Fitness Fundamentals for the Beginner

Fitness Fundamentals for the Beginner

Tya Waterman |

With Guest Blogger, Chris Schnare

Getting started on your fitness journey can be both exhilarating and overwhelming.  The excitement that comes with challenging yourself to attain better health and fitness levels can be equally matched by the fear or uncertainty of not knowing what to do.  

There is so much information available through a quick google search or a scroll through Instagram, leading you towards the next best thing to help you accomplish your fitness goals.  It is this easy-to-access information that has led to a paralyzing amount of over-analysis for many new gym goers.

The good news is that there are some very well accepted, tried and true fundamentals that if followed, will not only simplify the process, but also ensure you develop a base level of stability and balanced strength and can decrease your chances of injury.

When it comes to getting started in a gym environment or increasing the intensity level of your training, during the initial stages (as well as for the long term), these basic movement patterns and principles should make up a majority of the work you perform.  Only once these basics are mastered and you are able to safely load and stabilize the body, should higher intensity training take place. 

These are non-negotiable fundamentals and it is highly recommended that someone new to training seek out a well-qualified coach to both educate as well as teach these basics. By sourcing out a qualified coach or resource and investing the time to learn and develop your movement quality, you will quickly see and feel why this stage of the process is so important.

To simplify the fundamentals for you, here are some tried and true rules to think about when designing or following any training program:

Bodyweight before added resistance

Human movement fundamentals can be broken down to a few basic categories: hinge, squat, push, pull and carry.  These basic movement patterns allow an infinite number of exercises to be taught, since the key elements of them are rooted in virtually every other exercise.

When working towards mastering these basic movements, begin with bodyweight exercises. Perfect your form and technique before adding weight to the movement.

Free weights before fixed motion machines

When using free weights, such as dumbbells, each weight is separate which will help ensure that each limb is doing its own amount of work. The extra element of single-limb stabilization can help beginners to improve coordination, proprioception and may even contribute to increased overall muscle fiber activation.

Compound/multi joint exercises over isolation exercises

Compound exercises are multi-joint movements that work multiple muscle groups at a time. An example of a compound exercise is the squat. This movement engages the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and core. Isolation exercises, on the other hand, work only one muscle group at a time. An example of an isolation exercise is the bicep curl.

Compound exercises are recommended, especially for beginners, because they typically follow the more common movement patterns. In addition, compound movements can help to improve coordination, balance, and joint stability.

Isometrics before dynamic exercises

To understand isometric exercises, we need to understand the three basic ways that muscles contract. First, a concentric contraction is when the muscle tenses while shortening, such as during the curl up on a bicep curl. Second, the eccentric contraction is when the muscle tenses while lengthening, such as during the lowering of the weight while performing a bicep curl. Third is an isometric contraction, which occurs when the muscle tenses while not changing length. An example of this is pushing against an immoveable object.

Isometrics are recommended to start with so that you can learn to stabilize and breathe under tension first, before moving on to dynamic exercises.

Use progressive overload week-week

Progressive overload is the gradual increase of demand on muscles. You must slowly, but continually make your muscles work harder, whether that be increasing reps or weight. Make small jumps before large leaps and do so consistently as long as movement basics are in check.

Build muscular endurance before strength

Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle to exert force, for example, lifting weight, consistently and repetitively. This is particularly important for supportive core muscles and decreasing back pain. You can build muscular endurance in your core, for example, by performing a plank.

Perform some form of weighted carry

Performing a weighted carry, such as a briefcase walk is important to develop the lower back and lateral core muscles.


This list of tips may seem lengthy, but on any given day, when someone new asks me what they should focus on, I never veer from these fundamentals.  If you are injured, coming back from injury, brand new, or highly experienced, these fundamentals and tips still hold true and should account for the majority of what you do for long term success.

Try to not over complicate things and remember to become great at the little things so you can start to really enjoy the process for the long haul!

Keep things simple.