Welcome to the Nerd Fitness, a community for nerds, desk jockeys, and weekend warriors looking to level up their lives. Whether you're hoping to lose weight, build muscle, run a 5k, or just feel better about yourself, you can find information on how to get started.
These are the exact strategies we use with our 1-on-1 Coaching Clients to help them build confidence and start strength training, and I’m excited to cover all of this in this massive guide.
This is also quite a lot to absorb, so we’ve combined this article along with the rest of our strength articles into a “Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know” guide. Grab it free when you join the Rebellion by putting your email in the box below.
Download our comprehensive guide STRENGTH TRAINING 101!
Everything you need to know about getting strong.
Workout routines for bodyweight AND weight training.
How to find the right gym and train properly in one.
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How Do I Start Strength Training?
Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life.
You’ll look back years from now and thank “Past You” for starting strength training today. And I promise, you WILL strength train today.
After all, strength training doesn’t need to be scary or overcomplicated!
Strength training really comes down to two things:
“Movement of any weight (including your body weight) – Doing ANY exercise that pushes your muscles outside of their comfort zone, forcing them to rebuild stronger to prepare the next challenge.
Progressive overload: doing slightly more than last time (lift heavier weight or do 1 more rep) consistently. Your muscles will have constantly have to adapt and will constantly be rebuilding themselves stronger.
This means if you drop down and do ONE knee push-up right now, technically you’ve done a strength training workout.
It also means if you then do TWO knew push-ups tomorrow, then you are officially following a strength training routine.
In other words, YOU CAN DO THIS.
Now, there are many different “strength training” paths. Like a “skill tree” in a video game (with branching paths and progressions), you can progress up one path, and mix and match movements from others depending on the situation.
These paths depend on your goals and what equipment you have available to you.
Here are the types of strength training:
Bodyweight training is simply doing an exercise in which your own body is the “weight” you are “lifting.”
This is the BEST place for anybody – regardless of weight or age – to start their strength training journey.
Why is this the best place to start? Two big reasons:
#1) You always have your body with you (unless you are a ghost, in which case, this is awkward). This means you can work out ANYWHERE with bodyweight training:
In a house with a mouse, in a box with a fox. Wait.
#2) Moving your body is the most “human” thing ever! By learning to push and pull and hang and squat and lunge, you are doing what your body is literally designed to do. By getting strong with bodyweight movements, you’re making yourself antifragile and less injury prone.
Bodyweight training isn’t as easy to ‘scale’ as some of the other strength training methods, but you can get REALLY strong with just bodyweight training (working up to advanced movements like handstands, 1-legged squats, and gymnastic ring work).
Dumbbells are a great first step into the world of weight training and strength training:
Most gyms will have dumbbells, even if it’s a basic gym in your apartment complex.
A set of dumbbells doesn’t take up a lot of room, which means you can have a pair at home without a large footprint.
Dumbbells make it easy to add difficulty to a bodyweight movement: holding dumbbells while doing lunges, for example.
Dumbbell exercises can be less intimidating than barbell training for some, and are a step towards barbell training.
Dumbbells have an added stabilization challenge, and will point out muscle imbalances pretty easily (“oh my right arm is stronger than my left arm.”).
You can scale easily. Once the 10 pound weights become too easy, pick up the 15 pound ones!
A kettlebell is essentially a cannonball with a handle on it. They come in any weight imaginable, they don’t take up a lot of room, and can be used in dozens of ways for a great compact workout. Our 20-minute kettlebell workout has 8 simple exercises you can do with just one weight.
Although there are “adjustable kettlebells,” you’ll most likely be working with a single kettlebell, and then adjusting your movements for “progressive overload” (making the workout slightly more difficult each time). If you are a member at a gym, they’ll most likely have multiple kettlebells that you can use to level up.
Male or female, young or old, if your goal is to get strong quickly, use 20 seconds of courage and get comfortable training with a barbell (I’ll help you, I promise):
“Progressive overload” is easy – you simply add weights to either side of the bar, allowing you to progressively lift more and more weight each week.
It’s much easier to go heavy safely – especially for lower body movements like the squat and the deadlift.
The biggest downside to barbell training is that in order to train at home, you need to have purchased a squat rack, a barbell, a bench, and enough weight in your house or garage (which can be an expensive investment, especially when starting out!).
Not sure which path to pick? You’re not alone – this stuff can be overwhelming.
