Adding Physical Activity
Training, or Exercising?
When it comes to adding physical activity to your life, you must first decide whether you want to exercise or train. Mark Rippetoe explains the difference very well:
Exercise is physical activity performed for the effect it produces today — right now. […] Exercise is physical activity done for its own sake, either during the workout or immediately after it’s through.
Training is physical activity performed for the purpose of satisfying a long-term performance goal, and is therefore about the process instead of the workouts themselves.
We mention this difference up front because the majority of the content in this Wiki is for individuals who want to train – who have a physique or performance goal that is more than just being physically active or working out on a daily basis.
It’s also OK if you want to exercise or be physically active in general. It’s always preferable to engage in some form of physical exercise rather than being completely inactive. However, the specifics won’t matter to you for the most part — you can do just about anything on any given day and still accomplish your objective.
The Importance of Having a Program
Having a strong training regimen to stick to, rather than just showing up at the gym and winging it, offers many significant advantages:
- It provides structure and helps with scheduling.
- It makes sure you are getting enough rest and recovery between training sessions.
- It saves you time always knowing what to do when you get to the gym.
- It gives you a plan for continuing to drive progress over time, so you don’t stall and stagnate.
- It helps you know how hard to work in the gym, so you don’t work harder than you can handle or too little to make progress.
- It ensures you are not neglecting muscles or muscle groups, so you don’t develop imbalances that can lead to tightness and pain, and don’t look oddly proportioned.
- It removes the need to spend excessive amounts of time doing research for answers to many questions about training.
It’s also crucial that your routine comes from someone who knows what they’re doing – that is, it shouldn’t be some random dude’s Biceps 900 routine, and you shouldn’t make one up yourself. It’s quite OK to “copy the brilliant kid’s schoolwork” — in fact, it’s encouraged. The best approach is to stick to a tried-and-true strategy (with just small adjustments to match your life or equipment access). Training without a plan is like to putting up a home without blueprints.
To help understand this better, we strongly recommend reading the article Fuckarounditis by Martin Berkhan of LeanGains. This is about a 30 minute read, but don’t be daunted by the length – Over the years. If you don’t have time to read it now, bookmark it and come back to it later.
Why You Should Do Strength Training
People who are unfamiliar with strength training (most typically lifting weights) may misunderstand it. This sort of workout isn’t only for powerlifters and bodybuilders, or for those looking to get “jacked.” Gaining strength and muscle has a variety of health and lifestyle advantages, and you don’t have to worry about turning into a “mass monster” just because you start lifting weights. It takes a lot of effort to put on that much muscle. Even if strength training isn’t your major emphasis, it’s a good idea to undertake some for a well-rounded fitness program. Here are a few of the advantages:
- Improved ability to manipulate / move objects in day-to-day life, including yourself
- Increased bone density and reduced risk of osteoporosis
- Improved balance and reduced risk of falls
- Can reduce symptoms of arthritis, back pain, obesity, heart disease, depression, and diabetes
- Can improve cognitive ability in older adults
- Can improve blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and HDL
- Can reduce risk of cancer
- Broadly reduces risk of injury
- Can help maintain joint flexibility
- Improved ability to control weight gain through increased calorie usage
Why You Should Do Cardio
Cardiovascular activity, like strength training, is an important part of a well-rounded fitness program and offers various health advantages. The myth that “cardio kills gains” has long persisted, yet this is far from the case, and skipping cardio might really hinder your strength training. Stronger By Science has two good pieces on this subject:
- Cardio isn’t going to kill your gains. Need more evidence? You got it.
- Avoiding Cardio Could Be Holding You Back
Some of the benefits of doing cardio include:
- Improved heart and lung health
- Improved heart rate
- Improved recovery from strenuous activities and workouts
- Potentially reduced risk of dementia
- Improved immune system function
- May improve cholesterol levels
- May help prevent or manage diabetes
- May improve gut health
- May improve mental health and mood
Choosing the Right Routine
Because consistency over time is so important for getting results, above all else, your primary considerations when choosing a routine should be:
- What you can reasonably fit into your schedule, both in terms of time per workout and days per week.
- What equipment you have access to.
The internet is full of heated debates over what routine by which coach is the best. The truth is that Many Roads Lead To Rome and routine selection is rarely the make-or-break it’s made out to be. All of the routines on the Recommended Routines page are effective and reliable, so don’t sweat your choice and definitely don’t get hung up on trying to select what’s “optimal”.
Recommended Starting Plan
If you are new to strength training or exercise in general, r/Fitness recommends the following path:
- Start with a Basic Beginner Routine. This is a straightforward, bare-bones routine to help you get comfortable with fundamental barbell lifts which are a core component of most lifting routines and includes guidelines for cardio and conditioning work. Follow this plan for a maximum of 3 months. If you are already comfortable with the fundamental barbell lifts, you should probably skip this step.
- After 3 months, switch your routine to either 5/3/1 for Beginners or GZCLP. If you choose GZCLP, be sure you add a minimum of one day of light cardio and one day of HIIT / conditioning. Stick with this for at least 6 months.
- After at least 6 months, feel free to start looking at other routines if you’d like.
If you don’t have access to barbells and related equipment, it is strongly recommended that you try to get access to them as soon as possible. Many of the most reliable and effective strength training routines use barbell compound lifts as their bread and butter, and for good reason – they will give you the best bang for your buck and tend to be the most efficient. In the meantime, the Calisthenics Workout section is the best alternative choice.