16 Basic Fitness Tips Every Beginner Should Follow

Trainees have a lot of questions, and it’s tough to answer all those questions at once. But, what if I could create a document that had the bulk of all that information in a simple, easy to read format. The information would be concise, but not detailed. It would be general fitness tips. Things that you absolutely need to perform before you even think about adding any sort of advanced techniques to your training program. Well, here they are:

Tip #1: To prevent boredom, incorporate a lot of variety in your fitness program. This variety can be in the exercise performed, rep/set schemes, or activities performed.

  • For example, a common method of program design is alternating between cardiovascular training and weight training. What you can do instead, is to mix it up by perhaps performing two straight weight training workouts, followed by a cardiovascular workout or vice versa.
  • Another option is to perform a metabolic conditioning workout (combination of weight training and cardiovascular training) in between your typical workouts.
  • Sometimes you need to mix up the implements used as well. For example, bodyweight-only guys should try kettlebells or dumbbells for a while, and heavy strength guys should try out some bodyweight exercises.
  • Not only do you keep your body guessing, but you may realize some weaknesses in your body that you may want to fix. I know when I tried a bodyweight workout I found on a forum, I realized just how much I have been focusing more on kettlebell work and not enough on bodyweight training.


Image by getfrank

Tip #2: The goals you set needs to be realistic. We’d all like to lose 30 lbs in 30 days, but if you haven’t been able to lose 10 lbs in the past 10 years, than what makes you think you can do three times the amount of work in a fraction of the time?

  • Our bodies are random and weight loss is not linear. The same goes for mass gain. Take it slow and steady, and you will achieve your goals.
  • At the same time, you need to set big goals, or else you have nothing to look forward to. Go ahead and set a goal of dropping 100 lbs or putting on 50lbs of muscle mass. This is a long-term goal that may take many months, years, or decades. But it is a place that you want to end up.
  • Most people set very lofty goals and so create very aggressive training programs. For example, if your goal is to run a 5K marathon, and you are a complete beginner, then you should not be trying to run the 5K on your first day of training.
  • Start small. Set daily, weekly, and monthly goals until you achieve your final destination. Hard work is necessary to achieve your goals, but hard work needs to be coupled with careful planning.

Tip #3: Make sure that you keep a training diary. When I ask people about their diet and training, they give me a general overview which sounds very good.

  • Then, when I ask them for their training diaries, they say they don’t write their workouts down. That’s like telling me that when an architect builds a building, he does not take careful notes on the progress of the building.
  • Often times we say to ourselves we are doing one thing, but in fact we are doing another. You don’t need a complex system of keeping a training diary. Just start a word document on your computer or get yourself one of those small pads. All you need is to jot down what you did that day, how much weight you used, the exercises you performed, and how you felt.
  • Then, when you ask yourself why you have not been able to achieve your goals, you can look back and see exactly where the problem was. Maybe you weren’t lifting heavy enough. Maybe you are trying to lift too heavy. Maybe you’re just not eating enough. Or maybe your eating too much.
  • When you keep a training diary, there is no way you can lie to yourself. One of the reasons why people hire coaches and personal trainers is so that they can keep careful logs of how their clients are doing, and give suggestions for improvement.

Tip#4: Figure out how frequently you want to train. The typical workout program revolves around a 3-day per week schedule. However, this format may not be suitable for everyone.

  • I always hear people say that if they exercise one day, then rest the next day, it’s hard for them to get back into the gym on the third day. I feel the same way.
  • I try to do something each and every day, unless I absolutely can not do it. Some people may have time for only one 30 minute session per week, and so they need to take the best advantage of those 30 minutes.
  • Others have completely random schedules. And yet others will find themselves completely devoted to fitness and will be able to take on a six day per week, twice a day schedule.
  • Each of us is different. Training frequency has to do with current fitness levels, work and family schedules, and personal preferences.

Tip#5: As mentioned in tip 5, the goal of a personal trainer or coach is to track your progress and to provide suggestions for improvement. But beyond that, if you’re looking for a personal trainer, you want to find one that will yell at you.

  • I’m talking about motivation. If your personal trainer just stands in the corner talking to his buddy while you’re working out, then fire him. Find someone else.
  • How do you know if he’s right for you? Ask for a free, or one-time session and see what he or she does. If they push you beyond your limits and are not afraid to yell at you, then he or she is a good trainer.

Tip#6: Stay in it for the long-term. If you have not decided to make fitness a life-long journey, then you are in it for the wrong reasons. Fitness is not about impressing the opposite sex or dropping your blood sugar levels just low enough to be “safe” until the next meeting with your doctor.

  • Fitness is a long-term commitment. Until you make this decision, you will never see results. Or perhaps you will see results, but they’ll be temporary.
  • The moment you return to your old, bad habits, you’ll waste away back to the your old, unhealthy self.

Tip#7: Realize that there is no perfect training program. You need to experiment and choose the one that suits your goals and your personality. There are, of course, certain rules to adhere to.