If you want a custom build workout program that is catered to your experience and situation – and grows along with you – check out our 1-on-1 Coaching Program. We get to know you and your goals, will check your form via video, and make adjustments based on your progress!
You can learn more by clicking on the image below:
Which Strength Training Program is Right for Me?
So, what’s the best workout program to start as a beginner?
Realistically, it’s the one that you will actually do.
Barbell training might be optimal in terms of building pure strength quickly, but if you don’t see yourself actually getting to the gym regularly – or you’re too self conscious to enter the free weight section (for now) – no problem! Start with bodyweight training.
Conversely, bodyweight training might seem convenient and easy to start now, but if you can’t motivate yourself to work out at home, you might be better off joining a gym.
So let’s get you a workout program!
As we cover in our “How to Find the Perfect Workout Plan (for you)”: MOST beginners will be best served by following a “full body” or “total body” routine – a workout that targets every muscle in your body – 2 to 3 times per week, (with a day of rest in between each workout).
This full body workout will have 4-5 big compound movements.
A compound movement is an exercise that recruits LOTS of muscles simultaneously and forces your body to work in unison. An example would be the barbell squat, which recruits every muscle in your core, butt, and legs to work together to lift the weight. This is WAY more efficient – and effective at building pure strength – than doing 5 different isolated leg exercises.
Why do 5 exercises when 1 exercise will get you better results in 20% of the time?
To answer your next question, let me tell you about how many sets and reps you should do as a beginner! As we explain in our “how many sets and reps” guide:
Reps in the 1-5 range build super dense muscle and strength.
Reps in the 6-12 range build equal amounts of muscular power, strength, and size.
Reps in the 12+ range primarily build muscular endurance and size, and improving form.
Many beginner strength programs will encourage you to keep things simple and just do 5 sets of 5 reps for each exercise, in an effort to optimize progress as a beginner interested in strength gains.
I personally encourage people to aim for a weight that they can lift for 8-10 reps. This gives you a chance to really work on your form and lift safely!
The max lifts will come later, my friend. You gotta learn to walk before you can run!
“Steve, which workout plan is better?”
It depends on your goals!
If your main goal is general fitness and fat loss, doing a circuit style workout will likely help you reach your goals (make sure you see our section below for “strength training for weight loss”).
If your main goal is to get stronger and/or put on muscle, following a more traditional, pure-strength style routine like the above gym workout is going to get you there faster.
TRUTH BOMB: EITHER workout will help you reach nearly any goal provided you do two things:
Increase the difficulty of your workouts. This is that “progressive overload” stuff we were talking about earlier. Doing 1 more bodyweight squat, lifting 5 more pounds, or completing your circuit 10 seconds faster than last workout. By forcing your body to constantly adapt, your muscles will never get complacent and have to keep burning extra calories and rebuilding themselves stronger.
Depending on your current situation, and how quickly you’re looking to cut through the “trial and error” and get expert guidance, I might have an interesting solution for you.
We have a pretty killer 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program here at Nerd Fitness, where you’ll work with a coach that will build a workout program for your body type and goals, check your form to make sure you’re doing them safety, and even help plan out your nutrition too.
If you want to learn more about our coaching program, you can click in the box below:
The Best Beginner Strength Training Programs
“Alright Staci, are there any ‘out of the box’ beginner workout programs I can start following now?”
Yup! Let me share with you some of our suggestions:
Here are 5 workouts you can follow TODAY. Pick the level that you feel most comfortable with, and then level up when you feel ready:
#1) BEGINNER BODYWEIGHT WORKOUT:
Beginner Body Weight Circuit Workout | Nerd Fitness - YouTube
Our Beginner Bodyweight Workout has a variety of rep ranges to promote endurance, strength, and cardiovascular health. Complete one set of each exercise and then moving directly onto the next exercise:
20 body weight squats
10 push ups
20 walking lunges
10 dumbbell rows (using a gallon milk jug)
15 second plank
30 jumping Jacks
Repeat for 3 rounds
#2A) BEGINNER NERD FITNESS DUMBBELL WORKOUT
If you are just getting started with dumbbells and you’re looking for a beginner workout program to follow, this is our Level 3 Gym Workout, “Join the Dumbbell Division”:
Our Beginner Kettlebell Routine is a workout you do anywhere you have room to swing a kettlebell. So, probably not in a phone booth or a closet or a bathroom stall. But other than that, pretty much anywhere else.
