Day 2 of at home training 101.
How should I start? How should I progress?
So, you have the right sizes of weights for you and you are ready to start.
For beginners I like to start out with 3-4 exercises and 2 sets of each exercise. Also, remember, if you are looking to gain muscle, to work within the 8-15 rep range. Always start at the low and see what feels comfortable but also feels like the count is a little bit of work at the same time. A delicate balance.
How should I progress?
It is important to remember that building muscle is not done quickly. So progressing too quickly is not recommended.
If you are a beginner, work within initial program confines for 3-5 weeks. During this 3-5 weeks it is not to say that you can’t progress but the progression should be slow and consistent. If you are working out 3 days a week for 20-30 minutes a session, progression should work for you no problem. If you are missing workouts or not finishing workouts, don’t think about progression until you can remain consistent.
So, what if I am remaining consistent in this 3-5 week period, how should I be progressing?
There are a few ways you can go about progressing. The easiest, of course, is increasing the number of repetitions performed within a given set of exercises. So, while you might be able to do 8 repetitions of rows in one set when you start your workout program, you might make it your goal to 12-15 repetitions per set by the end of the 3-5 week period.
The second way to progress is a workout is by increasing weight. Most programs recommend increasing weight by 5% and while this isn’t totally doable with an at home program (because weights are usually much smaller so 5% would mean upping weight but only 1/2 a pound at times) we can use the rule that if we have hit the upper limit (15 reps) with our current set of weights we can safely move on to our heavier weights.
Remember, once you decide to start using the heavier set, you need to start again at that lower limit for reps.
Example: You were doing 15 reps of rows with 8lb weights and decided to start using 10lb weights. Your first round with those 10lb weights would need to be 8 reps so that you can safely progress without injury.
A third way to progress is to add sets. Starting out with 2 sets is where I like most clients to start but if you are consistent and feel strong enough, adding a third set can help you progress as well.
Bottom line: When muscles are systematically stressed in a progressive manner, they gradually increase in both size and strength. If you progress your workouts slightly overtime, your muscles will respond positively to low levels of tissue microtrauma. These microtraumas (or small tears) cause your muscles to rebuild by repairing those tears, this leads to larger and stronger muscles.
Sources: ACE Personal Trainer Manual, 2014