Beginner’s Guide to the Gym: 10 best practices

Whether you want to take your fitness game to the next level or want to get in shape for the first time, a gym membership can help you meet your goals. However, those first visits can be a little intimidating, even if you’re already the proud owner of a fully equipped set of home gym equipment. Knowledge and preparedness can help decrease gym intimidation and distractions so you can stay focused and motivated. The following 10 tips will help beginners maximize the gym experience from day one.

1. Avoid ego lifting.

When you lift with your ego, you’re pushing or lifting more weight than you’re able to impress your friends or that cute girl over there on the other side of the room. You’re also doing so without considering form at all, meaning you’re at a high risk of injuring yourself.

The temptation can be strong to try to impress others when you’re new to the gym. Nevertheless, stick to maintaining form and lifting safely. More experienced lifters can spot an ego lifter at twenty paces anyway, which you’ll soon learn.

2. Understand that hygiene is important.

A gym is the type of place that sees hundreds of people come and go every day. Every last one of those people sweats while they’re there, meaning it’s easy for bacteria to spread. If everyone does their part, gym hygiene remains intact.

After you’re finished using a particular bench or machine, do the clean, courteous thing and use a towel to wipe it down thoroughly. You wouldn’t want to use a bench with someone else’s sweat dripping off of it, would you? Don’t make someone else do it.

3. Always put weights away when you’re done.

Spend much time at any gym, and you’ll see that lifters of all experience levels will occasionally fail to observe this simple rule of etiquette. It also won’t take you long to learn that no one likes that guy.

Not putting weights back where they belong when you’re done forces the next person that needs them to hunt all over before they can start working out. Plus, leaving weights lying around is plain dangerous, as it’s all too easy for someone to trip and fall.

4. Focus on working out, not socializing.

Some people choose to work out at the gym because they like having a full selection of quality equipment at their disposal. Others opt for the gym because they like the idea of socializing. It’s fine to like both, so long as you prioritize.

Taking too long between sets because you’re too busy having a conversation is just plain rude when others are waiting to use the equipment. Plus, not everyone will welcome the opportunity to shoot the breeze at length.

5. Make sure you’re using collars.

Free weight training is the most common, popular form of training among lifters. However, it’s important to realize that it’s also the most dangerous, as the weight isn’t on a fixed plane. This leaves it free to move around as it likes instead of staying put.

Make sure you’re lifting safely by using collars when squat pressing or bench pressing. Collars help prevent dangers associated with lopsided lifting. Using them becomes especially important if you’re new to lifting.

6. Realize that, at the gym, more isn’t always better.

When you’re new to working out, it might seem as if more is better. More sets, more reps, more time, more weight – it can only lead to faster, better results, right? In actuality, the quality of your reps and your time spent is a lot more important than the quantity.

Gym beginners should start out by focusing on a balanced, full body workout. Start small and work up from there instead of risking injury by doing too much too soon. When it comes to lifting, definitely don’t add additional weight just for the sake of trying it.

7. Understand the importance of form.

As touched on above, one of the easiest ways to spot a newbie at the gym is their form, which is typically improper. Best-case scenario, if your form is bad, is a lack of results. The worst-case scenario could be a serious injury.

Set aside time to perform your lifts and exercises correctly. Check out a visual library for reference. You can also enlist the aid of a personal trainer or ask a gym attendant.

8. Make sure you’re properly balancing cardio with strength training.

Anyone that’s been going to the gym long will have noticed a trend when it comes to who uses which machines. Most women tend to go only for the cardio machines, while most men make an immediate beeline for the weights instead. Both are missing out on the benefits of properly balanced workouts.

Weight training alone will not make you lean and ripped. You need cardio to help melt away excess body fat and build endurance. Cardio alone won’t make you toned and fit. You need to lift to build lean muscle. Get your new workout program off to a good start by keeping things balanced right from day one.

9. Always have a plan.

Fitness goals have a lot in common with other types of goals. If you’re serious about succeeding, you need a plan. Put together a workout split right from the beginning so that you know which muscle groups you’ll be working on, as well as a detailed cardio schedule. Track your progress by keeping a journal and/or using an app.

10. Don’t forget about nutrition!

At the end of the day, you can work your butt off at the gym and follow your workout plan to the letter. However, you won’t see the results you’re after unless your nutrition is rock solid as well. Fuel your body properly with lean protein, whole grains, plenty of fresh produce, and lots of water. Make sure you’re recovering properly after your workouts. Your body will thank you for it!

Contributed by Carole Klein: Carole has a B.S. in exercise physiology and is a fitness industry expert with more than 20 years of experience as a competitor and personal trainer. She works for Unique Fitness Concepts and lives in Chicagoland area. In her spare time she enjoys all facets of physical fitness, gardening, contemporary art, and is a huge 60’s music and Beatles fan.

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2 comments on “Beginner’s Guide to the Gym: 10 best practices

    • Personal trainers are a great resource for formulating successful fitness plans. Not all trainers are created equally, so be sure to do your research first (and don’t discount credible online resources as well). You have options! 🙂

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