Crush your workout with confidence by applying these essential strategies.
HITTING THE GYM for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. All the new equipment, the people—everything can make it all a bit much. But just because you’re unfamiliar with the gear and surrounded by a bunch of sweaty meatheads doesn’t mean you have to feel outgunned. We’ve all been there.
So whether you want to become the next Arnold Schwarzenegger or just shed some of that extra holiday weight, these five tips will help you get on the fast track to gains—and stay there.
Don’t overdo it
The fact that you’re in the gym in the first place probably means you had to shift a few things around in your life in order to make time for the commitment. You’re now on the road to a stronger, fitter and healthier you. With that said, lifting weights can cause injury if done improperly or too often. To avoid injury, proper form and the correct volume are essential.
As a lifting beginner, you (and your muscles) have very little idea what’s coming. If you want your gym experience to be sustainable, do only three or four exercises your first day. This way you won’t be overly sore, and you can recover more effectively for another workout. Slowly work your way up to lift heavier weights with perfect form—there’s no rush.
Start with a compound lift
Four of the biggest muscle-building lifts are the barbell squat, deadlift, overhead press, and bench press. A good rule of thumb (but not an iron law) is to do one of these lifts first, then follow up with assistance exercises to build maximum strength and power.
For example, bench press first for a few sets. Then do another chest exercise—this time, one that is a single-joint movement. Doing one “push” exercise like a bench press or squat followed by one “pull” exercise like a leg curl or lat pulldown is surefire way to build up your back and chest evenly. Since it’s your first day, use the push/pull exercise order to leave no muscle behind.
Write everything down
You can only really note your progress if you know where you started. On your first day, start a training log with all your current stats. Write down the exercises, sets, reps, weight lifted, and rest you take throughout every workout. Your starting numbers will give you the satisfaction of quantifying what you carve out in iron.
Consume protein afterward
Replenishing your muscles with proper nutrients is the most important thing you can do after you’ve finished lifting. Having a high-protein meal, or supplementing with a quality protein powder, is your best course of action. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, a general recommendation for athletes is 1–2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Need a spot? Don’t even know what a spot is? Take a second to ask a trainer or a staff member for their insight. They’re there to help.
If you’re one of those who refuses any input, consider this: Every single one of the best athletes in the world has a coach. Olympians, pro football players. They all have a team of people tasked with critiquing every aspect of their performance to make them better and better.
So whether you want some help with your barbell back squat form or you’re just looking for your medicine balls, don’t be afraid to ask a staffer for a hand. You’ll look like a pro.
If this sounds like you then why don’t you sign up for a free session with one of our expert trainers so you can master the basics.