So, you have finally joined a gym. Congratulations. You have taken a very important step. Your future self will thank you for this investment.
Pretty soon, though, you will realise that you have to actually step into the gym and use the equipment.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t know where or how to start, worried about the big guys and scary equipment, or if you just feel lost…
Then this guide is for you.
After reading this, you will be able to walk into the gym with confidence. You will understand what you need to do and how to do it
PS – First prize will always be to have a personal trainer or experienced lifter show you the ropes.
The most important thing we need to discuss first is the goal of weight training in the beginning stages. Whether you have decided to start training for the purposes of losing weight, getting bigger, or just to be healthier, the initial goal for weight training is the same for everyone. That goal?
Stimulate your muscles to adapt to load and learn to do exercises safely.
The biggest mistake beginners make is to jump straight into training without understanding the principles of training. It is like trying to install a very complex operating software on a computer without reading the instructions.
Rushing into training will lead to injury, decreased effectiveness, and probably looking like an idiot.
When you start weight training for the first time, your muscles will be sore. It is a natural part of the process. It is because of a phenomenon known as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). We want to try to keep that to a minimum at first. If you are too sore, you will miss consecutive days that could have been used for training.
So to summarise:
- Take it slow. Ease in to your new routine.
- Educate yourself surrounding the basics of weight training.
If you are reading this, then you are already nailing point 2. Well done.
The biggest obstacle you will have to overcome initially will be the need to feed your ego. No one wants to be the guy lifting the pink weights. It feels like the eyes of the world are on you when you reach for a lighter weight.
Do me a favor. Relax.
Experienced lifters will not blink twice when they see you lifting light weights. They will not mock or criticise you for it. In fact, they will probably encourage it. Everyone had to start somewhere. The funny thing is that now that I have been lifting for many years I am extremely comfortable jumping into the gym and doing a lighter session. Why? Because I know my body. And that is the most important thing.
Why try and impress guys in the gym? There is absolutely no point!!
Everyone is so busy looking at themselves in the mirrors that they will hardly notice what you are doing. And if there are some guys who, for some incomprehensible reason, take offence at you lifting light weights, well, just turn up your music a bit louder and stay focused. The people who matter support your journey… from the start.
The most uncomfortable thing you could possibly do, but also probably the most beneficial, is to ask for advice. You will find that the weight lifting community is really quite accepting and happy to help you learn. It is a journey that never stops. There is always more to learn.
Of course, make sure to time your questions. Please do not ask the 130kg bodybuilder about your curling technique when he is maxing out on squats.
As we mentioned, our goal is to condition your muscles for weight training. The program, therefore, will hit all muscle groups on different days, with enough rest in between days.
Let’s do a quick overview and then dive in to some of the details.
|Cardio (20 minutes)Bench press (3×10)Bicep curl (3×10)Tricep push down (3×10)Crunches (3×10)Military press (3×10)|
|Cardio (20 minutes)Squats (no weight) (3×10)Deadlifts (KB) (3×10)Leg extensions (3×10)Leg press (3×10)Lying ham curl (3×10)Calf raises (seated) (3×10)|
|Cardio (20 minutes)Lat pull downs (3×10)Pec deck (3×10)Barbell curl (3×10)Push ups (3×10)Crunches (3×10)|
There are many ways to split a workout.
Factors that influence your workout split include:
- Training competency
- Time available
- Facilities available to you
Our workout split is based on competency level. Since you are a beginner, we need to adjust your body to training.
The program features an upper body/lower body split. This means that on Day 1 you will do exercises targeting various upper body muscles. And on Day 2 you will do exercises targeting lower body muscles. Day 3 is a variation again of Day 1.
This split will allow your body to rest and recover properly between sets. Remember that even though we are allowing for decent recovery, you should still be cautious of overloading the weight you use during exercise.
Many guys feel that resting wastes time, but nothing can be further from the truth. It is on your rest days that your body is repairing itself, becoming stronger, and adapting to the stimulus you imposed on it. Treat your rest days like gold.
Reps and Sets
When you see 3×10, it means that you will do the exercise 10 times in one go (reps) and then repeat that 3 times (sets).
You can have vastly different results by mixing up your rep and set ranges. Some workouts require high volume, where you can be working up to 15 – 20 reps at a time and do a total of 100 reps per exercise. These are usually part of some hypertrophy strategy. See German Volume Training. Other workouts require you to drop your reps and sets in order to use heavier weights. Perfect for strength training. See 5×5 workout.
Our rep ranges are somewhere in the middle. So we are not going too heavy, nor are we going for volume. The idea is to maintain good form throughout the exercise and to stimulate the muscles.
You should take a break between sets of around 30-45 seconds. This will allow your muscles to recover and be ready for the next set.
We have selected simple exercises that form the basis of weight lifting. Exercises that will lay the foundation for more complex movements later on.
Exercises like squats, deadlifts, and chin-ups are known as complex exercises. They involve multiple muscle groups and therefore require more strength and control. Most importantly, they require good form and technique. During the early phase of your weight lifting journey, it is unlikely that you will have the coordination, suppleness, or strength to do these properly. Without guidance from a professional, it is the easiest way to injure yourself.
You will note that squats and deadlifts do feature in the program. They feature so that you can spend some time getting to grips with the technique. Do not use weight. It is OK, to do these exercises with an empty bar or even with a broomstick.
As you progress, you will see that your work capacity, volume tolerance, and recovery improve. After some time, you will have built a solid base from which to progress to more advanced exercises.
A few notes on exercises:
- Please do not use too much weight. You will not impress anyone. All you will accomplish is to over-exert the muscles and potentially injure yourself.
- Do all movements with control. Stay focused on the muscle you are working. Do not swing the weights. Control your ascent and descent during any movement.
- I have included videos at the end of this article. These videos are from various sources covering proper technique for ALL the exercises in the program. Please take some time to look at them. It is much easier to learn new movement techniques from scratch than to try and correct them later on.
Where to from here?
Now, it is up to you to get into the gym and show those weights that you are not scared of them.
Remember some basic gym etiquette:
- Take a towel with you. Use it between sets and place it on benches when you use them. It is hygienic for you and those around you.
- Take a water bottle with you and stay hydrated.
- It is always a good idea to have some music in your ears. Grab a pair of headphones and crack your favourite tunes. You will not believe the difference it makes. It will help you push that little bit harder and do a little more.
- Do not grunt like an ogre. Yes, at some point, you will lift massively heavy weights that will require maximum effort. And then, we can excuse some occasional noises escaping from your mouth. But till you are there, keep it to yourself.
- Replace your weights. If you are strong enough to lift them off, then you are strong enough to put them back.
- Do not drop your weights on the floor. Unless you find yourself in a Crossfit gym. In which case, it is kind of mandatory.
I sincerely hope that this guide will give you the confidence you need to go to gym and crush it. If I left something out, then mail me – [email protected]
Leg (Hamstring) Curl
Originally posted on BetterMan.BluePrint Reprinted with permission.
Photo Credit: bark/Flickr