Benefits of Being Fit
Aerobic Exercise
Choosing an Exercise
Staying Motivated
Training Heart Rate
Strength Training
The Major Muscle Groups
Exercising in the Right Order
Sample of Beginner Routines
Terms and Phrases

Benefits of Being Fit (not all inclusive): 

  • Improved quality of life
  • Healthier heart
  • Healthy muscles, bones, and joints
  • Increased burning of calories
  • Better ability to cope with stress
  • Improved ability to fall asleep and sleep well
  • Reduced feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Increased energy
  • Sharper and faster thinking
  • Increased stamina
  • Improved self image
  • Improved body image

Aerobic Exercise

Definition: Exercising in a manner which involves or improves oxygen consumption by the body.

Aerobic exercise uses large muscle groups rhythmically and continuously and elevates the heart rate and breathing for a sustained period. Common examples include walking, jogging/running, swimming, rowing, stair climbing, bicycling, cross-country skiing, step and dance exercise classes, roller skating and the more continuous forms of tennis, racquetball and squash.

Frequency: 3-5 days

Intensity: 60 - 85% of maximum heart rate (you should be able to talk comfortably while your are exercising but should not be able to sing)

Time: 20 - 60 minutes

It is always important to gradually increase your duration, intensity and frequency. Start with less days, time, and intensity and gradually increase.

Warm-up and cool down are both important to reduce discomfort and the chance for injury. Warm-up for aerobic exercise by performing the exercise at a very low intensity and gradually build up over 2 to 10 minutes. Gradually lower intensity the last 5 - 8 minutes of your workout to cool down and allow your heart rate to lower.

Because aerobic exercise is repetitive, it often does not require a high degree of concentration. You should be able to read, listen to music, watch TV or converse with a companion to enhance your enjoyment.

Chooosing an exercise

The best exercise to choose is an activity that you enjoy enough to really pursue enthusiastically. But, if you are convinced that you don't truly enjoy any activity that can be considered aerobic, then find an activity that you can do, that is accessible, that you can fit into your schedule, that isn't too costly and that you can value for the positive things it can add to your life. Think about what motivates you - will it help to be part of a group? Then look at exercise classes or running or biking clubs. Do you need some time to yourself? Think about walking or jogging. Do you want to combine with some discipline and concentration pieces - martial arts might be a good fit. If you're more likely to participate if it is available at home, then think about videotapes, jump rope, or if you're willing to invest some money - a good treadmill or elliptical machine. The outdoors is always available for movement and activities. Think about hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, swimming in one of the many lakes in the area. There is no one exercise that is better than another. Choosing something you will do on a regular basis is the key.

Repeat - begin slowly and gradually build. If you attempt "too much, too soon", it will lead to soreness, fatigue and/or injuries. Work at your own level, start out slow, and gradually increase duration and level of difficulty as your body progresses. Getting fit does not happen overnight, it is a lifestyle commitment.

Staying motivated

Be one of the people who continue exercising for a lifetime. Figure out what works for you. Here are some tips:

  • Find a fitness partner. Studies show that exercise adherence is generally greater if the family or a friend is included in the commitment to exercise. Find a walking partner, play tennis with a friend, go rollerblading with the kids.

  • Start an exercise log or journal. A log or journal is an excellent way to chart your progress and provide motivation. Exercise logs can take on many forms; a calendar to record your workouts, a daily journal to record your feelings and goals, a computerized exercise log, or a log purchased at a bookstore. The key is to select a log or journal that fits your needs and provides you the kind of information that is meaningful to you.

  • Schedule your workouts. Exercise must be a priority in order to establish it as a lifestyle practice. Write down everything you do in a day and try to put a time with every activity. Find the time period that gives you the most amount of free time to exercise and that will provide the least amount of conflicts.

  • Toss your scale. Exercise should not revolve around a number on a scale. Exercise should be about making a commitment to your health and well being.

  • Dress the part. Wear comfortable clothes appropriate for exercising, they will help you feel like working out. If you exercise at a gym, put your exercise clothes in a bag and set it beside the door the night before. When it's time to head out the door, all you have to do is grab your bag on the way out.

  • Entertain Yourself. If you exercise alone, consider using a personal CD/tape player to listen to your favorite music or books to help keep you entertained during your workout. Many pieces of exercise equipment have racks that fit onto the console to hold reading material. If you exercise at home, turn on some music or bring the television within viewing range.

  • Make exercise non-negotiable. Think of exercise as something you do without question, like brushing your teeth or going to work. Taking the lifestyle perspective will help you make exercise a habit.

