Beginner’s Fitness Guide Part 1: Which exercises should you start with?

Welcome to this new 5-part guide on how to get started with your health & fitness journey. Working with experienced coaches from Pinnacle Performance, each week you will discover a new post filled with helpful fitness tips and insights.

Ready to start? Let’s look at which exercises you should include in your new fitness routine.

Part 1 by Paul Magnus

Top 5 exercises for beginners:

1.Split squat

This is a squat using a staggered stance, and it targets the quads and glutes, with secondary emphasis on the hamstrings. This exercise is great because it allows you to master a simpler movement than the two legged squat. Split squats train the muscles of the legs, hips, and core to overcome muscle imbalances and help to promote flexibility and deep range of motion, as well as ensuring knee stability which will help reduce the chance of injuries. Novices should start with the front foot elevated on a stepper.

ex 1

2.Leg curl (varied positions)

Strong hamstrings work to stabilize your knee and hips and help to keep your spine properly aligned. When doing hamstring exercises try varied foot positions, such as turning them inward or outward. Each foot position creates a different line of pull on the hamstrings.


3.Bench press

The bench press is an excellent exercise for the chest, shoulders and arms. It allows you to train pressing strength and power and is a key lift for achieving upper body balance.


4.Overhead press

This exercise is great for building the shoulders and traps, and can improve your overall shoulder health. It will also help you with doing other upper body multi joint exercises.


5.Seated cable row

The seated row is an excellent exercise for strengthening the back muscles and improving posture. Also, using a rope extension reduces the stress placed on the forearms and wrists.

ex 3

And finally… some more tips:

  • Be patient and consistent. Results take time.
  • Shorter, more frequent workouts are ideal for beginners so limit workouts to less than 45‐60 minutes.
  • Pick a training mode that suits your goal.
  • Stick to the basics, don’t get sidetracked by more advanced training tools.
  • Learn proper training technique.
  • Always have a plan when you walk into the gym

Exercise of the Week: Tire Flip

The tire flip is a part of strongman training (ak.a functional training). It improves strength, power development and conditioning.

The flip looks simple but don’t get fooled by the size of this tire – it is relatively heavy!!!
The movement should be generated from the lower body. Your arms should be slightly bent in a comfortable position, feet wide apart. Lower your bum similarly to a hack squat position, keep your chest lifted. Lock down your upper body and drive from the legs. When your hips, knees and ankles are extending flip the tire simultaneously upward and forward.

“The tire flip has become a fad exercise, unfortunately. You see coaches allowing people to flip tires using rounded backs and poor technique. The tire flip is an exercise one must earn.

What does that mean? First, you need to get strong in all areas of your body. You can approach this a number of ways, but you definitely need to be proficient at these exercises:

  • Deadlift (conventional, sumo, trap bar)
  • Clean and press (barbell, kettlebells, dumbbell, sandbag)
  • Pull-ups

Now, don’t let that list lead you to believe that you deadlift the tire to flip it, or that you use your biceps to curl it up. Neither approach will generate enough power to get a decent-sized tire up on its side. As I discuss in the video, a tire isn’t like other weights. You have to drive through it, not lift it.

Before you get excited and run outside to hunt down some rubber, understand that there are some dangers behind the tire flip. Your back and arms are at the greatest risk of injury, so keep these two tips in mind:

  • Relax your biceps to avoid curling the tire.
  • Keep your back tight to avoid rounding of the back, especially your lower back.”




Do yoga and squats tone your body?

This week we answer a question from Uganda. PT Kim will answer Ingrid’s questions below:

Question: Is basic yoga just stretching or does it do something to your body like tone you? And do squats really make your butt bigger and tighter?

