I feel the time has come for me to truly write a beginners guide to training. I found this post difficult to write as I have been in the gym a long time and couldn’t really remember how I brought myself into the weight area of the gym, or where I learned the majority of what I do know. I once had 0 clue about weights and the gym, and still have so much to learn, but I hope this post sheds some light on the topic for beginners. So in order to write this, I questioned many of my friends/readers about why they find it difficult to enter the gym and what would entice them inside. As many Bodyfit Geek readers have access to a gym, they need to overcome the obstacles and understand there should be nothing to fear in the gym. I am going to attempt to tackle this right now and give you the reassurance you need to give it a go.
There are a few questions you must ask yourself before entering a gym; why haven’t you tried going until now? What are your goals? These basic questions can help you understand what you hope to achieve whether it be for health reasons, increasing fitness levels, body shaping , increasing strength, toning or a combination of all. So the real question is Why don’t you go to the gym? Many readers answered with intimidation, lack of knowledge of equipment and exercises, embarrassment and not enough time in the day. These problems each need to be tackled one by one..here it goes.
Lack of Knowledge
For regular gym bunnies this may be repetitive but this blog is to inform people who have never stepped foot into a gym. Weight training is simply a form of exercise that involves lifting weights. The first thing to state is always start off with light weights, and do not increase these too soon. I have listed types of equipment below that you should become familiar with. After this, I will explain some terms used by trainers who write programmes etc. The exercises I briefly mention below are not too advanced and anyone reading this is very much capable of carrying them out.
Equipment and machinery for – working arms (Biceps and Triceps), chest and back
Dumbbells are found in every commercial gym and are used to perform chest press, shoulder press, bicep curls, tricep kickbacks and front raises (Youtube these moves if you are not familiar)
Use light weight (10kg) to perform movements such as bent over row, Clean and Press, front raises, chest press and shoulder press.
- Lateral pull down machine
This machine targets different back muscles depending on where you choose to grip the bar. Leaning back about 30 degrees, Pull the bar towards your chest while squeezing your lats. Think of squeezing your shoulder blades together to pinch & hold a piece of paper in place. Make sure you feel the squeeze in your back muscles and not so much in your arms (use low weight). Hold at contracted position for 1/2 seconds and then slowly return to starting position. During this movement you should not lean back too far, as this will put strain on your lower back.
- Kettle bells
Kettle bells are useful little gems when you want to increase cardio by performing kettle bell swings, as well as using them for sumo squats or even holding them when carrying out single leg lunges.
Working legs (Glutes, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Calves)
- Squat rack
This is a very diverse piece of equipment as it also contains a 20kg barbell which can be used for squats, deadlifts, bent over rows, shoulder press etc. As well as this, squat racks can be used for pull ups and chin ups. This is a very important piece of equipment in the gym and you just become familiar with racking the bar safely. Do not fear asking for help with this as safety comes first. Everyone starts somewhere, and at some stage, personal trainers did not know how to use a squat rack. Remember that.
- Leg press machine
This is found in essentially all gyms and involves weighted plates being manually added to the machine. Start by adding the lightest weight plates to each side and gradually increase to understand your strength. As leg press is a compound movement, it means many muscle groups are used (Glutes, quads, hamstrings). Place legs on the platform about shoulder width apart (can vary depending on muscle targets) and release safety handle to allow weight to be released. Push the platform away from you until your legs are fully extended. Never lock out your knees. Lower the platform and bring your knees towards your chest, and fully extend again. Fully lock the security handle when the repetitions are complete.
- Hamstring/Leg curl
An isolation movement is performed on this machine targeting the hamstring muscles. It involves placing legs on a padded lever and flexing the knee. Hold the flexed position and slowly return to starting position.
- Leg/quadriceps extension
This involves extending your leg fully while legs are holding the padded weight on a machine. This machine involves pushing the weight and opposes muscles used in the hamstring curl seen above.
Don’t forget the most important tool of all when exercising-
- Body weight
You can use your own body weight to perform movements such as push ups, planks, body weighted squats, pull ups, leg raises. The list is endless!
Other things to take note on:
Repetitions: This is the amount of one exercise performed consecutively.
Sets: This is the amount of cycles of repetitions that you carry out.
Training ‘core’: Exercises to increase strength in abdominal muscles, back muscles and pelvic muscles.
HIIT training: High interval intense training involves bursts of anaerobic exercises with slower and less intense recovery periods in between (i.e Sprint for 30 seconds, jog for 30 seconds for 10 minutes)
PT: Personal trainer
I recommend training different body parts on different days. When beginning I used to use every machine whether it be training my legs back or arms. Now I have come to understand that going into the gym with no programme is like entering a swimming pool with an anchor on your leg. You really need to have a plan made and know what you want to achieve. You could use up a lot of energy and see 0 results because of this mistake.