Complete 3 circuits:
8 Halos (each side)
10 Goblet Squats
8 Overhead Presses (each side)
15 Kettlebell Swings
8 Bent Over Rows (each side)
6 Front Rack Reverse Lunge (per side)
#3) BARBELL TRAINING: 2 DAY WORKOUT SPLIT
As we cover in our “how to train in a gym” guide (where we take you from “lost sheep” to “barbell badass”), this routine is a much more focused weight training, strength building workout that gets your feet wet with barbell training. Click on ANY exercise to learn how to do it properly.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER POPULAR STRENGTH TRAINING PROGRAMS?
#1) The original “Starting Strength” is considered the gold standard beginner barbell weight training program by many. We highly recommend you pick up the actual book if you are serious about barbell training – it’s one of the most important training books you can ever read.
#2) Strong Lifts 5X5: A solid workout program that starts you out very slow, with just the barbell, and helps you master form before you get too heavy. It also keeps things VERY easy with “do 5×5.” Stronglifts has been around for a long time and is a solid program.
#3) Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1: This program allows you a little more freedom to do exercises that you enjoy, or work on personal weaknesses, because you choose some of the assistance work.
Note: You can modify any of the barbell training programs to be done with dumbbells, if that’s what you have at home!
If the sight of a plate of broccoli makes you gag, this post is for you!
We’ll turn any “Veggie Hater” into a “Vegetable Lover” by showing you how to make a plate full of greens not taste like a wet gym sock (don’t ask “Steve, how do you know what a wet gym sock tastes like?”).
If you’ve been a picky eater your whole life – like I was -, our guide today will help level up your taste buds.
By the end of today, I’m going to have you excited to eat vegetables, and ready to take the NF Veggie Challenge.
If you’re someone who doesn’t eat vegetables because you don’t like them, don’t know how to buy them, or don’t know how to make them, this article is for you. We’re going to change that today.
Because this is what we do!
We help people like you lose weight and get healthy without feeling miserable or bored. After all, “the best diet” is the one you can actually stick with!
So how do you create a food strategy that doesn’t suck? Here’s how we do it.
In our pretty snazzy1-on-1 Online Coaching Program, we get to know our clients better than they know themselves. We then create custom workout programs and provide nutritional guidance that actually gets results!
Want to learn more about how we can help you? Click below!
Why You Should Eat Vegetables
You’ve probably been told since you were a toddler to “Eat your vegetables! They’re good for you.”
Do you really know WHY they’re good for you? Let me jump into a few reasons why vegetables kick ass.
1) Vegetables are nutrient dense. It should be no surprise that Popeye turned to a vegetable when he needed a powerup.Think of vegetables as one of our body’s most efficient fuel sources:they are packed full of vital macro and micronutrients. Just take a look at our article on how to eat healthy on a budget – it should be no surprise that vegetables are an important part of efficiently eating healthy! Simply put: vegetables are the backbone of any solid diet.
3) Veggies keep your body operating at max efficiency! Vegetables are a great way to keep your…um…indoor plumbing…functioning properly. Adding a vegetable or two to each meal is a great way to keep things working right! Seriously: if you’re someone who doesn’t eat many veggies, you will notice a considerable difference after adding veggies to your diet regularly.
4) They can be delicious! Sure, a point of debate…but as a former veggie hater, I am now firmly on Team Vegetable. A plate full of veggies used to make me want to gag, and now I’m thrilled at the idea of a plate covered in a cornucopia (what a great word, right?) of multicolored plants
“Ok,” you might be thinking, “I know they’re good for me, but I don’t eat them. Help me!” Okay, okay fine.
Here’s how you can get over your vegetable-aversion and get started.
How to Start Eating Vegetables (Finding Your Gateway Veggie)
When I was 22 I proudly proclaimed that I was a “carnivore” and boycotted veggies. Essentially, I ate things like chicken, hamburgers, pizza, pasta, french fries, rice, and not much else.
One day, I decided “I’m an adult, I should probably eat like one.” In my mind, all vegetables were disgusting, but the reality was that I hadn’t really tried many different kinds. Instead I tried a few and just assumed they were all bad.
So, for starters: stop saying you hate all vegetables. Instead: you simply haven’t found a vegetable that you LIKE yet.
I started trying teeny tiny bits of vegetables. If I went out to dinner with friends, I would ask to try some veggies off of their plate. Once I got over the idea, I would order a new vegetable each visit and give it a shot.
