Daily Archives: February 11, 2011

Fitness Friday: Something For The Beginner

At this point in my personal training career, I would say the majority of my clients are what I call “beginner exercisers.” I know I post a lot of intermediate workouts on here, but by and large the ones I create for clients are filled with exercises geared towards newbies. Or at least, someone who hasn’t worked out in say… 15-20 years? ;)

I put the call out for Fitness Friday topics this week, and Rhonda fired back with a good one.


Hi Rhonda, you just described my typical client.

Now, I have to tell you there is a reason why this type of person seeks out personal training if the first place. They’re out of shape, their flexibility is shot, they’ve got an injury, and they’re seriously lacking in the motivation department.

All of the above is best fixed with one-on-one sessions. It allows me to asses your specific needs and build a training plan from there. Because I can’t do that through my blog, I’m going to try to do the next best thing.

The following is a list of exercises that I will typically do for a beginner exerciser in the first session. They’re easy to get in and out of, it works the whole body, and tells me what should be the areas of focus. Plus, they’re all exercises I feel comfortable letting a newb try out on their own as “homework.”

The following is a strength routine you can do 2-3 times a week. On top of this, you should be doing some form of cardio 4-5 days a week for 20-50 minutes. On lifting days, keep the cardio to 20 min, on non-lifting days, make it a little longer. Be sure to allow 48 hours between each strength session to allow for proper muscle repair.


Stability Ball Squat
2 sets x 20 reps


I like this exercise because it automatically puts you in correct squatting form without the use of a machine. It’s supposed to be easier on your knees, but you can always widen your stance to take additional pressure off.

  • Make sure your knees are behind your toes when you lower.
  • Only come down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Push your butt back into the wall.
  • Keep your chest facing the front wall.
  • Push up through your heels.

Lying Hamstring Curl on Ball
2 sets x 12-15 reps


  • Lay down with your arms at your sides, palms down.
  • Place your ankle on top of a stability ball.
  • Raise your hips so your body is a straight line.
  • Bend your knees into your body using your hamstrings.

Seated Machine Chest Press
2 sets x 12-15 reps. Starting at 10-15 lbs for women, 20-25 lbs for men.


  • Adjust the seat so the bars are next to your chest – aka the “nipple line”
  • Roll your shoulders back and rest your head against the seat so you’re not tempted to strain your neck.
  • Elbows are slightly below the shoulders.
  • Don’t let your hands come back past your chest, it puts too much weight on your shoulders.

Seated Machine Cable Row
2 sets x 12-15 reps. Starting around 30-40 lbs depending on the machine.


All machines for this one are slightly different, but the motion and form are always the same.

  • Back is straight, shoulders are back and down away from the ears.
  • Feet resting on pads or edge.
  • Slight bend to knee (but enough room to allow cable to pass)
  • This is a back exercise, so think about pulling the handle in using your back. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and bring your elbows as far back as you can.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press
2 sets x 10-12 reps. Starting around 8 – 12 lbs.



Preferably done standing, but only if you promise me you won’t arch your back. If you suffer from back problems, try these seated on a bench or chair.

  • Don’t arch your back!
  • Dumbbells come above your head, not in front of your face.
  • Shoulders are down the whole time. Locked back into that perfect posture position.
  • Don’t strain your neck, or push your chin forward.
  • Lack of shoulder mobility is a common problem, meaning this exercise isn’t for everyone. Let me know which ways you can’t move your shoulder and I’ll give you an alternate exercise.

Standing Cable Tricep Pushdown
2 sets x 12-15 reps. Starting around 15-25 lbs.

  • Your forearms are the only part of your body moving in this exercise. It’s a single-joint move, meaning the only joint moving is your elbow. Lock everything else into place. The second you fall out of form, readjust or call the set done!
  • Keep your shoulders back and away from your ears.
  • Bring your forearms up to 90 degrees, and then push them down until your arms are straight.

Dumbbell Bicep Curl
2 sets x 12-15 reps. Starting around 8 – 12 lbs.


  • Another single-joint exercise, your elbows are also the only ones working here, and your forearms are the only body parts moving.
  • Keep those elbows hugged to your sides like your life depended on it.
  • Keep your shoulders back and away from the ears.
  • Don’t let your spine arch backward.

Prone Cobra
2 sets x 30-60 seconds


Lay on your stomach, hands down by your side, and lift your chest off the ground. This is an isometric back exercise, so you’re just going to hold that position for as long as you can.

  • Face the floor so as not to strain your neck.
  • Keep your toes on the floor.
  • Always be trying to lift your chest higher and higher with each passing second.

Lying Leg Lifts
2 sets x 10-15 reps.


I often get people to place their hands under their hips for this one to support their lower back. That will help prevent your back from arching when your abs begin to fail. Start with your legs together, toes facing the ceiling. Lower your legs until you feel that pull in your stomach, then bring your legs back up.

  • Try to keep your legs as straight as possible.
  • Motion doesn’t have to be big. Some people only drop their legs a few inches because that’s all it takes to feel the burn!

Ab Roll-Up
2 sets x 10-15 reps.


Lay on your back with your legs stretched out in front and your arms stretched out on the floor overhead. Using your abs, pull yourself up, moving your arms towards your toes. Then slooowly roll your spin back on to the floor and repeat.

  • Try to keep from using momentum to get yourself up.
  • Remember to engage your core and not your back.
  • Take it slooow on the way down to get more out of this exercise.

Extra Things To Consider:

When going through these exercises, play close attention to your body.  What moves felt particularly hard? What ones felt easy? If you can barely walk the next day, then maybe it’s time to focus a little more on the legs. Or if your back is sore, then start working on not only back exercises but core strength as well.

Always start with lighter weights than you think necessary to get the form down, then move up to challenging weights that have you close to failure. YouTube is your best friend when it comes time to choose more challenging exercises. But the ones above should hopefully just get you in the weight room door ;)

This workout is not meant to get you sweaty and breathless. It won’t aid that much in weight loss, that’s why it needs to be paired with cardio. BUT it will get your basic strength and mobility back. So you can eventually take on more advanced exercises to get that metabolic fire burning ;)

As for cardio and flexibility for this fitness and age group… That’s another post for another day.