The beginner’s guide to the gym

Your first time at the gym can be stressful. Surrounded by people who appear to know what they’re doing (although they’re probably not paying attention anyway), complicated machines, free weights and all. How are you meant to know what to do? We’re going to walk you through how to tackle your first gym session. The hardest part is facing your fears and turning up there in the first place.

Why do you want to go to the gym?

It’s really important to know what you want to gain from going to the gym. Is it to get stronger? Have bigger muscles? Lose weight or just stay fit and healthy? You need a purpose. Having this sorted before you arrive will help indicate what you should be doing in the gym. Make sure you give it some thought before you leave the house so you know what it is you’re aiming for.

Warm up

Warming up is crucial. A warmup is low-level activity before you physically exert yourself. The aim is to get your heart pumping and your muscles warm. So why else should you warm up?

Injury prevention

When you increase your heart rate, more blood is pumped to your muscles. When this happens, your muscles are able to contract faster, reflex more efficiently and your muscles become more elasticated. This means they can react quicker when you put your body under strain.


Warming up before exercising can actually enhance your performance (1). When your muscles are warm, your range of movement is greater which allows you to move as best to your ability. This is crucial to any exercise you might do in the gym.

All the pros do it

It’s true! And now you know why! You’ll look like you know what your doing if you warm up properly before you hit the exercise machines. Make sure you’re a little bit sweaty and feeling warm.

What is a good warm up?

It’s as long as a piece of string… a good warmup depends on the type of exercise you are about to do. For our recommended first timer workout, however, do a basic cardio warmup. This consists of a 10-20 minutes of running or cycling. You might also like to do some yoga – this will warm you up and tap into your flexibility.

The workout itself

Do your gym induction

Most of the time a gym induction is compulsory, and there’s a reason for it. A gym instructor will tell you how to use the equipment safely. If you’re lucky, they might even help you develop a plan!

Always plan

Once you know how and why to use each piece of equipment, plan your workout! Think about your warmup, cardio and resistance training. Aim to spend around an hour in the gym. Once you become fitter, you can start spending longer training. Having a plan will prevent you from wondering around the gym wondering what you should do next – efficiency is key to a good workout.

Start with exercise machines

Free weights are great, but to a beginner they can be difficult. A proper technique is required to prevent injury and ensure you are getting the most of a weights workout. Exercise machines assist your technique, however, meaning they are safer to use, especially when learning how strong you actually are.

Free weights

When you feel comfortable, start to work free weights into your program. Only do this once you have been taught by an instructor in the gym how to perform each exercise. When choosing which weights to use, start off small. For your first session, use weights which you think are lighter than you can lift – just until you have nailed the technique and can start increasing the weight gradually and safely.

Mat work

This is something that is really benefitted by having a plan. Most people try to do 10-20 minutes at least on the mat working on their abdominals, as well as other muscles. For some inspiration on which kind of exercises to do, take a look at some of our workouts in our blog posts. We give you exercise ideas, as well as a description on how to do them! Alternatively, give YouTube a search for some ab workouts – a video is a great way to learn new gym exercises.

The cool down

This is just as important as the warmup. A cool down helps your heart rate slow down gradually. This helps lower your resting heart rate – essential to good health. Cooling down helps prevent DOMS – especially useful when you are just beginning your journey in the gym! Try doing some stretching or yoga for 10-20 minutes at the end of your workout as an effective cool down.

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