You know that feeling when you walk into the gym for the first time? The feeling that everyone is looking at you because you don’t know what you’re doing? You’re desperately trying to read the tiny descriptions of each exercise on the machines. You’re looking around at what other people are doing. You’re contemplating using free weights. You’re thinking “WTF am I doing?” and then, you end up on cardio… the “safe place.” You figure anyone can walk on a treadmill, ride a bike, or use an elliptical, so that becomes your “go to.” When this happens you miss out on so many amazing benefits of resistance training and exercise variation. So, take some time to educate yourself on different exercise modalities so that you don’t turn into a cardio bunny like I used to be!
Lets begin with the less intimidating strength-training machines. These are excellent options if you are new to the gym. Machines keep you in a fixed range of motion to help target the muscles you want to work. They’re also great for supersets and circuit-training because you can easily change the amount of weight and you don’t need a someone to spot (help) you. Once you start to feel comfortable with machines, you may want to branch out into free weights such as barbells and dumbbells.
Free weights will allow you to perform complex exercises which require more energy and allow you to burn more calories in a shorter period of time. When using free weights, control and stability are extremely important. For certain exercises, you may need a spotter if you are trying to lift heavy weight..
Cable machines are also effective for many phases of training. Cables can be used to improve everything from stability, endurance, hypertrophy, strength or power. The important thing to remember when using these machines is to match the cable to the muscle’s natural line of pull. When everything is in line, your movements will feel a lot more natural.
Resistance Bands are best used to build muscular endurance. One of the biggest advantages of resistance bands is that they are low cost and very portable. These would be an excellent option if you prefer to workout at home or you travel for work. If your goal is to gain strength, then these might not be the best option for you.
Medicine balls are handy because they can be thrown, caught and used to provide resistance in a variety of movements and intensities. Kettlebell training is different from barbells, dumbbells and medicine balls because the center of mass is away from the handle. The swing type movements and increased need for strength and coordination make this a challenging but fun form of exercise. Because kettlebell training recruits so many stabilizers you will increase metabolic demands and calorie burn!
Stability balls and BOSU balls help increase the intensity of the workout by decreasing the stability. Using these forms of exercises in your training will help to increase your balance, stability and strength. Fun fact: BOSU stands for Both Sides Up!
Last but not least is YOU! Body weight training is great because it doesn’t require any extra load or equipment. Typical body weight exercises are push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges and sit-ups. These exercises are great not only for beginners, but also those who are looking to build muscle because they can be supersetted into your routine.
Gymtimidation is a thing of the past. There are more resources out there than ever to help get you in shape. If you’re not sure about a piece of equipment, then ask a personal trainer. If you don’t want to ask at the gym then google it! And if you’re brave and just want to figure it out on the fly, then that’s always fun too. Just be safe!