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Help needed - beginner

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I'm just going to go ahead and create a new topic and hope this is okay, because I'm a bit confused with the vast amount of information here. I've never done any strength training before so am an absolute beginner but I have been told in the introductions thread that it's what I should be concentrating on.

I'm about 8 stone (112 pounds) and 5'5, making my BMI just about 'normal'. Up until recently I had always been underweight and I definitely don't want exercise to bring my weight back down, so I'm thinking I will need to be eating lots of protein? (not sure about things to avoid?) At the moment I am running and am going to start a yoga class next week.

My stomach is the area where any fat I do have piles on and I really dislike it- so I'd like to work on that area but without losing any weight anywhere else. I'd also like to be able to defend myself if I need to and just become more fit in general to make myself happier and healthier

Any help or tips of where to start will be greatly appreciated :)

As soon as you're born, they make you feel small.

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Hi, and welcome to the boards.

Hope you don't mind but I'm just going to summarise your information.

1. Want to begin strength training

2. Currently running and beginning yoga

3. Doesn't want to get "fat"

In terms of help or tips I like to follow KISS or Keep It Simple Stupid.

To begin with we can go over a few basics before going into more indepth information.

(I'll work in list format for easy reference)

1. The BMI is not a good representation of a specific individual, it is used for statistical purposes when comparing large populations.

2. You cannot actually "spot tone" i.e. reduce fat in any specific area of the body.

3. If you tend to get "fat" in one particular area this simply be put down to genetic make up of your body. As a female, you will store more fat due to hormonal balancing reasons and other aspects. My advice here is to not disregard it as it is important to you and that would be bad advice but to realise that any aesthetic changes will be more general in nature than a particular area.

4. The number one determining factor is consistency. Changing the way your body looks takes time, we all have slip ups. It is a marathon not a sprint.

5. In terms of eating, I would simply suggest balancing both your activity needs and your aesthetic goals. By this I mean, if you're feeling tired and sluggish. Try to eat a bit more, or stagger your workouts to be during periods where you are the most energetic. This isn't a recommendation to splurge, but it may help.

6. Lifting inanimate chunks of iron off the ground will NOT make you bulky.

Okay in terms of more specific advice.

1. Exercises: SIMPLICITY HERE. This will depend upon whether you have access to equipment and how afraid you are of weights and gyms etc in general.

Here I suggest picking an exercise for each major muscle group. Personal Favourites

  • Squats
  • Deadlift
  • Rows
  • Overhead Presses
  • Dips (Chair or Bar)
  • Pushups
  • Pullups (assistance)
This is just a beginning list, there are many more exercises out there but simplicity is key.

2. Rep Ranges.

Women tend to be able to handle slightly larger rep ranges than men. They also tend to have a better tolerance for pain.

For some decent gains in both strength and muscle (once again it won't make you bulky) I'd recommend a medium to high rep range e.g. greater than 6 but less than 15.

3. Running and Strength Training.

Once again, this is a personal thing depending upon your recovery.

I'd recommend finding a nice balance.

For example, if you like running then run more.

If you like strength training then do more of that.

There is no perfect balance but whatever works for you.

I will however recommend at least 2 days of strength training a week (Personally, I have done between 2 and 12 sessions in a week before, it just depends upon how the body is feeling)

4. Yoga:

Do it, Flexibility is awesome.

It has carries over to everything.

5. Diet:

Okay, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Paleo is not the be all to end all. Plenty of people like doing it, and get good results doing it. However, it may not currently be an option for you due to funds and or eating arrangements. There are ways to work around this. Aim for good amounts of protein. Try to limit where feasible the cheapest forms of carbohydrate. Being a student myself I know how hard it is to not eat rice/pasta/bread when you're living off $35/week in food.

Personally, I've found Intermittent Fasting to work extremely well for me as it gives me the flexibility to eat things which other "dietary methods" do not "allow"

Other Options:

1. Crossfit


Great for overall fitness, conditioning, strength, fatloss and a great place to meet people.


Expensive, set class times

2. Bodyweight Training


Cheap, easy to do, just need to actually start them


Require a lot more dedication and it is more difficult progressing with them due to the larger steps between various methods.

What I've tried to do here is give you a brief primer on some of the options available with the limited information you gave.

