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How to Prepare for Your First Workout

This is an excerpt from Fitness Weight Training-3rd Edition by Thomas R. Baechle & Roger W. Earle.

This chapter describes two steps to follow as you prepare for your first workout. Completing these steps will enable you to start your program and prepare a workout (log) sheet for your workouts. In addition, you will find extra information about the most confusing part of a weight training program: determining the weight to use when performing each exercise.

Step 1: Fill In Your Workout Chart

If you watch people who are in great physical condition while they work out, you will usually see them recording information on a chart, booklet, or mobile device. This practice plays an important role in your progress toward meeting your training goal because it allows you to track your improvement and stay motivated. To fill in your workout chart, follow the five guidelines in the order presented here.

Locate Your First Workout

After determining the color zone that matches your fitness level and training experience, locate the workout in that zone that is associated with your goal of muscle toning, body shaping, or strength training. You already completed this step; go back to chapter 3 where you noted the color zone for your first workout. Note that some workouts are for a two-day-a-week program and others are for a three- or four-day-a-week program.

Use the Workout Chart

At the top of the workout table you selected in your color zone, you will see the number of days per week that you will weight train. Find the corresponding workout chart in appendix A according to whether you will train two, three, or four days each week.

Use the workout chart that matches the number of days listed for your workout zone. Each chart covers a one-week period of training, and each workout zone covers a six-week period. Use one chart for each week that you train in a workout zone.

Choose and Schedule Your Training Days

You should not weight train the same muscles on two consecutive days or allow more than three days to go by between workouts; doing so will compromise your improvements. So, for example, a two-day-per-week program might follow a Monday-Thursday, Tuesday-Friday, or Wednesday-Saturday (or Sunday) schedule. A program that involves three nonconsecutive training sessions could be scheduled on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays or on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays (or Sundays).

If you will work out four days a week, choose one of the three options shown in table 4.1. Choose an option that you can consistently stick with and one that is convenient for you. Each option provides two workouts each for your upper body and lower body and spreads out the workouts so that you have enough rest days between sessions that train the same muscle groups.

Select and Record Your Exercises

Now you are ready to choose your exercises and note their names in your workout chart. If you are using an e-reader, a printable chart is also available online at Each zone workout table in chapters 7 to 12 has three columns of exercises depicting three types of exercises based on the needed equipment (or none at all!): barbell, machine, and alternative (e.g., body weight, dumbbell, stability ball, resistance band, or kettlebell). If you are inexperienced, you should begin with machine exercises. Barbell exercises and various alternative exercises (such as some exercises that use dumbbells or kettlebells) require more skill than machine exercises and sometimes require a spotter. Refer to chapter 6 for descriptions and photos of the exercises. The exercises listed in the exercise finder in chapter 6 denoted with an asterisk (*) are foundational exercises, especially for the Green Zone. If you are not sure what exercises to select for your program, choose one of these exercises for each muscle group because you can follow the Green Zone load guidelines in step 2 in this chapter to easily determine the loads you should use in your program.

In each zone workout table, notice that to the left of the three columns of exercises is a column that identifies the muscle group that is trained by those exercises. Based on the equipment that is available and how familiar you are with the exercises, choose one exercise—from the three that are provided—for each muscle group. The purpose of the three columns of exercises is to give you options based on the available equipment and your experience. Again, choose just one exercise for each muscle group and then note their names in the “Exercises” column of your workout chart. (Again, if you are reading this on an e-reader, you can download a printable chart at

Record Sets and Repetitions

Refer to the set and repetition information included in the selected zone workout table and transfer those numbers to your workout chart in the “Sets/reps” column. Be sure to record the correct set and repetition information for each exercise; for some workouts, the recommendations vary across the exercises.

Your workout chart provides a diary of each training session. Fill in all of the information as you go along to monitor your progress as you work out on a regular basis.

Learn more about Fitness Weight Training-3rd Edition.

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