The Less Thinking, More Doing Starter Program

July 11th, 2009  |  Published in Workout ideas  |  82 Comments

It’s easy to get overly-heady about exercise. Being a strength/fitness nerd, it’s not only easy for me, it’s fun. For those new to this world, though, I suspect it can be a little overwhelming.

After all, you might just want some simple advice on getting started. If so, this article is for you. This program starts you off with a few basic movements that are guaranteed to increase your overall strength and fitness if you’re a beginner.

Of course, this is just a start. You are encouraged to look around this site, take in all the information and even e-mail questions to Krista or myself. You’re definitely encouraged to learn enough to start putting things together on your own. Unless you’re an iron-pumping savant, however, this will take more than an afternoon.

And you want to get going now! Good. So while you’re learning, may I present a starter program.

Here’s what you’re going to do:


Move around. Step deep, reach high and breathe deep. Pay attention to where movement feels restricted by tight muscles and gently (gently!) move through that range of motion. Now start moving faster. Jog, crawl, shuffle from side to side. Up the pace until it’s a challenge to keep your breathing even. This whole process should take about 10 minutes. Good? Good enough!

Exercise 1: Split squat – 10 each leg
Weight: Bodyweight

Take a lunge position, but leave your feet in place as you go up and down. The front heel stays dug in, the rear heel stays up. Get nice and long – long enough for you to feel a real stretch. Your feet should be at hip width and both pointed forward. The rear knee should almost touch the ground with each repetition. Your front hip, knee and ankle should form a straight line. Up and down on one side, then the other. If there is any joint pain, stop.

Exercise 2: Dumbbell row – 12 each side
Weight: 40 lbs. for dudes, 20 to 30 lbs. for chicks

Put one hand on a bench. You can have the same-side foot on the ground or put the shin on the same bench. Whatever. Grab a dumbbell with your other hand and pull it as far away from the floor as possible, control your descent and then repeat. Don’t rotate your torso. If there is any joint pain, stop.

Exercise 3: Dumbbell bench press – 12 each side
Weight: 30 lbs. for dudes, 15 to 20 lbs. for chicks

Lie back on a bench with your feet on the ground. Keep your shoulder blades squeezed together throughout and push those dumbbells (one in each hand) toward the ceiling. Keep your elbows within about 45 degrees of your body. Control your descent and repeat. If there is any joint pain, stop.

Exercise 4: Forearm plank – 60 seconds total
Weight: bodyweight

Lie face-down, with only your forearms and feet touching the ground. Hold just a slight pike (your ass should just be slightly higher than the rest of your body). Take very short breaks whenever you feel like your spine is trying to bear the weight (as opposed to your abs). If there is any joint pain . . . well, you know.

Now that you’ve been through all four exercises, go through them a second time. Maybe even a third.

Now get on an exercise bike and perform the following:

Go fast: 30 seconds
Go slow: 2 minutes
Repeat this four times (that’s 10 minutes tota

Towel off, go home and do some more reading. Don’t forget to tip your servers. Thank you and goodnight!

geoff_girvitz_headshotGeoff Girvitz runs Bang Fitness in Toronto, which offers personal training, group classes and combat conditioning in Toronto. Bang Fitness is, like, totally sweet. It has tires and sledgehammers and an Olympic lifting platform and a dragging sled and freakin’ Astroturf! If you are in the west end of Toronto, this is definitely the place to train.

Geoff is also one of my favourite boys in the whole world. He introduced me to the epic joy of Rottblott’s, a hardware surplus store — basically a candy store for people who love old-skool strength training toys. Thanks to Geoff I now own 20 feet of thick rope. And I’m eyeing a heavier sledgehammer…


  1. Elizabeth Fry says:

    July 11th, 2009at 5:36 pm(#)

    30 lbs row? Hmm. I don’t know if I can do that. On the split squat — the front hip, knee and ankle stay in a straight line? Not 90 degree angles for each? I’m not sure I get that one.

    Thanks for the list though — I like the idea of less thought, more doing.


  2. Geoff says:

    July 11th, 2009at 6:51 pm(#)

    Elizabeth Fry, your mission is this: try a 30 lb. row and report back. If that’s too much, let us know how much weight you can handle.

    As far as the straight line in the split squat goes, we’re talking about what you see in the mirror (in front of you). You want to keep those three joints in the same vertical plane so that there’s no lateral translation of the knee or hiking of the hip.

  3. Elizabeth Fry says:

    July 13th, 2009at 8:26 pm(#)

    Geoff. I am stunned. I went to the gym and was able to do 5 sets of six rows per arm with the 30lb dumbell! I am stunned. I haven’t tried that specific lift in ages, and had never done more than 10-15lbs. But this worked fine. I had no idea.

    One of this old lady’s lifetime goals is to do *one* unassisted pull up. Maybe it is possible!


  4. Geoff says:

    July 13th, 2009at 8:32 pm(#)

    By the way, the reason I specified certain weights for each gender (yes, I understand just how painfully un-PC that is) is/was to address the fact that many women underestimate just how strong they really are. This is a serious bummer for a number of reasons. From a training perspective it means slowed progress (or worse).

    Please let us know what kinds of weights you’re pushing up. Personally, I’m curious as hell.

