Complete Beginners Guide to the Gym
If you don’t know what to do in the gym or you’ve never stepped foot in one before, it can seem like a pretty scary place. What are all the machines for? How do I do use them? Is everyone looking at me?
That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate gym guide for beginners, that covers everything from what to pack in your gym bag, right up to your very own beginner’s workout. Once you’ve read through this guide, you’ll know everything there is to know about working out in the gym and smashing your fitness goal!
BEFORE YOU START
The gym is designed to give everyone the tools they need to reach their dream fitness goals. Whether it’s to tone up or build strength, anyone is welcome to train in the gym, but before starting your fitness journey, you may be asked to disclose any medical conditions. This helps personal trainers to tailor a routine that suits you.
Here are a few examples that you may be asked to disclose:
- Any existing heart conditions
- Ongoing medical conditions like diabetes
- Any major operations you’ve had in the last 12 months
- Whether a doctor has advised you to abstain from exercise in the past
Always seek advice from your GP if you’re ever unsure.
A gym induction is a brief tour of the gym’s facilities. It covers gym etiquette (which can vary between clubs), how to use the machines, and how you can access each area of the gym.
A good induction is key to getting you started on the right foot. The staff that run inductions will always have tips and advice that could save you a lot of hassle later on, like the best times to use what equipment and what exercises are great for beginners.
Contact our centres now to boom your induction or pop in to reception, our teams are always happy to help! 😊
PREPARING FOR YOUR FIRST VISIT
The best time to go to the gym
There really is no ‘best time’ to exercise, it all depends on your body, so listen to it and hit the gym when it’s most convenient for you. When starting out you might want to avoid peak times, especially if you’re looking for space to explore the gym and equipment. This is usually during the day before the workday is over however the on-site staff will be able to advise you further.
When starting out half the battle is getting through the door. If you’re a new newbie you need to bring much until you know what your doing so start off small – your earphones, a water bottle and perhaps a gym towel if you plan on getting sweaty! If you want to combine your session with a swim or maybe a visit to our Refresh Suite be sure to pack your swimming gear and essentials for a shower after 😊
If you’re feeling self-conscious on your first gym visit, your initial instinct might be to skip straight to the treadmill or weight machine and ‘prove your worth,’ but this is a rookie mistake. One of the most important parts of a good workout is to properly warm up.
Warm-ups are crucial as they prepare your body for the demands of exercise, loosening up the muscles and reducing the risk of injury. This also means you’re less likely to pull a muscle during your workout and minimizes the chances of lactic acid building-up, which can lead to cramping.
This can be as simple as walking on the treadmill at incline for 5 minutes to get your heartrate up!
YOUR FIRST GYM SESSION
Where To Start
Once you’re warmed up and fully prepared, it’s time to train. But where do you begin? If you’re unsure of how to start at the gym, we’ve got you covered.
Good workouts aren’t improvised: they’re meticulously planned ahead of time. Those people who seem to glide from treadmill to tricep press are actually following a well-kept schedule, tailor-made to get the most out of each session.
So what’s the secret to mapping out a workout that works for you? It’s understanding what each piece of gym equipment is designed to do — and how it can help you reach your goals!
Gym Machines Explained
Your induction should include a brief ‘how-to’ for each machine. If there’s one that was missed out and you want to use it, don’t try to figure it out on your own: ask a staff member to show you how to use it properly.
Using a machine incorrectly can damage the equipment or in extreme circumstances can lead to injury — not a great way to start your time at the gym.
Here’s a quick breakdown of some machines you can expect to find in our gyms and are great when starting out:
Section 1: CARDIO MACHINES
Best for: Losing weight; strengthening your heart & lungs
- Treadmill: A running machine that can provide a great workout to improve your cardiovascular strength. You can adjust incline and pace depending on what type of workout you’re looking for.
- Elliptical/Cross Trainer: dual-action trainer that works both your upper and lower body in tandem. Provides a low-impact way of exercising your hamstrings, quads, glutes, chest, back, triceps and biceps.
- Rowing Machine: Simulates the movements of a rower’s body, swapping the water and oars for a handle and chain. A fantastic full-body workout that puts emphasis on your core and melts away fat.
- Exercise Bike: A sit-down cardio machine that works all of your leg muscles. You can increase resistance to strengthen and tone your legs.
- Stair Climber: Like a treadmill, only with steps! Provides a workout that's easy on your joints but still works every muscle in your legs.
Section 2: RESISTANCE
Best for: Building strength & mass; muscle toning.
- Chest Press: Simulates a barbell or dual-dumbbell press in a more controlled environment. Sitting at a 45-degree incline is a great way to engage your upper chest muscles without feeling overwhelmed.
- Bicep Curl: A machine that isolates a workout to just your biceps. Good for toning or developing muscle in your upper arms.
- Cable Machine: Can be used in multiple ways to work triceps, biceps, chest and more. Doesn’t follow a rigid movement like other machines so it works more of your muscle fibres, which is better for building strength.
- Leg Press: Builds muscle and tones your legs by making you push with your feet against a selected weight. Targets your quads, hamstrings and glutes — perfect for shaping up that behind!
Section 3: GYM FLOOR
Best for: Conditioning; targeted stretching; rehabilitation; functional training; freestyle group training.
