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If You Don’t Know What To Do In The Gym

Lady holding barbell

You hop around the gym doing things you’re comfortable with, never fully confident in any of it.

You don’t get any results and stop going for awhile, only to start the cycle over again weeks, months, or years later.

If this sounds like you, here’s some advice to help guide you at the gym so you aren’t wandering aimlessly.

Find A Program To Follow

My first advice is don’t go into the gym without a plan.

If you want something that works, it needs to be well thought out and crafted with your goals in mind. (Read this for advice on Finding a Good Workout Plan.)

Then make sure that program is something you feel comfortable doing.

If you aren’t comfortable in the gym, your program isn’t doing its job. You should feel like you understand exactly how each exercise should be performed.

Yeah, Yeah, But What Should I Do???

Here is my practical advice so you can make your own decisions about what to do in the gym.

1. Don’t skip your warm up.

It doesn’t take much.

Warm ups are a good time for core work, and certain kinds of flexibility work (like using a foam roller).

Depending upon your level of fitness, your warmup could be as easy as a brisk walk, or a lighter weight version of what you’ll be doing later with heavier weights.

2. Spend most of your time with free weights.

A mistake many people make is only using machines.

There’s a time and place for certain machines, but your main focus should be free weights. They help you with stability and balance in ways a machine can’t. And generally they’re safer than machines.

3. Focus on big movements.

Don’t be the person who does a bunch of bicep curls, followed by more bicep curls, and finishes with some preacher bench bicep curls.

Focus on squats, bench press, rows, pull-ups, and deadlifts – movements that give you more bang for your buck.

The technical term is compound movements (exercises that require movement of more than one joint at a time).

You can still do curls or other isolation work, but commit most of your time to compound movements.

4. Do some cardio.

Do whatever you like. Pick the type of cardio you like, and do it for the amount of time you like.

Whatever type of cardio you do, do it last in your workout. You’ll get better results from both your strength and cardio training by doing them in this order.

Try 30-60 minutes of light intensity, or 5-10 short sprints (10-30 sec) with a minute or two of rest between each one.

5. Don’t do the same thing 7 days in a row.

Start with 3 days of training with a day of rest between each if you do strength and cardio in the same session. Or split them up every other day for 6 total days.

Then do the same weekly program for 4-6 weeks.

After that, you don’t want to completely change what you’re doing, but you’ll have to start being intentional about how to progress (e.g. switch up which exercises you do heavier/lighter weight for lower/higher reps.)

Important Note

Regardless of whether you work with me, someone else, or on your own, remember: you have to be consistent if you want to make changes.

But consistently working out doesn’t count as being consistent if you change programs every month. You won’t see progress that way, which will eventually lead to frustration and not exercising at all.

We create individualized workout and nutrition programs for people and help every step of the way. We’re happy to help you, too, if you’re interested. Or if you have specific questions, send ‘em my way.


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