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There are four basic types of exercise: cardio, strength training, flexibility, and balance.  While we will be mainly focusing on cardio and strength, flexibility and balance will also matter with what we’re doing.  Cardio is aerobic exercise, or what you might call “steady state” exercise.  It works your cardiovascular system over a certain duration of time, thus the term “cardio”.  Strength training is considered anaerobic, or “short set” exercise that is associated with short durations and not working the cardiovascular system.  Flexibility focuses on stretching out the muscles, tendons, and joints to help increase mobility.  Balance is the concentration of stability, which focuses on using small stabilizing muscles to prevent wobbling and prevent injury.

When you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to be on a 4 day schedule, I prefer Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday.  If you’re up to it, you can move up to a 5 day a week schedule.  This may be a very gradual schedule progression.  The important thing is to remain consistent.  This exercise program is designed to take you from where you are at, get you comfortable and confident in a gym setting, and get you to a point where you want to progress beyond the basics.

To make things easy for starting, we’re aiming for a 60 minute workout 4 times a week.  This is a pretty standard time and it equates to only 4% of your day.  You can do it!  Let’s talk about schedule breakdown, then we’ll talk about the actual exercises.  Be aware that the following schedule is for people who are capable of being on their feet for an hour and who can also perform simple movements.

4 Day Schedule

  • Day 1 - 20 min Cardio, 40 min Strength (shoulders)

  • Day 2 - 20 min Cardio, 40 min Strength (chest and triceps)

  • Day 3 - 20 min Cardio, 40 min Strength (legs)

  • Day 4 - 20 min Cardio, 40 min Strength (back and biceps)

A 5 Day Schedule would also include:

  • Day 5 - 20 min Cardio, 40 min Strength (abs and glutes)

20-30 minutes Cardio

As you can see, you should start with 20-30 minutes of cardio.  Any type of cardio will do.  Find something that you don’t mind doing.  The key with cardio is to be active to the point where you really don’t want to talk.  You will want to remain free of distraction.  Do not check your social media during this time.  Do not read a book during this time.  A lot of people use this time to self-reflect or to “zone out” or to daydream.  You can do that, just make sure you maintain a moderate to intense effort during your session.  If you're concerned, pick up a heartrate monitor.

Types of cardio common at gyms are: elliptical runners, treadmills, upright bikes, recumbent bikes, rowing machines, and stair steppers.  I highly recommend starting with an elliptical runner, treadmill, or some sort of bike.  These are easy to use.  Ellipticals are easy on the joints.  Rowing machines require a certain level of endurance.  If your gym happens to have a pool, you can swim laps for 30 minutes.  Actual aerobics classes can fulfill your 30 minutes of cardio, but they might go on for 60 minutes and/or have lame music.  The same thing goes for jazzercise and zumba classes.  You will still need to fulfill the strength training portion.

I always recommend having a killer playlist put together that will last through your cardio session.  If keeping the beat is what you tend to do, I suggest putting on the faster paced music.

Strength Training

Strength training is the act of performing movements that work specific muscles with the end goal being to become stronger, increase mobility, and to burn fat.  This program is designed to make a person more comfortable using weights and getting them to a point where they can increase their progress on their own.

A common misconception is that if you start lifting weights you’re going to suddenly have a crazy bodybuilder physique or, if you’re a woman, you’ll lose your breast tissue.  It takes a very long time for either one of those things to happen.  If you end up doing 20lb bicep curls after 6 months, you will still have a long way to go.  Don’t fear strength training.  You need to be strong for everyday living.  Muscle actually helps control your body fat percentage.

You may have never picked up a resistance band, dumbbell, barbell, or plate weight before in your life.  That’s totally fine, but we’re going to change that.  We use these weights to challenge our muscles.  We use these weights to simulate everyday things like lifting groceries or carrying offspring.

When you start out, go through the workout with bodyweight only or bodyweight and very light weights or bodyweight and resistance bands.  Think of this as you telling your body “hey, we’re going to do this new thing” without overdoing it right off.  During Week 2, you will want to figure out what weight is comfortable for you.  You might opt to stick with body weight for a while on some things, but find that others you can use 10lbs or 15lbs without any problem.  Going too heavy, too fast can result in injury.  A good rule of thumb is to increase by 5lbs when you feel comfortable with the weight you are using.

If your mobility is limited due to obesity, please stick to bodyweight and light weights until your mobility improves to prevent injury.  You may want to work with a personal trainer in person.  A lot of franchise gyms offer personal training as part of the membership.