I experimented with new vegetables for two reasons:
Trying any vegetable, even if I only ate a small amount and hated it, would still be considered a victory!
If I found a vegetable I DID like, I could learn to prepare it the same way and eat more at home.
On top of that, I simply forced myself to go into any new vegetable with an open mind and positive mindset. It’s amazing what positive or negative expectations can do to convince ourselves. So, instead of thinking “this is gross,” say “this is what I eat and it’s good.” Sounds a bit hokey, but it works.
My gateway vegetable: asparagus. I bought some asparagus at the store, put them on a cookie sheet lined with tinfoil, covered them in olive oil, salt, pepper, and stuck them in the oven (at 375 degrees F) for 12 minutes. BAM! Crunchy, delicious, and nutritious. Plus, I felt like a 5 star chef!
For my first year as an omnivore, asparagus was the only vegetable I ate. I didn’t branch out too much beyond this, but at least I had found one that I liked. Once I had gotten over the mental barrier that “all vegetables are gross,” it was time for me to branch out.
YOUR MISSION: Find your gateway vegetable. (We’ll be giving you some great options later in the article.)
Suck it up, take one bite of many different kinds of veggies, and see which ones you actually enjoy.
Before each bite, clear your mind, Neo. Stop going into each veggie encounter expecting to hate it! You never know when things change.
Many people think in order to eat a “Paleo Diet” you’ll need to eat dozens of veggies everyday, but almost everyone starts just like I did – with only one or two gateway vegetables and slowly branches out from there. Our free download on the Paleo Diet helps show you that it isn’t nearly as complicated as some people can make it out to be.
Get the FREE eBook! The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Paleo!
Discover if Paleo is for you
The one simple trick to know if your food is Paleo-friendly
Easy Paleo recipes for beginners to get you started
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How to BUY Vegetables. How to Discover New Vegetables.
First and foremost, buying vegetables can be daunting!
How can I tell if a vegetable is fresh or not?
How long can I leave the vegetable in my fridge before it goes bad?
Which ones do I get?
For starters, here are just some of the vegetables that are Nerd Fitness approved. The next time you go to a supermarket, your mission is to pick ONE of these 24 vegetables and bring it home with you.
Notice: we’re not counting tubers (potatoes and sweet potatoes) or legumes (beans) on this list – technically they’re veggies, but for the purposes of this article we’re aiming for low calorie, nutrient dense options to start.
Once you’ve bought your veggies, use StillTasty.com, to figure out how long you can leave them in my fridge.
If you really want to make it easy, buy a bag of “Steam Fresh” vegetables – most of these only require you throwing the bag into the microwave, opening it, and putting it on your plate.
As a last resort, check out canned vegetables! They might not be as fresh as regular veggies, and there might be preservatives added to keep them from going bad, but I’d prefer you eating canned vegetables to no vegetables at all!
How to Make Vegetables Taste Good (Hide Them)
Once I got my “gateway vegetable,” I stopped telling myself that I hated vegetables, and became more likely to try other vegetables.
However, I still didn’t love the taste of many veggies, which presented a problem.
The solution? “Mask” the taste and texture by hiding the vegetables in other foods until I became accustomed to the taste.
I started adding vegetables to everything in ways that didn’t make me taste veggies:
1) Add frozen spinach or kale to your smoothies. I make a post-workout smoothie with fruit and protein and realized that other than giving my drink a greenish tint, the taste was unchanged. Cheap too: a bag of frozen spinach is like 2 bucks at most grocery stores.I continued adding more and more spinach each time until it changed the taste too much. That’s one daily serving of a super veggie without even trying!
2) Add veggies to your omelets! I’m not a breakfast person (Intermittent Fasting ftw!), but if you’re making omelets, try adding different vegetables to your omelets each time and see which ones don’t change the taste. Plus, who says you can only eat omelets for breakfast? They make a great dinner meal too.
3) Eat a small bite of a veggie with something you actually like. When I started cooking chicken stir fry, I made sure that every bite of delicious grilled chicken was paired with part of a vegetable.
Here are some ideas to try to squeeze in some extra veggies with every mouthful of food:
5) Try making carrot fries. These things taste like sweet potato fries, but they’re made of carrots. Cut some carrots into fry shapes, toss them in olive oil, put them on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast them in the oven at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) for 10 minutes. Ta da!
