I love going to the gym for cardio and I usually do about 40 minutes of the elliptical and bike. However, I'm ashamed to say I've only twice visited the weight room . . . and both those times I was too nervous and too clueless to stay for very long. The truth is, all of these weights and machines look great, but I don't know where to start! How can I finally enjoy the weight room and see some strength-training results?
Looking to Lift
Great job on doing regular cardio. I think it's great that you are looking to get over your fear of the weight room and start strength training. To learn my advice, read more.
If you want to use weight machines, the best place to start is with a session with a trainer from your gym. Many gyms offer one free session with a personal trainer to help gym members learn how to safely use the weight machines. Ask at the front desk next time you're at the gym. If they are not free, check out the price for one session so someone knowledgeable can teach you how to use the machines. You can also skip the machines and start learning strength-training moves with free weights like dumbbells or ones that require no equipment at all. There are many moves you can do in the comfort of your own home to build your confidence and strength before heading to the weight room. But let's not get ahead of ourselves; first let's take a moment to go over the basic concepts.
It is recommended that healthy adults do eight to 10 strength-training exercises using the major muscle groups on two non-consecutive days a week. To maximize strength development, added weight should be used for eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise, resulting in muscular fatigue. Doing two to three sets of eight to 12 reps will work your muscles even more. Strength training three times a week will also enhance your efforts even more.
In terms of major muscle groups, think of them this way: lower body (butt, front of legs, back of legs, calves, hips, and thighs), upper body (biceps, shoulders, back, chest, and back of arms), and abs (sides, upper, and lower). And do know that over time you will need to increase the amount of weight you work with to keep challenging yourself. Plus, every month to two months you should change your strength-training routine to keep your muscles guessing.
Here are two full-body circuit workouts that you should try: the FitSugar Circuit Workout (no props required) and the FitSugar Full-Body Circuit Workout (with dumbbells). Read through these posts explaining how to use gym equipment and machines.