No announcement yet.

Please help a complete and utter novice with strength exercises

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Please help a complete and utter novice with strength exercises

    Hi guys - I've been eating primally for 6 months now and am down with the moving around and sprinting, but I've never done any strength training and have literally no clue how to begin. I've looked at the workout stuff on MDA and haven't found anything that's basic enough for me. I've tried reading the book but I don't understand the terminology in the bit about strength training.
    Can anybody tell me what to do? I have no equipment and no garden, so I can't swing a hammer around. Is it enough just to do pressups? Or do I need to get a personal trainer and go to a gym? And if I do that won't they want me to do chronic cardio?
    I know there must be so many knowledgeable people on this forum - if anyone can give me any really, really basic beginners info, that would be great. Thanks!

  • #2
    There are plenty of body weight exercises you can do. Squats, push ups and jumping jacks to get started. You can even jump rope...not to mention walking.

    All of these are effective and extremely no cost to start. If you live near a park, be creative with the playground. Let the inner kid out and go for it.


    • #3
      You don't actually need a gym or a set of barbells to work on your strength. Here's an idea of how:

      1. Pushup progressions: Can you do a good pushup? (Good refers to form: keep your body in a straight line, lower until your chest touches the floor, then straighten your arms to start. Repeat.) Once you can do about 50 pushups without stopping, it's time to make it harder. Put your feet up on a stool, a step, anything that lifts your feet higher. Keep your body straight, and lower until you can kiss the ground. Straighten your arms to start position. Repeat. When you can do 50 of those, find something higher. Then work on handstand pushups. (See for videos of how to do these exercises.)

      2. Pullups: If you can do pullups, do 'em. Work up to 35 full over-the-bar pullups. (Install a bar in your doorway, or buy a pullup frame for your garage or basement. If you can't do an unassisted pullup, buy a set of Woody bands and do band assisted pullups until you can do them without help. (A full set of Woody bands plus a pullup bar will cost you about $110.)

      3. Squat Progressions: Again, go to and look at the exercise demonstrations of how to do "air squats" properly. Once you can do 50 air squats perfectly, then it's time to make it harder. Get creative! Do squats while holding gallon plastic jugs filled with water. Cheaper than kettlebells or barbells.

      4. Turkish get ups: See youtube or Crossfit. com for how to do this exercise. Instead of kettlebells, use gallon plastic jugs filled with water! Or sandbags.

      5. Lift heavy things: sandbags are great. Picking them up from the ground and getting them to your shoulder and back is a great exercise. I think I remember seeing a sandbag series on youtube. I bet you can find it if you look up "sandbag exercises."

      6. Climb things. Like rocks. The playground (early in the morning, before the kids get there) makes a great place to play/exercise. Look up "playground exercise" and I bet you'll find stuff to do!

      Have fun!


      • #4
        You should probably look into calisthenics. I'd suggest squats and pushups to start. With the squats push your butt back, and keep your chest up. Putting your arms up as you go down helps with this. For the pushups, start from your knees, keep your body as straight as possible. While doing any of these exercises, keep your stomach as tight as you possibly can. Just clench your abs. I'd even suggest doing that throughout the day.

        I'd start with a set or two of each, and don't go nuts. Do... let's say 5 of each, then wait a couple of days to see if it causes you too much discomfort. I did too many Hindu Squats one day. It felt fine while I was doing it, but it literally took about a week before I could walk normally again.


        • #5
          Also, check out youtube body weight exercises. In addition to what the other replies said, you can see some good and not so good examples of how to do body weight exercise. Craig Ballantyne (youtube) uses good examples. Good luck!


          • #6
            Even though you don't have much space, maybe reconsider on the hammer swinging? My wife has started doing a very feminine version of shovelglove indoors with a six-pound hammer. She mostly just holds it and swings her torso around, but is already showing new definition on her upper arms which makes her very happy. The great thing about a hammer is that it works your entire body, especially the core, and you really don't need much else for weight training. Even if I had to do it in a closet, I'd find a way!