7) Hide some veggies in a casserole (like paleo shepherd’s pie) – when they’re mixed in with other stuff you like, it makes them easier to eat. If you aren’t a fan of big hunks of veggies in your bites of food, chop them up really small before cooking. This way they’re less noticeable!
8) Add greens like spinach, chard, or kale to your paleo spaghetti sauce.
All of the above examples accomplish the same goal: getting more vegetables into your system. This makes your stomach happy, your mother happy, and Popeye happy.
How to Start Liking Vegetables (It’s All in the Preparation)
“Okay Steve, just give me some options!”
I hear ya: When I first considered eating veggies, I just wanted ONE simple recipe I could follow along, cook, and actually enjoy.
I realized that vegetables can taste completely different depending on how they’re prepared. Once I was able to learn one way to prepare a vegetable that I actually enjoyed, the kitchen was no longer a scary place!
With some help from our NF Rebel Chef, Noel, here are some easy and delicious options for getting started with your first vegetable:
1) Steamed broccoli: I’m not a fan of raw broccoli, but steamed broccoli? Sign me up! Steamfresh veggies come in a package that you can throw in the microwave for five minutes, add seasoning, and that’s it. Add butter or any seasoning, and eat it with a protein for a balanced meal!
If you’ve bought fresh broccoli and you want to steam it yourself, you can do it in the microwave or on the stove.
To steam broccoli on the stove:
Plop about a 1/2 cup of water in the bottom of a pot
Separating the broccoli florets from the stem
Plop them in the water and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes
Don’t want to use the stove? You can also steam broccoli yourself in the microwave:
Plop those florets (the “tree” minus the “trunk”) in a microwave safe bowl with a few tablespoons of water
Cover with a microwave safe lid or dish
Cook for 3-4 minutes. If the broccoli isn’t soft and warm, put it back in for a minute or two
2) Roasted veggies (bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, etc.): Roasted veggies can taste very different from steamed and raw veggies (they get crispier and a little sweeter because they caramelize in the oven). Take your pick of vegetable: bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, etc.
Here’s how you make roasted veggies:
Cut them up literally however you want
Drizzle/toss them toss in olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper
Put them on a foil lined pan in the oven at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 20-30 minutes
Don’t overthink this: You can use more olive oil or use less. You can use more salt or use less. Just cut them up, drizzle, and plop them in!
3) Asparagus: Asparagus was (and still is) my go-to veggie. It’s what started it all. Simply chop off the ends of your asparagus and coat it in olive oil. Feel free to add salt, paprika, or whatever seasoning you enjoy. Plop in the oven at 375 degrees F (205 degrees C) for 10-15 minutes, and enjoy!
4) Sautéed zucchini and squash. Zucchini and squash both taste great with just a little oil and salt, and are super easy to prepare.
If you’re overwhelmed at the very idea of how to get in shape, I hear ya.
From bootcamps to “What is CrossFit” to Weight Watchers to paleo to vegan to Klingon, how are you supposed to make sense of all this information to find the right path?
The truth is that there is no ONE path that works for everybody.
You’re a unique snowflake (your parents were right), which means what works for somebody else might not work for you, and vice versa.
I’ll dig into the general do’s and don’ts of getting in shape with today’s article, but if you’re really overwhelmed to the point that you just can’t get yourself to get started, consider checking out our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program.
You’ll get to work with a Nerd Fitness Coach who gets to know you better than you know yourself, and handcrafts a workout routine and nutritional plan that is tailor-made to your situation. You can learn more about our coaching program by clicking on the image right here:
Now, outside of our coaching program, we also have a TON of free resources that you can use to follow and help you get off on the right track!
You can read our overall philosophy below (which has helped hundreds of thousands of people), and help you get started today!
Step 1: WHY Do You Want to Get In Shape? (Inspiration)
Today, we’re going to talk about the Nerd Fitness “Triforce of Winning!”
I just came up with that title, but now that’s what I’ll call it henceforth.
If you want to succeed at getting in shape, you need three things:
Inspiration: WHY you’re getting in shape
Education: HOW to get in shape
Support: having others help you along the way to get in shape
If you can successfully combine these three crucial pieces, then you’ll defeat Ganon and save Hyrule have a fightin’ chance at getting in the best damn shape of your life.
WHY do you want to get in shape?
What is your reason for wanting to do so?
