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Can you provide guidelines for exercising and working out in a gym?

Q: I have joined a Gym but there is no fitness trainer. I want complete information on a work-out plan. I am planning to do 1 exercise per day i.e. chest exercises on Monday for 40-45 minutes (I do 10 minutes warm up before and after work-out.) Is this alright? In the above mentioned schedule, its very difficult to cover the abdominal muscles. Can I do this along with back and leg exercises? Could you please guide me in making a complete work-out plan for myself?

A:The best time for doing exercises are in the mornings and then in the evenings. One should do exercises when the stomach is not full. Going to the gym and swimming are both good, but in the gym one can also do weight bearing exercises. Know your limit before you start. The exercises can be: Cardio-vascular workout - brisk walking or jogging (not recommended for those who are very overweight); swimming (which is great for upper and lower body as well); cycling etc. Weight training program - which targets all the muscles groups. This is especially needed to help tone the muscles while one loses weight around the muscle areas. When some weight training is included, the skin will tone up better and does not sag. Flexibility exercises - so that muscles get elasticity in them and do not get too taut. You should do your work-outs thrice a week so that your muscles get the relaxation which is a must so that you can strengthen them again. A particular sequence of exercises needs to be performed at the gym. You must find time to cool the body down by stretching out each muscle group so as to bring the body back to equilibrium. This way the lactic acid build up gets dissipated and does not catch up with you. Also, you should try and eat a fruit like an apple or banana or any carbohydrate-rich food like a cereal so that it does not deplete you of your energy. A few important rules for exercising are:

  • Take small sips of water during exercise.
  • Do not exercise on an empty stomach. It leads to dehydration.
  • Do not have a heavy breakfast. Half an hour before exercising and about half an hour after exercising for a heavy meal should be good enough.
  • Take it slow and exercise at a comfortable pace. You should be able to carry on a conversation comfortably while exercising.
  • Be regular and aim for 3-4 workouts a week.
  • Work within your limits. Do not overstretch yourself when fatigue sets in.
  • Do warm up exercises which prevents stiffness of the muscles, prevent post exercises pain and soreness and will prepare your heart and lungs for that extra effort.
  • Do not fast and do not exercise on an empty stomach as the sustained effort can cause blood sugar to fall rapidly and lead to nausea, dizziness and fainting.
  • Cool off exercises are a must since your body needs time to get back to resting stage. Breathe deeply during cool-off stage. Take a warm shower rather than a very hot or cold one.
  • Be Alert to any warning signs of sore muscles or any injury of the back or knees. Stop immediately. You will need to follow High Resistance-Low Volume work out and do this initially under supervision. You can combine this with aerobic activity where you train yourself at roughly 60-80% of your heart rate. High Resistance activities are running on an incline, stair climbing, step training and cycling. The muscles will have to work harder against higher resistance and this will give you a greater muscle size and mass. Start with 500 grams weight since you are a beginner. When you can do 12-15 reps comfortably, then increase the weights. Lift at a speed that you can control. On an average, each rep should last for 4 seconds: 2 for lifting and 2 for bringing it back. Large muscles of the back, thighs and legs should be exercised first as they fatigue fast. The smaller muscles like the Biceps and Triceps should be exercised later. You would basically require workouts with heavy weight. Always follow a low volume high intensity workout. This is best done under supervision. You may combine this with aerobic exercises where you train at roughly 60%-80% of your heart rate. The order in which the muscle groups should be exercised is as follows: First upper legs and hips, second chest and upper arms, third back and the posterior aspect of legs, fourth shoulders and posterior arms, fifth lower legs and arms, sixth abdomen, seventh interior aspect of arms. To devise a proper program for yourself, you should keep the following three principles in mind: a. Overload Principle: This means that the strength and size of the muscle will increase only when the muscle performs at its maximal strength i.e. when the muscle is brought to a state of fatigue. b. Progressive increase in resistance: This increase is continued until desired strength is achieved. c. Breakdown and repair principle: Excess resistance creates a micro-injury in the muscle fibrils. After stopping the exercises and giving it rest, there is a phase of repair in which the muscle undergoes increase in size and strength with incorporation of protein substances in the muscles.

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