Common Weight Lifting Mistakes Made By Beginners

Avoid the common mistakes most beginners to weight training make and start growing as soon as you hit the gym!

Weight training MistakesThe world of weightlifting is huge. Believe me, I know that there is a lot of information to take in and it is extremely difficult to learn enough even to know what you are doing. As a beginner, jumping into this gigantic pool of knowledge and information can be very discouraging and even dangerous. This article is designed to help you avoid some of the basic mistakes that a lot of beginners run into. I will highlight some of the more common mistakes that beginners make, ranging from what you do in the gym, to diet and supplementation.

Remember that the forum is always there and we have tons of very experienced members that are willing to help you reach your goals. All it takes is a little effort and research and the rest of the help will come.

1. Overtraining

A common mistake is that having sessions lasting hours long or performing tons of the same exercises several days a week will get you better gains. "Less is more" when it comes to weight training. Remember that your central nervous system and joints come into the picture, and suffer a lot more from the abuse of weight training then your muscles.

Your muscles grow when you are resting, not when you are at the gym. This is because when you lift weights, you create tears in the muscle tissue. When you rest, the muscle repairs itself and becomes larger than before. How long it takes to repair will depend largely on your diet and how much sleep you get per night.

To help avoid overtraining, use some of the routines already on this site, and remember not to take an intermediate or advanced workout routine until you have more experience. About 3 months before an intermediate routine and several years before an advanced routine. Remember that it is also recommended that about every 12 weeks, you take a week off of weight training to heal any of those little nagging injuries and to give your central nervous system a break.

Realted overtraining article: Overtraining, Why Less Is More - By Shaun McEwan

2. Cheating

Cheating occurs when you are using a weight that is too heavy for you to lift, but you continue to lift the weight and sacrifice form to do it. You will see it all the time in gyms, people who lean back and throw their elbows foreword when doing bicep curls, people that bounce the bar off their chest when benching etc. This not only limits the gains you can make, but it also can lead to injury.

To help avoid cheating, learn how to properly perform an exercise, and train with that form using little to no weight to start. After you feel you have the form down, slowly bump up the weight until you can perform the exercise with the reps you need exactly the same way as you were performing with the little to no weight. Remember that although you should train to failure, you shouldn't sacrifice form to do it.

If you want to maximize your training, you should know that on the fast concentric (positive) movement trains the nervous system; the slow eccentric (negative) movement trains the muscle. So you should perform the upward part of the movement fast, and the downward part of the movement slow. For example, when doing pull-ups, pull yourself up quickly, and slowly lower yourself down. This puts as much stress as possible on the muscle and teaches your nervous system how to lift a load.

Remember that cheating not only hinders your gains, but it makes you look foolish as well. Nobody likes to see some guy screaming as he hammer throws 70 pound dumbbells for his bicep routine.

3. Lifting Heavy Early

If you are under the age of 18, stick to the 8-12 rep range. Lifting weights higher then this can cause damage to growth. This is because as a teenager the growth plates on the end of the bones haven't yet closed, and performing heavy maximum lifts can cause closure prematurely of these growth plates (epiphysis), and can also cause injuries to the bones themselves.

Combine this with the fact that most people starting out will not do well handling the immense load that is associated with low rep ranges, they will usually put themselves at risk of immediate danger, not only growth plate damage. Play it safe, and work with proper form and the results will come.

4. Using the low rep ranges to get big, training high reps to burn fat

This couldn't be further from the truth. First off, diet plays the most important role in determining how shredded or how big you are. You can pound all the weight you want, if you eat crap you will look like crap. Second, to train for size, the 6-12 rep range is optimal. The low rep ranges train muscular strength, which helps little in increasing muscular size. Remember that fat burn is achieved mostly by cardio and high intensity weight training. This can mean low rest times, supersets etc.

5. Using a professional bodybuilder or power lifters routine

You might think that because a bodybuilder is huge and used a certain routine means that you will get huge using that same workout. This is not true. Bodybuilders have been training for years and their routines will most likely be far more advanced for you to attempt. You should also consider the fact that not everything will work for everybody. Just because a guy is big and got good results from doing something doesn't mean that you will too.

