How to start going to the gym when you have no idea how to start: Including workout ideas

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It’s easy to get intimidated at the gym, everyone can look like they know exactly what they are doing, but in reality we are all on our own journeys. When I first started working out in high school, I used to always compare myself to the person next to me, and as it is human nature to have an opinion, it’s not healthy to let it get into your head as your current stage and progress is your own. Starting to lift at the gym is not only a physical challenge but a mental one as well so here are some tips when starting off from someone who has dealt with many ups and downs.

The number one thing before you even step foot into a gym is having an overall plan to get you to a certain goal. Do you want to build muscle, tone your body, lose weight, improve your endurance? Whatever it is, you should always keep it in mind when you are starting to figure out your fitness path. The best thing that works for me, is to plan out a weekly split schedule with the types of workouts I’m going to do along with what time I’m going to go at and what days I am going to rest. Currently my workout split is as follows but its always changing depending on what is going on in my life or how I am feeling mentally: 

  • Sunday: Quads and Glutes Leg day + Sauna 
  • Monday: Chest, shoulders, and triceps
  • Tuesday: Rest 
  • Wednesday: Cardio + abs 
  • Thursday: Glutes and Hamstrings Leg Day + Sauna 
  • Back and Biceps + abs 
  • Saturday: Rest 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek out ideas from other people

What may work for me may not work for you. Even after years of going to the gym I still find myself looking up on Youtube or TIktok on how to use machines, looking for new ideas or variations of exercises I can do to spice up my workouts once I get bored. Most of the time I find myself going to the gym alone, but being a fellow gym participant for years I can say with full confidence that everyone is super helpful and supportive if you ever need guidance or a spot. 

Make sure you’re comfortable

Being in a setting that is comfortable for you is one of the most important things that will help you thrive to reach your goals. Recently, I changed the time I went to the gym from around 10-11am to about 8-9am because I felt very uncomfortable being around so many people and found myself getting upset about not being able to do the exercises that I planned out. If you’re like me and don’t like the busy crowds, try working out in the morning and on weekends, those have the least amount of traffic. Since we are also in college, utilize the faculties offered to you as a student where you will be surrounded by other students the same age as you, on USF campus there are three different faculties you can go to, The Recreation and Wellness being the biggest faculty, The Fit, and The Well being the smallest faculty. Another tip to help you feel comfortable is to have a designated playlist for working out with songs that are going to pump you up and get you in your own zone. 

Know the Myths about going the gym

  • You need to change your diet to be able to reach your goals: Personally, I always hated the idea of counting calories and watching what I eat to be able to reach my goals, so I’ve never done it and have successfully reached all the goals I set for myself in the past. Restricting yourself does help you improve quicker and that can work for you, but isn’t necessary or realistic since we are still young adults in college. Not everyone has the time or money to do these things, so instead just make sure you are eating 3 times a day and eating in moderation that isn’t too much or too little. 
  • Lifting Weights will make you look bulky: Absolutely not, it is not only a great way to lose weight but also helps tone your body and show off the muscles you never knew you had. 
  • A longer workout is more effective: Honestly, I used to have super long workouts spending over 2 hours at a time at the gym thinking this is exactly what I needed to reach my goals. In reality you don’t need to spend more than an hour and a half at the gym. On leg days, I stick to about 4-6 exercises and on Upper Body Days I do about 6-8 exercises. 
  • No pain, No gain: As soreness is always normal when working really hard at the gym, listening to your body is really important to your recovery and even your mental health. Some days are harder than others and it’s perfectly okay to take breaks from lifting if you feel extra tired and unmotivated. Try things like hitting the sauna, going to a yoga class, or just going on a walk as a more relaxing way to detox and recover. 

Exercise Ideas

How I structure Leg days: Reps of 8-12 for 4 Sets 

  1. Squat Movement: Back Squat, Front Squat, Hack Squat, Goblet Squat 
  2. Hinge movement : Good mornings, Sumo Deadlift, RDL (Romanian Deadlift) 
  3. Thrust Movement: Hip Thrust, Kas Hip Thrust, Glute Bridge, Single Leg Hip Thrust 
  4. Lunge movement: Walking Lunge, Split Squats, Single Leg Leg Press, Elevated Reverse Lunge 
  5. Isolation Movements (1 or 2 exercise): Step Ups, Hamstring Curls, Leg extensions, Calf Raises 

Upper Body Day Workout:

Chest Shoulders and Triceps 10-12 reps for 4 sets 

  1. Chest Press 
  2. Dumbbell Shoulder Press 
  3. Incline Bench Press 
  4. Upright Row or Lateral Raise 
  5. Chest Fly w/ Machine
  6. Cable Tricep Pushdown
  7. Dips 

Back and Biceps 10-12 reps for 4 sets

  1. Warm up: Pull ups w/ Assist 3 x until failure 
  2. Bent over Row 
  3. Single Dumbbell Rows 
  4. Lateral Pulldown 
  5. Cable Lateral Row 
  6. Bicep Curl 
  7. Cable Bicep Curl w/ Rope