Do you want to get in shape to…
Start dating again?
Win a weight loss competition at work?
Eventually play with your newborn son?
Grow old with your significant other?
Prove everybody wrong who said “you can’t do it?”
Have a freaking reason, friend!
Write it down, hang it up in your bedroom, tattoo it on your face, write it down on a piece of paper and staple it to your forehead, whatever.
Just keep that reason for wanting a better life at the front of your mind at all times.
The first week while you’re excited is fun. It’s the rainy days and snowy days that will decide whether or not you actually get in shape.
Unless you have motivation to succeed, and can find inspiration to push through the crappy days, you will give up at the first sign of resistance.
I’m a nice guy, so I crammed all of the inspiration you’ll ever need into one place. You’re welcome.
Step 2: How to get In Shape (Education)
Okay, so now you should be all fired up and inspired and thinking, “Hey Steve, this Nerd Fitness stuff is cool. I’m ready to get in shape.”
Let’s get started.
HOW TO GET IN SHAPE:
A) Pick goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely). Be incredibly specific with your goals so that you can actively plan what steps are needed to achieve those goals:
“I’m going to lose 20 pounds this year by going to the gym 3 times per week for the next 6 months and eat one more vegetable per week than I did the week before.”
Alternatively, if you somebody that NEVER succeeds at your goals, instead put the focus on the habit and not the goal.
Or another example: “I’m going walk to Mordor by walking a mile every day for a month. If I go for a walk, I win.” Keep it simple
Whichever method you decide, it’s important to be deliberate in your actions:
If you are setting goals – be SUPER SPECIFIC, write them down, and plan them out.
If you are making new habits – add them to your calendar, set phone alarms or alerts, and do them EVERY DAY.
Understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Optimus Prime didn’t transform in one move. This is NOT a diet, or a quick fix, but a LIFESTYLE CHANGE. Don’t expect overnight results, or abs in two weeks. Slow, steady progress.
If you don’t like to move, then it’s time to try new things until you find something that you DO like.
Sign up for a new class, join your company’s running club for a day, try out something in your basement or living room, just keep trying new stuff until you find something that you like. And then do it as often as you can.
Getting strong is one of the BEST things you can do with regards to losing weight and getting in shape. Your body processes calories differently when you are strength training compared to other forms of exercise.
Essentially, your body needs to burn extra calories to rebuild all the muscles you just worked out during a strength training workout. Also, there are then fewer calories to go around to store as fat!
Beginner Body Weight Circuit Workout | Nerd Fitness - YouTube
Put it all together: These are the steps you can take today:
Determine your goals or habits you want to establish. Write them down and hang them up.
Determine why your previous attempts didn’t work and try something different this time!
Start cleaning up your diet in whatever method works best for you.
Pick an activity that makes you happy, and do it. A lot.
Now, if you want specific direction on weight lifting, weight loss, and muscle building, sign up in the box below and I’ll send you a free workout sheet to follow and our massive Strength Training 101 guide on everything you need to know about getting started!
Download our comprehensive guide STRENGTH TRAINING 101!
Everything you need to know about getting strong.
Workout routines for bodyweight AND weight training.
How to find the right gym and train properly in one.
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Step 3: Who is On Your Squad? (Support)
Last but not least, you need support.
Yes, I understand it’s kind of fun to be an army of one: the lone ranger trying to succeed against insurmountable odds….but it’s not necessary.
Once you decide to get in shape, want to know the best way to guarantee success?
Make it public.
Tell all of your friends, start a blog, and/or inform your co-workers and ask them to keep you accountable!
Unless you like being called a quitter, you’ll probably think twice about skipping out on your workouts.
Maybe your word isn’t your bond, and you need a different kind of motivation and support to succeed.
My buddy Saint said he would pay his friends $500 if he didn’t get in absolutely incredible shape for his wedding six months down the road. Saint didn’t have $500 to lose, so he decided instead to just get in great shape…and it worked.
Build your own Jedi Council – find people who are stronger than you and work out with them, or faster than you and run with them, or more educated than you and ask them questions.
These are people that you can turn to when you need advice or help. If you don’t know anybody in real life, keep reading…
Then, over the next 24-48 hours hours, those muscles get rebuilt a tiny bit stronger.That’s why it doesn’t benefit us to work out every day; we don’t want to destroy our muscles without giving them a chance to grow back stronger.