You will notice that exercises are broken down into sets and reps.  A set is the amount of times you do an exercise, while the reps (or repetitions) is the amount of work/motion within the exercise.  For example: 3 sets x 20 Bicep Curls.  This tells us that you are going to do this exercise 3 times (sets).  Each set is going to be made up of 20 bicep curls (reps).

Since we have 2 arms, we’re going to start with one arm (the “and” side) and then we get to the other arm (the “number” side).  I’m going to call this “Staggered Counting” and it will go like this: And 1, and 2, and 3...and 19, and 20.  This way we do things evenly.  If we were doing air squats, we would just use “Direct Counting” since we use both legs at the same time.  Direct Counting is like this: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...18, 19, 20.

The way the reps are decided on are typically 8-10 for heavier weights, 10-15 for moderate weights, and 15-20 for moderate-low weights.  For this reason, test a weight for each movement.  You want to ask yourself if you can lift that weight for the required amount of reps and if you feel a little challenged during the last 2 or 3 reps.  Let’s say that you decide that you can use 15lbs dumbbells for 3 sets x 15 for bicep curls, this is your moderate-low weight.  If you have less reps to do, you should be able to increase your weights a little bit.  Perhaps you try a 17.5lbs weight and find that it gives you the same sort of challenge when you do 3 sets x 10 (moderate weight); then find that you can push yourself to use 20lbs for 3 sets x 8 (heavy).

It’s important to understand how reps are decided.  It’s good to have both heavy and some form of moderate weights during each workout.  These will have to become adjusted at some point because your muscles will adapt.  Your moderate will become your moderate-low and your heavy will become your new moderate.  This is the process of increasing strength.  It’s natural and it does take a while.  Once you figure out your usual weights needed for your exercises, stay at those weights for the first month.  After that you can increase your weights as needed.

I’m going to explain how to do each of these movements and I’ll provide modifications so you can work up to the movements.  If you have to use modifications, do not be ashamed or feel guilty in any way.  People at all levels use modifications for various exercises.

The structure of the following exercises is set up to be done on a 4-Day  or 5-Day Schedule. These are 60 minute workout programs with cardio and strength training aspects.  There are modifications and variants for each exercise.  There aren’t any gimmicks with these exercises.  You can visit any gym and find people doing these things at various levels.

My goal is to get you comfortable with the movements, make you aware of the modifications and variants, and teach you how to progress in a safe way.


Avoiding Injury

Before we start, it’s important to discuss avoiding injuries.  This can be anything from a pulled muscle to joint issues to dropping a weight on yourself.  There are 10 solid ways to avoid injury.  Before we go through them, I want to preface all of this: don’t be afraid to ask for help from a personal trainer or physical therapist.  Getting help from a real life person is going to help you out far more than any book.  This is super important, especially for #3 and #6.

  1. Stretching - Make sure you dedicate time, at least after working out, to stretch.  This can help ease tight muscles and it can help increase your flexibility.  It’s suggested to stretch before taking a warm shower.

  2. Know Your Limits - We all have limits to be aware of whether it’s hyperextension or limited movement at certain joints.  If you cannot do a standard movement, look for a modification to try.  Modifications are there to help us eventually get to the standard movement.

  3. Form - Really pay attention to form.  If you’re supposed to keep your elbows in and you end up flaring them outwards, it could lead to an injury.  Each exercise goes over form and function.  Having good form is going to make it easier on your joints, your back, and progression.

  4. Start Slow - Starting with heavy weights can lead to a quick injury.  Instead, start slowly.  Use a weight that is easy to use (not challenging) for the movement when you start a new exercise (like on day 1).  This essentially preps the body.  When you do the movement in the next session, choose a weight that is slightly challenging.  You should be able to do the movement with proper form, but the last 2-3 reps might seem to take a little effort.

  5. Increase Weights by 5-10lbs - When you feel that it’s time to increase your weights, do so in either 5 or 10lbs increments.  The best way to know if it's time to increase your weights is if you can do all your reps for an exercise with ease.  Small increment increases help maintain good form.

  6. Creaks & Stress - If you are doing an exercise movement and you have creaks, joint noise, or joint stress - stop what you’re doing.  Check your form.  If your form is good, then reduce the weight that you’re using.  You may want to try a modified exercise.  If issues continue, stop doing the movement and talk to a physical therapist or personal trainer to make sure you're okay to continue.  Don’t keep doing something if it doesn’t feel good on your joints.