6. Starving yourself in order to lose weight

Yes it sounds silly, but you would be surprised at the number of people that think this way. Dieting doesn't mean that you can't enjoy food ever again, or that you will always be hungry. Split your meals up into 5-7 a day of smaller portions. This keeps your metabolism working and will help you be less hungry through the day.

Remember that when you starve yourself, your body holds onto any fat it has and you will lose muscle instead. This is very unhealthy.

Use this BMR Calculator to calculate your daily calorie needs, and then subtract 500 from that number if you want to lose about a pound per week. Combine this with exercise and you will lose fat and hold onto muscle. You will be surprised at the amount of calories you can eat as long as you exercise.

There are many great articles on this site that already deal with construction your diet; I suggest you read them through carefully.

7. Relying too much on supplements to grow

Without proper diet and training supplements will get you nowhere. Remember they are called SUPPLEMENTS because they SUPPLEMENT your diet. If your diet is in check and you have done everything you can to ensure that real foods play the dominant role, only then should supplements be considered.

Remember that companies like Muscletech and BSN shell out tons of money to get bodybuilders like Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler to endorse their products. On labels of these supplements you will find statements such as "Gain 7 pounds of muscle in 3 weeks" etc. Remember that these claims are usually exaggerated.

Before you buy any supplements, do research and educate yourself on what's worth it and what's not. It will save you a lot of money in the long run.

8. Neglecting Carbohydrates and Fats in your diet

Carbs and fat are an essential part in any diet, even weight loss diets. This is because carbohydrates are our main source of fuel. Without carbohydrates, particularly complex carbohydrates, the body would begin to use other sources and this could cause problems, such as becoming easily fatigued due to lack of glycogen.

Fats are needed as well. Fat is essential to maintain good health. That being said, you should get your fat from healthy sources, such as olive oil and nuts. Remember that trans-fats are bad for you no matter what, and should be avoided at all costs.

A final note...

There are a ton of helpful articles on this site, and you should read through all of them that pertain to your goals. Remember that nothing happens overnight, do not get discouraged and remember the things I mentioned above.

This article was written and researched by MastaShake15 from the M&S Forum.

About The Author
M&S writers is a collection of all the other writers that have published content on Muscle and Strength.

67 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Thu, 07/10/2014 - 16:35
zack fred

yea those were my mistakes thankx for the support made hve more confidence good luck with that

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Posted Thu, 07/10/2014 - 16:25
zack fred

Really those were my mistakes, thanks for the help trying it made me have much confidence in becoming a successor

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Posted Sun, 03/16/2014 - 14:48

A week off? You should never take an entire week off. If you feel yourself getting tired then a week of low weight and high reps should be taken, never a week off. I benched 415 my senior year of high school and I never once took a week off. Just keep working hard and keep your bodies happy.

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Posted Tue, 09/10/2013 - 11:49

Hi I am getting back to wieght lifting after being off of wieght lifting a couple years I am 6'1" 235lbs I do cardio,abs and all around body wieght lifting with couple big movement excersises like squats dead lifts bench I work out 5 days a week sometimes 6. I know I read the article but my question is do I need to rest more? I feel great I don't feel overworked no big soreness no weakness and I keep my work outs under 2 hours keep in mind I do cardio for 20 min

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Posted Fri, 08/23/2013 - 08:30
Raymond P

here it is, I'm 40 yrs old, 135 lbs and would like to start building muscle, I don't go to the gym however I have just gotten a gym membership. It's hard juggling a family of three and my work is active. I don't need to lose any weight, I have read your articles for the beginner and am thinking of starting there. My question is , Am I going to lose weight once I start this workout? IDK maybe a silly question. :P

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Posted Sun, 08/04/2013 - 17:43
Dan Collin