That then begs the question: What are we supposed to do on those days? How can we keep up the habit of exercise and not let a day of non-training derail our progress?
Are there things we CAN do on our off days?
That’s why I’m here, my dear Rebel friend: you ask the questions, I answer them!
You set em up, I knock ’em down!
Before I quickly jump into this program, I’m gonna make another assumption: this isn’t the only question you have about training!
Not just what to do on your off days, but also what to do on your “on” days too! How many sets, how many reps, how much should you eat, are you doing your push-ups right, and so on.
Questions like this can make you second guess your fitness practice, which can lead to falling off the wagon. We’ve seen it time and time again here at Nerd Fitness. Which is why we created our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program: so you can take comfort knowing your training precisely matches your experience level and goals.
Here’s how it works: your own Nerd Fitness Coach will get to know you better than you know yourself. Do you go off the rails on your “off days?” They’ll create a plan to keep you on track, by offering custom workouts, form checks, nutritional guidance, and worldwide accountability in your pocket. If you’re interested, click on the image below, and then keep reading about what to do on your “day off.”
Plan Your Off Days Like a Training Day
The biggest problem most people have with off days is that they become cheat days! Because they’re not training, they’re not thinking about being fit and it’s much easier to slack off and lose momentum.
This is bad news bears.
Remember, exercise is probably 10-20% of the equation: how we eat and rest is the other 80-90%!
So plan your off days deliberately! They’re not off days, they’re rest days, and they serve a vital role in building an antifragile kickass body capable of fighting crime (or roughhousing with your kids in the backyard).
Whether it’s scheduling one of the activities below at the same time you normally train every day, or deliberately adding a morning mobility/stretching routine to your day, doing SOMETHING every day is a great way to remind ourselves “I am changing my life and I exercise daily.”
Personally, I know I am far less likely to eat poorly when I’m doing some active recovery than when I’m not doing anything deliberately. On days when I’m not training, I try to block off a similar amount of time to work on myself in some way to maintain momentum, and I encourage you to do the same if you struggle with losing momentum if even taking one day off.
It could be flexibility training, mobility training, meal prep, and more. I’ll cover these below! Whatever it is, do SOMETHING every day, even if it’s for just five minutes, to remind yourself that you are making progress towards your new life.
Let’s dive in to your off-day options!
Work on Mobility
We’ve all felt that soreness the day after (or two days after) strength training – our muscles have been broken down and are incredibly tight from all of the heavy lifting.
For that reason, one of the best things you can do on an off day is to work on your flexibility and mobility. After all, what good is strength if we can’t move our body properly to utilize it! Dynamic stretching and mobility work helps prepare our body for the rigors of strength training and keeps us injury free!
Regardless of whether or not you have a training day scheduled, start each morning with a mobility warm-up: a series of dynamic movements that gets your body activated and wakes up your muscles, joints, and tendons. If you live in an apartment or are just getting started, feel free to leave out the jumping jacks:
How to Warm Up For Your Workout | Nerd Fitness - YouTube
This gives us a chance every morning to check in with our bodies and reminds us mentally “I am leveling up physically, might as well eat right today too.”
Here’s another favorite mobility routine from my friend (and coach) Anthony Mychal. It says it’s a warm-up for tricking, but it’s quite helpful for those of us mere mortals:
The Best Warm Up for Training - YouTube
If you spend all day at a desk, doing some basic mobility movements throughout the day can keep your hips loose and keep you thinking positively. Here’s an article on how to dominate posture at your desk job.
Do a Fun Activity
We are genetically designed to move, not sit on our asses for 60+ hours a week. Not only that, but we are genetically designed to have fun doing so too!
Which means we can spend time on our off days working on our happiness AND stay active at the same time.
This fun activity can mean something different for everybody:
Go for a bike ride with your kids
Go for a run around your neighborhood
Play kickball in a city league (I play on Thursdays!)
Go for a walk with your significant other
Go rock climbing
Learn martial arts like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or Capoeira or Kung Fu
Take a dance class
Try Live Action Role-Playing (LARP!)
Play on a playground
Roll down a hill and run back up it
I honestly don’t care WHAT you do, as long as it’s something you truly enjoy doing – it puts a smile on your face, it gets your heart pumping. Exercise does not need to be exhausting or miserable. If you haven’t found an activity you enjoy yet, you haven’t tried enough new things.
The point is to get outside, remember it’s a damn good day to be alive, and that we are built to move.