            • #7

              Here's two excellent books on bodyweight conditioning. Never Gymless is the more complete book and will give detailed instructions on how to get in great shape. Convict Conditioning is more using bodyweight exercises to get strong. CC has a really good series of progressions from easy to very difficult for the exercises. No equipment needed.

              bruce b.


              • #8
                Thank you so much!

                Wow - I'm overwhelmed to receive so much helpful advice so quickly! It's really given me a lot to think about.


                • #9
                  You certainly don't need a trainer in the long-term, but I think you will get superior results at a gym. Get one to show you the big strength-building exercises once and then ask for someone to watch your form until you get it right.

                  The workout described at has worked very well for me and I've always been a skinny guy. You will have to learn new exercises, but it's worth the time to get your form right.

         is an excellent resource for learning the basics of strength training that will probably be able to answer most of your questions.

                  Both Never Gymless and Convict Conditioning are excellent books. It's not for me, but you might want to look into it.
                  Give me liberty. Exploration of other options will be vigorously discouraged.

                  Wondering something sciencey? Ask me in my Ask a Biochemist Thread


                  • #10
                    Timothy - OK, sold - I'll try it! Do you mean just swing it out horizontally from side to side?


                    • #11
                      PaleoMum, I'm working on a sledgehammer guide, but here are a few easy hammer exercises. Remember to go gently at first, probably not more than ten or fifteen minutes on your first try. We don't use these muscles very much in everyday life so it's easy to overdo it!

                      1. Torso twists: Hold the hammer pointing straight in front of you, with your arms at full extension. Gently swing the hammer all the way to the left, then all the way to the right, twisting your torso as you go. This is a nice stretch for your core and back, and strengthens your grip. (Actually, all of these strengthen your grip.)

                      2. Toilet plungers: Hold the hammer vertically in front of you, head down. Plunge that toilet with the widest arm motions you can manage. This strengthens your back and shoulders. A similar move is the butter churn, best performed in a very low stance.

                      3. Row the boat: Hold the sledgehammer like an oar, head down, to one side of your body. One hand grips near the head and the other hand cups the end of the stem. With wide, flowing motions, imagine you're paddling down the Zambezi river. My wife likes to do these sitting on an exercise ball.

                      4. Back scratchers: With arms overhead, hold the hammer vertically behind your back, head down. This is kind of like toilet plungers behind your body. Work the hammer up and down for a great tricep and frontal core exercise.

                      5. Invent your own! Play around and see if there are any motions that feel good. There are so many exercises to discover, from the obvious (rail-spike driving) to the impressive (bullroarer) to the martial (sprint forward and thrust the spear). I'm constantly finding new moves, and it's so much fun I don't have time for any traditional weight training beyond bodyweight exercises and lifting the odd chunk of concrete.

                      Hope you enjoy the underappreciated art of shovelglove! It's about $20 for the hammer, but it's great value for what you get.


                      • #12

                        This is a good sledge hammer workout. I am going to start trying it... I might need to get a tire eventually too!


                        • #13
                          Doing these three programs gives me a great workout and it's tailored to each individual's level based on an initial fitness test.(all free, don't sign up for anything, privacy of your own home convenience)

                          ~ I don't talk to people with closed minds; they tend to harbor brain fungus. ~


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ZoŽ View Post

                            This is a good sledge hammer workout. I am going to start trying it... I might need to get a tire eventually too!
                            I'd like to find myself a nice country girl like her!
                            ZC - 100% Carnivore

                            I EAT VEGANS


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by ZoŽ View Post

                              This is a good sledge hammer workout. I am going to start trying it... I might need to get a tire eventually too!
                              LOL the vid said "work out" and I was like "all that was just the warm up?!"
                              ~ I don't talk to people with closed minds; they tend to harbor brain fungus. ~