It seems like a lifetime ago, but I used to own a CrossFit and MMA gym back in Florida. I trained thousands of humans over that 7 year journey.
Here's the thing, there are countless coaches, trainers, doctors, and experts, that know a ton about exercise, the body, science, rehab, medicine, etc. Much more than I know, for sure.
I'm going to let you in on a little secret when it comes to getting fitness results they don't want you to know.
The thing I know very well, which is not easy to make money on, are the First Principles for getting results.
Since I'm not here selling you a book or program on the topic, my only incentive is to give you the simplest and most useful advice I can muster so you can take action and make yourself better.
That is how I win here. That is all I care about.
You see, I don't care to be seen as a fitness expert. All I care about is helping you take charge of your health, and since exercise is a big part of that, I feel it my duty to give you real, honest useful advice.
Unfortunately, most of the exercises, tips, tricks and "experts" in the space are just trying to market themselves into your mind as a means of standing out from everyone else doing the same thing.
This is why you are feed so much information, most of which is a waste of your time (exceptions include: training for a sport or overcoming an injury).
The fitness industry's convoluted mess that's full of experts all trying to market themselves results in confusion. And confusion, for most people, results in inaction.
What also particularly insidious about all of it is how much the overload of information is actually a distraction that is keeping you from getting the results you want in the safest, easiest and most effective way possible.
Instead, you need to focus on the basics.
The basics, or First Principles, will get 99% of humans wherever they want to be fitness-wise.
So if you don't plan on becoming a body builder or winning the CrossFit games, your only goal should be to become a master at the basics.
Here are the big 3 to getting results with fitness. These are pretty much all you need... forever.
Muscle provides protection against injury and trauma. It burns calories by simply existing on your person. It helps keep you healthy, looking good and as bulletproof as possible.
Without muscle in the Wild, you would soon perish. Without muscle today, you are more susceptible to accident, injury and disease... and you aren't nearly as sexy as you could be (this applies to both men and women).
To build muscle, you must stress—tear—your muscle fibers so they can rebuild themselves stronger than before (the result of this process known as supercompensation). And the only way to do this is to regularly lift heavy objects—heavy relative to you, the person.
Fortunately, for most of us, we don't need to lift obscene amounts of weight to build and maintain muscle mass. There are many things you can do to maintain muscle mass with little to no risk of injury—e.g. mixing up sets and reps and rest periods and using other modalities.
Since this piece is focused on building the first principles of exercise, we are keeping it simple. You can cross certain bridges as you become more advanced when, and only if, you need to.
Here is a universal resistance training template that will offer you 95% of the results most people seek (it's actually probably closer to 99%):
1. Perform a primary set of "heavy" squats, deadlifts, press and chest press each week.
*Heavy is relative to your body and should be performed safely, so don't confuse heavy with unsafe. You can also use squat-like or deadlift-like movements in lieu of the actual movement. That said, you should still squat and deadlift because they are the best.
2. Aim for 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps. Aim to reach failure (unable to complete the rep) on at least a couple reps towards the end of your sets.
*Utilize a spotter or other safety measures for these final reps.
3. Rest 60-120 seconds between sets.
4. Aim to increase the weight used as you get stronger. Then mix up sets/reps and exercise modalities.
Optional: Add 1-3 accessory exercises to round out your strength. Example: if you are squatting today, you could do some lunges, single-leg deadlifts or other complimentary exercises.
That's it. That's all 99% of humans on this Earth need to do to create a solid level of strength that will keep them healthier and safer.
Again, this is what men and women need to do. So do not mistake this as advice for the male sex only. Women need muscle just like men. (And no ladies, you won't get "big" unless you inject hormones or train and eat at excess levels. So that is no excuse to being frail and weak.)
Do something that elevates your heart rate at least twice a week. (3-4 times a week would be better.)
Resistance training combined with regularly mixed up metabolic conditioning (some call it "cardio") is the literal holy grail for optimal health, well-being and fitness.
These two will get you upwards of 99% of the results you seek. Beyond that, if you decide to go to the next level, you can then wade into the myriad of advance training and nutrition options.
Walking as exercise is underrated.
Heck, simple basic movement is even more underrated.
We do not think to take the path of most resistance in our society. Instead, we take the elevator, escalator and park as close to possible so we don't have to walk an 15 extra seconds in the parking lot.
But you should consciously and regularly do the opposite.
The path of most resistance is what you must seek as often as you can because that gets you moving more.
Your human genes are designed to preserve calories when possible because they were forged in the wild where there are no fridges or grocery stores. So it's no wonder we are prone to laziness and to spending 5 minutes driving around the parking lot to find the princess spot.
But today, we need to burn off as many of this extra energy as possible because all the extra energy we have available to is is one of the root causes of our health issues today.
Find ways to move more. Take the stairs. Park at the end of the parking lot. Do walking meetings and phone calls. And so on.
That's literally all you need if you are the typical person that wants to look good, feel good and live a long time. If you combine these basics with a Real Food diet, you have template for a long, healthy and productive life.
So get to it. Work on creating a basic schedule you can follow each week. Then follow it.