  • Figuring Out Your Training Heart Rate

  • Go to the site below to have your heart rate range calculated for you. http://www.mayoclinic.com/invoke.cfm?id=CR00004&si=2343

  • The Talk-Test Method: The talk test method is subjective and should be used in conjunction with taking a pulse. The talk test is quite useful in determining your comfort zone of aerobic intensity, especially if you are just beginning an exercise program. If you are able to talk during your workout without a great deal of strain, you're most likely in your comfort zone. Work at an intensity that allows you to breathe comfortably and rhythmically throughout all phases of your workout.

    Strenth Training & Important Muscle Groups

  • It's important to choose at least one exercise for each major muscle group when putting together your strength training program. This helps ensure that you are approaching your body in a balanced way.

  • Butt

    Gluteals - This group of muscles includes the gluteus maximus, which is the big muscle covering your butt. Common exercises are the squat and the leg press machine. The glutes are also worked during lunges.

  • Front of thighs

    Quadriceps - This group of muscles makes up the front of the thigh. Exercises include squats, lunges, leg extension machine, and leg press machine.

  • Back of thighs

    Hamstrings - These muscles make up the back of the thigh. Exercises include squats, lunges, leg press machine, and leg curl machine.

  • Lower leg

    Calves - The calf muscles are on the back of the lower leg. They include the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is what gives the calf its strong rounded shape. The soleus is a flat muscle running under the gastrocnemius. Standing calf raises give the gastrocnemius a good workout, while seated or bent knee calf raises place special emphasis on the soleus.

  • Low Back

    The erector spinae muscles extend the back and aid in good posture. Exercises include the back extension machine and prone back extensions exercises. These muscles also come into play during the squat and dead lift.

  • Abdominals

    These muscles include the rectus abdominus, a large flat muscle running the length of the abdomen, and the external obliques, which run down the sides and front of the abdomen. Exercises such as standard crunches and curls target the rectus abdominus. Revers curls and crunches, where the hips are lifted instead of the ehad and shoulders, target the lower portion of this muscle. Crunches involving a rotation or twist work the external obliques.

  • Chest

    Pectoralis major - This muscle is a large fan shaped muscle that covers the front of the upper chest. Exercises include push-ups, pull-ups, regular and incline bench press, and the pec machine.

  • Upper back

    Rhomboids - These muscles are in the middle of the upper back between the shoulder blades. They're worked during chin-ups, dumbbell bent rows, an other moves that bring the shoulder blades together.

    Trapezius - These muscles are in the upper portion of the back. The upper trapezius is the muscle running from the back of the neck of the shoulder. Exercises to work this muscle include upright rows and shoulder shrugs with resistance.

    Latisimus dorsi - These are the large muscles of the mid-back. Exercises to work this area include pull-ups, chin-ups, one arm bent rows, dips on parallel bars, and the lat pull-down machine.

  • Shoulders

    Deltoids - This muscle is in the shoulder and made up of three parts - anterior, medial and posterior. Different movement target the different parts. The anterior deltoid is worked with push-ups, bench press, and front dumbbell raises. Standing lateral dumbbell raises target the medial deltoid. Rear dumbbell raises target the posterior deltoid.

  • Front of arm

    Biceps - The biceps are in the front of the upper arm. The best move for working the biceps is the bicep curl. This exercise can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or a machine. Other pulling movements like chin-ups and upright rows also involve the biceps.

  • Back of arm

    Triceps - The triceps are located in the back of the upper arm. Exercises to work these muscles include pushing movements like push-ups, dips, triceps extension, triceps kick-backs, and overhead (French) presses. The triceps also are used during the bench press and military press.

  • Do the exercise in the right order

In general, work your large muscles and compound movements before your small muscles and isolation movements.

When choosing the sequence of a workout, imagine your body is divided into three zones: upper, middle, and lower. Follow the following order within each zone:

  • Upper body
  1. chest and back (either one can come first)

  2. shoulders

  3. arms

  4. wrists

  • Middle body

You can perform your abdominal and lower back muscle exercises in any order you want.

  • Lower body
  1. butt

  2. thighs

  3. calves and shins (doesn't matter which comes first)

Don't exercise the same muscle two days in a row.

Always let a muscle rest at least one day between workouts. If you want to lift every day then break up your routine into upper and lower body and you can do ½ on one day and the other ½ the next. If you're doing a full body routine, don't lift weights more than three times a week and don't cram your three workouts into one weekend.

