Beginning Weight Training Part II: A Template for Beginners

By: David Amici, University Recreation and Wellness, Certified Personal Trainer

Beginning Weight Training_ (1)

In Part I of this blog series, we discussed how to do the basic exercises of a comprehensive weight training program. Now let’s make a plan to get you started. Before we get into the good stuff, you have to understand a little background.

Some common terms to be familiar with:

Repetitions: How many times you will do the movement in a row before resting. Usually somewhere between 1 and 12 reps per set are used, with the most common being in the middle (5-10) ranges.

Sets: How many separate times you will do that movement. 2 to 3 sets are generally enough for a beginner. More may be necessary as you get stronger!

The principle of progressive overload: An adaptation is indicated when there is a new stress in the workout. This means you need to increase the reps, sets, or weight used to keep increasing strength or muscle quality.

Adaptation and Progression

To understand resistance training, you have to understand basic adaptation. The two models below are common ways to think about the recovery process after a workout on Monday. Exercise is stress-relieving, but it’s also a biological stress! Most beginners will be recovered from that stress and ready for another workout in about 48 hours. Look at the models below to see why you shouldn’t train again too early—in this example, on Tuesday.

Before the Fun Begins: Warm-up

Both for performance and safety, you need to warm-up. To do this properly, do 5-10 minutes of an activity that gets your blood flowing and then work up to the weight you will use for your exercise. Don’t go right to your first maximum effort exercise! People choose the rowing machine, doing a bunch of sets with light weights, or simple dynamic stretching—you have the choice.

What is the best program for me?

This is a complicated question, and one that’s highly specific. Fortunately, if you’re just starting, the basics work the best. For most people, the best option is a full-body workout.

Why? A beginner doesn’t need a huge workout stress to adapt, so it is feasible to work the whole body multiple times per week. Most people will want to do much more than is needed, delaying the recovery process enough to impact your next workout. The alternative is a split routine, where a body part/region has its own day and is typically trained once per week. This can be viable as well, but here is what I recommend for individuals who are just beginning:

The Base Program: 3 days per week
Type of Movement Sets & Reps
Squatting 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps
Overhead Pressing 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps
Deadlifting 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps
Bench Pressing 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps
Chin-up/Pull-up 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps

You can customize this with the version of the movement that you prefer (refer to Part 1). As well, you can add a little assistance to the template based off of your goals. Below, you can see how this base template can be fairly different depending on what you want to do in the gym. BB, DB, and KB refer to barbell, dumbbell, and kettlebell, respectively.

Goal: Get bigger and stronger Goal: Improve Posture Goal: Athletic Performance
BB Squat 3 sets of 5 reps Goblet KB Squat 3 sets of 10 BB Front Squat 3 sets of 5
Military Press 3 sets of 5 DB Overhead Press 3 sets of 8 BB Push Press 3 sets of 5
BB Rows 3 sets of 8 KB Deadlift 3 sets of 10 BB Deadlift 2 sets of 5
Bench Press 3 sets of 8 DB Bench 3 sets of 8 Bench Press 3 sets of 5
Pull-up 2 sets of 10 Assisted


2 sets of 10 Chin-up 2 sets of 5
Bicep Curl 3 sets of 10 Cable Row 3 sets of 10 Weighted Plank 20 sec holds

Start off lifting a little lighter than full effort, and you’ll be able to add a little weight, or a rep on each set, every time you come into the gym for a while. As long as your form is good, feel free to push yourself for progress every time you come to the gym!

Still have more questions?

I am happy to answer any additional questions you may have — feel free to send me an email at

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Beginning Weight Training Part I: The Basic Exercises

By: David Amici, University Recreation and Wellness, Certified Personal Trainer

Resistance training is important, for health as well as body composition, but there is a lot of confusing information out there on how to get started. But fear not—a simple program using fundamental movements will provide you with exactly what you’re looking for. This first installment of a two-part blog series will review movements and how to perform them safely and part two will address how to set up a program. Let’s get started!

What exercises should I be doing?

As a general rule, think about an exercise in terms of how many muscles are involved and the range of motion that it encompasses. Why? By using your muscles together, “full body exercises” create a systemic effect. By making you balance while calling a lot of muscles to fire at the same time, full body exercises create adaptations distinct from what you can get on machines or with isolation exercises. Because of this, they reward you with the best progress for your time.

