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  • Writer's pictureTaylor Rodriguez

Beginner's Complete Guide to Exercising and Programming

coach taz working out

When it comes to the world of fitness, it can become extremely complexing with the amount of information that is available to us. On an almost weekly basis, I’m asked what exercise routines or programs do I believe is best, what machines should be utilized in the gym the most, and how many reps and sets should an individual be doing while at the gym.

If you are a beginner, it is understandable. Even after close to 20 years of being an avid gym-goer, I still can find myself losing focus and getting confused on what I should be doing since new information is coming out pretty rapidly about the world of fitness.

As a disclaimer, I should note that the information I’ll be providing in this blog is written for the average gym-goer looking to simply maintain a functional, yet always physically progressing lifestyle. It’s for the individual’s that cannot spend 2 hours or more per day focused on their exercise programming. The suggested programming listed below is not for the advanced athlete!

With that being said, when it comes to the world of exercise and maintaining a “functional” lifestyle - functional meaning, it’s a classification of exercise which involves training the body for the activities performed in daily life - we must incorporate specific exercises that will compliment our day to day priorities while preventing/correcting any possible negative results that might occur due to that lifestyle. Example being: over time with the majority of us working desk jobs, our posture begins to weaken and we begin to have a rounding of the shoulders, resulting in kyphosis. So, it’s important to add exercises into our routines that continuously retract our shoulders so we maintain a more neutral posture.

Even though exercise programming should be individualized for every human-being since our lifestyles, goals, and health needs are all uniquely different; as a general rule of thumb in any successful program, you’ll want to include the 6 foundational exercise movements (squat, hip hinge, push, pull, carry, unilateral) while incorporating the 3 planes of motion (sagittal, frontal, transverse) within those foundational movements. We will breakdown each of these into more detail below.

What are the 6 Foundational Exercise Movements?

Squat: the king of all exercises and yet, the one that gets crucified the most in my personal opinion. The squat is a must-do exercise for anyone of any age. Building up a strong squat not only helps us get up or down from a chair efficiently but also helps us be able to get down and up from the floor which can be incredibly difficult for many.

Hip Hinge: most will understand the term “hip hinge” if I say that the deadlift is a hip hinge movement. Same as the glute bridge or hip thrusts. Anything that transfers the hips as the focal point forward and back, basically into a bending position, equals a hip hinge.

Push: Bench/Chest Press, Push-Ups, Overhead Shoulder Press, Tricep Extensions, any movement that pushes the weight or form of resistance away from the body or starting point is considered a pushing movement.

Pull: Pull-Ups, Rows, Bicep Curls, any movement that pulls the weight or form of resistance towards the body or contracts the muscle when you pull said weight is considered a pulling movement.

Carry: Frequently forgotten are heavy carry movements in which you hold a weight or odd-object in one or both hands and carry it from point A to point B or hold it for an extended period of time. Carry exercises help develop a strong midline, or core muscles, ultimately preventing frequently seen lower back and shoulder injuries.

Unilateral: exercises performed on one side at a time as opposed to bilateral exercises that work two limbs at once. Working one arm or leg at a time can help prevent dominant sides from forming, improve balance while incorporating individual core muscles, and build consistency with strength and aesthetics.

What are the 3 Planes of Motion?

Sagittal Plane: Cuts the body into left and right halves. Forward and backward movements.

Frontal Plane: Cuts the body into front and back halves. Side-to-side movements.

Transverse Plane: Cuts the body into top and bottom halves. Twisting movements.

How do we program all of this?

Even if you perform a detailed google search on functional exercise programs, over 200 million results come up...WTF! To keep things incredibly simple, a great exercise program requires three things - consistency, progressive overload, and periodization. If you are deciding to write your own programming and not purchase one from a professional coach, I would program your daily routines following these guidelines.

Warm Up/Primer: This is where you wake up, get mentally ready for what’s ahead while priming your central nervous system so it can handle the intensity that is to come. I typically begin most warm ups with a 5-10 minute walk, bike ride or row then head into a CNS “primer” which warms up muscle groups that are to be used during the compound movement. If you are squatting, box jumps or broad jumps are great. If you are deadlifting, KB swings are a great primer. For more details on great “primer” exercises, email or DM we directly.

Compound Exercise: the single exercise that involves the most injury since it utilizes multiple muscle groups - Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, OH Press, Bent-Over Rows, are all examples of this. This is the movement where you test your strength and power the most each week. Be sure to give yourself anywhere from 2-5 minutes of rest between sets depending upon how much volume you are doing.

Accessory Exercises: Choose 2-3 exercises that compliment your compound lift and will help progress it. If you did Bench Press - Lat Pulldowns, Floor Presses and Tricep Extensions are all examples of exercises that help improve strength for the Bench Press. This is the area you’ll want to spend 45 seconds to 90 seconds of rest between sets. For more examples of accessory exercises, email or DM me directly.

Weaknesses/Conditioning: Your pick - if you are a Crossfit junkie, this is where you perform your “metcons” or conditioning circuits. If you are more into traditional exercise routines, this is where you might do some abdominal exercises, balancing/stability exercises, or steady-state cardio.

Cooldown: One of the biggest mistakes I see people do after exercising is simply leave the gym after performing their last exercise. Your body has just been through some major stress and your stress hormones are skyrocketed at this point, it takes time to bring them back down and return to homeostasis. Spend at least 2 minutes performing some deep breathing exercises, then spend some time walking on the treadmill trying to bring down your heart rate. For an additional bonus, spend 5-10 minutes stretching if you want to get the most out of your workout and recover properly!

At the end of the day, the best exercise program is the one that you can stick to long-term. Whether it’s Crossfit, Bodybuilding, Powerlifting, P90X, it doesn’t matter. If you don’t enjoy what you do, you aren’t going to do it, plain and simple. Similar to hopping from fad diet to fad diet and not achieving weight loss, you’ll experience the same if you don’t stick to a particular program.

Even though this has become our most in-depth writing yet, we hope it serves you well in your wellness journey. If you are still intimidated about what to do in the gym, contact us today so we can develop the plan that’s right for you.


"Coach Taz" aka Taylor Rodriguez is owner and head coach of Taz Fitness & Nutrition. He is a Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach located in Deltona, FL that coaches individuals online and in person. Taylor was a former partying pro wrestler turned fitness enthusiast after the economic downturn of 2008-2010. After losing almost 70 lbs, his new passion is to help struggling individuals find a new confidence within themselves to achieve any goal that they see possible. To begin coaching with Taylor or to request a free consultation, contact us today.

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