heavy breathing, difficulty talking, and a high heart rate). A proper cool down will include performing a light cardiovascular activity immediately after, such as a light-to-brisk walk or an easy jog, to gently bring the body back to baseline. Skipping your cool down and going from an intense physical bout of exercise to a complete stop could cause a sudden drop of blood pressure, light-headedness or even nausea.