Imagine that it’s your first time ever walking into a gym. You see a giant room full of weight machines, cardio equipment, and people of all shapes and sizes. Music is blasting into your ears. You look around nervously, and you realize that you have no idea how to effectively workout.
The gym can be an intimidating environment for any newcomer, but in reality, everyone is there for the same reason: To make gains and get into better shape. It’s easy to just go in and fall into any random routine that seems appealing. However, this is a big mistake that most new lifters make.
The people who are the most successful in the gym come in with a workout plan and a goal. They mentally prepare themselves beforehand, so that they can be as efficient as possible with their time. This is what separates an experienced lifter from a rookie.
There is no one right routine or workout program, but there are certain guidelines that anyone can follow in order to take their lifting to the next level.
1. Find a Mentor
To say learning from somebody who is more experienced than you is valuable would be an understatement. There are seemingly endless details and tricks to weightlifting. Chances are, you are going to be making plenty of rookie mistakes when you are just starting out. It also helps to have someone spotting and motivating you to keep pushing when you want to give up.
What exactly is a gym mentor you ask? Well, this can be anyone. Perhaps you have a friend who is well versed in weightlifting willing to help you out. Maybe you are paying for a personal trainer to guide you through your workouts.
If neither of these are an option, you can always be bold and ask somebody for help. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, most weightlifters are very friendly and willing to help out. Chances are they were in your shoes at one point in time.
One thing that I strongly recommend to new lifters is to join an online fitness community. There are infinite web sites and YouTube channels with strong content that anyone can access. These sites and channels can guide you through routines, exercises, and any other questions that you might have.
A big mistake that most people make when lifting weights is neglecting the warm-up. This is not just a mistake that newcomers make, but something that even most experienced lifters oftentimes fail to do.
Properly warming-up has many benefits: Preventing injuries, loosening up, and preparing your body to lift as much weight as it possibly can. Warming-up is not the same as stretching. When somebody stretches, they hold the position for an extended amount of time. Warming-up involves putting key muscles and joints into motion.
A proper full body warm-up only has to be between 5-10 minutes.
3. Start Light
Another common mistake that new and experienced lifters make is trying to lift too much weight to soon. Your biggest concern when lifting weight should be to perform the exercise with a full range of motion, controlled tempo, and achieve an adequate number of reps (For beginners I recommend starting between 15-20 reps). This will ensure that you will achieve maximum results from the time you put into your workout.
What happens far too often is people try to lift too much weight and end up performing half reps. Even worse, you might end up overcompensating and put unwarranted stress on a stabilizing joint. This causes two things: You won’t see the progress that you want to see and you run the risk of injuring yourself.
Make sure you leave your ego at home. Working out isn’t about seeing who can lift more weight. It’s about performing the exercise properly and making gains. Leave the “bro weight” for the strength competitions.
4. Get Into a Regular Routine
It’s easy to make excuses for why you shouldn’t workout. Perhaps you’re busy or you aren’t feeling the best. Maybe you just don’t want to go.
Going to the gym on a regular basis isn’t easy, in fact, it’s very difficult for most people. That’s why it is important to get into a set routine, which will become a habit that feels like a necessary part of your day. When those excuses start creeping their way into your head, ignore them.
Set a goal for yourself and remember why you are doing it. Write your goals down if that helps. There are going to be times when you just can’t make it to the gym, but it is important to limit these to as few as possible.
5. Focus On Your Entire Body
You’ve seen it before. A guy has a massive upper body, but he has chicken legs. Perhaps someone can bench 400 pounds for multiple reps, but they have a beer belly and can’t even squat 225 once. It is important to focus on your entire body for many reasons.
A proportioned body is not only more aesthetically pleasing, but it is also more functional. A strong back, glutes and core can help with all of your exercises. In the process of working these areas out, you will create a strong base. This will help you lift more weight while simultaneously having better form.
In order to have good posture, you must have proper stability in these areas. However, even knowing this, many lifters neglect these functional areas and instead focus on their glamour muscles. So the next time you’re thinking of skipping back or leg day, think again!
This something that almost every lifter neglects or ignores. Properly stretching after a workout is important for a number of reasons. The biggest benefit that stretching gives us is that it maximizes the length of our muscles. This means that your range of motion will increase, which will help you to generate greater force during your lifts. Stretching also heightens ones mood and may reduce soreness.
It is important to note that stretching before your workout is not optimal because it tires your muscles, causing you to not be able to lift to your maximum potential.
As important as it is to be consistent in the gym and get into a regular routine, it is just as important to make sure you are adequately resting between workouts. This means dedicating a day or two a week to resting. If you’re working out seven days a week, then you will not achieve your maximum gains and will be at a greater risk of injury.
When working out, you will be tearing your muscles apart, literally! It is important to allow an adequate amount of time for your body to heal itself properly.
Exactly how long you need to rest is difficult to say because everyone is different. Some people will recover faster than others. It is important for you to listen to your body and experiment to find out what works best for you.
8. Proper Nutrition
The most important aspect of achieving results in the gym is making sure that you are properly feeding your body. You will want to eat lean proteins, whole wheat carbs, a lot of vegetables and fruits, and plenty of other whole foods such as nuts and beans. The way you eat will control the way you look.
Some people think that they can lose weight by working out and still eat whatever they want. This is completely inaccurate. If you want to see results, then you have to follow a meal plan that tailors to your goals.
So be thoughtful and conscious to the things that you put into your body. Everything that you eat counts. Feed your body the correct way!
Now you are on your journey to a new lifestyle. Instead of feeling like you are lost at the gym, hopefully you will be set to begin your long journey of prosperity and gains. It is important to stay focused and dedicated, even if you mess up or things don’t go quite right. There are many positive improvements that working out can make to your life, and you will meet many amazing people along the way. I didn’t say it would be easy, but I can promise you that it will be worth it.
By Daniel McNamara
I’ve been lifting now for about six years. I have completed a certified trainers class and I workout at LA Fitness.