Hi everyone, what a brilliant article. My name is Dan and im 22 years old, 6ft 4 and weigh around 23stone, for years ive tried and tried to lose weight but ive had such a terrible lack of willpower and ive stoped after a few weeks, now im older and maturer and have battled through over problems in my life (drugs etc) I feel I am now ready to sort my body and health out. My son is 4 months old and I don't wish to be tje fat unhealthy dad stood at the park watching him play football I wish to be running around playing with him without getting out of breathe. Im going shopping on tuesday this week and will be getting everything necessary for my diet (I will be using a diet/weightloss meal replacement milkshake for my breakfast and lunch and a piece of fruit to accompany the shake and then a low fat high protein low calorie meal in the evening and if and when I feel hungry during the day I will drink water. I also have a diet weight loss tablet I will take daily). I have bought myself a top of the range exercise bike which has heart rate monitors etc on it, also I have a set of dumbells and a tricep curl bar and weights in total of 60kg and I also have wrist ankle weights (2.5lb each wrist and each ankle). I will be purchasing a weight bench with a leg curl on the end aswel and also purchasing a decent barbell so I can bench press and some extra added weight as I know I can bench alot more then 60kg. I get confused with the whole low weight/high reps/sets thing so im wondering (I know it's cheeky) but could someone write me up a workout regime to implement all my equipment, I plan to exercise monday to friday and rest weekends or do one day at the weekend aswel. I would seriously be so very grateful as ive suffered with years of social anxiety and I know losing the weight will highly boost my confidence. My email address is if someone would be so kind to email me even if its just with tips or hints if not a complete workout. Thankyou, Dan.

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Posted Sat, 10/19/2013 - 21:45

diet fabs are not the answer. You can only trick your body for so long...You need to put foot to ground...take me for instance, I been fat since I was born (or can remember) and it has already been a steady fat, something like I am always 20-30 pounds over weight (always fat enough just to have a beer belly) by looking at me, one would think (this guy is a pig) which isnt true...sometimes I feel like 100% of what i eat goes right to belly fat....I recently stopped drinking diet sodas (i heard they was bad for you), and i have been walk about 5miles per day on avg for about a month now (so far, lost 2.5 pounds) I figure I just have a broken metabolism as my doctor always wants to dance around providing zero answers. I guess I will have to walk everyday for life, or deal with my belly fat for the rest of my life. I just recently got a weight set to start lifting some....

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Posted Thu, 08/01/2013 - 05:23

I am 60, working 7-12 hr. days in Afghanistan. I have played around with weight lifting some, but really need some direction as to diet and routine. I am 5'-10" and weigh 180 and a smoker. I don't have access to 5-7 meals a day but have access to protien shakes and such at the PX. I have limited hours at the gym as the military has first use. I would really like to lose my beer gut and have a better shape then one of pear.
What if any supplements would you recommend as my food choices are very limited as to whats on the menu.

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Posted Mon, 07/29/2013 - 09:35

i thought weightlifting was squat c&j snatch? wtf is a bicep curl

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Posted Thu, 06/27/2013 - 07:02

They say that it takes 2 to 3 days for the muscle to recover. Is that right? So is it ok to workout everyday and targeting two muscle parts? For example, i work on chest and tricep on monday, tuesday i work on back and bicep, wednesday i work on shoulders and legs and thursday i go back to my chest. Having said that, my chest and tricep has rested for two days and vice versa. So is it ok to continue doing this everyday? Somebody please help

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Posted Sat, 04/13/2013 - 04:41

I've recently made the change to lose fat and gain muscles my step dad told me to take in about 200g of protein and 200g of carbs a day and I would hit the 205 that I'm trying to get to I'm currently 255 and after a month I've lost 10lbs I just want to make sure what I'm doing is safe

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Posted Wed, 04/03/2013 - 18:06
Timothy Wilkes

Wow what a great site some really helpful people on here. I have just started working out 203lb and 28 yrs old I have recently bought a multi gym and am looking for a work out plan that will give me best results I know Rome wasn't built in a day and won't see results just looking for some guideline and we're to start. I'm quite a heavy build and run 6 miles 4 nights a week. Any help will be most grateful.

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Posted Thu, 03/21/2013 - 12:39
John McRae

After lifting wights what food should I eat like eggs chicken bread or fruit and veg and houe much say after a 1 hr and half workout or less woul a chicken or tukey sandwich do on normal bread or do I need more or less i need to feed my muscles but with what ?

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Posted Wed, 04/10/2013 - 21:53

It's all good but it's all about what you are trying to do. I try to get anywhere from 1.25-1.5x my body weight in protein. I'm not much of a calorie counter but I know what works for me, I listen to my body. Usually if I am feeling weak I have an insufficient amount of carbs so I will eat some wheat bread, sweet potato, or brown rice. I try not to eat the same thing everyday because it just gets old so I will make pork one day, chicken another, a light white fish, or steak. Since I am more in a cutting phase I stick more to chicken or fish. Instead of adjusting my calories, I use cardio to create my deficit because cardio isn't bad for your muscle retention if done properly.