If desired, simply ask questions and I'll do my best to answer them

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Also (and I'm going to sound like a fanboy here) fat around the midsection of a normal body type is usually adrenal fatigue. I'd say try eating paleo and sleeping a good 8 hours in a dark room to get your body back where it needs to go. Add the above recommended workout options to that and you're good to go.

Level 3 Human Ranger
STR: 9 DEX: 5.25 STA: 14.5 CON: 5.5 WIS: 16 CHA: 5.5 
My Current Challenge

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I'm in a similar boat to Second Aura. I've been alternating the beginner bodyweight routine and interval sprints, but I want to start integrating some real lifting into the mix. We have a Bowflex - I know that can be a tremendous resource when used correctly. I doubt I've been using it correctly to this point.

So let's say that I have the ability to do any exercise under the sun. I know that Steve and others have talked about the multiple muscle group exercises (like squats and pull ups) being more efficient, but is there necessarily something ineffective about working individual muscle groups? I mean, would I be wasting my time if I did bicep curls or French presses or leg extensions on a given day? Here's the schedule I sort of have in mind:

Sunday: Bodyweight routine

Monday: Interval sprints

Tuesday: Arms/shoulders/back exercises on Bowflex

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Bodyweight routine

Friday: Interval sprints

Saturday: Legs/core exercises on Bowflex

Each workout lasts between 20 and 30 minutes. This is just a sample schedule, but it gets the idea across.

I guess in a roundabout way I'm asking - will doing specific muscle group exercises enhance my existing workout routine, or should I just stick with what I'm doing and move up through those levels?

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Hi Vintage,

Isolation exercises are not a complete waste, however they should not be the basis of your regime.

Stick to the Big Compounds as the initial exercise in your workout and then work the isolation exercises afterwards.

A lot of people have had a lot of success with bodypart splits but often those plans still include the big compounds they just follow them up afterwards with more isolation exercises.

Hope this helps.

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Dantes has pretty much hit the nail no the head but a big thing to think of is FORM!!!! especially when deadlifting, squating, overhead press and rows. all of these are perfectly safe but form is key (i'm out of action for about a month since screwing my back up deadlifting 135kg on my last set before a night shift, i.e. pretty damn tired and just wanting to leave but wanting to finish up more)

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Where in your workout were u doing deadlifts? At start or end??

Form us subjective but takes time to get right for each person.

Start slowly, lower weights than you'd think, get that right then start upping them regularly.

Form depends on goals too, a one arm row with 100kg and sine body English will do more for max strength than a row with 50kg perfect form. The latter would probably 'target' a specific muscle more, but its horses for courses. Just stay safe :-)

The only antidote,

is blood, sweat and hope

and a blueprint to save us from what we have become.

'we work in the dark to serve the light'

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lol i think they where first or second can't remember, and usually my forms pretty fucking good, was just working up to a 1RM and conveniently forgot about form :/ its getting better just can't really do any full body or upper body stuff (my chiro recommended, the cross trainer and leg stuff on machines, i nearly cried but it'll only be for a week or 2 more) anyway enough about me YOU GO SECOND AURA!!!!!!!

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Thanks Dantes for the comprehensive reply! You're all like experts on here =(

You said that I can't spot tone... but my only problem area is my stomach and I don't want to lose any overall weight if I can help it. So that sort of leaves me with a problem which is making knowing what to do really difficult. I'm trying to eat more often but bits at a time, healthy stuff mostly and eggs and tuna for protein. I am doing sit ups/crunches and that kind of thing to work on my stomach. How many minutes a day do you think I should be spending on that?

I'd like to build up strength a little in the arms - but will that make my breasts smaller? >.<

I'll add the other things in that you suggested that don't use any gym equipment as I'd rather spare the embarrassment and expense of that! going to keep up the running but when I went into my first yoga class on Monday I found out they'd cancelled it without telling me ¬__¬

As soon as you're born, they make you feel small.

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I am doing sit ups/crunches and that kind of thing to work on my stomach. How many minutes a day do you think I should be spending on that?

I wouldn't bother--it's a waste of time. Crunches work as part of a routine, but on their own won't do much except make you hate crunches. Planks, pushups, pull ups, and all of the weight lifts already mentioned will do more to strengthen your core than any number of crunches. Check out the bodyweight routine on Nerd Fitness.