  5. Liz says:

    July 14th, 2009at 5:52 am(#)

    I’m pushing 2 x 12kg (thats 2 x 26ish lbs) for my dumbbell press (2 x 14kg on a strong day!), 12kg for dumbbell rows and I do split squats with 2 x 10kg dumbbells.

    I don’t consider myself to be a strong person at all and think that women can do much better than we think (also hoping to one day do an unassisted pull up!)

    I have a question, though. Whats your thoughts on straight-legged deadlifts? Good or bad?

  6. Geoff says:

    July 14th, 2009at 4:43 pm(#)

    Elizabeth, that’s pretty effing sweet.

    Liz, three things:

    1. I would be willing to bet cash money that you can up your dumbbell row by a good 3 kilos. I find that most people can row 15-25% more than they press. Usually more for newbs. So unless you’ve been doing a ton (more) of dumbbell bench, there’s probably more of a difference than you realize.

    2. You can probably add another five to each side for your split squats too. How you like them apples?

    3. Straight-legged deadlifts good or bad? Both, really. Like most compound lifts, these are wonderful if they’re done properly and terrible if you’re bad at them. Limiting the range of motion to that which you can perform with a perfectly neutral spine goes a long way. It’s rare to see anyone good at them who hasn’t worked with a coach, though.

    4. Bonus point! While I always emphasize the movement patterns in squats and deadlifts — particularly as warmups, I’ve moved somewhat away from loading them significantly and more toward single-leg work for strength development. That’s where I am (and consequently my people) are) right now).

  7. Elizabeth Fry says:

    July 14th, 2009at 7:36 pm(#)

    well, I’ve been reading Krista’s stuff and just trying things for about 6 months. Bench presses are *hard* — I have been using the barbell. The first time I tried to press the olympic bar (no weights) I dropped it on my face and cut my nose. I can press the bar with 30 lbs on it (15 per side) for 3 sets of 10 reps now. I think that’s 75 lbs?

    Krista — I’m working on squats too — I can do the 45 lb bar with a 35 lb plate on each side, but don’t go down past parallel. I can squat past parallel with the 25 lb weights for 5 sets of 5.

    I’ve never been athletic in my life. By that I mean never “fast” and an ungraceful klutz. I was a pretty strong and fearless kid though. My body mass index is at the upper end of normal and I’m sure my body fat % is way too high.


  8. Liz says:

    July 15th, 2009at 8:15 am(#)

    Geoff I think you’re right about upping my weights, particularly on the split squat. I tried doing split squats the other day with my back leg on the bench (don’t know the technical term for these) and still managed a good few with the 2 x 10kg weights, so I don’t think I’m doing heavy enough with both feet on the ground.

    That said, if you don’t advertise significant loading on squats and lunges, what do you recommend? I realise that this is outside the scope of this article, but just a hint will do.

    Thanks a lot.

  9. Kristine says:

    July 16th, 2009at 2:10 am(#)

    For some reason my chest is uncommonly strong. I’m pushing 50lbs (3 sets of 10) on a good day for bench press. My rows are lagging behind at about 35lbs for a full 3 sets of 10 (anything more than that and I get sloppy) but I can do 3-5 unassisted pullups. My strength doesn’t seem to be evenly spread out around my body. I think its weird.

  10. Geoff says:

    July 16th, 2009at 2:33 pm(#)

    This is pretty interesting to hear. I hope it also gives newbies some benchmarks in terms of what to expect.

    To answer Elizabeth’s question, I still like squats and deadlifts for lighter work. The things that I load more (not that I need to load them as much) are split squat/lunge variations, single leg squats and single-leg Romanian deadlifts.

    For me (right now), a single-leg squat to depth trumps a back squat at 1.5 times bodyweight.

  11. deb says:

    July 16th, 2009at 6:55 pm(#)

    I’m 57 years old and have been working out for 3 years and lifting freeweights fairly heavy for just over 1.

    My max db bench is with 42.5 DBs. Usually work in the 30s for reps. I haven’t tried using the bar, but last time I was pressing somewhere around 90# there.

    I deadlift 115# -could do more than that if my hands were stronger. All my strength is limited when I have to use my hands.

    I squat poorly. Doing split squats with 30# barball on my shoulders (yeah, holding the heavy dumb bells hits that hand issue again) Think I need to mobilize my ankles and stretch those hip flexors. I get 1/3 down on a regular squat and have to lean way forward. My back won’t arch to get my butt out.

    DB rows I usually use a 40# DB, but you’ve inspired me to try to go heavier.

    60 second plank. Easy-peezey. I do 60 second side planks (and 90 second planks).

    I can do 3-4 chin ups and 1-2 unassisted pull ups.

  12. Trishy says:

    July 17th, 2009at 12:57 pm(#)

    This is probably out of the scope of the article too, but I just got into Kipping pull-ups a few weeks ago, and they kick my ass. I max out on 8 unassisted strict pull-ups (palms facing away; I use the term chin-ups for palms facing me, and those are around 15), and Kipping pull-ups definitely lend themselves to doing many more reps than strict pull-ups, I guess because of the momentum in the movement. But the next day, my arms hurt more than they ever have from strict pull-ups (or chin-ups). And they’re entertaining for my gym buddy to watch :)

  13. jane says:

    July 21st, 2009at 11:25 am(#)

    Hey Geoff, any suggestions on modifying the dumbbell press without a bench? I’m working out at home and can’t invest in a weight bench at this time. Thanks.

