How to...get started in the gym.

Wednesday 08 February 2017

How to get started in the gym

If you are new to the gym it can be a pretty daunting place. Everyone in there seems to know what they are doing and they feel very comfortable moving from one exercise to the next with little thought. While this may be true at times, it is only the tip of the ice berg.

Every single person in a gym had a first day. Even the fittest person in there started from scratch and with little to no knowledge of what they are doing.

This is by no means a programme design blog post, nor is it a how to build muscle, lose weight or get fit quick post. This is simply an introductory post to help you get started, feel a little more comfortable and not completely waste your time in the gym.

What to wear?

Despite air conditioning a gym can get very warm. Wear a pair of shorts or breathable leggings, a t-shirt and comfortable runners. Don’t wear loads of layers. Sweating lots will not help you lose body fat.

What to bring?

Bring a bottle of water and a small towel to wipe your face and equipment after you use it.

What to do first?

If you are entitled to a programme design with your membership, then that should be one of your first port of calls. Meet with the gym instructor and tell them your goals. They will help you put together a programme to suit your needs.

If you do not have access to the above, then go and chat to the gym instructor on duty and tell them you are new to the gym and would like some tips on resistance exercises to train all your body. They are there to help.

If they are not available, then follow these steps to get you settled.

Hop onto a bike or cross trainer and start moving at a very easy pace for 10minutes to get the blood flowing around the body and get you comfortable.

From there take a walk around the gym and have a look at the various areas and equipment available. You should never be intimated by any area in a gym, we all have equal rights to every space and piece of equipment.

If the 10 minutes wasn’t very taxing, then try a new cardio machine for another 10 minutes. The variety of exercise will make the time go faster and make your body work harder.

From there you should then head over to the resistance machines. The resistance machines are the pieces of equipment that generally have a built in seat and some adjustable weight plates. Take a seat and read the instructions on the machine. Generally you will find instructions on use and the muscles involved. Start with a light weight but not too light. Aim for 10 repetitions at a weight that you could have done 15 reps of (a repetition or “rep” is the movement forward and back or up and down).  Take 60-90 seconds rest and repeat these 10 reps twice more. Each group of 10 reps is called a set. So there you would have completed 3 sets of 10 reps.

If you have just worked your chest muscles for example on a chest press machine then you want to balance that by working an opposite muscle, eg the back. A chest exercise is a horizontal pushing exercise so from there you want to perform a horizontal pulling movement for example a seated row machine, and again 3 sets x 10 reps (with a weight you could do 15 reps of). Likewise, if you perform a vertical pushing exercise such as a shoulder press machine then after that you want to balance that with a vertical pull exercise, with a movement such as a lat pull down.

All of those movements are upper body movements. Don’t forget to exercise your legs as they contain the largest muscle groups and will help you lose weight and burn fat all over the body. Also if your goal is strength then the legs will be the foundation of this strength. We’ve all seen the memes and they are very true, NEVER SKIP LEG DAY ;). If you work a movement that trains your quads then this is considered a push movement. To balance this, you want to work your hamstrings, ie a pulling movement.

If you worked the above patterns with those reps and sets you’ve given your body a nice workout. You could finish up with some sit ups to work your core.

This is what the above would look like as a programme.

Warm up x 10min on bike at easy pace

  • 10 min on treadmill or cross trainer at a faster pace
  • Chest Press 3 x 10
  • Seated Row 3 x10
  • Shoulder Press 3 x10
  • Lat Pulldown 3 x10
  • Leg Extension 3 x 10
  • Leg Curl 3 x10
  • Sit ups 3 x 20

As a beginner you should stick to resistance machines until you can get some help to learn more about free weights. It’s difficult to cause yourself harm on a resistance machine but free weights if done in correctly can cause a lot of harm.

Try to get to the gym 2-3 times per week. If you are very sore then just do some cardio on the cardio equipment, go for a dip in the pool and spend some time in the sauna or steam room. Your body will begin to adapt and get stronger and recover quicker over time.

Don’t give up. We all start somewhere and most experienced gym users are very supportive as they were once in your shoes. Again you should seek advice from professional gym instructors or personal trainers to equip yourself with the knowledge to keep advancing in your fitness journey.

Happy training! :)

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