Sorry for the incoherent rant but to answer your question, eat a lean source of protein with some veggies and brown rice. It is really about moderation though. I eat about 8oz of chicken with brown rice and veggies an hour or so after my workouts. I also take a protein shake immediately after.

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Posted Mon, 03/18/2013 - 12:27

Hi I'm 26yrs old male, 5ft 11in (180cms), I weigh around 68 kgs (150 lbs). I have joined gym last week.
I want to put up weight of around 20lbs by doing weight lifting. I also want to run as i have very low stamina. when i asked my training if i can do both, he said running will reduce my body weight. I want to know if that is true.
And BTW nice article.

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Posted Mon, 03/18/2013 - 00:21

Hi, I'm 33 with five kids. I've but on weight but in the wrong places. I gain weight up top (shoulders and mid section) This looks horrible on a woman. Especially since I'm not flabby, I'm solid and look like a linebacker, lol. I'm trying to drastically change my figure but losing weight with cardio but at the same time build my leg muscles so that I can look balanced. Is this possible? If so, what is the quickest way to do it? My ultimate goal is to lose 20 lbs in fat and get as much muscle mass in my legs and butt as possible while training at home. HELP!

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Posted Thu, 03/07/2013 - 15:40

I recently heard that mass gainer protein should not be taken after a workout but before bed and that a protein powder should be taken after a workout instead. Is this true?

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Posted Thu, 03/07/2013 - 17:32

Hey Harry! Personally, I wouldn't drink a mass gainer shake right after a workout. I opt for waxy maize and pure whey isolate protein for my post-workout shake. Mass gainers don't skimp on fat, which can slow down digestion. Since you're looking for a quick intake of protein, it really isn't the most effective route. In addition, most mass gainers also include protein that is slowly digested on its own, like casein. I wouldn't necessarily drink a mass gainer before bed either, as it's usually very high in carbohydrates and fat. I would instead drink it between meals in the afternoon, and opt for casein before bed.

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Posted Fri, 02/22/2013 - 22:24

Hey Steve man can you help me out I'm 20 lift pretty hard, but hardly achieve gains that I invision. It's extremely hard for me to bulk, I stick with a 45lbs dumbbells and have ahad maxx bunch around 260lbs which kills my shoulders. I'm 5'11 and really considering juicing but dont know where to get real gear? Took protein powders didn't care for the results while using them. Mostly just lift at home with Olympic curl bar and flat bench press. I'm very strong for no bigger than I appear, but I really want alot more volume in my arms biceps shoulders?

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Posted Tue, 02/19/2013 - 12:10

We live in a STRANGE world... Where the POOR WALK miles to get food , and the RICH walk miles to DIGEST food.

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Posted Tue, 02/19/2013 - 01:30
Rinku Rawat

really good article for begginer. its really helpfull for me.

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Posted Thu, 02/07/2013 - 19:02
PFC Swierkosz

Im taking Pro Hormones. Bad or Good for bulking up? Super DMZ RX 2.0

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Posted Fri, 02/22/2013 - 01:18

You weigh 120lbs as a man. You don't need to even think about prohormones. If you can't get past 120lbs naturally, you are doing it completely wrong. Do you know what PCT is?

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Posted Thu, 02/07/2013 - 10:29
Michael Hollander

Should I start lifting weight if I am only 14?I wanna train some muscles

mnsjason's picture
Posted Thu, 02/07/2013 - 19:00

You can weight train, as long as your doctor and parents give it a thumbs up.

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Posted Fri, 02/01/2013 - 12:40

Hi guys I'm 14 im benching 60kg and I take 100% whey protein about 2 times a week after my gym sessions. I'm just wondering can you give me some tips on taking protein and doing my workout because I don't want to stunt my growth. Thank you.