  7. Sweat - You’re going to sweat and you need to know your sweat zones.  If you have sweat dripping down your face, you might want to invest in a sweatband.  If your hands get sweaty, you might want to invest in a pair of exercise gloves.  This may seem super trivial, but the last thing you want is sweat getting in your eyes or sweaty hands when you’re lifting weights.

  8. Focus - When you are working out, focus on your movements.  If you are working out with a friend, you can talk between sets or between movements.  A lack of focus can lead to poor form which can lead to injury.

  9. Ample Recovery - Recovery is the time spent between workouts.  On the 4-Day Schedule, you not only start out slow but you get a lot of recovery time.  As you progress, you might not need as much recovery time.  During the recovery time, you are encouraged to be active and healthy.  Being sedentary can lead to muscle soreness.

  10. Hydration - Staying hydrated with water is essential for life.  It helps muscle recovery, it helps with fat loss, it helps your organs function...the list goes on and on.  Water is going to make your muscles work better and will also help prevent cramps, making it an important part of recovery and daily life.  When you workout, have a bottle of water handy.  After you workout, finish up that bottle of water.


Terminology for Exercises

The following is some terminology you’ll notice in regards to the following exercise plans.

  • Bodyweight - This indicates that you should be using no additional weights.

  • Light Weight - This indicates that you should grab resistance bands or light weights that offer very little muscular challenge.  Often for movements with high reps.

  • Slightly Challenging Weight - This indicates that you should use a weight that offers some muscular challenge, especially with the last 2-3 reps of an exercise.  Often for movements with high reps.

  • Challenging Weight - This indicates that you should use a weight that offers moderate muscular challenge throughout the exercise, but does not cause strain during the reps.  Often for movements with 10-12 reps.

  • Heavy Weight - This indicates that you should use a weight that is challenging during the entire exercise.  Only used for movements with low reps.


Day 1 - Shoulders

  • 4x10 Overhead Press

  • 4x10 Plate Lift

  • 4x12 Fixed-Barbell Upright Row

  • 4x8 Lateral Raise

  • 4x12 Arnold Press

Day 2 - Chest & Triceps

  • 4x12 Push Ups

  • 4x12 Incline Bench Press

  • 4x10 Overhead Tricep Extension DB

  • 4x12 Cable Tricep Pulldown

  • 4x10 Incline DB Flye

NOTE: I will get videos up demonstrating these exercises. 5/25/2021

Day 3 - Legs

  • 4x10 Back Squats

  • 4x12 Leg Curls

  • 4x12 Leg Extensions

  • 4x8 Deadlifts

  • 4x10 Lunges

Day 4 - Back & Biceps

  • 4x10 Seated Cable Rows

  • 4x12 Lateral Pulldowns

  • 4x12 DB Bicep Curls

  • 4x10 Bent Over Rows

  • 4x10 High Cable Crossover

Day 5 - Abs & Glutes

  • 4x15 Incline Sit Ups

  • 4x10 KB Russian Twists

  • 4x10 Good Mornings

  • 4x10 Cable Kickbacks

  • 4x10 Weighted Bridges


To reduce stiffness, you should stretch after exercising.  The beauty of stretching is that it can be done at home.  You can do it while you watch tv.  Most people stretch either directly after working out or directly after they shower.  A good rule of thumb is to hold each stretch for 30 seconds and do each stretch at least 3 times. 

If you feel extra tight in a certain area, it is totally fine to spend extra time stretching or adding extra stretches to what you’re doing.


  • Standing toe touch

  • Seated toe touch

  • Runner's quad stretch

  • Seated calf stretch

  • Torso twist

  • Side Bend

  • Arm across chest

  • Overhead shoulder/tricep stretch

  • Neck triple stretch (side to side, up and down, twist)

On top of some basic stretches, you might be interested in stretching tools.  Stretching tools are used to increase stretching, especially if you have extra tight muscles after your workout, or to help you get into a stretch if you have mobility issues.  The basic stretching tools are: foam rollers, lacrosse or tennis balls, a yoga strap, and a tiger tail.

Foam rollers are placed under the problem area and you rock back and forth to alleviate the tightness.  A lacrosse or tennis ball can be used in the same manner, but more for small areas or as pinpoint relief.  A yoga strap has a D-ring at one end and can be used to help pull your body into certain stretches.  It’s helpful if you lack the mobility to touch your toes or reach back to grab your foot or hand for certain stretches.  A tiger tail is kind of like a slim rolling pin, but with a foam cover.  It’s used in much the same way as a rolling pin.  You can apply a little pressure and roll out the trouble areas you can reach.  All of these will be presented as potential stretching modifications or alternatives.

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