  14. Geoff says:

    July 21st, 2009at 8:10 pm(#)

    The quickest and dirtiest variation is simply a floor press. This is conventionally done by lying on — you guessed it — the floor and letting your elbows sit on the ground for 1-2 seconds before pressing. If you’ve got a stability ball that will certainly work too.

    Both of these lend themselves to pressing one dumbbell at a time, alternating presses (with the waiting hand either raised or lowered) or any speed/rep set.

  15. Janine says:

    July 23rd, 2009at 9:15 am(#)

    How many times a week should I do this? How long should I rest between workouts — is one day enough?

    Thanks, this is just what I was looking for.

  16. Geoff says:

    July 24th, 2009at 7:20 pm(#)

    One day in between is sufficient rest. However, if you’ve been doing this for more than three or four weeks, it’s definitely time to add some variety to your workouts.

    Krista’s got all sorts of goodies outlined here:

    I think this general structure (i.e. single leg, upper-body pull, upper-body push, core + conditioning) will work for many people for up to three consistent months. After that, I’d start playing around with loading (that would be adding weight, not subtracting) and volume (a second higher rep/lighter weight circuit at high speed).

  17. Hilary says:

    July 29th, 2009at 11:42 am(#)

    30lb db bench press 3 sets 10 reps
    30 lb db row 3 sets 10 reps
    15 lb shoulder press, 3 sets 10 reps
    Squats, 20 lbs each hand, 3 sets 10
    Walking lunges, 15 lbs each hand, 3 sets of 5 each leg

    My knees tend to bother me with lunges and squats, so I don’t like to do too much weight. On the other hand, more weight could actually prove more stabilizing. Curious about the split squats v. lunges and whether split squats would be easier on my knees than lunging as they are stationary. Also, can’t hold more than 20lbs in each hand for squats. Should I be graduating to barbell back squats or should I try to work in single leg squats?

  18. Geoff says:

    July 30th, 2009at 7:03 pm(#)

    First of all, it’s clearly time to start experimenting with heavier weights. If you can chest press it, it should be too heavy to press overhead (seated, anyway).

    Moving along to your lower half, you *should* be able to handle far more weight. Joint pain is the limiting factor, though, so listen to your body.

    I like split squats a lot. Front lunges are problematic because of the eccentric load they create when you drop forward. Split squats eliminate a lot of the confounding factors and allow you to concentrate on alignment, stability and keeping your heel driven into the ground. I’ll say that again: keep your damn heel dug in.

    If the limiting factor is the amount of weight you can hold, then I’d say to get a weighted vest or a barbell. And when you’re done your usual workout, add some grip strength work. Farmer’s walks with dumbbells work well, as do with plates pinched together — 2.5 lbs. if need be. Something. Anything.

    Grip strength is an essential on the path to getting strong, so push your limits a bit.

  19. Lamy Lam | Martial Art Training says:

    August 4th, 2009at 2:37 am(#)

    Thanks for “The Less Thinking, More Doing Starter Program” post.

    It is manageable. Not too tiring and it’s a very good workout.

    Martial Art Training

  20. Hilary says:

    August 5th, 2009at 3:07 pm(#)

    Awesome! Thank you so much for the advice. I love the idea of the split squats instead of front lunges. I have noticed it feels like quite a bit of impact stepping out and down into the lunge. Thank you for posting this program!!!

  21. Liz says:

    August 6th, 2009at 10:05 am(#)

    This is such a cool article! Love it! I’m 34 and about 112 lbs and have been lifting for just under a year (lifted long ago as well, but after about a 10 year break I figure it doesn’t count anymore).

    Current weights are:
    Bench 75#/8 reps
    Squat (deep) 95#/8 reps
    Deadlift 115#/8 reps – like the other poster, also limited by my grip strength here
    One-arm rows 35# dumbbell/6 reps – I just moved up to this weight and it is challenging so I guess my lats are weak relatively to my chest?
    Military press 45# barbell
    Forward lunge 70#/8 reps per side
    Plank, I do a minute on a stability ball
    Pull-up/Chin-up – Can do 3-4 unassisted chins, only assisted pull-ups so far

    Not sure what other weights you’re interested in but I’m happy to share if you’re interested.


  22. Annie says:

    August 7th, 2009at 12:34 pm(#)

    db rows – 3×12 @ 25 lbs
    db chest press 3×12 @ 25 lbs
    db overhead press 3×12 @ 20 lbs
    I loathe a split squat, but lateral squats are all kinds of fun & forward/backward lunges are just fine.
    90 second forearm plank not a problem. also, weirdly, can do pushups with proper form.

    I’ve lost 138 lbs in the last year, have somewhere between 80-100 to go.

    unsurprisingly, my legs are *strong*. my arms, back, etc? not so much. and there is a marked difference between right (dominant side) and left, which has lessened significantly in the last 6 months (when I started exercising – late February)

    I can basically double the weight for all of the above, but that halves the reps. does it matter?

