Posted by on Oct 16, 2013

Beginners

Mike Vacanti is a NYC based fitness pro.  He blogs – mostly on diet, training and psychology – and also runs a successful coaching business.  Part head in the clouds, part nose to the grindstone – Mike believes owning your fitness regimen will blur the line between dream and reality as every area of your life is enhanced.

Visit Mike on his WebsiteFacebookTwitter or Fitocracy.

You want to give it a shot.

The weight room, that is.

Seemingly everyone says strength training should be the focus of a good exercise regimen, but you’ve never ventured away from the safety of old faithful, slow-paced cardio.

Or maybe you are just beginning your fitness journey.

You’re new. Like, straight out the box, fresh, brand spankin’ new. And new is good.

You aren’t quite sure how to behave in the weight room. What if you screw something up? Are there rules? You see internet posts about “idiots in the gym” – you don’t want to be one of those idiots!

Curl here, squat there, but never curl over there?? It’s all a bit overwhelming.

Here are 8 basic gym rules for beginners.

You should know, this isn’t an angry list constructed by some frustrated gym bro – I often see those floating around the interweb. It seems like the writer just hates everyone who does anything, ever, anywhere near him.

What we have below is basic, practical, universally applicable information. It isn’t an opinion – just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s wrong or bad.

If you want to flex in the mirror or talk on the phone, that’s your prerogative.

Eight Practical Weight Room Tips

1. The Rack: Only use it if you NEED it

This is a rack:

Racks on Rack

Also a Rack

It is a coveted piece of gym equipment because there are a handful of exercises that simply cannot be performed anywhere else. For example: squats, overhead press or rack pulls, to name a few.

You may have heard people say “arrrgggghhhh, he was curling in the squat rack, I hate him!”

Now you understand why they were frustrated.

The thing is, this doesn’t just apply to curls. You shouldn’t perform ANY exercise in the rack unless you absolutely need it, especially during busy hours.

Exercises to be performed away from The Rack: Biceps Curls, Deadlift, Bent Over Rows, Hang or Power Cleans and Upright Rows, again, just to name a few.

2. Don’t Linger Near the Dumbbells

db rack

DB Heaven

When performing a dumbbell exercise, grab a pair from the row of dumbbells and find a bit of open space. This might be a several feet away from the dumbbells, or it may be in another part of the gym.

They key is to not crowd the dumbbells so another person has access if needed.

It can be tempting to grab your weapons, take a half step back, and begin your set (curls or lateral raises are exercises that come to mind). When you do this, you are preventing others from accessing the dumbbells. Instead, move far enough away to not block anyone’s access.

3. Clean Yo’ Sweat, yo

Many gyms provide towels, others supply paper towels. Either way, when you are done with an exercise, you should wipe the sweat off of your equipment.

Whether it is a bench or machine, give it a quick wipe so the next patron doesn’t have to effectively rub up on you.

This seems to fall under the common sense umbrella, but you would be surprised how often it gets neglected.

4. Put Your Toys Away

Weights are stored on trees. Wait, trees? No, weight trees. Silly. Like this:

Weight tree

Like Christmas, but iron.

The heavier weights go on the bottom, lighter weights on top. Make sure you put your weights back on the tree after you are done using them.

Also, throw used towels in the laundry bin when you are done. Clean up your chalk if you use it. And generally take care of any mess you make. Keep the mentality you had at age 9, getting nagged by mom to clean your room.

Unless, of course, you are in a super bad-ass gym, then you don’t have to clean up chalk. You probably won’t be though, and if you are, you’ll know. Basically, if you can physically feel dusty, chalky air enter your lungs upon inhalation, then you are free to not clean up your chalk.

5. Form Check!

One of the more harmful mistakes a beginner can make is using improper form. There are two ways around this:

  1. Hire a good trainer. A good personal trainer will add a ton of value in just a handful of sessions by teaching you to perform exercises with proper form.
  2. Youtube. The internet is crammed with knowledge. There are many good form videos online, so do your research before entering the gym.

Don’t make the mistake of training with improper form. Aside from the increased risk of injury, training with bad form will impede your progress in strength, endurance, muscle growth and fat loss.

6. Someone Using That Machine?

We live in an era where weights get left on machines after people are finished. Or maybe these sloths always existed.

Either way, it can be tricky to know if a machine is in use. Our trainee could have just wandered to the drinking fountain between sets, but he also could be said sloth who doesn’t put his weights away.

Generally, if you see a piece of equipment that you would like to use, here is best practice:

  • stand next to the machine for 10-20 seconds
  • perform a quick scan of the gym
  • ask someone nearby, “have you seen anyone on here?”

If they answer no, it’s pretty much all yours.

7. Save a Machine For Yourself

How can you prevent someone from jacking your machine?

Whether you are super-setting two exercises, slurping some agua or flirting with a trainer, there are some precautions you should take to prevent your machine from getting snatched up.

The general rule here is to drop a towel over some part of the machine and leave your weights on – that should save it.

This doesn’t always work (because of the sloths who do this, but actually left the gym hours ago), so to be safe, I would add a personal item such as a water bottle or notebook to the mix.

Weights + Towel + Personal Item = Machine Saved

Seriously though, be courteous of others. Don’t hog it all day if you don’t need to.

8. Interact With People!

Now, you don’t want to interrupt anyone’s set, but people are generally pretty friendly in the gym. If you have questions, just ask. Gym regulars are usually eager to help beginners.

Gym bros (seen above) eager to help beginners!

If someone is using a machine you are waiting for, don’t just stand there and stare. Say, “Excuse me, how many sets do you have left?”

Maybe they only have one left and you can jump right in. Maybe they are doing nine sets and you should shuffle your program for the day. Maybe they ask you to “work in” – alternate sets with them.

All of these outcomes are better than not asking. You have to initiate though; just standing there watching them impatiently won’t help.

Closing

Alright, I hope this was helpful.

Go have fun in there – people are actually pretty friendly. Just follow these rules as best you can, and you’ll be fine.

Combine your gym efforts with a solid diet, specifically, one where you count your macros, and you are going to DOMINATE the fitnazz.

By Mike Vacanti of ontheregimen.com.

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