How To Start Working Out At A Gym.
I am sure that you’ve been bombarded by enough #Fitness tags on Instagram to at least wish a partial loss of your paunch or muffin top and consider working out.
Or maybe you’re one of the minority who see the real value in being fitter and realize that you need to start working out to enjoy a better quality of life.
Regardless of your reasons, you have multiple options to choose from. You could go running, you could buy a fancy bike and pedal every day, you could join a yoga class to become all bendy.
OR you could join a gym and throw your might against rubber coated metal.
I have been working out for a little more than a decade now.
Being in a hot country like India, living in the most polluted city in the world and a preference for being strong over just being thin makes working out with weights in a gym my preferred modus operandi.
This post is directed to those who want to start working out with weights and don’t know where to start, are intimidated when they get into the weights section, and other such initial hiccups.
I am NOT going to address people who want to get into Crossfit because in my personal opinion it does way more harm than good. TBH I despise it.
0 Reps, 0 Reps, 0 Reps, 0 Reps
Working out with weights – Week 1
Weeks 1 – 3 are where the misery related to working out is on its strongest game.
You step into the gym and have zero idea about how to use the machines. Looking at free weights is borderline scary, especially when you see meatheads pick up insane amounts and sometimes letting out guttural cries that could leave a woman in labor embarrassed.
You sometimes get a free trial personal training session, where a trainer makes you do more than you should be doing in the initial days.
The result? You used up all your courage and all your strength to start, and now moving any muscle causes enough pain to induce sporadic bursts of expletives.
Thing is, that most trainers in our country come from “guruji” led gyms and have no exposure to modern training techniques. To their credit, they have lifted through pain and persevered through just on faith. However, that is not a suitable approach.
If it were, we’d see a whole lot fitter people around.
So, what’s the right way?
Treat your foray into working out with weights for the first four weeks just like you’d run in a new vehicle. Take it fucking easy.
Do not push yourself into 100% of your capability.
Do not try and get into free weights just yet.
Do not try and get into compound exercises like deadlifts and squats as you don’t have the muscle conditioning or strength to do them properly. And done wrong, they can cause debilitating injuries.
What you SHOULD be doing, is concentrating on machines.
You will hear a lot of bro-science of how machines are not great for all around muscle development and stability and yada yada. But you are not there yet. You are learning to walk and those guys are talking about what’s great for you when you’re dancing.
I’d suggest the following workout split:
Day 1 – Chest and Back
Day 2 – Legs
Day 3 – Light Cardio
Day 4 – Arms
Day 5 – Core
Day 6 – Shoulders
Day 7 – Break
Pro tip: Most people work out their chest muscles on Monday, and you will face a lot of issues with machine availability. So start your workout schedule on a Sunday or Wednesday (cuz Tuesdays are mostly back days).
Which exercises then, you ask? Here we go.
Make sure the weight is light enough for you to do the reps EASILY. The idea is to get used to the movement. If you pick up too much, expect tears and keep painkillers handy.
Working out with weights – Day 1
- Five minutes of walk on the treadmill
- Machine chest press – three sets of 12 reps each
- Machine flys – three sets of 12 reps each
- Incline push ups – three sets of 10 reps each
- Lateral pull downs – three sets of 12 reps each
- Seated rows – three sets of 12 reps each
- Back extensions – three sets of 10 – 15 reps each
- 15 minutes of easy walk on the treadmill
Working out with weights – Day 2
- Five minutes of walk on the treadmill
- Free squats against a wall – three sets of however many you can pull off of whichever version from the video you find easier to do.
- Seated machine press (close stance) – three sets of 12 reps each
- Seated machine press (wide stance) – three sets of 12 reps each
- Inner thigh squeezes – three sets of 12 reps each
- Outer thigh presses – three sets of 12 reps each
- Seated Calf raises (machine) – three sets of 12 reps each
- 15 minutes of easy walk on the treadmill
Now you WILL be in physical misery. Every movement will hurt. If it’s a bit much take some OTC pain-killer to be able to sleep at night.
