So it’s the new year and it’s time to start getting into the gym!
Maybe you have started looking at Fitness facilities, or maybe you are wondering if you should do some research and invest in a personal trainer. Whatever it may be, when it comes to January the main thing that spikes up is attendance at the gym.
You may be one of those people who just started your journey and you are now walking into the gym with all these pieces of equipment and you want to hop on everything!
But do you need to touch every single piece of equipment you see? Maybe you are trying to lose weight and you see the treadmill and you want to spend an hour every day, 7 days a week on that and then head home. Let’s not even talk about the Barbells, you want to load that baby up and squat 315lbs, but is your body and form ready for that?
Well, this is why I am making this article…
Allow me to introduce myself, I am Steven Ridges and I have been a coach for over 12 years now. I focus on introducing strength training principles to people who are looking to get leaner and stronger in the gym but I educate people on proper progression and different avenues that can help with overall fitness.
So in this article, I’m going to touch on a couple of topics that can help you get started with a new fitness routine. I will discuss in some reasonable detail:
- What should your focus be when trying to lose weight?
- Should you use every piece of equipment?
- How fast can you see progress?
- Should you work with a trainer/coach?
What should your focus be when trying to lose weight?
Well, let’s address the elephant in the room.
What do you need to focus on when trying to lose weight?
Most people (generally) who are now coming into the gym are looking for some kind of weight loss. Most of the time people will approach this sort of backward. This may look like someone going straight for the piece of cardio equipment that looks the easiest to operate. They may spend hours at a time there and then leave.
That’s great that you are at least moving, especially if you were completely sedentary.
But is this a very effective form of weight loss?
Well, someone who may have more pounds to shed off, may see some results this way. The body is an amazing machine. It works a little harder for those who have a little more weight on it just because of metabolism and energy expenditure. But this method is literally just some “extra calorie burn”.
You may lose some weight after weeks of doing this but where did this loss come from?
Maybe it was some fat reduction but it could have also been some loss of lean muscle. That lean muscle is what aids you in getting that strong or toned look most people are searching for in the gym. What would be a better benefit for you and also probably save you some time is actually trying to execute some resistance training.
Now before I go further let me state this because I’ve heard this plenty of times over the years.
“I don’t want to do weights because I don’t want to look bulky. I don’t want to do weights because it’s bad for me and my back and knees etc.”
False, just completely false! Now I will say that yes there can be a risk of injury if you just try to overload your body without taking the necessary steps to make sure you are prepared for the task at hand. But you doing a bodyweight squat is a form of resistance training. You are “resisting” your weight to stand and your muscles can see benefits with this if done in succession and with progression safely.
Weights do not make you bulky, they make you strong and sexy.
The only way you can bulk is if you are in a serious caloric surplus and of course hormones that will allow for that rate of growth. So with that being said if I had the ability to coach someone new in the gym I would stress learning about some of the resistance training machines first, especially if they’ve never trained before because machines allow for a safe range of motion in a fixed plane of motion.
This way you can get comfortable with the movement patterns and then progress from there. Lean muscle is what burns fat when it comes to your metabolism working for that true weight loss.
Should you use every piece of equipment?
Now that I’ve touched on what should be done if you want to focus on weight loss, let’s talk about what equipment should be used.
Well honestly the gym has a lot of tools that can be helpful for anyone getting started but I would recommend certain pieces for a certain level of gym goer.
If you are really a beginner and you aren’t used to moving with added resistance to your body then I would recommend just mastering some bodyweight movement patterns.
Once you feel comfortable moving with proper technique then I would add resistance now you can potentially add resistance with Dumbbells which would then challenge a lot of bodyweight movement patterns or if you aren’t quite comfortable yet then I would say use machines because they have a fixed plane of motion and they can enhance the learning process.
Barbells can also be a great benefit if movement patterns are done properly.
They can hold the most overloading potential when it comes to the absolute load being loaded. Now because of this, I do recommend you really start slow. Make sure you have some good motor control because most barbell movements require some good core stability and some baseline of strength development. So it is okay to start with just the bar and progress.
Cardio pieces of equipment are great as a warm-up and cool-down.
But again referring back to earlier this should NOT be the only focus if you are looking for some body fat reduction. Now as you get deeper into resistance training as well using protocols like the bike or elliptical (low impact), this can help aid with recovery and focus can be put on cardiovascular health.
But in conclusion, all pieces serve some kind of purpose starting with defining the goals.
How fast can you see progress?
Alright now, so how fast can we actually progress? Well a lot of things can come into play for this
- Nutrition- Are you actually counting your calories?
- Style of Training- Are you doing more cardio or resistance training as the focus of your sessions?
- Sleep- How much sleep you get can definitely speed up the process. As a active adult I recommend anywhere between 6-8 hours of sleep to see the benefit of your metabolism recovering and getting you ready for your next training session.
- Intensity- Are your workouts actually challenging? Again challenging not killing you and leaving you dreading coming back. You do need to have some area of opportunity to grow so remember this.
I could continue on from this but the main thing I want to drive home is your progress can change with many different variables. What I normally coach to my people is you have to find a balance. Figure out where you may struggle and then set a plan to make sure you overcome any obstacle you may face.
Should you hire a trainer/coach?
Now I will start this off by saying I am a coach. I’ve worked with many different individuals in a one on one, group, and online setting. I myself when I first started my fitness journey when I was 13 years old, wished I had someone to guide me properly.
I did a lot of the wrong things.
- Depriving myself of most food groups
- Only doing cardio when I came into the gym
- Using the same weights for months a time
Now I lost over 100 lbs during that process but I also was a teenager. If you are a little older and this is your first time getting into a gym environment, I definitely encourage you to work with a fitness professional to help you with your goals.
Think about it as a short-term invest for some long-term results.
Now I will also educate you if this is something that you are on the fence about, then you need to ask some tough questions and make sure that the coach you are thinking of working with aligns with where you are.
What is this coach’s niche?
Does the coach focus on weight loss? Are they more of a strength of conditioning specialist that works with individuals ready for more athletic work? Do they have a corrective background? Are they versed in nutrition? These are just some of examples of questions you as a potential client should be asking.
How accessible are they?
What do I mean? Well if you are new that probably means you have a lot of questions that you potentially want to be answered. That being the case are they more focused on in-person client training or are they more virtual? If they are in person how long are the sessions and is it just show up and train or are you having time afterward to go over movement patterns? If they are virtual do they only focus on programming or do they allow for virtual sessions?
Another big question is are they affordable for you?
Most coaches who have taken time to push their education and who have put hours into providing knowledgeable information for you, tend to have packages that reflect that. There is nothing wrong with that of course because they are specialists in an area you are trying to learn about. (If your car breaks down take it to a mechanic and not someone who just bought a tool kit.) So what I recommend is asking what packages they have to offer and what service comes with that package.
Finally, make sure you mesh as a team.
The coach/trainer should be able to bridge the gap of you not feeling comfortable about training. Every session should be made to make you take one step closer to having deeper understanding. Will it always be easy, probably not but it should have some enjoyable points along the way
In closing don’t let the gym setting intimidate you. Understand you are starting this journey for a reason and you can definitely achieve this reason if you stay consistent and be patient and kind to yourself. If you found this helpful please let me know! I am currently accepting new clients and I would love to have a one on one conversation with you to answer any further questions you may have. Now let’s set and hit these goals!
Steven Ridges- NASM Master Trainer, Pain Free Performance Specialist, Certified Functional Strength Coach