I'd like to build up strength a little in the arms - but will that make my breasts smaller? >.<

Probably. If you focus on strength training, you may not lose weight but you will build muscle at the expense of fat.

Your description makes me think you're about the same build as me. I recently went from 110lb to 117, and I'm 5'4". I've gained inches around my legs, arms, my hips and waist haven't changed, but I lost an inch in the chest. Honestly, it's not noticeable at all by looks alone, except my legs are too big for my skinny jeans! I still feel very well proportioned, and much much stronger. And I have to buy junior size bras, but they come in better colors than the ladies sizes!

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Aww, why is it a waste of time :( I don't want to lose boob or anywhere else fat. I don't have anything to push/pull up on, although planks, squats etc I can do along with the crunches etc. Believe me if I lost an inch in the chest it would be noticeable because I wouldn't have anything left!

As soon as you're born, they make you feel small.

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You don't get to decide where you lose fat from. That is up to your metabolism and genetics, completely out of your control. And yes, for women, the boobs are usually the first to go! For most people, guys and gals, the belly is last. I still have a little soft belly even though I'm pretty slim and recently I've packed on more muscle.

Crunches are a waste of time because they work only the central abdominal muscles--none of the side muscles, supporting muscles, back, chest, etc. If you do too many without complementary exercises, you risk making your abs huge and out of balance with the surrounding muscle groups, and that can make your belly appear to stick out even more! Not only that, they're boring and painful and the benefits don't outweigh the negatives. (Can you tell I hate crunches?)

If you need to do crunches, try doing them in a circuit with these other awesome core exercises:

Push ups

Pull ups

Hanging leg lifts, there are endless variations on these but you need a pullup bar. I go to the monkey bars at the playground!

Scissor kicks/flutter kicks

Toe touches

Trunk twisters

Yoga is also great for all around strength. Almost every single pose activates the core and builds strength and stability.

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I'm with Kristen. Don't focus on the scale weight as a judge of your progress. Focus on inches lost and gained. I actually gained size in my chest from heavy flat bench pressing and incline dumbell presses. I do Reverse Pyramid training for everything and gain in strength pretty much week over week as long as I'm eating enough protein and the right carbs at the right times.

At your height, you probably should be heavier - especially when you start packing on muscle. Go by how your clothes are fitting. Like Kristin, I can't wear skinny jeans either! Thighs are thicker and harder, delts have appeared for first time in my life; biceps gained more than an inch without a single arm curl (close-grip weighted chin-ups have done the magic). Do the work, eat clean and lots of quality protein and the results will follow.

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Aww, why is it a waste of time :( I don't want to lose boob or anywhere else fat. I don't have anything to push/pull up on, although planks, squats etc I can do along with the crunches etc. Believe me if I lost an inch in the chest it would be noticeable because I wouldn't have anything left!

I am a little smaller than average on top on a fat day, so I get your concern about losing what you've got, but any exercise that improves your posture is going to make your boobs look better even if they are a little smaller. Also, building some shoulder muscles and pecs will make you look a bit curvier without adding fat. I've gotten way more compliments and attention for being generally pretty fit than I ever did when I was less fit but a little curvier, so I wouldn't sweat it if I were you.

As to the crunches thing, if you absolutely have to do sit-ups, try a variation like get-up sit-ups for more results (holding one hand straight in front of you with a small weight - even a can of soup would work) and then progress to Turkish get-ups as you get stronger. All you need for modified dips and pull-ups is a sturdy table and chairs. Bear crawls are another great bodyweight core exercise and they work your back, gluts, and legs, too. I do stability ball crunches myself from time to time, but mostly because I enjoy them and it is encouraging to be able to do 100+ of anything, even if it doesn't really do much.

OH and glut bridges are good for core strengthening too.

There is really no such thing as toning. There is muscle and there is fat. Reducing fat and building muscle makes you look harder and leaner. If you reduce fat without building muscle, you generally don't change your shape or look any more "toned."

It does sound like you are really pretty thin for your height, so don't worry about putting on weight as long as you are getting stronger and feeling better as you do it.

"The future will be different if we make the present different."

Peter Maurin

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