  23. Geoff says:

    August 13th, 2009at 7:16 pm(#)

    “I can basically double the weight for all of the above, but that halves the reps. Does it mater?”

    That’s how it works with heavy stuff. And if you want to get strong, you have to lift heavy stuff.

    At the risk of sounding overly-simplistic, if you want strength + muscles mass, you can do some shorter sets (4-8 sets of 6-3 reps) )with heavy stuff and then do some longer sets (2-4 sets of 8-20) with moderately heavy stuff.

    For fat loss, one option is to alternate between Option 1 and Option 2 and follow both up with some kind of conditioning (strength circuits or intervals).

    Howzabout that?

  24. manasee says:

    August 19th, 2009at 6:15 am(#)

    Hey Geoff,

    I have been doing weight training for the last 1 year now. I had a trainer until now and now I am without one. I have also changed my gym and do not want to have another not very nice experience. In India personal training is very expensive. I paid good money for the last entire year but havent lost any weight. I am 5.5 and weigh 74 kilos. Recently I got my body fay calculated and it is 27%. Also my lean muscle mass is 76%. The trainer i the new gym told me this was good. I am a very strong girl. I specify on the ‘very strong’ because can do good weights that some men in my gym also cannot afford to try. My lower body is in a 70% good shape while I have a heavy torso. My cardi is good but I am unable to lose any flab on my stomach and inner thighs. I have leaner lower legs but a lot of flesh on my back.
    I used to do 3 reps of squats beginning with 70 lbs, 80 lbs and 90 lbs. I have developed a very good and firm butt. Also, I never missed my lunges and took about 40 lbs max weight in my hand while doing them. 2 reps on each leg.

    Somehow my trainer has been unable to get my upper body in shape. I have like I said a heavy torso.
    Could you help me? Guide me as to what I could do?
    I was a former tennis player, a ligamnet injury on my left knee cut short my professional dream. I was advised bed rest for a year and a half. I put on weight in a year, almost 15 kilos. From 60 I was 75 kilos, my heaviest.
    I am now struggling with my weight.
    Can you help me? I have now begun playing twice a week and hit the gym too.
    How should I work out??
    Plesaase suggest something

  25. Trishy says:

    August 20th, 2009at 2:30 pm(#)

    I would question the wisdom of that trainer, manasee, if he told you 27% body fat and 76% lean muscle … that’s 103%

  26. manasee says:

    August 24th, 2009at 5:21 am(#)

    Thank you for replying. But realy that has not really given me any direction to my thought or workout.
    I know, my trainer was absolutely a disaster and I have wasted enough money on these things. It is difficult to get a good one. I want to begin weight training from scratch and graduate on my own. I am a hard worker and a quick learner. Could you please guide me about how to go. I have already given you details baout myself and my physical make up. What would be the best routine that I should should follow or make for myself.
    Waiting for your comment… eagerly.

  27. Mistress Krista says:

    August 24th, 2009at 5:57 am(#)

    Manasee, I suggest you read the article on this site about how to find a trainer, and hook up with one in your area that is better than your previous one. The questions you’re asking are probably outside the scope of what we can offer here — better to find someone close to you to offer specialized guidance.

  28. Ms .45 says:

    August 25th, 2009at 4:56 am(#)

    I has a sad.

    “If there is any joint pain, stop.”

    I screwed my knee and it won’t stop hurting. It’s ok if I *don’t* exercise, which sucks. It seems like there’s nothing I can do to my shoulders which won’t come good in a couple of days, but my right knee won’t repair no matter how gentle I am with it. Is there any such thing as a lower-body exercise that won’t turn my knee into a pulpy mass?

    And Annie, 138lb in a year is an AMAZING achievement.

  29. Geoff says:

    August 25th, 2009at 11:10 am(#)

    Ok . . . whole lotta posts. Manasee, after you’ve checked out the personal trainer article, I suggest you start going through Krista’s nutritional information. If you’re active already, you’re probably going to get way more out of changes to your nutritional approach than you will out of tweaking your exercise regimen. It’s a question of bringing up the weakest points, as opposed to emphasizing the strongest.

    Ms. 45, please don’t sad.

    Your first order of business — before we get to exercise or even rehab — is to halt the mechanism of injury. If it has to do with shoes or lifestyle or seemingly unrelated physical issues, you need to suss those out.

    You should really get a diagnosis, since you want to know what you’re working with. If it’s your ACL, for example, you’ll really have to cool it in the short-term, but will likely (even if surgery is required) be ok in the long-term. If it’s meniscus, on the other hand . . .

    My advice is to focus on single-leg exercise, keep your damn heel on the floor and to limit range of motion — whether it’s a foot or an inch — to what you can work through pain free. What you don’t want to do is tough through things and make your situation worse.

  30. Marochka_Raduga says:

    October 28th, 2009at 8:09 pm(#)

    Thank you so much for this! It was just what I needed to motivate myself to get started back up again (gently) after a couple weeks of illness. I couldn’t bear the thought of jumping right back in to a real heavy program. This got me to start sweating and moving weight and even do my shoulder rehab instead of wearing a groove on the couch. A week of every other day and I should be ready to hit the cage again. Thanks again!

