In today’s training show I’m sharing: How to progress a beginner level workout 9 ways.
So this is a full body routine I put together for my dad a couple of months ago. It was his second program with me – so we did start off with exercises a little easier than some covered in today’s show.
Side note: I’m super proud of my dad after probably 10 years of being completely inactive – due to a lot of aches and pains – he asked me to write a program for him. I’d been trying to convince him for years to get back into a regular exercise routine – however as you know, you’ll only commit at the time that is right for YOU.
This is a lesson I learnt 20 years ago when my dad in the height of his own gym obsession told me I should join the gym!
What a turn around. Should is never going to be super compelling – especially when it’s an insistent-UN-subtle-should-suggestion from someone else.
What turned should into a compelling “I want to”?
The pain both literally AND in terms of the normal day to day experiences he was missing out on such as walking down to the shops just got too much.
My “I want to” was a little more fickle – hey I was a teenager! – basically I met a super confident guy with a crazy-fit-gym-bod and thought “I want to rock around with a body that I’m super confident in too”
Whatever gets you to take the actions I think.
Anyway here’s the program pre-progressions:
- Body weight lunge
- Neutral grip assisted chin up
- Dumbbell chest press
- Reverse cable row or Dumbbell 1 arm row
- Step up
- Wide grip lat pull down
- Swiss ball hamstring curl
- Single leg lower.
Let’s move onto your progression options:
1). The obvious one with that lunge is to add dumbbells… Since you already know that let’s go with adding elevation and turning it into a split squat instead.
The split squat is one of my fav lower bod movements. Elevating your back foot (on first a small step and then a bench as you get stronger) brings in your glutes a lot more… for this to be the case though you need to sink straight down through yourself like in a regular lunge rather than travel forward with your torso and just stretch that back leg.
Other ELEVATION progressions are:
=> standing on a couple of step tops for your sumo dumbbell squat to increase the range of motion.
=> elevating your feet on a bench with push ups. These are a lot tougher and personally bring in my core more than most core specific exercises.
=> elevating your feet on a bench when you do an inverted row.
=> elevating your feet on a medicine ball for dips.
2). The progression I’m choosing with your assisted chin is to go with a tougher grip. Wide grip. Your technique cues are to first focus on your strength coming from that rock solid stable core. No swinging. Elbows come out and back and lead up with your chest as you focus on your back muscles to pull you up.
Other GRIP progressions are:
=> wide grip (instead of reverse or neutral grip) cable row.
=> wide grip (instead of reverse grip) barbell bent over row.
3). The progression I want to roll with so far as your dumbbell press is less supported. Early on in training you want to start with fairly supported movements (whether that be supported by a machine or by a bench like in this case a bench dumbbell press) Our progression is to a swiss ball dumbbell press or a push up. The swiss ball is still support however it requires more core and glute activation. The push up is super underrated. This is a tough, effective exercise. Your core has to work hard to hold your body nice and strong and straight like a plank while your chest, triceps and shoulders do the pushing work. Start from your knees or with your hands elevated – be it hands on the wall (easiest), or on a bar at chest height or on a bench if hands and toes is too tough.
Even one rep from hands and toes counts though!
Other LESS SUPPORT progressions are:
=> a squat instead of a leg press.
=> a barbell bent over row instead of a supported row.
=> a standing shoulder press instead of a machine press or even a seated shoulder press.
4). Our reverse row progression is speed. Slow it down. If your normal speed is around 2 seconds pulling towards you and 2 seconds releasing away from you then double it. At least on the pulling towards you (or concentric) phase. It makes a massive difference. This is a movement in which you want no momentum. Slow and controlled is tough and effective. Focus on keeping your shoulders set down and back… your chest proud and your torso nice and still.
SPEED progressions will work with any exercise. If its a weighted movement slower will be tougher. If its body weight like a push up slower is tougher and faster (as in more reps in the same time) is also tougher… So you’ve got a tone of options. Try slowing down your:
=> lat pull down
=> barbell squat or lunge
5). Our dumbbell row progression is the obvious one, Weight. My dad got to the point of 3 sets of 12 reps easily. Unfortunately we live in different states so I only get to train him every few months – however that is definitely a place where it’s well and truly time to lift heavier. I love the one arm dumbbell row, so its going to stay in his program, if it’s in yours and it’s a lil bit walk-in-the-park try heavier.
Even for 3-4 reps, then drop that weight back for another 3-4 reps to finish off the set.
WEIGHT progressions will obviously work anywhere however common exercises I see people under lifting:
=> dumbbell chest or shoulder press (especially my ladies).
=> dumbbell lunges and split squats (ladies they WON’T make your legs bulky!).
6). Our wide grip lat pull down progression is to switch to 1 arm at a time. So bilateral movement which uses both limbs in unison becomes a unilateral movement. The value here is more than making it tougher it’s a great way to check for imbalances and ensure your stronger side isn’t cheating and doing extra work for the weaker side. So in this case it’s swapping to a single arm lat pull down with a twist. So the bar is set up with two separate grips/handles rather than the one long bar. Start off with the working arm at the top end of the movement (so arm extended) and palm facing away from you, as you pull down towards you your arm will twist in towards palm facing to your upper chest. You want to keep your shoulder set well down through the movement and focus through lower back – your lats.
Other UNILATERAL movements to progress to are:
=> barbell dead-lift to 1 leg kettle-bell dead-lift.
=> squat to pistol squat.
=> swiss ball curl to single leg swiss ball curl.
7). Our progression for the step up is to change the focus of the movement. So it’s going to become a much less hateful (in my opinion!) movement though absolutely tougher… We’re rockin on with the step down. Same muscles, similar movement, different focus. So you’re working your glutes, hammies, quadriceps and core still… however bringing your hammies and glutes in more by focusing on controlling the lower down from the step more than just focusing primarily on the push up (or step up) quad focused component.
Other CHANGE THE FOCUS progressions:
=> well…. this is tougher to think of and I certainly won’t be giving this one to my dad (or any of my male clients however how about a knee up and out? As covered in show #224.
=> or, and I’m really changing the movement more than the focus and again this one is better for specific athletic training not my dad – and not me either… box jumps.
8). In our last exercise before core the progression is more reps. This works better for some movements rather than others. I’m generally a fan of more weight over more reps… however for the Swiss ball curl it works. If you’re used to 12 reps work your way up to 20.
Other INCREASE REPETITIONS progressions:
=> sumo in out jump squat.
=> push ups.
9). Our core progression for the single leg straight lower is to change the hand position. If that’s too easy you could go to double leg bent and then double leg straight… However for my dad I know just popping his hands behind his head instead of by his sides is going to be a good progression.
Other HAND POSITION progressions:
=> hands spread further away from you or even up on your chest for a swiss ball hamstring curl.
=> do a side plank leg raise from your hand rather than from your forearm.
The focus for todays show was to give you some ideas to play with. Not everything needs to progress at the same time – in fact it’s better not to!
I’ve left out as many ways to progress your program than I’ve covered (!) however I’m sure it’s enough for today… and it brings us to the time of the actionable.
Here’s the slide of the work-out:
To get actionable today, what is ONE progression you can add to your routine next time you hit the gym?
To recap, the options we covered today are: adding elevation / tougher grip / less supported / slow it down / up the weight / switch to a unilateral movement / change the focus of the movement / increase repetitions / change the hand position.
That’s it for me today. I hope you can join me tomorrow for the Friday FAQ show where I cover, Dracula’s Best Fat Loss Advice (Don’t listen to the ANTI-MENTOR!)
If you liked this you’ll also like: Reckless Weekend Eating: How Much Is It Costing YOU?
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