It’s a new year, so this has to be a new you. I say that with the kindest pretext I possibly can. Clearly, you’re new to the gym, and everyone knows it. You can feel it, every time you look up at someone they quick look away, everyone’s looking at you… but why?
I’m trying not to stare while you’re “warming up”, doing a bicep curl/shoulder press movement. But I just can’t help it, I want to run over and tell you what you’re doing wrong. Not many of us “seasoned vets” will though. We don’t want to draw attention to you because we were you, and we know what it’s like.
I wouldn’t have wanted someone drawing attention to me telling me I’m doing everything so very wrong. Or worse, making me notice how “small” I was. What you should be doing is watching us and paying close attention. Start with the machines, go light—high weight does not matter.
I repeat high weight does not matter
(Granted, latter on lifting heavy will be an important strategy)
This is the time where you develop form. Look up videos, watch famous fitness models—most of them post their workouts and you can learn a lot.
This first year, you should be focusing on mind to muscle control.
What is mind to muscle control? I’m glad you asked. It’s being able to activate a muscle by simply just thinking about it. To be scientific, it’s a voluntary action that you need to be able to control. Once again referring to the starting light (using lighter weights), you as a beginning lifter should be actively trying to flex just the target muscle during an exercise.
For instance, on a “lat pulldown” you are targeting your lats (latissimus dorsi) but remember not to ego lift with too much weight. This results in recruiting other muscles to pull the weight like your biceps.
While hitting your biceps is not a bad thing… it’s not why you’re doing that exercise. You will end up hardly activating the targeted muscle. Instead, lower the weight, and I mean lower it. Put the weight down to 30-40% of your body weight then think about the muscle (the lat). Often times, it helps to have someone touch you're muscle that your trying to activate. It helps your mind associate with what muscle it should be flexing.
Great, you’re doing great. In case you need that reassurance, there it is. You won’t see “gains” right away while focusing on form. And that’s okay.
Just don’t let this discourage you.
What you will see is that after 3-5 months you can now flex any muscle while just thinking about it. This is huge, now you can cut all the bull shit of ego lifting and completely tear that target muscle.
Fast forward 4-5 more months. If working out with the same “routine” isn’t cutting it anymore…as in your muscles aren’t sore after a workout…it’s time to switch it up. After almost a year at the gym, everyone looks at you as a regular. You stopped doing those atrocious arm moving workouts that made everyone scared. So, it’s okay to now consult an “old hand”.
You know, the guy or girl that’s huge. You envied them the day you went in there. And you think you can’t go ask for advice. Well you’re wrong you totally can—and you need to.
Everyone you talk to will have a slightly different approach to lifting. Pay attention to what they say, listen and learn. Every different variation of a workout is great. Hitting the muscle in a different way is key to making progress.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s go over the “DO NOTS.”
First and foremost, do not try to copy that big guy and do bicep curls in the squat rack. That is exactly what it sounds like…a squat rack. People in the gym will most definitely look at you funny for doing this.
Please for the love of God do not forget your deodorant. We understand it’s a gym, but that doesn’t mean come to the gym after not showering for a week.
If you plan on buying supplements, do not bring the whole bottle into the gym with you. Just don’t do it.
You do not need a gallon of water
Most gyms nowadays have a drinking fountain or a spot to fill up your water bottle.
Lastly, for the sake of people laughing at you and for your own damn safety, do not try deadlifts without someone there to teach you. Deadlifts can be “deadly.” It’s never a safe bet to work out your lower back if you don’t fully understand what you’re doing and how to do it.
With all being said, have fun breaking a sweat and making some muscle.