Think about the speed

A reasonable training pace is one to two seconds for the lifting portion of the exercise and three to four seconds for the lowering portion of the move. Fast, jerky movements should be avoided. They place undue stress on the muscle and connective tissue at the beginning of the movement, increasing the chance of an injury. Fast lifting also cheats you out of some of the strength benefits. When lifting at a fast pace, momentum (not the muscle) is doing a good deal of the work.

Design your own routine

  • Consider your goals. Make sure to take time to think about what you are trying to accomplish. Here are some common goals and some recommendations for each:

  • Improve your health. If you're trying to increase strength, keep bones strong and avoid common injuries, you don't have to commit yourself to the gym 24/7. You can get by with one exercise for every major muscle group in your body. Simply do one set of 8 to 15 repetitions for each muscle group listed above. Three workouts a week would be recommended for at least the first few months. After that, you can probably decrease to two weight workouts a week to maintain the strength gains that you made.

  • Alter your looks. Weight training can be a powerful tool for changing your appearance but can only work within your body's parameters. If you're large boned and muscular, weight training cannot make you petite and slender. Weight training to significantly alter your looks requires more time in the gym than just the basics. (Your diet and cardiovascular workouts play a large role, too.) Instead of training your entire body in 20 minutes, you may want to spend 20 minutes simply on your upper body. To develop a noticeably firm body, perform at least 3 sets per muscle group. To build some serious bulk, you may need to perform even more sets and learn about some more advanced weight lifting techniques.

  • Train for an athletic event. This takes a little bit more preparation time because you want to tailor your weight program as precisely as possible to the type of event for which you are training. Different activities need strength in different muscles. You need a base of balanced strength and then more time spent in targeted areas.

  • Consider the equipment available to you. Are you a member of a health club with a variety of equipment available? Are you planning on lifting at home? What sort of equipment do you own or are you prepared to buy? You can get a good workout with dumbbells and a bench but you have to plan your exercises around that equipment.

  • Consider your preferences. If you hate machines, don't try to make a program work that requires you to use machines. If there are some exercises you like better for a body part - go with it. You're more likely to stick with a program when you aren't fighting so many barriers.

  • Consider your lifestyle. You need to figure out, based on the other things that you are doing in your life, how many times your can work out each week and how much time you can spend doing it. Will you need to take a shower? Will you need to drive somewhere? Be realistic. Don't vow to do six sets per muscle group if the only time you can lift weights is during your 30-minutes lunch break on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It's too easy, then, to say "Why bother?" You're better off putting a realistic schedule together and designing your routine to fit the time allotted.

  • Consider your current level of fitness. Don't get carried away with a program you found in a magazine or on a body building show. If you're a beginner, treat your body as such and start out with light weights and relatively few exercises and gradually build on your routine. Or, even if you're not a beginner - if you haven't been lifting regularly - the same rule applies - start out light and easy and gradually build. Beginners start with two or three weight workouts per week, performing one set of one exercise per major muscle group. Stick with this routine for a month or two. Then, gradually increase the sets or the weight but not both. You are working toward performing the last repetition to fatigue. You want to use enough weight so that you're exerting serious effort by the last repetition.

  • Sample Beginner Routines

Weight Machine

Butt and Legs

Leg Press Machine, Leg Extension Machine,

Leg Curl Machine


Lat Pulldown


Vertical Chest Press Machine


Shoulder Press Machine

Arms (biceps)

Arm Curl Machine


Triceps Dip Machine


Basic Abdominal Crunch


Dumbbells and a bench routine

Butt and Legs

Squat, Lunge, Standing Calf Raise


One-arm row, Back Extension


Incline Chest Fly


Lateral Raise


Dumbbell biceps curl, Triceps kickback


Abdominal crunch with a twist


Terms to know

Sets and Reps
  • A set is a group of successive repetitions performed without resting. A rep is the number of times you repeat the move in each set. If your instructions were to do 2 sets of 8-10 bicep curls, you would curl the weight 8-10 times in a row to complete the first set. Then you'd put the weight down, rest a moment and do 8-10 more in a row to complete the second set.

  • Resistance and Range

    The number of repetitions chosen for each exercise depends on the amount of resistance (weight) you're using. Maximum resistance is the most weight you can lift with proper form one time. In general, most people can complete 6 repetitions with 85% of their maximum resistance, 8 repetitions with 80% of maximum resistance, 10 repetitions with 75% of maximum resistance, 12 repetitions with 70% of maximum resistance and 14 repetitions with 65% of maximum resistance. Training with more than 85% of your maximum resistance increases the risk of injury, and training with less than 65% of your maximum resistance decreases strength gains. So, a safe and productive training recommendation would be 8 - 12 repetitions using 70 - 80% of maximum resistance.

