You are thinking about starting an exercise program. You are ready. You are motivated and you are going to dominate and accomplish all of your goals. How do you know what exercises to start with?

Is it some random drawing by throwing exercises in a hat and pulling them out? Do you hit up the internet and find the latest and greatest to follow? Do you turn to Instagram and the girl with the painted-on yoga pants or the guy-that-never-seems-to-wear-a-shirt-in-any-video?

I mean, they LOOK like they know what they are doing, right?

As you look around the gym you belong to, where do you start? And how do you make that determination?

Maybe you workout at home and have minimal equipment available. What exercises should you start with? Why did you choose the ones you chose?

What if you have some injuries you are dealing with? How do you choose what to do then?

If you are starting out on an exercise program and doing it on your own, these questions often do not have answers as they were never considered before starting.

How do you know your body will tolerate the exercises you have chosen? Will the exercises you picked help you reach your goals and improve any pain you are dealing with?

There are very few “bad” exercises. There are plenty that may be bad for certain people at certain points in their fitness journey but this doesn’t make them bad.

If you are going it alone and are following some random stuff on the internet or have some DVDs that you follow they may or may not work. Those workouts or exercises may not be the best options for you, at this point in your journey.

Maybe you wanted to start training sooner but the pain stopped you. Maybe you were training and when you increased intensity, the pain flared.

You are apprehensive about starting an exercise program and getting hurt again. That makes a lot of sense. Pain is a great motivator and a ruiner of good times.

So how should you proceed in regards to your training?

Step one is non-negotiable.

You need some form of an assessment, movement analysis or evaluation before you do any exercise. At EBM, I use my own combination of physical therapy evaluation and movement assessment.

If you are at a gym and you are exercising before assessing, run away. Or at least move briskly away from that person. They are not your friend.

This person is not your friend.

This person is not your friend.

There are a lot of different types of assessments. They can all be utilized with great effectiveness if the person performing the assessment knows how to use that information to design your program to help get you out of pain.

One of the most important pieces of information to take from that is the assessment is only as good as the person interpreting the results.


The assessment is ongoing.

A good trainer/clinician should be assessing you every time you meet. Getting through the initial assessment is great but all variables have to be managed properly to ensure progress is being made while keeping irritation and inflammation as low as possible.

This is done a number of ways. It is specific to your situation. That being said, one intervention works well for almost everyone, even when they have pain.

It is the idea of inverting the rep scheme and/or keeping the reps brief. This is a topic I have discussed before because it works so well and is so underutilized.

Inverted the scheme refers to the idea of doing 10 sets of 3 (or some variation) instead of 3 sets of 10 or more.

This allows you to manage fatigue, reserve technique and manage symptoms better as you have more intervals to limit the overall volume. You could stop at 5 sets of 3 (15 total reps) instead of powering through the 3 sets of 10 (30 reps).

Those extra reps often:

  • Add to the inflammation and irritation (if you have pain)

  • Lead to muscle soreness (volume is typically what makes people sore)

  • Invite compensated movement patterns due to fatigue

    • You basically learn how to do the exercise incorrectly at the beginning which leads to bigger problems and poor results, later.

  • A singular focus on getting a certain number of reps instead of getting the most out of each rep.

It is not uncommon for clients at EBM to do sets of 2-5 reps for this exact reason until they can demonstrate proper control throughout the entire set.


Slow and steady does, in fact, win the pain race.

One of the ideas I preach to anyone I work with when starting a program or rehabbing injuries is the idea of consistency. When you have a good day, do not do a whole bunch more because you will pay for it for days after.

On a day when you feel lousy, do not do a whole bunch less.

When you have a solid plan, you follow the plan every day. Small adjustments can be made but you should not overreact in either direction when symptoms shift.

In every rehab situation, there is going to be a juncture where you feel good and think you are out of the woods. You think you are back, baby!

This a critical juncture and will happen at different time frames depending on the nature of the injury.

Do not fall for this trap.

Lord Helmet would never fall for such shenanigans.

Lord Helmet would never fall for such shenanigans.

Getting your body used to a new exercise routine will take time. Rehabbing an injury takes time. A lot of time. Way more than you think and way more than you want.

But, honestly, it does not matter what you want or what you have time for. Trying to rush the process will just cause you to have to start all over again.

Progression must be slow. And you should only adjust one variable at a time.

Add weight OR reps. Not both. Change the height or range of motion (ROM) but keep the weight the same. Do not change the height or ROM AND the weight.

If something flares up, you will not know which variable caused the flare up. If you change one thing, you have a better sense of what the problem is.

So, stick to the plan and resist the urge to do more or less based on how the day is going.

The video sums up the need for the assessment.

If your exercise program does not start with an assessment or evaluation, you need a new program. However, how that assessment is performed really matters. The assessment is only as good as the person's ability to interpret the results.

If you are ready to start exercising or just want to train a better way that doesn’t beat you up and make you feel worse, then we need to talk.

I do assessments at EBM and I have assessments that can be done remotely. Let’s chat.


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