First Tier Movements Second Tier Movements Assistance


Squat Leg Press Leg Extension
Deadlift Rack Pulls Back Extensions
Bench Press Decline Bench Dumbbell Fly
Overhead Press Seated Press Triceps extension
Bent Over Row Cable Row Reverse Fly
Chin-ups/Pull-ups Lat pull down Bicep Curl


Technique is paramount when it comes to learning these movements. While they provide the quickest improvement, they also allow for the biggest margin of error. To get your form right, I recommend investing in a few sessions with an experienced personal trainer. If that is not an option, read the basics noted below, click the hyperlinks, and give it some practice. Check yourself in the gym mirrors, record yourself, or have a friend take a look.

Squatting movements: Back squat, front squat, goblet squat, etc.

  1. The heels will remain flat on the floor. Don’t shift onto your toes, which shifts pressure to the knees. To practice this, lift your toes up in your shoes on a few reps to see how it feels.
  2. The hips will drop slightly below the level of the knee when viewed from the side. Stretching by sitting in a bodyweight squat (below) is helpful to reach depth. But, only go so low that…
  3. For safety and efficiency, the spine has to stay neutral – not over-arched, but definitely not hunched over. To do this, take a big breath and squeeze both your abs and your spinal erectors (the “chest up” or arching muscles).


Overhead pressing movements: Barbell, dumbbell, standing or seated, push press, etc.

  1. The abs and glutes must be squeezed for any standing overhead press to prevent spinal hyperextension, or too much arching (seen to the right).
  2. For any overhead press, the shoulders should be shrugged slightly (the “I don’t know” kind of shrug) to prevent the bony parts of the shoulder from pinching and irritating the softer tissues.
  3. The bar (or dumbbells) should go up in a straight line, as close to the face and body as possible.


Pulling from the ground: Barbell or kettlebell deadlifts, bent-over rows, etc.

  1. The bar or kettlebell will be close to or touching the body at all times.
  2. The back will be extended, just like in the squat. Squeezing the chest up to arch the back is the hardest part of doing these correctly, so make it a priority.
  3. Once you’re set, keep the back tight and stand up! Lower it with the back arched and the feet flat.


Bench pressing movements: Dumbbell or barbell, incline or flat, etc.

  1. Retract your shoulder blades, like you were trying to pinch something between them.
  2. Create a small back arch by lifting your chest up.
  3. Lower your wrists to chest level, around the nipple line, then come back to the starting position.


Now that you get the basics…

By understanding the fundamental movements, you can safely perform them as well as their derivatives—for example, if you can squat, you can surely leg press safely. Learning the big movements teaches how to control your body. After that, you can learn any exercise you want.

In my 2nd blog post, I’ll share a workout template I use with most of my beginning clients. In the meantime, leave any questions you have about weight training in the comments below!

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Taste the Rainbow

By: Katelyn Jordan ’16, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator


…and no, I don’t mean Skittles! I’m talking about fruits and vegetables!

There are compounds found in plant foods called phytochemicals—these work hand-in-hand with vitamins and minerals to keep you properly nourished. Most of these compounds have distinct pigments, making them easy to distinguish visually in order to get a hint of what the benefits are.

Red: Tomatoes, Strawberries, Cherries, Red Peppers, Watermelon

Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, causes the red pigment found in plant foods. Antioxidants prevent the production of “free radicals,” which can harm your body’s cells by stealing electrons to neutralize themselves. This can cause oxidative damage to DNA, proteins, and other macromolecules, which can lead to a wide range of diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

Orange/Yellow: Carrots, Cantaloupe, Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, Mango

Beta-carotene, which causes orange pigmentation in foods, is the most common carotenoid. It can be converted to Vitamin A by your body- a vitamin necessary for eye health, immune function, as well as skin and bone health.

Green: Broccoli, Asparagus, Collards, Grapes, Green Beans

Isothiocyanates color your food (as well as grass and tree leaves) green. The phytochemical has been associated with a reduced risk of various cancers. Some green fruits and vegetables also contain a second phytochemical called lutein, which promotes healthy eyes and protects against age-related macular degeneration.

Blue/Purple: Blueberries, Eggplant, Beets, Plums, Figs

Anthocyanin causes plants to be pigmented somewhere between blue and purple. This phytochemical is said to be beneficial for your heart and blood pressure. Darker hues indicate a higher concentration of anthocyanin, and a nice rich color can tell you when the produce is ripe.

White: Ginger, Onion, Mushrooms, Yuca

Flavonoids— the largest class of phytochemicals- are not actually white, but colorless. They are powerful antioxidants that help prevent free radicals, which can be harmful to cells and tissues, from forming. These colorless compounds are also found in tea, red wine, and dark chocolate.