What the expert says:

Hi Ingrid,
Thanks for your two questions on yoga and squats.
Is basic yoga just stretching or does it do something to your body, like tone you.
Yoga has historically been a practice used for uniting the mind, body and spirit. Many people use this practice to still the mind from day to day disturbances. Although yoga is great for improving your flexibility, posture and balance it is unlikely that basic yoga will yield results as quickly as other strength training.
Don’t get me wrong, yoga can be used for strengthening muscles/toning however it does not stress the muscle enough over time for someone looking to bulk up or add more muscle mass. Most forms of yoga use mainly body weight sequences and well toned people may find that this alone is not enough to reach their fitness goals. The practice is usually not fast enough to provide high intensity cardio therefore it won’t help greatly in improving your cardiovascular health. In addition, those who want to obtain muscle definition from yoga would need to practice a more advanced form several times a week.
Dependant on what you want out of your yoga practice and if your fitness goals are to tone up – I would say that basic yoga would be a good addition to your fitness regime rather than the core of it.  
Do squats make your butt bigger and tighter?
In short the answer is yes however there are a lot of other contributing factors like genetics that play a part. Look at people like Jennifer Lopez or Kim Kardashian whose body shape is initially down to their genetics.
Squatting can make your butt bigger or smaller depending on your starting point. What I mean is if you have body fat to lose then squatting will make your butt get initially smaller but more tight and toned. If however you are already lean then you can create a bigger butt through strength training. Whichever boat you are in though it is sure to say that squats do shape up your glutes making them feel and look tighter.
The great thing about squatting is that it is an entire lower body workout, working your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves. Squats are a great way to build muscle which in turn is a great way to reduce body fat and increase your overall metabolism. There are many variations of the squat that can be used to target different areas. If your goal is to build a bigger butt then performing weighted squats two to three times a week will aid in doing so.
To perform a standard squat you should start with your feet shoulder width apart and toes pointing slightly outwards. Keep the back straight and sit down as if sitting in a chair. You want to concentrate on keeping your weight in your heels and aiming to bring your thighs parallel to the floor. Many people can find getting a deep squat difficult due to ankle mobility, if you have this issue then try squatting with small weight plates (1-2kg) under each heel which compensates for reduced ankle mobility.
Hope that helps and happy squatting!!

Exercise of the week: Walking Cable Squats

The walking squat will prepare your legs and core for a typical “leg routine”. This exercise is perfect for the start of your leg workout and a warm up for squats as well as a great finisher during a quad session. The idea here is to go heavy and stay low in the squat position making small steps back and forth. You should be feeling the burn in your quads!

Here’s how to do it:
1. Set up the cable machine waist high and hold the straight bar attachment with your arms extended in front.

2. Keeping your chest up, drop to a squat position (little more than 90 degrees)

3. Make a small steps back (staying in the squat position) 6-8 and repeat 3-5 times. Thats one set 😜


Debunking Popular Health & Fitness Myths – Part 2

By Adrianna McDonald


This is a big misconception amongst the ladies. I say it over and over again: lifting weights to build muscles is a long, hard journey, which requires lots of discipline. Weight training is by far the best way to increase lean muscle mass, speed up your metabolism, lower your body fat, and most importantly improve overall health.  Women do not produce enough testosterone to suddenly turn into HULK! At least, not naturally.

Trust me, I’ve been lifting, for more than 10 years, regularly! Women on average have about one tenth the testosterone of men, the level of testosterone varies greatly and influences women’s strength development more than is typical in men. What’s more magical about lifting iron is that it improves confidence, self-esteem and increases libido. So, step off the treadmill or stepper and start lifting! Stop being “afraid” and embrace weights to build and sculpt the body you want.



Even though you’ve worked out and raised your metabolic rate, the caloric deficit may not be enough (and in most cases never is) to be able to eat whatever you want. You can’t out train a bad diet! It’s still calories in vs calories out. This is most likely why you are not seeing any progress in the gym. Be smart!


Believe it or not this type of training on its own will only increase your muscle endurance. It for sure has it’s place in a weight training program and in bodybuilding it has its purpose at the very end of the comp prep. However, the definition and shape of your muscles is defined by a mix of muscle mass and body fat. The bigger the muscle and the less fat, the better the definition (genetics do help as well).

Photo 7-13-16, 4 47 32 PM


Muscle soreness (DOMS) becomes evident six-to- eight hours following activity, peaking around 24 to 48 hours post-training and it simply is an ‘inflammation’. DOMS is most pronounced when you introduce a new activity, increased intensity or volume or if you are a total beginner to physical activity. Your body is making adaptations to better prepare your muscles to do that activity again.

