It can be intimidating to go to the gym if you don’t know how to use it or have never been there before. What do all the machines do? What are they for? Are they all looking at me?

We’ve created the ultimate gym guide to beginners. It covers everything, from how to set up your equipment to how to get started to how to do it. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about working out at the gym and achieving your fitness goals.

Before you begin

Requirements for health

The gym was created to help everyone achieve their fitness goals. You can train at the gym to tone up, build strength or tone your body. However, before you start your journey to fitness, you might be asked about any medical conditions. This allows personal trainers to tailor a program that best suits you.

These are just a few examples of what you might be asked to divulge:

  • Existing heart conditions
  • Permanent medical conditions such as diabetes
  • Have you had any major operations in the past 12 months?
  • If you have been advised by a doctor to stop exercising in the past
  • Inductions to the gym

Inductions are a short tour of the ntaifitness gym equipment. This includes information about gym etiquette, how to use machines and how to access each area.

Good inductions are key to getting you off to the right start. Induction staff will have helpful tips and advice to save you time later. For example, when is the best time to use which equipment and which exercises are ideal for beginners.

Prepare for your first visit

The best time to exercise is at night

Every new employee asks “What’s the best time for me to go to the gym?”

Mornings are often considered the best time to get in a workout. It can lower stress levels and give you energy for the rest of your day. It all depends on what your ‘circadian rhythm’ is.

Your circadian rhythm, which is your internal clock that causes you to be alert or sluggish during the day, is called your internal clock. It should not be difficult to get motivated for an hour at the gym if you are a morning person. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t manage to get any work done by your 9 a.m. coffee. Instead, go to the gym on the way home.

There is no “best time” to exercise. It all depends on your body. So listen to your body and go to the gym when it’s convenient for you.

Work to your schedule

It can be helpful to get an additional hour of sleep each night if your schedule is affecting your circadian rhythm. When you are tired, you feel the pressure of your circadian rhythms more. So getting to bed earlier may be the key to completing those 7am laps in a pool!

Avoid peak times

Another thing to think about when you are likely to be at the gym. Avoid peak hours if you are looking for space to work on your strength. This happens usually right before or after work, but staff on-site can advise you.

What to wear and what to take with you

You’ll need to be prepared if you want to really power through your session, and reach your peak performance.

Here are some essential gym bag items:

  • Training gear that is appropriate for gym use (refrain from wearing denim or replica shirts).
  • Shoes for gym (strong trainers are the best; avoid canvas shoes).
  • Use a towel to wipe down your equipment after use
  • For a post-workout shower, shampoo and towel
  • After-workout snack
  • Water bottle
  • Warm up

You might feel self-conscious about your first gym visit. Your instinct may be to jump straight to the weight machines and ‘prove you worth it.’ This is a rookie error. Properly warming up is an essential part of any good workout.

Warm-ups are essential as they prepare the body for exercise. They also loosen up muscles and reduce the chance of injury. This will make it less likely that you pull muscles during your workout, and reduce the risk of lactic acid build-up which can cause cramping.

Here’s a quick warm-up for beginners.

Warm-up for Beginners

You can learn more about how to warm up with the in-depth guide for warming up after exercise by Paul Martin, a sports psychotherapist.

Your first session at the gym

Where do you start?

It’s time for you to start training once you have warmed up. Where do you start? We’re here to help you get started at the gym.

Good workouts don’t happen by chance. They are planned in advance. People who appear to be able to move effortlessly from treadmill to tricep presse are actually following a carefully planned schedule that is tailored to maximize each session.

What’s the secret to creating a workout that works best for you? Understanding the purpose of each piece of equipment and how it can help your goals is key.

Gym machines explained

Inductions should include brief instructions for each machine. If you are looking for a machine that wasn’t listed, ask staff to help you.

Incorrectly using a machine can cause damage to it or, in extreme cases, can result in injury. This is not a good way to begin your gym time.

Here is a list of machines that you will find in most gyms.

Section 1: Cardio machines

Ideal for: Losing weight and strengthening your heart and lungs.

  • Treadmill – A treadmill that provides a great cardio workout and can help you improve your cardiovascular health. You can adjust the incline or pace to suit your needs.
  • Elliptical cross trainer — This dual-action trainer works your upper and lower bodies in tandem. This low-impact exercise will help you tone your quads, glutes (chest, back, triceps, and biceps), as well as your hamstrings.
  • Rowing machine — Simulates a rower’s movements by swapping water and oars in favor of a handle or chain. This full-body exercise will help you to strengthen your core and burn fat.
  • Exercise machine — This is a sit-down cardio machine for your legs. To strengthen and tone your legs, you can increase resistance.
  • Stepper (or stair climber) – Similar to a treadmill but with steps! This workout is easy on the joints, but it still works all your muscles.

Section 2 – Resistance area

Ideal for: Strengthening and mass building; muscle toning.

  • Chest presses — This simulates a dual-dumbbell press or barbell press in a controlled environment. You can engage your upper chest muscles by sitting at a 45 degree incline without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Chin up machine — This is a tool that will help you gain strength by simply using your bodyweight. The assisted mode is for beginners to make it easier.
  • Bicep curl — This machine isolates your workout to your biceps. It is great for developing or toning your upper arms.
  • Tricep push — This exercise works your triceps and your shoulders as you push down to lift weight behind you.
  • Cable machine — Can also be used to strengthen your chest, triceps and biceps. It doesn’t have a rigid movement, so it uses more muscle fibers. This is great for building strength.
  • Leg press — This exercise builds muscle and tone your legs by having you push your feet against a weight.