The MyPlate guidelines recommend that about half of the food you eat are fruits or vegetables. Luckily, there are lots of colorful tips and tricks:

  • Find many of these fruits and vegetables at The Farmers Market at Maryland, the dining halls, and even some convenience stores.
  • Use your imagination (and the internet!) for endless colorful recipes to add to your meals.
  • Try throwing some veggies (cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, sliced peppers, etc.) into a baggie to munch on between classes. Apples, bananas, and oranges contain their own “packaging” and don’t require any work at all.

If you’d like more ideas and guidance in improving your overall diet, take advantage of the Free Nutrition Coaching Service at the University Health Center. To reserve your session, call 301-314-5664 or email

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Do You Really Need a Rest Day? Five Reasons to Sometimes Skip the Gym

If you’re a regular gym-goer like me, chances are that you’re passionate about your favorite workout . I like to run. Your workout passion might be lifting weights, zumba, swimming laps, or climbing the rock wall behind Eppley. Doing something that you love is a great motivator to work out regularly. But no matter how much you love your daily workout, don’t fall for the common misunderstanding in the fitness world that you should be going hard every time you hit the gym. Your body and your mind need a break!

Why are breaks important?

To be healthy, lose weight, or gain muscle, working out is an important part of your day. As you bring your heart rate up, break down muscle fibers, and push yourself outside of your comfort zone, your body physically changes after every workout. This is when your body works to repair tissue damage, strengthens your heart and your muscles, moves oxygen more efficiently, and restores lost fuel. Recovery and rest are vital!

How do you know when to take a rest day? 

Here are five telltale signs to give your body a break:

  1. You feel sluggish or irritated during your workout. Beyond the physical stress that your body feels from working out, you might notice that after a while, your brain isn’t really in the game anymore. Maybe you are having a hard time getting yourself to the gym or maybe you are just distracted once you are there, but in any case, this is a sign that you mentally need to take a rest day. Just like anything else, you need to be focused to succeed and make the most out of what you are doing!
  1. You’re sore. This is important! Muscles need time to rebuild. Hitting the gym again too soon can lead straight to injury. Stretch it out and take a rest day or two before going back into an intense workout. There are foam rollers available in the Functional Training Studio on the bottom floor of Eppley, they’re great for rolling out sore muscles.
  1. You’re sick. Your body needs to focus its energy on getting better. If you push through a workout it might take longer to recover from being sick, and you won’t feel well enough to perform at your best anyway. And if you’re really feeling bad, visit the Health Center!
  1. You aren’t getting enough sleep. Without a good seven to eight hours every night, your body won’t perform to the best of its ability. If you just pulled an all-nighter to cram for an exam (or to celebrate a Terps football win) take a nap and save the gym for after you’re well rested.
  1. You just ran in a race. You should also consider a period of rest following a big event like a race or a competition. Even if you aren’t competitive, if you have followed any kind of training plan for a few months, it is a good idea to give your body a break. Overusing your muscles can result in injuries.

So what does rest even mean?

Unfortunately, it’s not a free pass to sit on your couch and watch Netflix all day. Just as mental exercises such as reading and doing puzzles stimulate your brain, light physical activity is needed to stimulate your body even while recovering and resting. This includes activities like walking, stretching, or even leisurely swimming or biking! It’s always a good idea to get your heart rate up and keep your body moving…especially if you have a desk job or sit for long periods of time during the day.

The big picture

Rest days aren’t rocket science. Listen to your body. Don’t be afraid to take a day, two days, or even a week off from the gym when you need it. That awesome yoga class, the bench press, the pool… whatever your workout passion is, it’ll be there when you come back. You’ll be back in the gym feeling refreshed and ready to accomplish your fitness goals… and your body will thank you!

When to Take a Rest Day from Exercise and Training (Philly Magazine)
Why Taking Time Off from Exercise is Good for your Health (Huffington Post)

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What I Learned about Self-Love at a Summer Music Festival

By: Sydney Parker ’16, University Health Center SHARE Peer Educator

sydney%20at%20afropunkI’ve always dreamed of a world where I could just be Sydney Parker. A place where the various dimensions of my very being could co-exist. A place where I could be an unapologetically black, queer woman who loves everything from indie music to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I longed for a place where people are celebrated for who they are verses the stereotypical boxes that society imposes on them. I found that place this summer, and it’s called Afropunk.

What is Afropunk?