Intervals, Sprints, Or Walking
“But Steve, I have this big party coming up and I really am trying to lose as much weight as possible.”
Okay okay, I hear you – if that’s the case, then 90% of the battle is going to be with your diet (which you can learn about here), but there are SOME things you can do on your off days that can help you burn more calories:
1) Interval Training – In interval training, you’ll be varying your running pace. This means you may switch between jogging and walking, or walking and sprinting (there are few different methods of interval training). This training style can help speed up your metabolism for the hours after you finish.
2) Sprinting – If you like the idea of burning extra calories and building explosive power and speed, check out our article on becoming the Flash. Find a hill, sprint up it, walk down, and repeat the process for 10-20 minutes. No need to overthink it!
3) Long walks – Walking is a low-impact activity that burns extra calories and doesn’t overly tax your body. What a “long walk” will be is different for everybody based on their level of fitness, but walking is one of the best things you can do for yourself!
If you want to take a more active recovery day, the most important thing is to listen to your body. Destroying ourselves for 6+ days a week can really wear us down, causing long term problems if we’re not careful.
Yoga for the win!
You might not realize it, but yoga is the perfect complement to strength training:
Strength training makes us stronger, but it can tighten up our muscles and make us sore.
Yoga, on the other hand, lengthens our muscles and tendons, aids in their recovery, and helps our body develop better mobility and flexibility.
It’s the perfect way to create a strong AND mobile body, ready for anything and everything we throw at it. It’s kind of like turning your body into a swiss-army knife: prepared to be strong, flexible enough to avoid injury, and truly antifragile.
Now, if you’ve never been to a yoga class before, it can certainly be intimidating, especially if you’re a ones-and-zeros programmer wary of the practice’s more spiritual aspects. That was my concern years ago before I got started with it; I had to muster up 20 seconds of courage to attend my first yoga class, and I’m so glad I did.
Here’s how to get started with Yoga!
Nearly any commercial gym you join will have yoga classes.
Most yoga studios have classes throughout the day.
Follow a plethora of videos online if you want to get started at home.
If Yoga is something you want to try, but you never see yourself working up the nerve to go to a yoga class, I hear ya. It’s why we created Nerd Fitness Yoga:
6 full 30-min workout routines you can follow along to:
Download or stream the routines anytime, anywhere, on any device.
Mini-mobility sessions to help you deal with a sore back, tight shoulders, poor posture, etc.
We’re super proud of Nerd Fitness Yoga, and I’d love for you to check it out! It comes with a 60-day money back guarantee!
what do you Do On Your Off Days?
As we know, a healthy body is made in the kitchen, not in the gym. It’s important to stay diligent with healthy nutrition even on days when you’re not hitting the gym.
One of the best ways to do that is to use one of your non-training days to prepare your meals for the week! NF Team Member Staci Ardison does all of her meal prep for the week on Sundays, and looks at it like an activity that is furthering her fitness journey.
I like to use one of my off days to break a mental sweat too! On Tuesdays, I take fiddle lessons, which is a mental workout so taxing that I can’t wait to get back to deadlifts!
Here’s another thing you can do on off days: Have fun.
Whether it’s playing a video game, getting caught up on a movie or TV show, or reading a book, it’s important for us to do the nerdy or fun things that make us who we are. As the Rules of the Rebellion state: fitness can become part of we do, but not at the expense of who we are!
I’m currently playing through Batman Arkham Knight (add me on PS4 and Xbox One: “RebelOneNF”!), and as I collect the Riddler Trophies, I think to myself: “I am rebuilding muscle like Batman.”
If you’re somebody that is too smart for your own good (certain a possibility with you reading “Nerd Fitness”), you might be overwhelming yourself with paralysis: “I want to get in shape but I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing for my goals. Should I train 4 days a week or 3? Lift weights and cardio? What about my macros for food!?”
We help busy people like you cut through the clutter and noise, telling you exactly what to do each day to stay on target! Learn more by clicking on the big box below:
Alright, your turn: How do you stay on target even on days when you’re not “training?”
I’d love to hear from you – do you take the day off completely? Do you challenge yourself in a different way? Do you try to do something every day to keep the momentum up, or do you actually take days off?
Leave it in the comments!
PS: We have a ton of free resources too that you can grab when you join the Rebellion (free).
Simply sign up in the box below so I know where you to send your bonuses and e-books:
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