Remember. This is temporary and will last just about 10 – 12 days. Post which you will feel AWESOME!
Working out with weights – Day 3
You will be cursing the day you decided to start working out with weights. You will curse your maker for inducing the thought of a “fitter you” in your head. You will decide that being chubby but at least functional, is better than this self afflicted torture. But persevere. It gets a hell lot better as you go on.
So that today is not scary enough for you to avoid stepping into the gym, I have kept it light for you.
Put in your earbuds, play your favorite music, and crack a leisurely stroll on the treadmill for about 45 minutes. If you can watch some TV while you’re at it, GREAT!
Working out with weights – Day 4
Here we WILL have to add some free weights because a lot of gyms do not have machines dedicated to arms.
- Dumbbell curls – three sets of 12 reps each
- EZ bar curls – three sets of 12 reps each
- Cable push down – three sets of 12 reps each
- Overhead dumbbell tricep extension – three sets 12 reps each
- Bench dips – three sets of however many you can do in each set
- 15 minutes of light cardio on any machine of your choice
Working out with weights – Day 5
Another comparatively easy day (although one that’ll hurt a lot later).
- Flutter Kicks – three sets of 15 reps each
- Crunches – three 15 reps each
- Seated kick outs – three sets of as many as you can manage easily
- Reverse extensions – three sets of as many as you can manage
- 20 minutes of low intensity cardio on any machine you are comfortable with
Working out with weights – Day 6
- Shoulder press machine (front facing grip) – three sets of 15 reps each
- Reverse fly machine – four sets of 15 reps each
- Standing parallel dumbbell press – three sets of 10 reps each
- 20 minutes of light cardio on whichever machine you fancy.
Day 7 is a break. Enjoy the soreness. It’ll help if you go for a short walk somewhere, but then take a break and spend the hour you’d have spent in the gym, doing something that relaxes you.
There are a few points I would like to mention at the end of this post:
- Always check with your GP before starting with any new exercise program. Better safe than sorry.
- Don’t worry about protein shakes at this point in time. Your workout intensity is not going to be crazy enough for you to need additional protein. Just maintain a balanced, healthy diet.
- Again, you will be sore like Hillary Clinton fans after she lost the presidential bid. But this is an inescapable part of getting into weight training. Remember a LOT of benefits await you and this pain is temporary. Get a Tylenol or any other over the counter pain killer if it hurts more than you can endure.
- PLEASE don’t pick up as much weight as you can. Pick up something that you could have done 18 reps with easily, but do only 12. It’s more important to get your muscles used to the movement than picking up lots of weight at this juncture.
- Picking up more weight than that is directly proportional to the soreness you will have to endure as well as risking an injury to a muscle or connective tissue because of bad form or not having enough strength to bear the strain.
- Ignore the meatheads and the screamers and the six-pack flaunters and the bro / girl – gangs. You are there to kick the ass of the yesterday-you. That’s that.
- Carry a sipper and keep hydrating yourself throughout the workout.
- Wear proper gym gear. A breathable T-shirt, shorts or track pants, towel socks and sport shoes. You will see some people wear flat soled footwear for lifting. You’re not there yet.
- WEAR DEODORANT! Again. WEAR DEODORANT. No one wants to smell your dehydrated soul. And you will NOT come to know if you are stinking the place up. Just wear the deo as a damn rule.
- If you are sweaty central, carry a towel and wipe the equipment after use. If you’re just borderline damp, use a paper towel to wipe up after you. If you want to exchange bodily fluids with others, there are more pleasurable ways of doing it.
- Go with this schedule for at least four weeks straight, slowly increasing the weight you pick up. And if you’re able to do that, ping me. I’ll make a schedule post for the next 12.
Hope this was helpful. Lemme know if there’s something that I could have added but missed out on!