Afropunk is an annual multicultural music festival that takes place in major cities across the country. I attended the one in Brooklyn, NY. According to their website, “the word AFROPUNK itself has become synonymous with an open-minded, non-conforming and unconventional” platform for the “black presence in the American punk scene.” My experience wasn’t anything short of that! As soon as I walked into the festival I felt like I was in a perfect utopia. I looked around and as far as the eye could see was a celebration of individuality and liberation. There were barefoot children running through the grass, people with purple hair, luscious afros, bold and bright clothing, oversized overalls, and a sea of beautiful melanin.

I had an incredible time and when it was all over, it was very hard to say goodbye to this exhilarating paradise. Part of what made Afropunk so meaningful was the many ways in which the experience taught me about self-care and self-love.

Lesson #1: Whenever you are feeling emotionally and/or mentally unstable, find support and affirmation.

Seek out people or places that will allow you to reconnect with your soul. Whether it be visiting the Labyrinth on campus or catching up on your favorite Netflix show with a friend, it is important to cultivate various outlets that bring you inner peace and comfort.

Why this is important to me. To be black and conscious in America is hard and keeping up with the news this past year was especially difficult for me. From the death of Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland while in police custody to the Charleston nine shooting in South Carolina, the mass killings of black bodies due to systemic racism have taken a toll on my mental and emotional health. As someone who already struggles with anxiety, it is especially important for me to find ways to recharge. That is exactly what Afropunk did for me. It reinforced the pure bliss and beauty that comes along with being an African American woman.

Lesson #2: The world can be a scary place, especially for those who don’t conform or meet society’s standards of who you are expected to be. You are not alone.

Embrace who you are & surround yourself with people who celebrate the authentic you! The more you cultivate community and positivity, the more connected you will feel to others and the world around you.

Why this is important to me. Afropunk was the epitome of the inclusivity that I’ve always longed for. The festival had the following ground rules that were proudly (and massively) displayed. I wish that these rules were everywhere, encouraging us to love and accept one another for who we are.


Lesson #3: Always, always, always find ways to self-care & self-love!

I returned to Maryland with a “Very Black” sticker, souvenir T-shirts, and a new sense of self. My conclusion is this: I may not be able to stop all of the violence in this country, but I can find ways to rejuvenate MY soul so that I am not walking around carrying the burdens of the world. This allows me to focus my energies on the many things and people that I care about such as my love for dance and my family.


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5 Tips to Beat the Cafeteria Blues

By: Dana Schulz ’16, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator


You walk into the dining hall and it hits: the rich aroma of burgers sizzling on the grill, French fries bubbling in the fryer. It all looks so delicious, finally free from your mother’s scrutinizing eye, able to indulge in whatever your heart desires.

…And for a few weeks, it’s great.

Then, it dawns on you; you can’t eat your hundredth turkey wrap without the possibility of growing feathers. You find yourself missing the home cooked meals you once dreaded. As it turns out, eating on your own might not be as easy as you once thought.

We’ve all been in this rut. When you’re looking for a way to escape your taste fatigue, here are 5 tips to re-introduce the meals you’re yearning for: college edition.

  1. Mix it Up! All too often, we find ourselves gravitating towards the same few food items. Not only does this limit the variety of nutrients we get, it can become terribly boring! Whether you have a meal plan or grocery shop for yourself, consider choosing different sources from each food group to spice up any meal.
  2. Reinstate the “Family Dinner.” With the fast-paced, hectic lives that most students face, eating as a group often gets pushed to the wayside in exchange for quick, time-efficient meals. Not only does eating together increase our sense of community, it introduces food variety and increases fruit and veggie consumption. Grab a few friends or roommates and start out with just one meal together, one day a week. You might be surprised how refreshing it can be!
  3. Half and Half! If you have a meal plan, finding a happy balance of dining hall and home cooked food can be challenging. Although the dining hall provides plenty of healthy and delicious options, you might be craving something the dining hall isn’t serving that night. What should you do? In an effort to effectively utilize your dining points, consider purchasing the protein item – like a piece of salmon or steak- from the dining hall and crafting the sides at home. There are many delicious microwavable recipes available today that are great for anyone, especially those living in a traditional dorm!
  4. Take a Hike. Do you feel locked into choosing a specific dining hall? Often times, students have a North vs. South mentality. Don’t be afraid to switch it up! Although both North and South Campus Dining Halls offer similar items, they vary in food stations and atmosphere. So, next time you’re in the neighborhood, consider giving the opposite dining hall a try!
  5. Make an Appointment with a Nutrition Coach! Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, the beginning of the semester can be challenging, and even a little scary. However, figuring out how to enjoy your college eating experience does not have to be a source of stress. Come in and visit a nutrition coach to learn how to get out of your food rut!