  31. Janet says:

    January 15th, 2010at 9:54 am(#)

    Isn’t that a lot of weight for a female to start with, 20 lbs for a dumbell row? I picked one up in the store yesterday, and I could lift it, but what would one progress to? I know all the reasons why women shouldn’t be afraid of bulking up, we lack the testosterone to do so and whatnot, but I’m already pretty muscular (beneath the flub)and I’m scared to death of ending up looking like a she-hulk.

  32. Mistress Krista says:

    January 15th, 2010at 12:19 pm(#)

    Janet: At 110 lbs, I use 50-55 lbs for dumbbell row type exercises. 20 lbs is pretty manageable for the average woman to start with, but of course beginners can start with less — whatever they can manage.

  33. Trishy says:

    January 15th, 2010at 12:34 pm(#)

    Janet, I actually think it would be awesome if I looked like a she-hulk, but after 7 years of powerlifting, I still get asked if I’m a dancer (which I guess is a compliment?) I have been trying to bulk up for a long time … it’s not easy.

  34. Geoff says:

    January 18th, 2010at 3:37 pm(#)

    I wish that I had something as powerful to add as Krista and Trishy simply getting things done.

  35. KCK says:

    February 15th, 2010at 9:08 am(#)

    I’m so glad I found this. “Less thinking, more doing” is exactly where I need to be with starting strength training. I met Krista at BJJ camp last summer and I’m very glad there’s a no-bullshit person like her out there.

  36. bandit a la mode says:

    February 15th, 2010at 3:46 pm(#)

    How long should this routing be done before going to the next level do you think? Should this be done every other day? Daily?

  37. Geoff says:

    February 23rd, 2010at 5:54 pm(#)

    Good questions.

    It is possible to build to doing this amount of work every day but, for most people, I would vary things up in terms of exercises and set/rep schemes. Three or four times per week would be great.

    A month is about right as is (for a beginner). For Month Two, I would change things up a bit and then add a second short circuit with one lower-body exercise and one upper-body pulling exercise. I would use a different rep range for both — maybe 15.

    Tell you what: if I see a show of at least five hands, I’ll add another chapter to this thing.

  38. Emma says:

    February 24th, 2010at 1:58 pm(#)

    *raises hand*

    I’m ready to start this program and I’d love to know what comes next!

  39. Katie says:

    February 24th, 2010at 10:45 pm(#)

    *raises hand*

    Me too!

  40. Jill says:

    February 25th, 2010at 8:30 am(#)

    Please count my hand as raised.

  41. Ingerid says:

    February 28th, 2010at 4:12 pm(#)

    Yup me too. Been doing this for two months and would love to know where to go next. Although I have been considering this:

  42. KCK says:

    March 2nd, 2010at 9:08 am(#)

    I’ll be raised hand number five. I’ve been mixing this in twice a week with my BJJ practice (can’t really do both in the same night, logistically), so I don’t expect my strength gains will be as awesome as if I did it 4 times a week like you recommend. But even so I’m making progress — my hope is that I’m getting some “functional” strength training by rolling with all these dudes.

  43. Geoff says:

    March 2nd, 2010at 3:41 pm(#)

    Thy will be done, ladies.

  44. Beatrice says:

    March 13th, 2010at 8:57 am(#)

    Can’t wait for the next chapter!

  45. Beatrice says:

    March 13th, 2010at 9:41 am(#)

    And a question–suppose one would do this 4 times a week, would it be pointless/waste of time/detrimental to do strength training/endurance type cardio workouts on the off days? I’m new to lifting but have found if I don’t work in exercise about 6-days a week, it’s easier to start skipping workouts. Maybe that’s strange.

    I’m just curious if there is something I missed about the rest days…I’ve been looking for the perfect workout to share with the hubster who’s extremely sedentary.


  46. Geoff says:

    March 16th, 2010at 4:49 pm(#)

    Phase II is en route!

    Beatrice, you can do this program four days a week just because it’s very low volume. I’d rather see you switch up exercises (we address this in Phase II) but it’s doable.

    I think you’ll find it more effective to do interval training (as described) following the same workouts. If you feel the need to come in another couple days a week, I would recommend going in and simply doing the same mobility work and leaving it there.

    It is absolutely essential to leave enough time to recover. Failing to do so will yield you diminishing returns and significantly up you chance of injury.

  47. Ollie Gregory says:

    April 8th, 2010at 5:57 am(#)

    I just came across your website because I was looking at the free weights at the gym that I go to and was wondering how to use them.
    I started using the gym to help lose weight. I had gotten up to 359 and said no more. I really don’t have anyone to help me to learn as I go when it’s empty. 3-4 am. I have been going for about 3 month and have lost about 48lbs. And on my own I thought, like you said , to change up what I am doing.
    From someone that knows nothing at all about this subject thank you both for the information you are providing.

  48. Geoff says:

    April 8th, 2010at 2:41 pm(#)

    Ollie, that’s great to hear. Keep doing what you’re doing.

    Woody Allen said that 80% of success was showing up. That’s not too far from the truth. Keep it consistent, keep it basic and work hard. Definitely think about more involved nutrition, via Krista, Kyle Byron or Precision Nutrition — if you’re ready for it, there’s nothing that will get you a better return on investment.

    Best of luck!