  • First, you should have some form of resistance training program, whether that be bodyweight, kettlebell, or weight training.
  • Second, you should have some form of cardiovascular training program, whether that be running, jump roping, or high intensity circuits.
  • And finally, you need to have fun. Just as there is no perfect training program, realize that your training program will not give you results forever.
  • You can not keep getting new results by performing the same old things. You need to gradually change your program to incorporate new and challenging things.
  • Sometimes you may need to completely switch around your training program. For example, instead of perform 3 sets of 10 reps for each exercise, try performing 10 sets of 3 reps for each exercise.
  • Instead of performing your cardio each morning, try performing a weight training workout in the morning.

Tip#8: Diet is 80% of the equation, but that does not mean that it needs to be difficult. I personally do not “diet” anymore. I do not count calories, or measure my carbohydrate or protein intake. I do not think that the average person needs to do this.

  • All you need to do is identify the bad foods that you are eating and replace them with better foods. I like to make a list of all the foods that I eat, and categorize them into three lists: good foods, bad foods, and OK foods.
  • The idea is to double the quantity of good foods, eliminate the bad foods, and replace the OK foods with better choices.
  • Also, be sure to try a new recipe or restaurant once in a while. Eating the same thing can get a bit boring.
  • However, I personally do not deviate much from my diet. I have found the foods that work best for me, and unless I really need to, I will not be changing my diet anytime soon.
  • The key is to choose foods that you love and know are healthy for you. For example, I love peanut butter. A peanut butter sandwich with a protein shake is a great meal to eat right after an intense workout.


Image by tonto–kidd

Tip#9: Gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. Intensity is the key to effective workouts, not how long you exercise. For beginners, 10 push ups may be an intense workout.

  • The idea is to time the workout, and see how many you can perform within a given time. For example, if you can perform 10 push ups in 15 seconds, then try to perform 10 push ups in 10 seconds.
  • Once you’ve hit that goal, try to perform 5 pull ups in 10 seconds. Keep pushing yourself, trying to achieve more work in less time to increase the intensity of the workout.
  • Intensity is also more practical than simply increasing the work you perform. I few of my bodybuilder friends stay in the gym for two hours. They’ve built themselves up over the past few years, and they have the time to spend two hours per day in the gym.
  • Most people do not have that sort of time. By keeping your workouts intense, you can keep them short, and effective. Make fitness a part of your life, not the opposite way.
  • Another benefit of keeping your workouts short and intense is that it leaves you with more time for rest and recuperation.

Tip#10: Have methods set in place for consistent progression. This may mean gradually increasing the weight that you use, increasing total reps performed, or decreasing the time it takes you to perform a particular workout.

  • There are numerous methods of pushing your body, but you must push yourself if you want to keep seeing results.

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Tip#11: Make sure you have near-perfect form for all of your exercises. If you can lift heavy, but with poor form, you are setting yourself up for injury.

  • In order to learn proper form, start off with watching YouTube videos. I watch hundreds of hours of video throughout the year, and each time I learn something new about exercise form.
  • A second tip is to tape yourself, especially if you do not have a trainer or spotter. Many times, I will see myself doing something wrong on tape, fix it, and see dramatic improvements in my workout time and overall work capacity.

Tip#12: Drink lots of water. I feel thirsty all the time, and sometimes it gets a bit annoying. Make it a habit to drink water through out the day.

  • Here is a good way of getting your eight glasses of water: One glass when you wake up, one glass before and after each meal, one glass each time you leave the house and each time you walk into the house, and one glass before you get to bed. Before you know it, it’ll be a habit.

Tip#13: Make the best of your exercise area. During the summer, I trained in my backyard. As the weather got colder, I switched to training my garage.

  • And now I train in my room. Each time, I’ve used my surrounding to my advantage. For example, when I was training in the backyard, I was able to set up more elaborate obstacle course-type circuits.
  • When I was training in the garage, I relied mostly on heavy strength training to get the job done. And now that I’m in my room, I will be focusing mostly on bodyweight training. The idea is to make the best of your situation.

Tip#14: Follow the general hierarchy when it comes to starting a fitness program. Get good at bodyweight training first, then start performing free-weight movements.

  • Once you’re proficient with dumbbells and barbells, you may venture into kettlebell territory. There are a myriad of implements out there, but the best implement is your own body weight.
  • There are so many guys out there that feel there is no way you can build lean muscle mass with bodyweight training, but are still unable to perform 10 good pull ups.
  • Muscle is built by pushing your body and by eating a lot of food. You do not need any fancy equipment in order to gain muscle mass or lose fat. All you need is consistency, determination, and your bodyweight.

Tip#15: Get a training partner. A training partner serves as your own personal strength coach. Make sure your training partner is at the same level or slightly more experienced than you are.

  • If you train together, you learn together, and you progress together. It would also help if you two had similar goals. If you’re shooting for heavy back squats, and your friend is trying to increase his running speed, it does not make much sense for you guys to be going through the “300” workout.
  • Have similar goals, and design workouts specifically for those goals.

Tip#16: The last and most important tip: stretch! Stretching is not for women or Yoga practitioners. I’ve often been able to improve my workout times by simply performing a few stretches before a workout.

  • The best thing to do is to have one or two sessions per week, 10-15 minutes, where you simply relax and stretch your entire body.
  • Yoga is probably the best option for stretching, although running through the usual back bends and hamstring stretches helps as well.

Is there something I’ve left out?

Additional Resources:

If you’re looking for some high intensity workouts using just your bodyweight, then check out Bodyweight Exercise Revolution.