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Posted Mon, 01/28/2013 - 10:55

Hi I am 16 years old and trying to get big. I was originally 230 pounds but I cut to 185. My question is if I have a fat stomach should I weight train or continue with cardio?

mnsjason's picture
Posted Fri, 02/01/2013 - 17:04

Weight training itself is a great calorie burner, so I would recommend that you incorporate this into your weight loss goals. This is also a good time to focus on form, which is as important as the weight you lift. Being that you're looking to cut more weight, you wouldn't really be lifting heavy. There are plenty of good routines available for you to check out here:

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Posted Tue, 01/22/2013 - 18:27

hi dave here im 36 im looking to start exercising,i weigh 14 stone im 5:9 in height average build but my main head ache is my stomach which is 41 inches across largest part of stomach.what program or exercises would you reccomend to use, to lose this or turn this fat to also looking to start lifting weights to build muscle.i had a full check up and my doctor has given me all clear to do this,i would appreciate any advise on a weekly exercise program for a beginner.kind regards dave

mnsjason's picture
Posted Thu, 01/24/2013 - 18:01

Hey Dave! It sounds like you would be interested in a cutting routine, and there are plenty to choose from here:

Pick one that suits your schedule and circumstances. Consistency is key. You might also be interested in some general fat loss articles:

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Posted Thu, 01/17/2013 - 23:56

Hi first time here I need some advice basically I'm a hard gainer I'm eating a lot and training also using MetRix size up I train four times a week is that ok ? Also how do I know I'm lifting too light? I'm dead lifting 60 kg although had to drop down because of stomach infection

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Posted Thu, 01/10/2013 - 21:44

If i only lift weights at my dads and i only go there every other weekend what should i do when im not there?

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Posted Sat, 01/05/2013 - 12:24

Hi, My name is lee and I am 16 years old. I'm 6'1 and weigh 145 pounds. Over the years I would mainly focus on high intensity cardio. I am a very good runner but I want to start building muscle. Do you have any recommendations on diet and weight lifting?
Thank you

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Posted Sun, 12/23/2012 - 20:32

Hey i was wondering i am 16, should you do drop sets at the end of your set lift you were suppose to do, like; lat pulldown 3x8-12 and 1 drop set

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Posted Fri, 12/21/2012 - 00:52

I'm 18 & weigh about 120 pounds. I want to get fit, not get skinny. . build muscle! Any recommendations on diet, weight lifting & workouts to try?
Thank you for your time. :)

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Posted Mon, 12/17/2012 - 16:57

The whole "eating 5-7 small meals a day to speed metabolism" myth has also recently been debunked. Just sayin!

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Posted Thu, 12/06/2012 - 13:15
PFC Swierkosz

I take creatine, and a C4 pre workout. im maxing out at like 120 right now. i weigh about 125. im in the army national guard so i get alot of time in the gym and with PT. Is getting to weighing in at 160 in 7 months a realistic goal? and i wanna bench up to 150.

Joey's picture
Posted Thu, 12/06/2012 - 13:44

5 Pounds a month is certainly possible. Don't underestimate how much you'll need to eat. Make sure you're gaining at least a pound per week. You'll need to eat A LOT! 

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Posted Fri, 11/09/2012 - 04:47

Do none of you read the article you just commented on?

Take a week off after around 12 weeks to give yourself a break.

If you are just getting into weights, start on a beginner workout for 3 months. Then switch to a intermediate workout.

To get 'toned' you need to build muscle, and lower your body fat enough to make the muscle definition visible.
To get 'big' you should continue to weight train, whilst attempting to eat 500 calories per day more than your daily maintenance amount. (Usually 2500 however eat clean aka not binge eat)
To loose weight, combine cardio and weight training and aim to eat 500 calories less per day.

Toby - If you'd damaged your CNS, you would know about it. You probably havent as it's difficult to do.

Ray - Congratulations on deciding to become healthy and make a change. However you will need to do more than light weight curls. Begin at a pace you are comfortable with, try cardio
(choose out of: running/walking/swimming/skipping/jump rope/trampoline/cycling/even star jumps) 3 times a week for 20 minutes each of those times. Also, add in weight training: (Overhead Press, Squats, Bench Dips, Dumbell Bench Press, Dumbell Rows, Renegade Rows, do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps) twice a week. If you are unclear of any of those exercises, type them into google and you will get lots of video instructions.
As for diet, aim for 500 calories less a day (i.e maintenance calories should be 2500, so aim for 2000, this way you should aim for a loss of 1-2 pounds a week).
As you have Type II Diabetes however, I would recommend talking to your GP/Doctor before starting a diet.

As for everyone else, good beginner programmes are things such as Starting Strength, Mehdi 5x5, All Pro's. Google them.
Intermediate programmes would be push/pull split, upper/lower body split. Again, google the type of split you like and read the results.

If you are wanting to create your own routine, what I did was the following: write out all the muscles (Traps, shoulders, biceps, triceps, chest, abs, back, legs, calfs), then write out exercises which target those muscles. e.g. Shoulders: Clean and press, lateral raise, push press. Then select a day you want to work that muscle group. e.g. Monday = Chest and triceps, Tuesday = Back and biceps, Wednesday = Shoulders and Traps, Thursday = Legs, Friday = (Whatever muscle you want to work twice, for me, it's shouders again) then take the weekend off.

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Posted Tue, 10/30/2012 - 19:40
Mauricio Rivera

my question is when to take a week off i train three times a week heavy around 2 to 3 reps for either 6 to 8 sets with extra exercises like jumps and Olympic type moves for time speed or endurance and i am an ectomorph if this helps

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Posted Sun, 10/21/2012 - 18:14

howya,ive just got a home gym which consist of weights bench cycle and cross trainer,im in my forties and would like to get toned up as the oul tits are a bit saggy.Any advise on program and diet would be very welcome? Thanks

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Posted Thu, 10/18/2012 - 09:51
pingo 14.i would like to start weight training at home using only free weights i.e dumbells and barbells.some people have told me to lift low weight and low sets but high reps.i would to use my ten weeks holiday to do this.please advise me.will i gain muscle if i follow this routine: 3 days per week. monday wednesday and friday.can i work all body parts on one day or do i have to split it?

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Posted Sun, 10/07/2012 - 07:58

How long does beginner's workout and intermediate before moving to next level....

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Posted Sat, 09/29/2012 - 14:59


My name is Rafi, Im 16 and after working out on and off throught the teen years I decided to take a final step and lose fat. My routine is workout 5 times a week with 3 different workout rutines for 3 different parts of my body. For example I run the tredmill for 30 one day, the next I do weight training with 15 lb about 15-20 reps of each thing that I do, and I do crunches, situps, elbo-to-knee, ect kn the 3rd day. Do you think I should change what im doing or no? I use to be 206-210 more than a month ago and im not 193-195 lb. I lost a inch off my waist. Also I don't feel sore after weight lifting, I just feel like my arms give up. What do you think steve?

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Posted Mon, 09/24/2012 - 15:55

Does anyone take Energy Supplements? I've recently started using caffeine before my workouts, I've noticed a HUGE difference in intensity. It's been awesome. I prefer to use energy "shots." You can get some for a good price, my particular favorite is one called Eternal Energy shot. Super convenient.

Anyways, just wanted to share what's helped me

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Posted Mon, 04/28/2014 - 17:14

nice plug

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Posted Sun, 09/09/2012 - 21:03

hey im just starting out trying to maximize muscle and also loose a bit of weight (5 10 300lbs) ive been going about a week whats the best routine to keep to gain alot of muscle and loose weight all at once?

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Posted Sun, 07/01/2012 - 14:16

Wow-here goes the honesty!I am in terrible shape.6' 370lbs.Type 2 diabetes high blood pressure.49yrs .old .Its time to do something about it.I have been on a low fat diet for 10 days and definitely am feeling better.I've been doing 8lb curls 3 sets a day,35reps and have already noticed a change.I know change doesn't happen overnight,am patient ,looking forward to a huge change.I have a very positive attitude and won't be denied.What suggestions do you have for me?Its never too late,I need instruction and advice.Thank you.

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Posted Thu, 08/16/2012 - 21:13

Ray, at your weight, you should be focusing on dieting first and foremost, and cardio routines such as jogging, yoga, etc. I would suggest supervision from a doctor and/or trainer.

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Posted Wed, 09/05/2012 - 00:34

Hi ray, I would start slow. Diet is the most important part of your journey to good health. Add cardio and weight training at your comfort. There are countless websites, blogs, and videos showing you how to eat, do exercises, etc.