  49. dray says:

    April 15th, 2010at 5:25 pm(#)

    what an excise program for a heathty women that is 4 mouth pregnancy has never excise before. be sure to include frequency,time and type;and name of exricise. incude graph/table

  50. Dasha says:

    April 17th, 2010at 1:27 am(#)

    I am 5’9″, 165 lbs (and losing) and need to do a pull-up (not chin up) for advancement at work. Couldn’t come close two years ago at 154 lbs. Worked with a body builder, starting at ground zero, for about five months. I passed the hoisting of 75 pounds and the hanging by one arm. Then my trainer passed away. A year later I managed to pass both those tests again after working for two weeks with a body builder, focused on pull-downs – I was up to ten sets of 70 pounds. Then my trainer moved away. Why do they all leave me? Then a year of being sick, no exercise plus weight gain.

    Now I’m wanting to get back to it. Was wondering if a pull up was even a realistic goal. Some of the smaller, lighter women have been able to do it. I expect to get back to 150 or so within a few months but my arms seem so scrawny.

    I may need a village to raise myself to that bar. Please, cradle me…

  51. Katie says:

    April 17th, 2010at 6:03 pm(#)

    Hi Dasha!

    I’m 5’2″ and 130lbs and had strong legs from bicycling, but absolutely no upper body strength whatsoever. I couldn’t even do a pull-up or chin-up when I was a tiny, tree-climbing 8-year-old, but I’ve been working at it.

    I don’t think there’s any reason you can’t do it. It sounds like you have the motivation and dedication, in spite of all your setbacks, so if you stick with it you’ll get there!

    If you haven’t read it, this is what Mistress Krista has to say about pull-ups:

    All the best!


    P.S.: I’m still giddy from doing my first chin-up this morning. :)

  52. Geoff says:

    April 26th, 2010at 4:39 pm(#)

    Working on a chin-up article. Hang tight, young dragons.

  53. Poul Nielsen says:

    April 30th, 2010at 10:35 pm(#)

    “Less thinking, more doing” – I absolutely agree, well said.

  54. Dasha says:

    May 4th, 2010at 4:22 am(#)

    Thank you Katie! I won’t give up hope. Tried doing the one arm hang yesterday – left shoulder says ain’t gonna be no hanging by the left arm. Time to get to my chiro and get hooked up to the magic electric suction cup thingies again.

    Got my “New Rules for Women” weight lifting book. Looks intimidating. Well, can’t live in fear, right – might as well just get on with it.

    Congratulations on the chin up! I can’t do that either!

  55. The Less Thinking, More Doing Program, The Sequel | Bang Fitness says:

    May 28th, 2010at 12:23 pm(#)

    […] impetus for writing the first part (here) was the desire to give people something as simple as possible and still not have it suck. Although […]

  56. Michelle Dodd says:

    June 15th, 2010at 5:04 pm(#)

    Hi Dasha,

    My physical therapist said never ever hang from a bar without having your shoulders (& lats) engaged – no dead hanging. It will HURT your shoulder.

    Try doing negatives: get yourself up to the bar any way you can, jumping, use a chair, whatever. Then let yourself down as slowly as you can. Do a few of these 3 times a week. As you work on getting your weight down, your lats and arms will continue to get stronger. At some point weight & strength will meet in the middle and you’ll be able to do a pull up. My friend Katherine is 5′ 10″ and heavy boned with a big frame (I think she was 185 then and not really overweight). She worked twice a week for a year to do a pull up and she did it. Keep going!


  57. Kristin says:

    July 16th, 2010at 5:29 am(#)

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this ltmd program. Exactly what I need after bringing home three babies in 4.5 years. Not a wimpy workout! :)

  58. Mrs Knox says:

    August 19th, 2010at 10:50 am(#)

    Love this for beginners – can’t afford the gym, coming off some meds that really packed on pounds, so this seems like a great way to start. Being a COMPLETE novice (is there anything less experienced than novice? If so, I’m it), I’d love it if there were a pic or drawing or more detailed desription of proper form.

  59. Geoff Girvitz says:

    August 25th, 2010at 9:29 am(#)

    Youtube is a wonderful resource for most of this stuff. All I can say is that if there’s a pain-free range of motion you can work within, stick to that.

    And, by all means, find a coach. Have someone good who can take you through the basic details of all of these things (this should be an informational session, not a warm-up). This is well worth the investment.

  60. Rini says:

    October 11th, 2010at 1:30 pm(#)

    I want to thank you on your suggestion for the bike. I haven’t exercised in a while and was having trouble getting motivated to stay on the bike consistently. Something about the 30 seconds fast/2 minutes slow – it’s really helped me build up my stamina to where I’m able to do significantly more than 10 minutes of biking (although I’m still doing them in 30 second/2 minute bursts).


  61. nedsped says:

    October 12th, 2010at 9:28 pm(#)

    Pictures. I need pictures.

  62. zooeyibz says:

    December 9th, 2010at 11:57 am(#)

    How about not referring to women as “chicks”? That’s the kind of demeaning shit I expect on other sites, not on one devoted to women’s strength training. We’re not little fluffy birds!

