How to Get Started Lifting for Performance

Personal Training

How to Get Started Lifting for Performance

by Omar Castillo, Precor Master Coach, Mastery Level Resistance Training Specialist™, and Certified Muscle Activation Techniques™ Specialist

You’ve made the commitment to start working out…now what? Let's start with the basics.

How to move?

Starting a new commitment means preparing both your body and mind, so the first step is to get your body ready to move. Once you start moving, you will develop a habit and it will become easier and more natural over time both physically and psychologically. Optimal movement requires strength, coordination and flexibility. Your muscles produce force to move your body in space, coordinated movement patterns ensure that movement is smooth, and appropriate flexibility will help you move freely through a desired range of motion. Each individual and exercise pattern has a unique range of motion – it is important to focus first on movement control and confidence before challenging it with additional load or more dynamic motion paths.

Let´s Get Started!

Every time before you start working out you must warm up your body. Begin with easy movements that gently challenge the body. Start from bottom to top and integrate everything else while moving. Make sure you involve as many limbs and joints as possible.

Start with 2 sets of the following 4 exercises:

Walking with Knee Hug
Reps: 10 per leg

  • Step forward and bring knee to chest
  • Hug your knee using both arms
  • Make sure toes face up
  • Keep back straight, core tight and hold for 2 seconds
  • Return to starting position and repeat on opposite side

Lunge with Arm Lift
Reps: 10 per leg

  • Step forward into a lunge, dropping your knee as deep or shallow as feels comfortable
  • Lift opposite arm up
  • Keep spine extended and face forward
  • Hold for two seconds
  • Step back and repeat on opposite leg

Lateral Squat with Knee Flexion
Reps: 10 per leg

  • Step laterally to one side as far as feels comfortable
  • Sit back into the heel of the stepping leg
  • Rest your arm on the stepping leg, but keep spine extended
  • Hold for two seconds
  • Step back to centre and repeat on opposite side

Lunge with Trunk Rotation
Reps: 10 per leg

  • Step forward into a lunge, dropping your knee as shallow or deep as feels comfortable
  • Keep your back leg extended
  • Reach the opposite hand toward the floor (resting hand on your leg is ok it cannot reach the ground)
  • Rotate up and keep arm and spine extended
  • Hold for two seconds
  • Step back to centre and repeat on opposite side

Now Let´s Get Strong!

There are five phases of strength training: anatomical adaptations, endurance, hypertrophy, maximal strength and power.

Anatomical Adaptations: This is the first step of lifting before undergoing any other kind of training to strengthen and stabilise muscles before progressing to heavier loads.

Endurance Training: It adapts muscle tone and it helps develop coordination and consciousness. Exercisers will work with higher repetitions and lower loads.

Hypertrophy: This phase of training focuses on increasing muscle size.

Maximal Strength: Develops force production, which means working with heavier loads.

Power: Develops quick, powerful movements.

How do I achieve my fitness goals?

Each phase of training has unique recommendations for reps, sets, rest and training frequency. The guidelines below will help you build a tailored programme based on your desired physiological adaptations.


Based on the phase of training you are in, you will focus on optimal or maximal repetitions. Optimal reps involve controlled movement and focus on motion quality, whereas maximal reps focus on completing an exercise until muscular failure (the body can´t and won´t execute another rep).

The number of repetitions differ from phase to phase so it depends on your training level and/or your goal.

Some important key points to consider for any phase of your training programme:

  • Select a weight that challenges you
  • Make sure you are doing the correct type of repetition (optimal vs maximal)
  • Perform a full range of motion for each rep
  • Work the upper and lower body
  • Maintain core engagement throughout any lifting pattern


The number of sets in your programme will depend on the training phase. A set refers to the number of times you perform the repetitions.

When an exercise starts to get easy, it means your muscles are adapting to it. Building strength means continuing to overload the body to stimulate change.  When you feel it is getting too easy, increase your load.


Don´t forget to take a break!

Finding your optimal work-to-rest ratio is a critical component of training strategy. There are two types of resting periods – rest between exercises and rest between workout days.

Between one set and another we must renew our energy stores. Suggested resting periods are:

As a general rule, larger muscles (chest, lats, quads, glutes, etc.) need at least 48 hours of rest before using them again, whereas the smaller ones (biceps, calves, triceps, etc.) need only 24 hours. However, exercisers focusing on hypertrophy and strength may require 1-2 additional rest days.


Frequency is the final component to achieving results.  Adaptations will vary depending on how often you challenge your muscles.

*Avoid training same muscle groups on back-to-back days.

Putting all together

  • Always warm-up prior to starting your strength programme
  • Use your own body weight before using additional weights or accessories
  • Define your fitness goal
  • Identify your training level and ability
  • Prioritise rest periods

If it is your first time lifting, remember that you need to first teach your body how to move before you load it.  Go step by step and start with realistic goals. Establish a habit and enjoyment in working out, and gradually progress as you experience success!

Author Information

Omar Castillo Laguna
Omar Castillo Laguna's picture

For more than a decade, Omar Castillo has been helping people in Mexico City achieve their health goals. His work as a personal trainer has been featured in fitness magazines and newspaper such as Balance, Reforma, and Universal. Omar studied architecture at the ITESM – CEM and sports science at La Salle University. He applies the concepts of biomechanics and joint health to every aspect of his work as a Precor Master Coach, Mastery Level Resistance Training Specialist®, and Certified Muscle Activation Techniques™ Specialist, holding the distinction of being the first foot and hand M.A.T.-RX Certified Practitioner in Latin America.

Last seen: Never ago
Joined: 23/02/2017 - 16:15