Walking into the gym as a new member there is SO much going on. People at the desk are checking in and slurping smoothies. Prospective members tour of the facility. Atrocious pop music shrieks from every corner.
The weight floor sprawls before you like an iron jungle. Benches, power racks, machines, functional cages teeming with strangers. You wade into it with absolutely no instruction or guidance.
Every person has the same question at that moment:
“What the hell do I do now?”
I remember the feeling of going to the gym for the first time after a 7 year hiatus from any form of exercise. I was scrawny, deconditioned, and intimidated.
Shaking with insecurity, I inched my way into a Gold’s Gym at prime time, feeling like the last surviving character in a zombie movie. I gazed over the sweaty hoard of people clamoring for equipment, shoving past each other for dumbbells - and I could swear every last one of them was staring at me.
Actual footage of a squat rack becoming available.
What I came to find out is no one ever registered that I was there. No one cared. Every person was paying attention to their own workout.
In addition to the lack of attention, no one was judging my workout or physical condition. Very few regular gym members have a solid grasp on how to exercise efficiently. In fact, if you’re reading my blog you probably have a more solid plan for your workout than 80% of the folks you’ll meet on the gym floor.
So if you’re totally new to the gym or haven’t been there in a while - take a deep breath. You have nothing to prove. You’re at the gym for the same reason as everyone else. No one else even notices that you’re there. Focus up and get to work. Walking through the front door was one of the hardest parts.
Now that you’re through the door, here is how to keep coming back.
Keep It Simple
Don’t try to do too much. Remember you don’t have to do everything the first day. You’ll be working out several times a week and this is going to be your new lifelong habit. The last thing you want is to overextend yourself the first day and suffer an injury.
When you’re first starting out use mostly total body workouts. You’ll hit major movement with higher frequency and you’ll have no trouble recovering.
Stay away from anything the internet claims a celebrity or professional bodybuilder uses. First of all, it’s probably not what they used. Second, if it was, you’re not ready for that program.
At the beginning, you don’t need any fancy sets and reps schemes. 3 sets of 10-15 reps per movement is all you need.
Weight training 3 days per week is plenty to jumpstart your progress. To keep active on the other days, take a 30-60 minute walk.
Most of your workout should be made up of compound movements. Compound movements are those that involve two joints. The 6 main compound movements are Squat, Hinge, Lunge, Push, Pull, Loaded Carry. These are the meat and potatoes of fitness. You will never ever EVER graduate from these movements.
This is all I'm going to give you. Too much unnecessary info can lead to analysis paralysis. The key is to just keep going. Even if you're tired and you know you're going to seriously half-ass your workout, GO ANYWAY. We're building a habit and solidifying movement patterns, not training for the Olympics.
You are making progress just by showing up.
To take the guesswork out of the process I've included a sample week with plenty of variety. Now you can't claim exercise selection ignorance or boredom.
Goblet Squat 3 x10
Push Up 3 x 12
Walking Lunges 3 x 10e
Seated Cable Row 3 x 12
Glute Bridges 3 x 15
Farmer Carry 3 x 50 yards
30 min Walk
Kettlebell Deadlift 3 x 10
Bench Press 3 x 10
Reverse Lunge 3 x 10e
Single Arm Dumbbell Row 3 x 12e
Bodyweight Squats 3 x 15
Suitcase Carry 3 x 25 yards each
30 min Walk
Split Squat 3 x 10e
Dumbbell Overhead Press 3 x 10
Hip Thrust 3 x 12
Lat Pull Down 3 x 12
Leg Press 3 x 12
Waiter’s Walk 3 x 25 yards each
Articles filled with actionable information to improve your approach to the 4 pillars of fitness.