    Full range of motion is an important component of proper form. Each exercise should be taken through the complete range of joint movement in a slow controlled manner, with emphasis placed on the completely contracted position. If a weight is so heavy that you have to jerk, bounce or swing to get it to the top of the movement, it's too heavy. Your form is compromised.

  • Progression and Frequency

    Progressive resistance is the key to any well designed strength program. This means that as your muscles adapt to a given exercise, you need to gradually increase the resistance or the repetitions to promote further gains. You should start out with a weight that allows you to do at least 8 repetitions of a particular exercise. Once you can complete 12 repetitions with that weight, you increase the weight by about 5%. Now, you're doing 8 repetitions with the slightly heavier weight. You do the same thing with that weight - once you can do 12 repetitions you increase the weight. This bears repeating. Training sessions should not be scheduled any more frequently than every other day. Muscles need time to recover and rebuild and that takes about 48 hours. If you want or need to go everyday - make sure to split up muscle groups so that no muscle group is worked on consecutive days.

  • Phrases to know

  • "Pull your abdominals in." Place your hand over your belly button and gently pull your belly button in and away from your hand; that's what it feels like to pull your abdominal muscles in. Tightening your abs helps hold your torso still when you exercise and keeps your back from arching or rounding - mistakes that can lead to back injury.

  • "Stand up tall with square shoulders and a lifted chest." Keep your head centered between your shoulders and don't round your shoulders forward. Your chest should be comfortably lifted, not forced.

  • "Don't lock your joints." This is in reference to your elbows and your knees. Locking a joint means straightening it so completely that it moves past the point where it normally sits at rest. Locking your knees is bad for the joint and can also cause lower back pain. Locking your elbows places excessive pressure on your elbow joints, tendons, and ligaments. Locking your elbows can cause bursitis by rupturing the little lubrication capsules located in your joints. Bursitis results in swelling, pain, and tenderness at the elbow.

  • "Keep your shoulders and neck relaxed." If you shoulders are hunched up near your ears, you need to relax. If you're prone to hunching, think about lengthening your shoulder blades, as if they are dropping down your back, and try to keep them there as your perform the exercise.

  • "Tilt your chin toward your chest." Tilt your chin just enough to fit your closed fist between your chest and your chin. This position lines up the vertebrae of your neck with the rest of your vertebrae. So, don't tilt your chin back or drop it toward you r chest like you do when you sulk. These two movements strain your neck and place excess pressure on the top of your spine.

  • "Don't shoot your knees past your toes." If your knees are several inches in front of your toes, you're placing your knees under a great deal of pressure. Also, you probably have too much weight distributed on your toes and not enough on your heels.

  • "Don't bend your wrists." When you bend your wrists too far inward or outward, that is, when they are not in line with the forearm, you cut off the blood supply to the nerves in your wrists. If you do this frequently enough, you can give yourself a case of carpal tunnel syndrome.

  • "Maintain proper posture." Proper posture includes everything that we've mentioned so far in the phrases section. Good posture isn't automatic for most of us, so give yourself frequent reminders. And if you exercise with correct posture, you'll train your muscles to hold themselves that way in everyday life.

What about breathing?

  • Exhale deeply through your mouth during the most difficult part of the exercise or the exertion phase. During the bench press, for example, pressing up the bar is the exertion phase, so exhale as the bar travels upward.

  • Inhale deeply through your nose to bring in a fresh oxygen supply during the less difficult part of an exercise (such as when you lower the weight during a bench press). Inhaling provides the spark of energy for your next repetition.

These breathing recommendations are for NON-maximal lifts. But, most of you won't be involved in competitive power lifting.


Definition: the farthest range of motion you can achieve around a joint; joint's ability to move through a full range of motion

Stretching is your primary method to gaining and maintaining flexibility.

Why? What are the benefits?
  • To relax your mind and "tune up" your body

  • To preserve range of motion

  • To maintain flexibility

  • To prevent injury during exercise

  • To prepare muscles for more vigorous activity

  • To help develop body awareness

  • To promote circulation - increasing blood and nutrients to tissues

  • To help improve muscle coordination

  • To reduce the risk of lower back pain

  • To reduce muscle soreness and improve posture

  • Stretch slowly and smoothly; never bounce

  • Hold stretches for at least 10 seconds - work toward 30.

  • Maintain normal breathing during each movement

  • Focus attention on muscle being stretched; try to limit movement in other body parts

  • Feel the stretch, but don't strain by stretching too far