Basic Fitness For Regular Guys

by Robert Maxwell

Many of the articles on this site are about weightlifting. Strength training. Overall fitness is important, but anyone who knows me is aware of my preoccupation with pumping iron. In this article I'll correct that imbalance, and offer useful information to those who aren't interested in becoming massively strong, but just want to get stronger and fitter than they are now. I'll share simple training programs that require little or no equipment and can be done at home. Simple, but not easy. Serious physical improvement never comes without pain. Intensity will vary based on your condition, but all limits must be reached before they expand. This applies to every person and training style. All training programs share some version of the same goal – improving your body. No matter what program you follow, it must regularly bring you face to face with your weaknesses. If it doesn't, you'll never improve. If you believe you can train in a way that feels easy, you might as well close this article – it's not what you're looking for. Physical fitness never comes with ease. It requires many days of sweat, pain, and determination. If you've read this far and are not dissuaded, keep reading. The programs here will work if you stick with them. Before I start listing workouts, you need to understand the principles of a good training program. No matter the style, every program should follow these. Next time you're choosing or designing a program, use this list as a guide.


Include resistance training

Resistance training is using your muscles to move an object against gravity. This could be a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell or your own body. Doing this repeatedly makes muscles bigger and stronger. This process is called muscular hypertrophy, and it's what every bodybuilder and strength athlete is trying to promote when they lift heavy weights. But what if you don't want to be a hulking bodybuilder or weightlifter? Harnessing muscular hypertrophy is still important. Without resistance training, muscles slowly weaken and shrink. The opposite of hypertrophy, this is called muscle atrophy, and is the reason so many non-training people complain constantly of aches and pains. It's not just the natural aging process. Many of these folks are experiencing muscular atrophy – muscles so weakened by lack of use that they hurt from everyday activities like walking or bending over to tie a shoe. Even if physical strength has no appeal to you, some form of full body resistance training is vital for preventing muscular atrophy. No one wants to throw out their back lifting a box or moving furniture.


Include Cardio

Our bodies are designed to move. If you've got a desk job and come home sore and tired even though you've gotten no exercise, something's wrong. You need to get more active with a program that includes cardio. Some people love cardio, some hate it. Many men prefer lifting weights, myself included. But cardio is vital to overall health and fitness. It's possible to be strong and in terrible shape. What use is the ability to bench press 500 pounds if you get out of breath walking up the stairs? Cardio has tons of benefits. It strengthens your heart and lungs, improves your physical and mental endurance, increases bone density and burns fat. Length and intensity of your cardio sessions will vary depending on your fitness, but no one should skip a good heart-pounding, hard breathing cardio session at least a few times per week. It doesn't have to be long, but it should be challenging. There's no shortage of cardio exercises to choose from. Jogging, speed walking, jumping rope, boxing, or even shovelling your driveway in winter will improve fitness. If you get bored easily, change things up often. Every session if you like. Just make sure you settle into a routine that includes regular, challenging cardio sessions. If you don't, you'll never be as fit as you should be.


Include a Diet Plan

Exercise is essential to health and fitness, but all the training in the world won't help if you eat badly. Your body works way better with proper fuel. You can't expect to get fit if you eat whatever you want whenever you want. That's why some sort of diet plan is essential. Proper eating is the most challenging part of fitness, but also the most important. Many people train hard but fall far short in the diet department. In my experience this usually boils down to one of two things: lack of knowledge or lack of discipline. Lack of knowledge is easy to fix. Lack of discipline, not so much. If you're an active man trying to lose weight, eat high protein, high fat, high vegetable, and low carb. Eat 3 or 4 reasonable portions per day. Drink lots of water, and stay away from sugary drinks and foods. Check the scale regularly, aiming to lose 1 or 2 pounds per week. I have an article that explains how much to eat in more detail. If you know exactly how to eat to lose weight but simply won't do it, I can't help you. No one can. You need to decide to change, and no one can do it for you. Try to find a reason that motivates you to stand up and say no to eating junk. Maybe you want to be fit and healthy so you can play with your kids or grandkids. Maybe you just want to feel better after years of aches, pains, and weakness. Whatever gets you fired up, latch onto it and don't let go. Remember, what you eat is at least 60 percent of the battle.


Include Progressive Overload

If your workout never changes, neither will your body. I don't mean big, program-shifting changes. I mean a gradual increase in training intensity as you get stronger and fitter. This is called progressive overload. If you do 10 pushups today, the same 10 pushups a month from now, and a month after that, you're not getting stronger. Strength gains only come through training to failure. That means on your last set, you complete as many reps as possible. You don't sacrifice form if you can help it, but you keep going until 1 more rep is impossible. Then during your next workout, you aim to reach failure 1 rep later. Maybe you won't get the extra rep for a week or two, but eventually you will. Then you'll be 1 rep stronger than you were. This is how progressive overload works, and it's how strength gains happen. Our bodies adapt to the stress we place on them by training, slowly growing stronger and more capable of hard exercise. The stronger we become, the tougher the exercise must be to fully challenge us. Progressive overload doesn't just apply to resistance training, either. Cardio should also become gradually harder as fitness improves. That might mean running or walking further, faster, or over rougher terrain. It might mean doing an extra 10 jumping jacks, or jumping rope for 1 minute longer. Whatever your preferred style of cardio, find a way to increase intensity as your heart and lungs grow stronger. Otherwise your fitness will stagnate.


Now for the workouts. If you're new to fitness, this is a great place to start. Even if you've been training for years but neglecting important aspects like resistance training or cardio, these workouts can help. They're not set in stone – if you don't like one of the movements, feel free to swap it. The idea is to show you simple, well-balanced training routines and offer direction if you're interested in fitness but unsure where to start. These workouts are meant to be done as a circuit, with as little rest as possible between exercises. This increases both intensity and efficiency. Once you've completed one full circuit, rest 2 minutes or so before starting again. The rep ranges are only suggestions – adjust them higher or lower to fit your strength levels. When you're done the resistance training, rest as long as needed before switching to cardio. Doing one of these workouts three times per week is a good frequency to start with.


FULL BODY WORKOUT #1 (Bodyweight Only)

RESISTANCE (Repeat Circuit x 3, Go to Failure on Final Set)

Pushups x 8-15

Walking Lunges x 15-20

Push-Back Pushups x 8-15

Good Mornings x 8-15

Dips x 8-10 (done between two chairs)

Reverse Elbow Pushups x 8-15

Plank x 30 Seconds



Walk 1 Minute, Jog 30 Seconds, Sprint 10 Seconds x 10 Cycles


Full Body Workout #2 (Bodyweight & Heavy Object)

RESISTANCE (Repeat Circuit x 3, Go to Failure on Final Set)

Goblet Squats (with heavy object) x 8-15

Overhead Press (with heavy object) x 8-15

Curls (with heavy object)

Bulgarian Split Squats (with heavy object) x 8-15

Pushups x 8-15

Sit-Ups x 8-15

Close-Grip Pushups x 8-15



5 Minute Fast Jog, 10 Minute Speed-Walk


Full Body Workout #3 (Bodyweight, DumbBells & Pull-up BaR)

RESISTANCE (Repeat Circuit x 3, Go to Failure on Final Set)


Dumbbell Floor Press x 8-15

Jumping Goblet Squats (with one dumbbell) x 8-15

Dumbbell Lateral Raises x 8-15

Dumbbell Good Mornings x 8-15

Pull-Ups x 8-15

Dumbbell Curls x 8-15

Dumbbell French Press x 8-15



20 Minute Speed-Walk