To learn more about beating the cafeteria blues, reserve your session with a Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or emailing

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5 Trade Secrets for All Terp Yogis

By: Chad Byron,  200+ R.Y.T, University Recreation & Wellness, Yoga Instructor

5 trade secrets

There are several ‘tricks of the trade’ when it comes to yoga that you can familiarize yourself with to increase your level of comfort and confidence with the practice. Whether you are simply getting acquainted with group fitness classes or have attended numerous yoga practices before, this will provide new insights to the reader about the purpose of a yoga practice, deepen your understanding of a few yogic principles, and help alleviate any intimidation about attending a yoga class.

View the current schedule of yoga and other group fitness classes at UMD

Trade Secret #1: Leave your ego at the door!

This is one of the most important concepts, and it’s not often mentioned in class. Yoga is a fabulous place to feel shiny, strong and beautiful on your mat, but it is also a place for everyone to feel included.

Once your hands and feet hit the mat, all that matters is what is going on in your body and on your yoga mat. The wild dude in the corner of the studio standing on his head or the yogini (female yoga practitioner) with her foot behind her neck may be fun to watch, but in that moment of external observation, you have removed your internal observation of the body and mind. Your body’s expression of the pose is just as spicy, tranquil, or strong as any other so long as it is safe and not painful for you.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2.46: sthira sukham asanam

This sutra or phrase loosely translates to: “posture should be steady and comfortable.” In this instance, comfortable implies a practice free of aggressive or competitive intentions.

Trade Secret #2: What do I wear?

What you wear to yoga can enhance or limit your physical ability and comfort during the practice. Dress in a way that doesn’t force you to adjust your clothing constantly.

For the ladies

As tempting as it is to hit up your nearest Lululemon and spend hundreds on yoga clothing, know that this is not necessary. Specialty stores have good products, but it’s more important that you are comfortable and feel safe in what you are wearing. Many yoginis prefer fitted attire so that they can move more freely when stretching, but if the old Testudo sweats are calling to you then treat yoself girl!image3

For the guys

Every human body is a work of art, but it is more considerate in some environments to protect your modesty. For example, tucking your t-shirt into your pants or investing in a shirt that is fitted and moves with your body and won’t fall over your head in tripod, as pictured to the right. Compression shorts that hold everything together may also be a good investment if they feel cozy.


Trade Secret #3: Wacky things your instructor may say in English


Often, yoga instructors make statements that sound like weird ramblings to new yogis. Usually their purpose is to remind students of safe alignments. The following are two examples.

  • Shine your heart. Roll your shoulders back and press your chest out. This simple adjustment allows the neck plenty of space and the lungs tons of room to inflate.
  • Bring your awareness to yourself. Put your phone away and then close your mouth and eyes. This statement is either a cue to listen to what your body is telling you (i.e. right knee hurts, left bicep is sore) or your instructor is starting the class and asking for your attention.

If and when you encounter these, and others like them, look around at other students for how they are changing their postures and you may see the adjustment the instructor is cueing.

If not, take a deep breath and don’t worry about it. If you feel it is important, ask the instructor what they meant (or ask after class).

Trade Secret #4: Wacky things your instructor may say in Sanskrit

You are most likely going to encounter the Sanskrit language when attending a yoga class. All yoga practices like breathing or meditation have Sanskrit names since this is yoga’s original language. Here are a few common ones to start building your vocabulary.

  • Asana (pose) – Any word that ends in asana is the name of a yoga pose in Sanskrit. For example, utkatasana is chair pose (utkat-asana) and vrikshasana is tree pose (vriksh-asana).vinyasa
  • Ujjayi (victorious breath) – The instructor is cueing audible breathing that mimics the sound of the ocean. To perform this breath, imagine yourself telling a secret. That constriction in the back of the throat that muffles the sound of your voice is the key. Combine that with your breath. Done as a group, this breath creates a cascading sound.
  • Vinyasa (with the breath) – It is often said like this: “Flow through your vinyasa.” The vinyasa sequence pictured to the right is being cued.

Trade Secret #5: Om & Namaste

  • Om. Typically chanted together at the beginning and end of the practice, om was considered by ancient yogis to have high spiritual and creative power. Sharing in this sound can be a blissful experience. If you are feeling shy, remember to let go of ego and find the strength in your voice.
  • Namaste. This Sanskrit word translates to, “I bow to you.” Some teachers choose to say it in their own way, “The light in my heart salutes the light in yours.” At the end of class with your hands at heart center, bow your head and say, “namaste.”

What else have you been wondering about when it comes to yoga? Leave your questions in the comments below and we’ll be happy to reply!

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