You may not get soreness all the time since your body will be able to withstand a bit more after every training session, especially if you are working out regularly. But stop for a week or more and you will get sore again. The strength and size gains will still happen providing you target the muscles with the right stimulus.


As stated above, truth is that you will feel less sore as your body adapts to your workouts and learns to distribute the workload across your muscle fibers more effectively. That is why you should regularly change your workout routine (2-3 weeks). But genetics play a major role to how sensitive we are to pain and soreness. People have different pain-threshold (i.e. no-responders, low-responders or high-responders to soreness). If you’re a high-responder, you will experience DOMS more acutely than someone who is a no- or low-responder when given the same training load.


Exercise of the week: Cable Reverse Flyes

The rear delts function like a back muscle – they help you pull your arms downwards and/or backwards.

They get quite involved in your back training but it’s important to add in at least one isolation exercise in your shoulder program to strengthen them.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Facing the pulley machine bend over until you are parallel to the floor.
  2. Hold each cable with the opposite hand.
  3. Create tension as you slightly pull your arms away from your side – about 30-45 degrees.
  4. Pause on the top and slowly bring your arms down to starting position.

Key points to remember:

  • Avoid retracting your shoulder blades so that you isolate the rear delt.
  • Make sure the pinky (outer palm) side of your hand is leading the way.
  • Keep elbows up high to avoid using your back muscles.

Exercise of the week: Front to Lateral Raise Combo

The Front to Lateral Raise Combo is a great shoulder exercise. This combination can recruit and develop the anterior and lateral deltoid muscles. It’s great as a part of a warm up or superset.



Here’s how to do it:

  • Stand straight holding dumbbells or small weight plates in each hand.
  • Keeping your elbows slightly bent, raise the weights directly in front of you to shoulder height, avoiding any swinging.
  • Pause before moving the weights laterally to your sides.
  • Slowly lower them down to your thighs.

Can you Get Fit by Working out for 1 Hour a Week?

By Alan Bichara

Surprisingly, people don’t enjoy going to the gym as much as we would like to think. In my career I have met a good amount of people who drag themselves to the gym just because they “had” to do it to stay fit or look good.

People are just too busy, too tired and too preoccupied with other stuff to even go to the gym. So many reasons pop up in their head when it comes to staying fit: driving to the gym, traffic, wanting to sleep-in before work, wanting to just collapse on the couch after work. All these are reasons for you not to achieve your fitness goals.

But what if there is a way to spend an hour a week to stay fit or keep your weight down?

What is HIIT and how do you do it?

HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training is an advanced form of Interval training. You will use an alternating period of short, intense anaerobic excercises and longer low intensity recovery periods. The good thing about it is you can either do cardio or resistance training with this method.

HIIT sessions primarily start out with a 5-10 min warm-up to loosen up your body, either with dynamic stretching or just steady cardio to increase your heart rate slightly over the normal range. This will prepare your body for the higher intensity workout that it will go through in the next few minutes and prevent a shock to your system. Second will be the HIIT session that usually lasts 20-25 mins. End with a 5 min cool down that will let your heart rate go down gradually without causing blood pooling to avoid the feeling of light headedness and nausea post-workout.

HIIT starts with 20 secs active mode and 40 secs rest mode or 30 secs active mode and 45secs rest mode. The 2nd option is more advanced since you have a longer active period and just a slightly longer rest period.

Let me show you an example of HIIT sessions using resistance training and cardio training.


Resistance training circuit with HIIT

1 set

Active mode: bodyweight squats 20 secs

Rest mode: march in place 40 secs

A: push up/press ups 20 secs

R: march in place 40 secs

A: jumping jacks/star jumps 20 secs

R: march in place 40 secs

A: mountain climbers 20 secs

R: march in place 40 secs

NOTES: This HIIT workout is for beginners. To progress you would want to start to jog in place during the recovery period. This small change can make a big difference with this workout.

1 round of active and rest period will last one minute, making the whole circuit last for 4 mins which means you just have to repeat it 5 times to reach the 20 minute mark.

HIIT Cardio workout

1 set repeat for 20 rounds

A: Cycle (on a stationary bike) for 20 secs at intensity level 8 keeping the RPM at 130

R: Cycle for 40 secs at intensity level 6 and RPM 80

NOTES: Seems like a very basic workout but this 20 mins is much better and will be much harder than your 1-hour steady cardio workout.

