by Dr. Rob Gruttadauria, DPT, OCS

You made it through your first week at the gym! Congratulations! The fact that you managed to snag a machine, a mat or even a single dumbbell in the giant hoard of people that descended last week is impressive. Pat yourself on the back for your success and buckle in for week 2!

Remember: Be patient with yourself. Slow and steady (and not injured) wins this race!

Slow and steady wins this race.

Warm up – 5 minutes

Keep up with the same dynamic stretching warm up from last week! If you have a part of your body that’s always super stiff (like a formerly broken ankle), you should also stretch it out or massage it to get the blood flowing. If you’re sore or feel your muscles are tight from last week, you can use a foam roller to loosen your muscles and help get the blood flowing.

Jump Rope – 1 minute

If there is a jump rope at home or at the gym, try jumping rope for 60 seconds. If there’s no jump rope (or room!) available, skip this step.

Strength and Stability – 4 to 10 minutes 

You want to work on your strength and stability slowly and carefully, only progressing as your body shows it’s ready.

Below are some exercises you can do at the gym.

The majority of the exercises below are body weight exercises, which means you won’t need any weights or equipment to complete them – just your body! If you’re new to working out or going back to the gym after a break, you should start with exercises #1 and #2 (bridges and planks). Do each exercise for a minute to start with.

Each time you work out, see how you’re progressing with the exercises. If you were able to do exercises #1 and #2 this week with good posture, normal breathing and symmetry, add a minute of exercise #3 to the mix. If you struggled with #1 or #2 at any point, stick with just doing those.

Only add the next exercise in the list when you can do the one before for a full minute with good posture, normal breathing and symmetry. For body-weight exercises, only add weights or resistance bands once you can do the exercise well without them.

In the video below, I show how to do each of the exercises. You can also download and/or print this worksheet and bring it to the gym with you.

#1 Bridge: Done on the mat on your back, this is a great, low-impact exercise to start with that works your butt, lower back and core.

#2 Planks: You’ll want to do right-side, left-side and front planks. You should aim for symmetry: doing each plank for the same length of time on each side and on the front.

#3 Bird Dog: On your hands and knees, this exercise brings you partway off the mat and focuses on stability of your core.

#4 Pallof press*: Using a cable or resistance band, the Pallof press continues to build core stability by working on your core’s ability to resist rotation.

#5 Chop and Lift*: The chop and lift, done with a cable or resistance band, builds on the core stability exercises and aims to strengthen your arms and core.

#6 Deadlift: Start by doing the deadlift move without weights or with a resistance band. The deadlift focuses on your core, lower back, butt and the back of your legs – your hamstrings.

#7 Squat: Start by doing squats without weights or with a resistance band. Squats focus on the front of your legs – your quads – as well as your calves and the back of your legs – your hamstrings.

#8 Lunge: Lunges bring many of the above exercises together, targeting your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves and core. You can start by doing lunges without any weight.

*requires a resistance band or cable machine

Cardio

Last week, if you followed the American Heart Association plan, you walked for 15 minutes, 2 or 3 times. This week, aim to do 17 minutes of walking, 3 times a week.

This may or may not feel easy.

If it feels too difficult, you can step back and reevaluate your goal and timeline – there’s no problem with taking five or six months to get to the goal of 60 minutes of cardio 5 days a week. Listen to your body. If you’re worried, not sure what to do, or are concerned you may be injured, connect with a physical therapist who can do a thorough evaluation and a Functional Movement Screening to assess your abilities.

If it feels too easy, great! But, consider sticking with the plan anyway for a little longer. Just because it feels easy on your heart and lungs doesn’t mean your muscles, ligaments, bones and the rest of your musculoskeletal system is ready to do more. The plan will ramp up and your body may be pleased that you took your time!

Note: If you have set your own goal and feel like your body is responding well, also great! Increase your time or weight by 10% each week, as long as it still feels right. Don’t be afraid to back off if you feel you’re overdoing it.

Dr. Rob Gruttadauria, DPT, OCS, is clinical director at the Seekonk Street, Providence Performance Physical Therapy location. He has clinical expertise in Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA), Functional Movement Screening (FMS), orthopedic, neurological, and post surgical rehabilitation, sports rehabilitation, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.