A Beginner’s Guide to the Gym


After working out in the gym for a few years, I’ve gone from total newbie to gym rat. I only wish I could go back in time, and show myself the way around the gym and get some guidance. Well, I can’t do that but I can do the next best thing, help others!

The most important thing in fitness and health is your determination. I can tell you what to eat, when to workout, what exercises to do, but until you have your own determination, your own focus, your own commitment, you won’t see any results. Because really, deep inside us we all “know” how to eat right, we all “know” that exercises are good for us, but until you really want it, until you truly commit to it nothing will happen. You have to change your life.

I’m here to help. Like a supplement. The key to seeing results and achieving your goals is *in you*. And like a supplement I can’t do anything unless you’re giving your 100%, so let’s get started.

Make a schedule (and stick to it!)
I call this the long-term workout. You must realize that your health and fitness come first (even before work). Life is more important. Don’t worry, your boss isn’t reading this. Design a plan that has the best chances of not being interrupted and that includes rest time. I recommend three strength training days and three cardio days and a full rest day. A sample schedule may look like this:

Monday / Wednesday / Friday – Strength training
Tuesday / Thursday / Saturday – Cardio training
Sunday – Full rest day.

Have a plan!
When going to the gym, always have a plan; a set of goals to work for. Bring pen and paper to the gym. Forget about the rest of the people, believe it or not many (if not most) are just as lost as you and just go to the gym to “work out” to “do stuff”. Not you, have a plan written down with clear and concise goals, make note of your progress and whether or you did your exercises correctly (in proper form). Have a list of sets and repetitions to perform as well as the weight based on your progress. This applies to both strength and cardio!

Your plan should include warm-up, exercise (the actual workout), cool-down, and stretching. For example:

Sample Strength Day Workout:
o 5-minute warm-up cardio
o Stretching
o Core exercises
o Stretching (optional)
o 10 – 15 minutes of constant cardio (for fat loss)

Sample Cardio Day Workout:
o Stretching (optional)
o Warm-up up intensity
o Core workout
o Cool-down intensity
o Stretching

How much weight should I use?
As guidance, use the heaviest weight that allows you to complete the entire exercise with proper form. In other words, say you’re doing a set of 10 reps of dumbbell presses. Use a weight that you can do 9 in good form and that the tenth rep is very difficult and if you tried an eleventh it would break form. Proper form is very important and that is why gyms include those mirrors.

What exercises to do?
Start simple. The important thing is to see progress over time. Progress should be measurable and should be cosmetically noticeable. This will ensure you stay motivated and will show that your plan is working. For starters I’d include the following exercises:

Pushups, Squats, Lunges, Presses, Curls, Plank and Push Downs. You can find definitions and sample on the internet (Google and YouTube are your friend). On your first day, do one set of 10 reps of each exercise then do two sets of each thereafter. Remember to rest for 30 seconds between sets and 60 seconds for the most difficult exercises. Don’t rest too much as you need to keep your heart rate elevated.

For example, do two sets of 10 repetitions of the following:

o Pushups (if you can’t do pushups, try with your knees on the floor).
o Prisoner Squat
o Forward Lunge
o Dumbbell Curl
o Plank (stay in the plank position for 30 – 60 seconds), that’s one set.
o Triceps Push Downs
o Lateral Pull Downs

After the workout: Protein!
Within the next 30 minutes after your workout, while your muscles are still warm, eat some form of protein, preferably lean. Examples include: protein bars, whey protein shake or a lean cut of meat. This will make the best use of your workout session by feeding your muscles when they are more receptive.

How much cardio should I do?
If you’re really skinny, you won’t see much benefit from doing cardio in the beginning. Leave that for when you’ve gained some weight. However, if you are overweight, cardio can help fry some of that fat very quickly so it should be part of your schedule form the start.

Strength training will help you burn fat 24-hours a day and help you keep it off. Cardio workouts are also great for burning fat, improve cardiovascular health and help reduce anxiety. But too much cardio however can cause you to burn muscle mass and cause you to be too fatigued for strength training so timing is important. As I hinted above, have cardio days separate from training days. I call these active rest days.

On your cardio day, do 30 to 45 minutes of high intensity interval training (HIIT). For example, start with a warm-up of about five minutes at a moderate speed. Then increase speed to 100% intensity (all out) for a minute, then switch to a lower intensity (say 20%) for two to three minutes. That’s one cycle, do that 5-6 times and then cool down at a slow intensity for cool-down for another ten minutes. That’s your workout.

Gym Gear
I already mentioned the pen and paper, but you’ll need some clothes to workout (t-shirt and shorts) and cross training shoes. An MP3 player is also handy as the music should keep you moving. You can also bring a protein bar for after your workout. Don’t forget body wash, shampoo, towel and deodorant.

Chris McCombs is a well known Seal Beach Personal Trainer providing personal fitness training to Southern California residents. Chris also helps locals trim down and shape up as a Villa Park Personal Trainer.

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Author: Piyawut Sutthiruk

Losing weight will keep you healthy and have a long life. Cheer Up!

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