To progress with HIIT we can either do more reps in the active phase (bodyweight), lift heavier weights (resistance) or go faster (cardio). You can also try to do more in your recovery mode. For example, instead of a full rest for 40secs, maybe march in place, and eventually jog in place if you have a very strong cardiorespiratory system.

And the benefits are? 

The benefits of HIIT range from practical non-workout related to the physiological benefits. It will help you save time by doing 20-25 mins a day three times a week. It is more interesting than your traditional 1-hr bike/walk in the gym. It will make you burn more calories during the workout and especially in the hours after the workout.

The science behind HIIT boasts of its “after-burn” effect or EPOC (exercise post oxygen consumption) which is your body’s natural ability to return to homeostasis after exercise. This will last for 2-hrs post workout, which in the end will make you burn more calories in 20mins HIIT + EPOC compared to your 1-hr steady cardio on the bike/treadmill, and some say can also raise your metabolism for the next 24-48hrs.

So next time you feel lazy, know that it only takes 20mins to stay fit and feel great!

Fitness, lifestyle, Nutrition

Debunking Popular Health & Fitness Myths – Part 1

By Adrianna McDonald


Sit ups are definitely great for strengthening your abdominal muscles and lower back, but they won’t melt the body fat from your abdominal area even if you do 100 a day. If your waist is a problem look into your diet as the truth is “Abs are made in the kitchen” combined with a great workout routine. The less body fat you have the more visible your abs will be. The magic lays in between the energy in and the energy out.



If your daily calories meet the requirements for the day, and your diet throughout the day is balanced, it won’t matter much when you eat them. Your resting metabolic rate doesn’t change much when you are asleep. Weight training during the day can increase your sleeping metabolic rate, resulting in greater fat oxidation while you are dreaming of a perfect beach body. Focus more on quality of carbs and the daily intake of both calories and carbs.


A lot of products labelled fat-free, sugar-free, diet, low sodium and low carb are selling very fast these days! People blindly believe that these products are healthy and can be eaten without limits. The truth is often these products which are “free” of something are full of other replacement ingredients: artificial sweeteners, salt, MSG, artificial flavors and crazy additives. These highly processed foods create increased hunger, less satisfaction from eating and consistent cravings thus making you eat more.


Egg yolks are seen as the bad boys in eggs and are often removed from most dieters’ menus. I still see people asking for egg-white omelets. The poor youlkies got a bad rep for increasing cholesterol levels, promoting heart disease, and wreaking havoc on your waistline. But you should know that they come with nutritional benefits and taste better. One whole egg contains around 7 grams of complete protein, and it is a great source of heart-healthy omega-3s, B vitamins, and choline. Unless you are eating 20 eggs a day there is no need to remove the yolk.


This is still by far the most popular myth amongst many women who are scared to lift some weights as they don’t want to turn into “HULK”. Unfortunately cardio on it’s own burns away fat and muscle, leaving you with a “floppy “ body. Combining strength training with a healthy diet will give you better results. Weight training builds lean muscle mass, which increases your metabolism and burns more fat in shorter time, and continues to burn fat while you are resting.



Exercise of the week: Face Pull

Face pulls are one of the most underrated upper body exercises. We seem to forget that they not only lead to size gains but also strengthen your rhomboids, traps, and external rotators.

This exercise also acts as a corrective movement to fix issues caused by “bad benching” (bench pressing) and bad posture due to the long hours spent working seated at a desk.



Face Pull With a Pause (variation):

Holding the peak contraction will “teach” the low and mid-trap fibers to stabilize the scapula (shoulder blades). Pull to the forehead to target a slightly different area of your upper back (compared to pulling to the neck).

You can perform this exercise seated or standing. You can also change grip to overhand grip or neutral grip.

In the video Miranda is performing high face pull to the neck:

  1. Stand facing the cable machine and grab the rope with an overhand grip
  2. Pull through the elbows, moving the middle of the rope in a straight line towards the neck.
  3. Make sure you fully retract the shoulder blades at the midpoint, squeeze, and then return to the starting position