Beginners Guide: 4 Steps to Start Training Effectively

In the last few years, Health & Fitness has had a resurgence. Health is Wealth and people are more empowered now than ever to lead a healthy lifestyle. There are gyms and boutique studios at every corner and information is readily available at our fingertips.

Instagram-worthy. But will it help your goals?

WHATS THE PROBLEM?

With so many choices, it is easy for people to get lost and caught up with fad workouts. It’s tempting to just try them all! However, training in a randomised manner is not the most efficient way to achieve your goals. Sometimes, it can even be detrimental to it.

For example, if your goal is to build muscle and look good. Joining Spinning and HIIT five times a week might instead lead to lower muscle mass instead. So what should you ideally be doing? Following a proper training program customised to your goals is the most effective and efficient way to achieve them.

Here are 4 steps that you can implement to start your training in an effective and efficient manner.

Writing down your goals can make you 1.2 – 1.4x more successful in accomplishing them, according to research by Mark Murphy.

STEP 1: HAVE A GOAL

Start out by coming out with a clear goal. I will suggest using the SMART goals system to make sure your goals are clear and reachable. For example:

Specific – I want to gain 3kg of muscle, lose 3kg of fat and run 2.4km in 12 minutes.

Measurable – I can measure the bodily change by using a body composition analyser and will measure the improvement in fitness through a Pull up, Push up and 2.4km Run assessment.

Attainable – I will make this attainable by ensuring I have the correct tools and skills needed for it by signing up for a gym/studio membership and getting professional coaching.

Relevant – This is relevant to me because I want to look better and be more confident about myself and lead a more healthy lifestyle.

Time-bound – I will complete this in 12 months and reassess every quarter to make sure I’m on track.

Write all this down in a visible place to help remind yourself and keep yourself accountable for your progress!


STEP 2: UNDERSTANDING YOUR GOAL

After coming up with your fitness goal, it is now time to understand it better and how to best tackle it. Different people have differing goals, from losing weight, building muscle, being more athletic, lessening pain or even a combination of goals. To keep things simple, I will address two of the most common goals: Losing Weight & Building Muscle.

Body part measurements can be a good form of checking on your progress.

2i. I want to Lose Weight
In order to lose weight, one has got to be on a caloric deficit. There are two main ways to do this:

Here’s a good infographic by Precision Nutrition describing the Calories in vs out concept.
  1. Take in less calories than you expand/burn (through controlling food intake)
  2. Burn more calories than you take in (through exercise & physical activity)

It will be ideal to get a general idea of your Daily Caloric Requirements. You can get this by adding your Resting Metabolic Rate to your daily expenditure from physical activity. You can do this through using most body composition analysers or calculating them through certain equations such as the Mifflin-St.Jeor equation and then taking into account your physical activity (which can be done through a smart watch or HR monitor). Some websites do provide convenient Daily Caloric Calculators to help you sort all of that counting out!

If your goal is only to lose weight, you have to be on a caloric deficit. To make things simple, aim for more exercise and less caloric intake. The exercise mode does not really matter in this case as the total calories burnt is more important. Picking an exercise which you are able to do consistently and also provides enough caloric output is more important. However, if you also hope to build some muscle or improve certain aspects of fitness, then you have to adapt your training accordingly.

Hypertrophy or “Bodybuilding” styled Training is most efficient for building muscle.

2ii. I want to Build Muscle

Building muscle mass is slightly more complicated. In this case, it is also ideal to know your Daily Caloric Requirements. In contrast to losing weight, one has to be on a caloric surplus in order to build muscle mass. Doing this in a slow and steady manner can help prevent one from gaining too much excess fat (Try bumping up your calories by 100 – 200 each week and reassess every month or so).

It is also most effective to build muscle on a hypertrophy based workout program. Most of these workout programs usually include Upper/Lower body splits or Body Part splits which consists of various compound exercises done at an 8 – 12 repetition range. There are various programs available at popular sites such as Bodybuilding.com or T-nation.com (or DM me if you’d like personal coaching sessions to achieve that goal!).

If you do lots of HIIT and other cardiovascular dominant workouts, you might instead hinder your progress as you might burn an excess of calories which might then prevent you from attaining a caloric surplus. But of course cardiovascular training can be very helpful for your cardiovascular health!

Even simple choices such as choosing the correct gym for you can go a long way!

STEP 3: PLAN YOUR ATTACK

Now that you have your goal and understand what you should do, it is time to plan out what you need to do to achieve those goals!

Logistics – What do you need to achieve your goal? If you need professional help, it is ideal to sign up with a gym or a specialised studio as there are coaches there to assist you. If you are on a budget and plan to workout on your own, getting the correct equipment such as a proper pair of running shoes and attire can be your first step.

Schedule – How often are you able to workout a week? Plan out the days, time and location where you are going to train and more importantly, enforce it. It is ideal to start off slow (1 to 3 days/week) and slowly increase the frequency once you feel more comfortable and acclimatised to the new routine.

Progress – Are you progressing? Check your progress and perform reassessments at suitable intervals to ensure that you are on the right track! Some ways to measure progress can be to have a fitness assessment done or to use a body composition analyser (As mentioned in Step 1, having Measurable goals).

Do the work!

STEP 4: DO THE WORK

Now that everything is planned out, the only thing left to do is to do the work and be patient! A gradual weight loss of about 0.5 – 1kg per week is ideal according to the Singapore Health Promotion Board. Research has also shown that muscular hypertrophy gains can take about 16 workouts to produce significant results (that’s about 8 weeks if you workout twice a week!).

SUMMARY

It is always good to have clear and precise goals in order to be better able to plan for it. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Or will at least take a longer time to achieve your goals. Great things take time to build so get out there and crush that goal of yours!

Author: Leon Tan, CSCS

I'm a certified Fitness Coach with a degree in Sports Science. I am passionate in Health, Fitness and helping people become a better version of ourselves.

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