There's a lot of misinformation when it comes to strength training. How many days should you work out? What exercises should you focus on? Should you exercise to failure, or focus more on endurance?

Vic Magary, creator of the 40 Days Fit Program has been helping people with questions such as these since 2001. We had the opportunity to ask him some basic questions about how beginners can start introducing strength training to their lives. Here's his advice:

1) First, tell us briefly what you do, and about the 40 Days Fit program.

Vic: I help people lose weight and get fit without gimmicks or hype. I speak the truth in an industry that is often more concerned with shrinking your wallet than shrinking your waistline.

The 40 Days Fit program is a combination of strength, muscle building, and fat loss training and diet. It can help people achieve impressive body transformation results in about 6 weeks. I personally lost 26 pounds in 40 days when testing the program.

2) For someone who's new to strength training/fitness, how do you recommend they pick a routine they'll actually stick with?

Vic:I recommend they start with an amount far below what I like to call the "perceived level of compliance". Many people think that they will exercise for an hour or 30 minutes when first starting out, but it's usually tough to make that kind of dramatic change.

More often it's better to initially focus on habit creation instead of getting a "killer workout". For someone brand new to fitness I recommend starting with 5 minutes or less of an activity that they enjoy and will do consistently.

5 minutes might not sound like much - and that's the point - but it's better than sitting on the couch watching sitcom reruns. Once the 5 minute habit is established, you can always build from there and increase the duration of exercise.

3) For me, boredom is a major issue when strength training. I often hit my my max and stay there for months. What tips/techniques do you recommend to keeps strength training interesting/motivating?

Vic: Someone who has been training long enough to hit a plateau should also have been training long enough to have a strong enough technical base and be ready to try some different versions of the basic exercises.

Someone who has good technique with the back squat and has hit a plateau might want to try the front squat or even the overhead squat. Someone who has hit a plateau with the deadlift might try the suitcase deadlift or single leg deadlift.

But regardless of how long someone has been training, the basics should always be returned to and integrated into the training program.

4) Do you believe in lifting until failure (as advocated by routines like 5 X 5), or do you believe that leads to bad results?

Vic: The short answer is yes, I believe in lifting until failure and I do not believe it leads to bad results. The longer answer is that this method must be curtailed with safety. Going to failure with the push up is fairly low risk. Going to failure with a heavy barbell squat is probably not smart - even with a spotter.

That being said, progress comes from continually challenging your comfort zone and previous limits. And you never really know your limits until you fail.

5) What's the ideal balance of cardio and strength training? 3 days of strength to 1 day of cardio?

Vic: I'm not a fan of traditional long slow steady pace "cardio". My opinion is that it is unnecessary and should only be done if someone truly enjoys it. Instead, I favor high intensity short duration interval activity such as sprinting.

The balance of strength to cardio or interval work is going to depend on the goal. Also, self experimentation is crucial in finding out the proper mix for the individual. That being said the 3 to 1 ratio you mention is a fine starting point for general fitness.

6) For people without the proper equipment such as barbells/dumbbells, what are the most important bodyweight exercises they should focus on?

Vic: Push ups, pull ups, and body-weight squats. These three movements are the basics of the basics. For a more full-body movement that cranks the heart rate, go with burpees.

7) What are the most important exercises for building 6-pack abs?

Vic: The most important exercise for building 6-pack abs is pushing your plate away at the diner table. Seriously, diet is the most important aspect of reducing body fat to the level that will show off "six pack abs". But as far as actual exercises, compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, pull ups, and standing overhead presses are the most important exercises.

Also high intensity interval training using exercises such as skipping rope, kettlebell swings, and hill sprints can be beneficial. I would consider direct abdominal training such as hanging leg raises "icing on the cake" and not very important for building 6-pack abs.

8) Do you have any plans in the future such as releasing a new book?

Vic: Yes, my latest Kindle book "5 Minute Fitness" is in the works and I will be launching the Fat Loss Action Academy at the beginning of 2013. To register for early notification of when the program opens, people can go to

Vic Magary is a U.S. Army Infantry veteran and has been helping people lose weight and get fit since 2001. You can learn more about his no-nonsense approach to health and fitness without gimmicks or hype at


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