I don’t think a single person has NOT felt intimidated one time or another in the gym. The key to overcoming this is looking at the bigger picture. People go to the gym because they want to improve their body image, increase their fitness and wellbeing and simply feel good. Even though you may feel like all eyes are on you and your clumsiness, I can assure you they are not. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that people are very self-obsessed in a gym environment. As a matter of fact, you really are just a number to every other gym goer and this should not prevent you from going to blow off steam. Ways to tackle this will be increasing your self-esteem by gaining knowledge on exercises. Plus, the more you go the gym, the more conditioned you will become to using equipment. You will get used to it sooner or later.
(Let’s be real.. I was in the gym about a month ago doing HIIT (High interval intense training) on a treadmill and fell off, most embarrassing moment. All I wanted to do was go home, but instead I stayed as long as possible until the feeling of utter embarrassment wore off. You gotta accept it happens & realise everyone makes mistakes and feels intimidated, but they really aren’t!)
This does fit into intimidation at the gym, however I felt it was so extreme it needed a paragraph on its own. If the personal trainers at the gym are not helpful or approachable, this should not deter you from all gyms. It is beyond me how people who choose to train people as a career can give off the impression as if they don’t want to help or have anything to do with potential clients. If you do not know how to use a machine or do not understand a workout or programme, you should feel you can ask a personal trainer as that is what the gym is paying them for. If you feel you can’t do this, maybe ask someone who is doing it to show you, or even a friend. If this still is not possible, I would consider changing gyms, as this environment is not good. Some readers would be interested in a buddy plan, where you can go with a friend to the gym as a guest on a pass. I highly recommend this as going once does give you the confidence to continue to test your abilities.
Men only zone
This is a common misconception. The majority of readers find it very daunting to head over to the weight lifting area as they feel it is packed with men and they would look silly if they went over to lift weights. All I can say is nuh-uh. The weight area is for ANYONE who want to learn more and improve their physique. I feel this issue varies as there are plenty of women in my own gym who work out in the weights area and that this is growing in popularity. However if you feel that this is a problem, a friend can always calm these fears if you bring them with you. Also some gyms have a women’s only area if you really don’t want to train there. The way I see it though is men and women do everything else together, so why should training be any different? You really need to get through this one by slowly allowing yourself to get more confident, and making new friends in the gym the more you go.
Don’t know what workouts to do.
First things first, get a programme from either a personal trainer, a friend who knows their stuff, online coach or even from a reliable internet source. This is such a simple step, yet can be detrimental to you kicking off your gym days if you do not do this. Also I’ve been asked about ab workouts etc. My simple answer is, if your body fat percentage is not low enough, your abs will not be seen. Majority of slim people still have too high a body fat %, meaning all of their painful crunches and sit ups have gone to waste. Other workouts such as squats and deadlifts still work these muscles along with many other ones, which is why they are so important in training. You should be shown had to do these carefully by a professional.
I know people think I’m the anti-cardio girl (slightly true) but cardio is SO important for maintaining a healthy heart and reducing risks of so many diseases. Always incorporate low intensity exercise into your week such as walking, cycling etc. as well as higher intensity training. If you only run, or cycle, you can still lose weight, but it will pack on much quicker and will not tone your muscles.
Best time to go to the gym
In my gym, I notice the busy times to be at around 8-9am, 12-2 pm and 6-9pm. This reflects that people gym before work, during lunch and after work. If you feel your schedule is too busy to exercise, you are fooling yourself. There is always an hour in the day which should be for you, and if there isn’t, something needs to change. It is important for your physical and mental health, so buy a diary and plan where you can fit your workouts in.
Always remember to ASK SOMEONE-anyone
If you are ever confused about what exercises to do or are unsure about your safety while carrying out an exercise please ask someone around you. Bite the pride and ask, as it will remain with you for your gym days. Feel free to drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org. I stress that I am not a PT but can offer my advice on what has worked for me & info from the many talented people I have had the opportunity to have worked with over the last year.
This blog is simply to provide a more thorough understanding of terminology and equipment. Each person reading this blog has different strengths and body weight; therefore I cannot recommend certain weights to every reader. I have just provided some basic views and am always happy to help anyone with questions. Go over any advice you have read with a PT at the gym when possible and stop movements immediately if you feel pain.
& Finally—Thank you ALL so much for voting for me in the Aussie blog awards. Still so happy I won best readers’ choice awards and I want to continue providing everyone with good quality information, tips and recipe ideas.
I must say a special thank you to my science girls of UCD for providing their individual thoughts on the gym and providing great ideas for this post. S.O to Ashleigh B too <3 Have a smashing summer guys xxxx