5 Strength and Conditioning Tips for Beginners


5 Strength and Conditioning Tips for Beginners

Matt Cady, O2X Strength and Conditioning Specialist

If you are new to lifting and training, or coming back from a hiatus, you should always remember the O2X rule of 1% better. Small incremental changes daily/weekly/monthly lead to sustainable, lifestyle adjustments that can become your new routine.  

When you put your ego aside and go back to basics, this should help you progress while minimizing injury risk. This means focusing on the fundamentals, starting slow, and listening to your body. This does not mean that starting a training plan will be easy. You should prepare to be uncomfortable because that is how the body forms adaptations. Along with these general concepts, here are 5 tips to help you succeed. 

5 Strength and Conditioning Tips

  1. Have, Follow, and Stick with a Training Plan

This is your road map. A good program has an end goal in mind and shows you how you are going to get there. It allows you to progress through exercises, sets, reps, and weights to aid in your progress and minimize injuries. We also recommend recording your sets/reps/weights each day. This helps you add weight each session. If you have access to the O2X app, a great training plan to start with is called, “Introduction to Weight Training.” If you do not have access to the app, Tips 4 and 5 can help you with your exercise selection.

  1. Prepare and Recover

Preparing the body to work out and recovering after your workout is completed is crucial to your long-term success. Especially as you age. The “prepare” or the warm-up is used to let the body know what’s coming. It should include continuous movement of some kind like jogging, biking, rowing, or jumping rope. If you do not have access to equipment, or only have limited space, this warm-up can be done in place and consist of high knees, butt kicks, jumping jacks etc.

Once you start sweating, or at least feel warm, progress to a dynamic warm-up. Some good exercises to include are walking lunges, lateral lunges, walking single leg RDL’s, inch worms with a push-up, and hip openers.

The next step will be activation of specific muscle groups. Single-leg glute bridges, front and side planks, shoulder I-Y-T-W’s, and thoracic spine rotations are good options.

Lastly, you can start warming-up with weight for whatever you are training that day. This may seem like it’s going to take 30 minutes, and it could, but it does not need to. You can devote 5-10 minutes to the prepare portion and then get into your training session. 

Recovering after the workout is just as important as warming-up.  Like the prepare, this does not need to last 30 minutes. Finishing your training session with 5-10 minutes of foam rolling is a great option. Other options for the “recover” or cool-down are massage guns, rolling on a lacrosse ball, traditional massage, cryo therapy, hot/cold tubs, compression gear and even static stretching.

  1. Intensity and Consistency Matter

If you are training to improve your performance, whether that be your mile time, your body composition or your squat max, the intensity you train with, and the consistency of your training are crucial. Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is how the body adapts to your training and, therefore, how progress occurs. The consistency piece helps the body continue to perform at a high level over time. With that said, please don’t forget the general concepts in the intro. The intensity and consistency in week 1 might only be 2×30 minutes because that is all you can handle, but if you stick with it that will increase as your base fitness improves.

  1. Basic Movement Patterns to train
    1. Push
    2. Pull
    3. Squat
    4. Hinge

If you have access to a periodized program like the one mentioned in Tip 1 it should contain all of these aspects. These basic movement patterns provide a well rounded base of training that can progress with you even as the exercises become more challenging. 

A “PUSH” refers to an upper body exercise where you are pushing the weight away from you. Exercises to consider are a chest press or bench press, overhead press, and push ups. This is to strengthen the muscles you can see in the mirror (chest, shoulders, triceps).

A “PULL” refers to an upper body exercise where you are pulling the weight toward you. Exercises to consider are rows, lat pulldowns, and pull-ups. This is to strengthen your back.

A “SQUAT” refers to a lower body pushing exercise where you are pushing the weight away from you. A squat is also a knee bending exercise. Exercises to consider are squats (back squats, front squats, goblet squats), lunges, leg press, and step-ups. This is to strengthen your legs and mainly your quads.

A “HINGE” refers to a lower body pulling exercise where the movement is mainly occurring at the hips, not the knees. Exercises to consider are deadlifts, RDL’s or stiff leg deadlift, and kettlebell/dumbbell swings. It is a posterior chain movement and strengthens the back of your legs like glutes, hips and hamstrings.

A training program may contain many other aspects, but these are the basic movement patterns. Other ideas/exercises/concepts to include would be explosive exercises like Olympic lifts, and plyometrics to improve your power. (**We do not recommend Olympic lifts to be performed without proper coaching, and instruction because they are technically advanced movements.**) Additionally, speed work, like sprints to improve your acceleration and top end speed; core work like planks, and renegade rows to increase your trunk stability; and rotational exercises like cable and band twists and medicine ball rotational throws are all exercises to consider including. 

  1. Superset Antagonistic Movements

Antagonistic Movements may sound complicated, but it simply means if you do an upper body “PUSH” exercise, you also need to do an upper body “PULL” exercise and the same thing for the lower body. Super setting helps use your time in the gym more wisely by pairing 2-4 exercises together with minimal rest in-between. For example: 

A1. Bench Press, 3 sets x 10 reps, rest: 10-30sec

A2. Pull-ups, 3 sets of 5 reps, rest: 60sec before returning to bench press. Complete all 3 sets of “A1&A2 “before moving to “B”

B1. Back Squats, 3 sets of 10 reps, rest: 10-30sec  

B2. RDL’s, 3 sets of 10 reps rest: 60sec before returning to squats.

Training, lifting, running, and/or working out, has many benefits that can improve a person’s mental and physical health. BUT, getting started or back into it again can seem like a daunting task because you do not want to get hurt, and you do not know what to do/how or where to begin. The guidelines above should give you more confidence and answers to your apprehension. Remember to focus on being 1% better than yesterday, stick to the basics/ fundamentals, listen to your body, and know that you will probably be sore, and follow the 5 training tips for long-term, sustainable changes.