This exercise targets your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. It is great for shaping your behind!

Section 3 – Flexible space

Ideal for: Rehabilitation; targeted stretching; rehabilitation; functional and freestyle training.

  • Kettlebells – Cannonball-shaped weights that have handles. This is a great way to combine cardio and strength training to burn fat while toning your arms, core, and stomach.
  • Medical balls — A weighed ball that is roughly the same size and shape as a basketball. This ball is ideal for strength conditioning and rehabilitation.
  • TRX — A rope-like suspension system that allows you use your body weight to tone and strengthen your core.
  • Weighted Sled — This piece of equipment can be added weights and pulled to increase your strength. This is a great tool for conditioning your body.

Use free weights

Sometimes, people who are unfamiliar with free weights make mistakes that can lead to injury. You could inflict injury if you wander into a free weight area at a gym and grab any dumbbell that interests you.

Good news: Free weights don’t have to be dangerous as long as you properly use them. This is how to get the most from this area in your club.

Get started with bodyweight training

A form of strength training that doesn’t require you use weights is bodyweight training. Building strength is more important than building muscle.

You can prepare your body for weight training by using bodyweight training instead of going in straight. Push-ups and squats are easy ways to get your muscles working against resistance. Ask your club staff to recommend a place where you can strength train. It’s a good idea for beginners to try bodyweight training.

Start with lighter weight

Start at the bottom, and work your way up from there. Try a few reps with just the barbell if you are training with a barbell. It will be surprising how heavy they are. You won’t feel alone if you are feeling self-conscious. Experienced deadlifters will still heat up the bar by themselves, so don’t worry if you feel that way.

Remember the Etiquette

In the area of free weights, there are some rules that you should be following:

Do not drop weights – Dropping weights is a safety risk. It can also cause damage to the kit and disrupt other members. When you finish your sets, it is better to slowly lower the weights down to the ground.

Return weights — There’s nothing more frustrating than finding out half way through a session that the dumbbells have been lost or misplaced. Once you are done with your weights place them back on the rack.

Get a spotter, but remember that some exercises, such as the bench press, can be dangerous without one. Ask our staff for assistance. If you don’t have to, don’t drag another person out of a focus workout.

If you aren’t familiar with the process, it can seem daunting to use free weights. We’re here to help!

For beginners, gym workout

Once you are familiar with the equipment it is time to get started.

Although there is no one-size-fits all workout, we teamed up with Zanna van Dijk to offer the ultimate gym workout for beginners. This workout works your entire body and uses a variety gym equipment. It should take you between 45 and one hour to complete.

5-minute cardio

You can do a 5-minute, fast-paced, incline walk on a treadmill to increase your heart rate and mobilize your joints. You can also use the Quick Start option.

Resistance training

For 10 reps, choose a weight you can lift comfortably. You should find the last few reps challenging. For each exercise, do three sets of 10 reps with a rest of around 60 seconds between each set.

  • Dumbbell lunges
  • Leg press
  • Dumbbell shoulder press
  • Pull-down Lat
  • Cable chest fly
  • TRX planks (3 sets, 30 second each)
  • HIIT cardio circuit

HIIT cardio circuit

A HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), circuit is about short but intense bursts with exercise. These are followed by periods of recovery or rest that are low in intensity.

Repeat 5 rounds of HIIT with minimal rest.

  • 10 burpees
  • Ten press-ups
  • Ten sit-ups

It is important to stretch and cool down after a workout. This can be as easy as a 5-minute stroll on the treadmill.

  • Supporting your fitness journey
  • Book a class in the gym

Regular attendance at the gym is a great way to reach your fitness goals. You should join a gym class if you want to see the real results.

A professional trainer will lead you through a set of exercises in gym classes. These classes are done in groups so you can make new friends and push yourself further than you would if you were training alone.

There are many classes available, from aqua aerobics and yoga to boxing and dance. Each class is different in terms of intensity and length. We recommend that you choose a class with a low intensity or low duration if you are just starting out. This will allow you to not push yourself too much.

Book a personal trainer

Although classes are great for getting new ideas, they won’t help you achieve your goals. You might need to hire a personal trainer for this purpose.

Personal trainers work with clients to design custom workouts and offer advice during exercise.

What are the most important things a personal trainer can do for you? What can a personal trainer do for you?

  • Attaining your ideal weight
  • Strengthening your character
  • Rehabilitation following an injury
  • Perform better in a sport

The standard membership fee doesn’t usually cover personal trainers. Many gym members feel it is worth paying for a few sessions, even if it only costs a small amount. This will help you get started and make your workouts more efficient. Personal trainers will help you stay on track and keep you accountable so you don’t drift from your workout routine.

The staff at the gym will often arrange a short’meet-and-greet’ session with your personal trainer to get to know them and learn more about you. These 6 questions can help you determine if your personal coach is the right one for you.

Become a gym pro

The gym is now a known fact.

It will all become second nature to you over time. You’ll gain confidence and be able to achieve the goals that you have set for yourself.

No matter what level of fitness, remember that staff and PT’s will always be available to help you if you have any questions.