Monday, May 20Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Gym: The First Steps

Never been to the gym, but scared to go? or simply don’t have the time? …Well read on.

Perhaps you just want to get into shape, do some cardio to lose that ab-shrouding gut, or maybe you want to start lifting weights; why not all three?

As many know, attending your first gym session can be daunting, for a number of reasons. From experience, friends that I’ve converted from couch-potato to gym-attender, have expressed their worries, the most common being their first session. For example: “I’m scared people will be looking at me, what if I don’t know how to use the equipment?”

Tip 1: Research

If you’ve never been to the gym, and want to start lifting, for instance; it won’t hurt to research before you go. Looking at simple form videos (How to complete the movements) can put you in good stead, and save you a lot of time.

There is tonnes of valuable information relating to lifting movements, general tips, as well as a variety of forums and boards such as ‘’ where people ask questions and form discussions; most of which are beneficial even to a long-term gym-goer.

Knowing how to complete simple movements before your first session will also diminish the element of uncertainty, and it can, most importantly, prevent injury.

Tip 2: Ask a friend

Perhaps you have a friend or family member that has a home gym, or equipment that they do not mind letting you get familiar with; either way, this could also be very beneficial. Rather like the last tip, getting used to equipment and simple movements can allow you to understand why certain exercises are done, for example, dumbbell flyes primarily work the chest.

Tip 3: Compound v Isolation

There is a huge debate on which type of exercise is beneficial for beginners, and I say compound.

By scale, compound exercises seem and feel “bigger” in a sense that they often use an Olympic barbell, and they engage a wider array of joints and muscles.

Examples of compound exercises include: Benchpress, Overheard press, Squats & Deadlift (but there are many more).

It’s said that when a beginner uses such exercises, due to the fact that it engages with more muscle, they see the fastest growth. Although, rather like the real world, it’s important to get a mix, and keep exercises in context. Using both compound and isolation exercises will allow you to start a ‘Split’ which in essence allows you to work several muscle groups on a given day whilst having at least 48 hours to rest those particular muscle groups; for example, Monday could be ‘Chest / Triceps’ day, Tuesday ‘Back / Biceps’, Wednesday ‘Rest;, Thursday ‘Legs / Shoulders’, Friday ‘Abs / Misc’. Although, as mentioned earlier, it’s important to research as there is no ‘one size fits all’ programme. Isolation exercises, as you’ve probably guessed, are movements that hit one particular muscle or muscle group, for instance, the bicep curl.

Keep these tips in mind if you’re still not confident enough to go to the gym, and remember there’s no harm in researching!

Good luck!