How important are basics when starting a new program?

February 2, 2013

Q: I just started working out a few months ago and recently read an article that said if I want to get in shape I should train like an athlete. The article also suggested some pretty serious weightlifting exercises, challenging cardio and a lot of powerful supplements. What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you have any suggestions on where to begin?

A: Imagine if you hired someone to build you a new house and they started with the roof, drywall and plumbing? Would you be concerned? You’re darn right you would. You don’t have to know a single thing about construction to know you must first build a strong foundation or the house won’t be worth a hill of beans. The same principle holds true when making a workout plan. Start with the basics, take your time and save the fancy stuff for later when you have more experience.


Lifting weight is a lot more complicated than just swinging iron back and forth, and you must first learn proper form, build connective tissue strength and learn how to isolate the muscles if you want results without injury.

Beginners who start with complicated movements such as power cleans, overhead squats and dead lifts are making a big mistake and are more likely to get hurt than make progress. Lifts such as these require strength, speed, proper form and coordination, and sometimes take years to learn correctly. Instead, start with basic movements such as push-ups, seated cable rows, leg presses and crunches, and progress to more difficult exercises as you get better.


Don’t spend hours doing mindless cardio sessions that yield no results. Learn to challenge yourself and work out of your comfort zone. Monitor your progress by keeping track of the level, speed and calories burned, and periodically switch things up to confuse your body. This can be done using a variety of variables such as increasing the intensity, time, frequency or mode. You can also add interval training - challenging cardio with short bursts of speed - to force your body out of a plateau.


Don’t fall for crash diets or quick fixes; instead, learn nutritional basics that will give you an advantage by helping your body become a more efficient fat burner. Eat five to six meals a day. Consume more protein from quality sources such as fish, eggs, chicken and other lean meats.

Try to drink eight to 10 glasses of water a day and eat low-glycemic carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, oatmeal, brown rice, and breads and wraps made of 100 percent whole wheat or other whole grains. Cut back on sugar consumption and replace it with fresh fruits and vegetables.


Skip the miracle pills and fat burners that promise to change your body overnight without any exercise or hard work. Instead, use only scientifically proven supplements that will help you reach your goals without risking your health. Try a protein shake or meal replacement that will help you eat on the go. avoiding long periods of time without food, which can kill your energy and stall your metabolism. Supplement with omega-3 fats like flaxseed, krill and fish oil, which provide energy, promote cardiovascular health and help develop healthy skin and hair. Add a multivitamin to ensure you are getting the proper nutrition to fuel you through tough workouts and help maintain a healthy lifestyle.

As you gain experience and learn how your body responds best to exercise, you can advance to more difficult workouts and exercises, but before you try to get fancy, be sure to first build a solid foundation. The results will be well worth the wait.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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