4 Essential Gym Tips for Beginners
For newcomers, the gym can feel intimidating. It’s a chaotic, noisy environment, full of scary equipment, and people walking around like they own the place. Should you use machines? Free weights? Cardio equipment? What about kettlebells?
The anxiety surrounding the gym deters many people from giving it a fair chance. But structured exercise is so valuable for your mental and physical health that it’s worth finding a sustainable routine you can stick to long-term. Here are four helpful tips to help you build one.
Define Your North Star
Before jumping onto whatever machine is available, reflect on your main goal. Is it social interaction? Weight loss? Bigger biceps? These are all valid aims, but each requires a different approach. If your goal is simply a social outing with a friend, anything will do. If your goal is to build bigger biceps, resistance training for that specific muscle group is key. For weight loss, it’s likely best to include a mix of cardio and resistance training. Without a goal, you’ll flounder, and more than likely give up. Define where you’re going, reverse-engineer your program from there and you’ll find you feel comfortable in the gym regardless of what everyone else is or isn’t doing.
Avoid Overload Injuries
Overload injuries occur when we exceed our tissues’ capacity to handle stress. Here’s a recipe for overload: work from home for 10 years. Then one day – when inspiration hits – commit to hitting the gym five days per week, doing the same routine you did when you were 25. After a couple of sessions, you end up with an injury and lose momentum. Don’t do too much too soon after too little for too long. Start with 1-3 sessions per week, for a month. Once you’ve earned some work capacity, you can progress gradually.
Walk the Tightrope Between Novelty and Consistency
Biological adaptations take time. Increases in strength, for example, tend to take several weeks to kick in. Hypertrophy takes even longer. If you constantly switch up your program, it might not yield the results you want. Stay consistent for at least a couple of months before reinventing the wheel. Novelty is a useful programming tactic to stave off boredom, and keep you motivated, but to begin, consistency is key.
Use Circuits to Save Time
A common reason people don’t go to the gym is that it takes too much time. There just aren’t enough hours in a day. One way to spend less time at the gym but still get results is to implement circuit-style workouts. Instead of doing one exercise – a squat, for example – then waiting 2 minutes to do another set of squats, do an exercise that challenges different muscle groups immediately after the squat. You might do squats, then pushups, then rest, repeating them both back-to-back. This means you can get more work done in less time and challenge your cardio while you’re at it.
The Bottom Line
To improve your chances of finding a sustainable gym routine you enjoy that gets results, define your north star, avoid overload, balance novelty and routine, and use circuits to be time-efficient.