  63. Geoff says:

    December 9th, 2010at 1:06 pm(#)

    I feel like a real

  64. Krissy says:

    December 10th, 2010at 10:53 am(#)

    I loved your less thinking more doing program, and followed it for a few months at work, and found a real improvement — but then I quit my job, moved to the UK, and am on a working holiday.
    Any tips for strength training for the itinerant worker? I’ve fallen out of practice on account of being knackered from farm work (and I figured that was exercise enough, while I was doing it) – but now I’ve got an indoors job over the Christmas period, and would like to get back into it –
    Unfortunately — no gym membership, no weights to use, and a very small space to play in.
    Any tips would be greatly appreciated :)

  65. Geoff says:

    December 11th, 2010at 11:34 am(#)

    Hi Krissy,

    Great to hear that this worked for you. So what to do now?

    Lower body work can always be made more challenging by improving movement quality and range of motion; switching the emphasis to one leg (which we’ve already done for the split squat); adding weight (which we probably can’t do) or adding velocity — ensuring nice, soft landings.

    As for the upper body . . . some adustable dumbbells ala Powerblocks would be easier but you can always improvise some kind of weight. If nothing else, I would look at buying some Super Bands or the equivalent and replicating the movement pattern if not the exercise.

    Best of luck!

  66. Krissy says:

    December 12th, 2010at 3:18 pm(#)

    Thanks! The bands sound like a good (and portable!) option :)
    Otherwise I was going to improvise with bottles of milk etc. :)

  67. Kate says:

    January 4th, 2011at 12:01 am(#)

    Regarding your suggestion of biking at the end of the work out:
    Approximately what speeds would you consider as fast or slow?

  68. Geoff says:

    January 4th, 2011at 11:59 am(#)

    Fast = like you’re being chased by axe-wielding maniacs
    Slow = as slow as you need to in order to recover

    One thing that I cannot stress enough is that you should just get out and try moving around. Things don’t have to be perfect — if you have a rough idea of what the exercises are that will be fine.

    This program actually mandates that you shoot first and ask questions later.

  69. I know the 2 lb weights feel heavy, but you have to start somewhere « Arabella – Fit and Healthy (Well, getting there…) says:

    January 19th, 2011at 11:34 am(#)

    […] admit, sometimes I’m embarrassed by how little I can lift for certain exercises. This article from stumptuous recommends 20-30 lbs for dumbbell rows for women, and a lot of the comments agree or surpass that. […]

  70. WildShan says:

    February 7th, 2011at 11:44 am(#)

    Geoff, THANK YOU.

    I’ve been wanting to stop thinking and start lifting for at least a year but couldn’t seem to find some good, straight-forward advice for a beginner. I was very pleased to see the 30lb prescription for females–if I’m going to do it, I don’t want to waste my time!

    I’mma try this workout tonight. Thanks again.

  71. Amy says:

    February 23rd, 2011at 7:35 am(#)

    Hi. This has been so helpful and I really appreciate it. I’ve been doing nothing but cardio 4-5 days a week for years and have finally realized that I need the strength training component. questions:
    1. i think many of us who are new to weights are very self-conscious about venturing into that part of the gym. do you think us newbies can master the moves above on our own without hurting ourselves or just performing them ineffectively?
    2. i also think many of us cardio-obsessed folks are terrified of giving it up even though we need to. any tips on how to balance cardio and weights (on, say, a 5 workout day a week schedule)? i was thinking today of doing 20 min sprints and 20 minutes weights each day from now on…

  72. Geoff says:

    February 23rd, 2011at 11:13 am(#)

    Hi Amy,

    I’m glad to hear that you found the article helpful. For your questions:

    1. Absolutely. If there’s joint pain during a movement (the proverbial muscle burn will disappear after a few seconds of rest and is to be expected), then stop. The lesson you’ve learned is that you probably need a physio. Until you see one, work within your pain-free range of motion.

    That being said, most people can handle these movements.

    2. The question that I would ask is how to string a series of weighted movements together to get your heart rate to the same level. This is a good place to start. However, if you’d like to add some intervals to the end of what you’re doing (you should always be as fresh as possible for resistance training), then go nuts.

  73. Michelle says:

    May 27th, 2011at 8:45 am(#)

    Hey Geoff,

    I just stumbled across this article and it’s just what I need – I’ve paralyzed myself by taking in too much information! Question: I recently read an interview with Mistress Krista in the Five on Five roller derby magazine about weight training for derby players. She suggested that, in-season, we do one day of heavy full-body training, one day of weighted circuits, and one day of interval training. Does this workout fall into the “heavy full body” category?


  74. Geoff says:

    May 28th, 2011at 7:59 am(#)

    You’re thinking too much. Go train! Then come back when you’re done and read the following:

    Heavy is something that you can perform less than nine reps with. Metabolic circuits should use something you can perform between 10 and 20 reps with. This program could fulfill either role (albeit in the short-term); it’s only a question of loading.