- Kettlebells: Cannonball-shaped weights with handles. Ideal for merging cardio workouts with strength-training to blast away fat while toning your arms and core.
- Medicine Balls: A weighted ball typically the same size as a basketball. Best used for strength conditioning and rehabilitation exercises.
This area is also great for taking time to stretch pre & post workout!
Free Weights Explained
People who are new to free weights can sometimes make mistakes that lead to injury. Wandering into the free-weight area of a gym and grabbing whatever dumbbell you fancy can promptly cause you to hurt yourself when it turns out to be heavier than it looks.
The good news is that free weights aren’t dangerous if you use them properly. Here’s how you can get the most out of this area at your club.
- Start with Bodyweight Training
Bodyweight training is a form of training that doesn’t require you to use weights in order to build strength. And building strength — not just muscle — is key.
Bodyweight training is a safer way to prepare your body for weight training than going straight in. Things like squats and push-ups are simple ways to get your muscles used to working against resistance. Ask the staff at your club to recommend somewhere you can strength train. If you’ve never used free weights before, it’s a good idea to do bodyweight training for your first few sessions.
- Go for lighter weights first
The first time you pick up free weights, start at the bottom and work your way up. If you’re training with a barbell, try doing a few reps using just the bar. You’ll be surprised by how heavy they are. If you’re feeling self-conscious, know that experienced deadlifters still warm up by using the bar on its own, so you won’t be the only one.
- Remember gym etiquette
There are a couple of rules to follow if using the Free Weights area:
- Don’t drop weights - Dropping weights constitutes a safety hazard. Not only that, but it also damages the kit and disturbs other members. Instead, you should slowly lower weights back down to the floor when finishing your sets.
- Put weights back - Nothing is more frustrating than getting half-way through your session before finding the next set of dumbbells is missing because someone misplaced them. As soon as you’ve finished with your weights, place them back in the correct place on the rack (also wipe down with sanitiser!).
- Ask for a spotter, but be considerate – some exercises (such as a bench press) are dangerous without a spotter. Our staff are always happy to help, so ask if they could spot you, or try using one of the machines instead. Don’t drag someone else out of a focused workout if you don’t need to.
It can be a little bit daunting to use free weights if you're unfamiliar, so don't be afraid to ask a member of staff for some pointers on your technique. It's what we're here for!
Gym Workouts For Beginners
Now you’re more acquainted with the equipment in our gyms it’s time to put them into practice.
There’s no “one size fits all” workout but here’s a great workout for beginners. Done right it should take you 45minutes to 1 hour to complete.
- 5-minute Cardio
A 5-minute fast-paced incline walk on the treadmill to get your heart rate up and mobilise your joints.
- Resistance Training
Choose a weight that you can comfortably lift for 10 reps. The last few reps should be really challenging! Do three sets of 10 reps for each of the following exercises, leaving around 60 seconds’ rest between each set.
- Dumbbell Lunges
- Leg Press
- Lat Pull Down
- Dumbbell Shoulder Press
- HIIT Cardio Circuit
A HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) circuit is all about intervals of contrasting training, consisting of brief but intense bursts of exercise (where you give maximum effort) are followed by low-intensity recovery or rest periods.
Find a space on the gym floor where you’re comfortable and complete 5 rounds of the following:
- 10 Burpees
- 10 Press-Ups
- 10 Sit-Ups
- Stretch & Cool Down
Stretching and cooling down after a workout is essential to preventing injury and be as simple as a gentle 5-minute walk on the treadmill.
SUPPORTING FITNESS JOURNEYS
Attending the gym regularly is a fantastic step towards achieving your fitness goals. If you really want to reap the results, though, you should sign up for a gym class.
Gym classes are sessions led by a professional trainer who will take you through a fixed set of exercises. They’re done in groups, so it’s the perfect opportunity to build some friendships as well as pushing yourself a little further than you might when training solo.
There are hundreds of different classes to choose, ranging from yoga and pilates to SpinFit and our Les Mills offerings. Each class varies in intensity and duration. If you’re just starting out, we recommend trying a few different classes first to see what ones you enjoyed most!
To book classes visit here:
Booking A Personal Trainer
Classes are great for giving you new ideas for workouts, but they can’t always help you move forward with bespoke goals. For this, you might need to work with a personal trainer.
Personal trainers are fitness professionals who work with clients to create custom workouts and provide advice during exercise.
What can a personal trainer help with??
- Reaching an ideal weight
- Developing strength
- Rehabilitation after an injury
- Improve their performance in a particular sport
Many gym members find it’s worth the extra cost of even just a few sessions when you’re starting out because it sets you out on the right path, meaning your workouts are more effective going forward. Personal trainers will also keep you accountable to your goals, preventing you from slowly drifting away from your routine.
Find out more about our PTs here:
BECOME A GYM PRO
So there you have it: the gym is no longer a mystery.
In time, it’ll all become second-nature to you. As you build confidence, you’ll begin achieving the goals you set out for yourself and establish a routine that keeps you fit, happy and energised.
Whatever level of fitness you're at, always remember that if you’re unsure about anything during your exercise experience, staff members and PT's are always happy to lend a hand.
We hope you love your time with Inverclyde Leisure!
Sign up now here: