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Best Beginner Fitness Tips From Personal Trainers

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

Physical fitness is foundational for the citizen and the nation. Look at the following, experientially based wisdom for building a better you as we, thankfully, progress away from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Image Credit: Wix Media

The following article is from the International Sports Sciences Association's (ISSA's) website:

Just getting into an exercise routine? CONGRATULATIONS for taking the first step to better health! Regular exercise has so many health benefits including creating a stronger, more mobile body, reducing the risk of chronic health problems, and improving mood and mental focus.

No matter how or where you workout, exercise can be fun. From a gym workout with a certified personal trainer to a home workout on your own or with a few of your closest friends, you can improve your health and attack your fitness goals. As a new exerciser, there are some things you should know! Let’s explore some fitness tips for beginners from top fitness trainers.

If you are a new personal trainer looking to dive in with clients, check out this informative ISSA Blog: Top Tips for New Personal Trainers

The Basics

If you’re new to the gym, you likely have a lot of questions! The what, when, and how of fitness doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are the top newbie questions answered!

How Often Should I Workout?

A fitness routine should be consistent to be effective. But that doesn’t mean you have to exercise every day! In fact, recovery from exercise is just as important as the actual exercise itself! When our body cannot recover from exercise, this is known as overtraining. It can happen when we don’t get enough rest between training sessions, when we don’t get enough sleep, or when our nutrition is not sufficient to give our body the nutrients needed to repair itself.

The general physical activity guideline recommends 150-300 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise each week for the average adult and two or more days a week of exercise to strengthen muscle. Most people train 3-5 days a week being sure to leave a few days for recovery.

As for what days of the week are best, that’s up to you! For some, weekdays may be easiest with weekends to rest, but the best option is the option that fits your schedule!

How Long Should I Workout?

Training 2-3 hours each workout is not only excessive, but unnecessary. Completing 45-90 minutes of exercise should be more than enough time to get your heart rate up and complete your exercises. Sometimes it may even take less than that! The key: arrive to your workout with a plan. What are you training that day? Is it cardio or resistance? Is there a certain body part you want to exercise? Select the exercises ahead of time and knock them out. When you finish your planned training, your workout is done!

That brings up another question: “How many different exercises should I do in a workout?”

There is no magic number here. Five to eight exercises in a training session should be more than enough to get the job done! Especially when training a specific body part. For example, a leg training day:

Superset 1:

Seated leg press

Goblet squat

Superset 2:

Seated hamstring curl machine

Alternating reverse lunge

Dumbbell calf raises

Superset 3:

Dumbbell step-up

Hip bridge

As you can see, these seven exercises sufficiently train the legs (glutes, hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps). The number of sets and repetitions used will be based on your fitness goal. If you’re lifting enough weight to challenge yourself, you should be pretty tired after this workout!

Interested in how to choose the right training volume? Check out this ISSA blog post for more!

What Exercises are Best?

With so many machines and gadgets available for fitness, it’s hard to know what exercises are best. The short answer: all of them! The more reasonable answer: it depends on the person.

The stronger and more mobile someone is, the more they can do physically. If you’re just getting started in the gym, its important to challenge yourself, but within reason. Start with simple movement patterns to make sure your body moves efficiently, then progress to more challenging and compound movements.

There are several types of training to try as you begin a fitness routine. The most important for general health, optimal mobility, and improving fitness include strength training, flexibility and balance training, cardiovascular training, and, for some, interval training. Let’s take a look at each of these.

Strength Training

Strength training is necessary for everyone! By definition, strength training requires resistance—weight. You can use cables, dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells to add resistance to a movement pattern and challenge the muscles. In response to strength training, muscles get larger and stronger. This can prevent injury, improve physical performance, and help with maintaining a healthy body weight.

The general recommendation is two or more days a week of strength training to keep the muscles and connective tissues strong and healthy.

Flexibility and Balance Training

Flexibility and balance are often overlooked in exercise programs. As a beginner, you may find that you are not very flexible…and that’s ok! It can be trained.

Flexibility training is more than just stretching before or after a workout although both of those are great. Dynamic stretches before and static stretches after. You can also utilize a foam roller to address knots or tight muscles before and after exercise.

Within a workout, flexibility includes using full ranges of motion. For example, a bench press on a bench allows the shoulders a greater range of motion as the bar comes towards the chest than a bench press done on the floor would allow. Either will target the muscles of the chest, but the greater range of motion in the shoulders and elbows when done from the bench allow the synergist (helper) muscles in the upper arms and shoulder girdle to support the movement pattern.

Balance training helps us stay upright and, well, balanced. The body balances all the time. When we walk, we shift our weight back and forth from one foot to the other. That is dynamic balance. Balance can be trained using unstable surfaces or simply standing on one leg while doing an exercise.

Cardiovascular Training

Training the heart and lungs is important for general health, but also helps reduce the risk of developing heart disease, promotes healthy body weight, and can improve physical performance. More than just running, cardiovascular training is anything that elevates the heart rate, preferably for an extended amount of time.

Interval Training

Most people have heard of interval training. It is similar to cardiovascular training because, when it’s done right, it really elevates the heart rate! Interval training calls for short bursts of maximum or near maximum effort followed by a period of rest. The best part about interval training is that it can be done with cardiovascular exercises or resistance exercises! Sprinting, kettlebell movements, jumping, and even dumbbell exercises can be done as intervals.

What Do I Eat Before a Workout?

Ah, the age-old question! There is no magic food to eat before a workout (or after for that matter). However, you’ll want to focus on protein and carbohydrates before a workout (and after). These two macronutrients support muscles (protein) and provide an energy source (carbohydrates). Fats should be avoided immediately before and after a workout since they can slow down digestion and prevent your body from getting the nutrition it needs around your activity.

Learn more about pre-workout nutrition here!

Do I Train Solo, in a Group, or with a Trainer?

Everyone is motivated differently. For a new gym-goer with internal motivation, working out alone can be time well spent. For many, though, exercising in a group or with others is the motivational force they need to stick with it!

Going It Alone

If you’re short on time or just want to knock it out, put in your headphones and power through your workout solo. Just don’t rush your breaks and utilize the gym mirrors to make sure your form looks good!

Group Training

Humans are social creatures. Training in a group has an accountability factor and, in many cases, the workouts are led by knowledgeable instructors or trainers. This means you’ll have fun and get an effective workout session in!

Working with a Trainer

Working with a certified trainer is well worth to investment. You’ll get tailored exercise programming and personalized attention from your fitness professional to help you reach your unique goals. Your trainer will create your workouts for you, too! That’s one less thing for you to worry about.

Top Tips for Beginners

When beginning an exercise routine, try not to get information overload! Keep things simple and follow these fitness tips!

Don’t Forget Your Music!

Prevent boredom and bump up your tempo with a good workout playlist in your ear.

Prioritize Sleep

Did you know that sleep deprivation can happen when we lose as little as 1 hour of sleep a night?! It can cause fatigue and decrease physical performance. The average adult needs 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night to feel ready for the day. And a consistent bedtime can help as well!

Always Warm Up and Cool Down

A short 5 to 10-minute warm-up and cool down are necessary parts of a workout! Plan for them when scheduling your exercise sessions. The warm-up increase blood flow, readies your muscles for exercise, and gently warms the body for better movement. A cool down does the opposite! It allows the body to literally cool and allows time for the heart rate, breathing rate, and body functions to return to baseline levels.

Challenge Yourself!

To see any type of fitness improvements, you’ll have to challenge yourself! With resistance training, this means choosing weights that are as heavy as you can stand and working towards muscle fatigue- that muscle burn! For cardiovascular training, challenge yourself can mean increasing the speed or intensity of the activity to challenge the heart and lungs to work harder. Without pushing yourself, your body will not adapt to be bigger, stronger, or faster!

Keep Equipment Simple

We don’t need super fancy equipment to exercise our bodies. Sometimes, bodyweight exercises are more than enough! If you have a home gym, start with some simple equipment like:

  • Dumbbells

  • Bands

  • A yoga mat

You’ve got this! Exercise is great for your mind and body and it can easily become your best habit! If you have an interest in helping clients of any fitness level better themselves and get fitness results, become a certified personal trainer today!


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