  75. Lizzy says:

    June 19th, 2011at 8:08 am(#)

    Loving the attitude of this site, it’s really refreshing. I am interested in doing more resistance training, but various things make it complicated for me. The main one is that I am recovering from M.E. (CFIDS) – at the peak of my illness I had complete left sided paralysis and I still suffer from left sided weakness but no longer need to use walking aids. I tried getting back into running (I used to run 3 miles every day) but it triggered a relapse. I find all I can manage in terms of cardio is gentle swimming or walking, and for resistance I’ve been doing yoga and arm weights. I guess I’ll just have to see how my body goes, but my main question is whether this beginner’s routine is suitable for someone like me, or should I be looking for something else? I struggle to lift more than 5kg with my arms and cannot hold a plank for more than 10 seconds or do a half-press-up. I know, I’m pretty lame! That’s why I want to get better and stop being that lame 25 year old who needs her 65 year old mother to carry the shopping home :/

  76. Geoff says:

    June 20th, 2011at 11:45 am(#)

    Great stuff, Lizzy.

    This program can work beautifully for someone like you. The main question to bear in mind is *how heavy is heavy?*

    When it comes to weights, things are as scalable as the equipment you have access too. And even if you don’t have a full rack of dumbbells, something can usually be improvised.

    Being able to make incremental jumps can be important if you’re only working with light weights. However, bodyweight movements can be less scalable. If you are unable to perform a bodyweight movement with good technique for the necessary number of reps (or time or — most important — with adequate technique) you may need to de-load things. A band can be very handy.

    Here’s a link to some good examples (ignore the technique in the single-leg squats):

    Bear in mind that these guys are using specialized bands that are designed to handle bodyweight. I wouldn’t be so quick to try these with conventional resistance bands. They’re advertising these bands, which I assume are ok. If those don’t work for you, you may want to look for Super Bands or Iron Woody.

    Sometimes we have to begin at a bit of a deficit but — as long as we can maintain good form — we’ll always have the ability to add more weight, reps or time. Adding is easy. Taking a step backwards to set the stage properly is often the real challenge.

    Please give things a try and let us know when you’re bench-pressing your mother.

  77. Corné says:

    June 27th, 2011at 12:20 am(#)

    Recently found this site, right at the moment of needing a new goal to keep on going to gym. I’ve recently done my second big kungfu grading, 4 and half years into now, and was just doing general cardio training at gym with some pushups, sit ups and such thrown in.
    How long do I stay with the beginners phase? I don’t think I will train more that 2 or 3 times per week at the gym since I also have at least 2 intensive kungfu workouts per week too. And I’m probably fairly strong because of this, do I just push the intensity levels with more repeats than the 2 to 3 times mentioned?
    Also I have a fairly painful tennis elbow, is it possible to work around that?

  78. Geoff says:

    July 9th, 2011at 10:20 am(#)

    If you’re new to strength training, you should be able to coax 5-6 exposures to the same workout before hitting a plateau. More experienced trainees may hit that number after only 3-4 exposures.

    Before you change the exercises up, you may find it productive to change the rep ranges up. Neurologically, this is a very different type of feedback and it will allow you to continue making gains.

    Now, at the risk of sounding like a jerk, intensive kung fu sessions will not really make you strong. They may ensure great muscular endurance and mental strength but only consistent training with progressive resistance will allow you to make continued strength gains.

    As far as tennis elbow goes. First of all, please stop hurting it. This is a chronic use injury so you may need to take a break from the mechanism of injury. Next get some soft tissue work (if available to you). Grip work, such as wringing towels is very unpleasant in your situation but also seems to make a big difference for people with this issue.

  79. Corné says:

    July 12th, 2011at 10:49 pm(#)

    Hi Geoff

    Thanks for the info. Yes, you are absolutely right about the kungfu sessions – realized that on my first starter session at the gym! I actually had to bring the weights down by quite a bit, shockingly so(even below what is suggested), quite an humbling exercise. On the flip side I could easily hold the plank position without any strain.

  80. Connie says:

    July 21st, 2011at 12:57 pm(#)

    Hi Geoff,

    Just came across this article and am interested in giving it a try. I am ok with the upper body but am 12 weeks out of knee surgery (ACL and meniscus repair) and don’t think the split leg squats are in my immediate future. Any substitutions you might recommend?

    (PS-I worked with a trainer for over a year abt 2 years ago and really miss lifting. I am hoping I can use this to get back into it without the benefit of a coach)



  81. Geoff says:

    July 27th, 2011at 3:10 am(#)

    Hi Connie,

    First things first: if it hurts, don’t do it. To perform a movement (or at least move toward it) you’ll need to modify it in two ways: loading and range of motion.

    1. I described some approaches to de-loading up above. You’re probably going to have to start with less than your bodyweight. Using a band or some other form of external assistance is invaluable.

    2. You are probably not going to be able to swing full ROM for a while. Learning to get into a proper position (namely, with a vertical shin and the weight in the heel of your front foot) is the first step.

    We’ll often have people hang out in this position and perform some other work, such as single-arm cable pulls, so that they can develop the isometric strength necessary to get more out of the movement. Progressively deepen your position until you’re at about the halfway mark. Once you’re there, you’re probably about ready to go back

    Oh, and do your physio exercises (first)! A lot of people scrap those early on, which is a big mistake.

  82. kbands says:

    August 22nd, 2011at 10:25 am(#)

    Very helpful article.
    nice quote: Woody Allen said that 80% of success was showing up. I will be passing this on to my friends.
    I have always used weights and resistance bands when working out…. there is no other way. I am going to try this workout today!

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