You’re just starting out in the gym, and you’re not sure what exercises to do. You want to make the most of your gym sessions, and don’t want to look like you don’t know what you’re doing. We completely understand. We were beginners once, too. We’ve also worked with hundreds of people in similar situations. It’s the reason why we put together The Ultimate Gym Workout for Beginners.
By the end of this article, you’ll feel more confident in the gym, and never have that “what shall I do today feeling?” You’ll understand what type of training is most effective for your goals, and why. Big statement, we know.
With this being said, let’s get started...
Before we get into The Ultimate Gym Workout for Beginners, let’s talk about the correct gym etiquette.
Why do you need to know about gym etiquette?
Before you step foot in the gym, it’s important to know that every gym has an etiquette. Unfortunately, it’s not written on the walls outside, at least not in most gyms. This makes it difficult for beginners.
The reason why gym etiquette is important is that you’re a beginner in the gym, and you don’t want to stand out like a sore thumb. Getting to the gym in the first place is difficult enough, without the feeling of being judged. We know how it feels. We want you to keep going back for more.
We’ve written an in-depth article on gym etiquette, but here’s a quick summary:
- Put your equipment away
- Treat the gym as you would your home
- If you want to use a piece of equipment that’s taken, ask people how long they’re going to be, or if you can join in
- Squat racks aren’t for bicep curls
- Spend less time on your phone
- Use reasonable weights
- Stop grunting
- Don’t make fun of other gym goers
- Less of the selfies
- Follow your gym’s rules
- Don’t attempt to talk to, or walk across, someone who’s about to lift (or lifting!)
- Turn your music down
- Step away from the dumbbell rack
- Only help people if they ask you
- Wash your workout clothes, and take showers
The main take-home is to be kind and considerate to other people and treat the gym with respect. And less time on your phones (read the article, you’ll understand the joke!).
Anyway, let’s get to the reason why we’re here…
The Ultimate Gym Workout for Beginners
Now you know how to behave in the gym, you need to know what to do when you get there.
Here’s our Ultimate Gym Workout for Beginners…
- Use any cardiovascular equipment of your choice, for 5 minutes. At Sports Samurai, we usually use the cross trainer or treadmill. There’s no reason why we choose these over the others, we just prefer it
- Ensure you start off slow for the first minute or two, but for the next three to four minutes, increase the pace so that your heart rate becomes elevated
- When the weather is cold outside, you may want to consider increasing this to 10 minutes or 15 minutes (especially if you just got out of the car!)
Warming up is important because it helps to prepare your body for activity. Don’t be one of those people who goes straight for the weights. A proper warm-up will help reduce your risk of injury and improve your athletic performance (when you perform the gym workout for beginners below).
This study goes into more detail about why the benefits of warming up if you’re interested in learning more.
You’ve finished the warm-up. Before you get into the actual workout, it’s important to do some dynamic stretching.
You’re probably wondering what dynamic stretching is. Here’s a great video that explains dynamic stretching, as well as 8 simple examples of dynamic stretches you can incorporate:
Now you’ve watched the video, you’re probably thinking “we were told to do static stretching at school” – we know. So were we!
However, in recent years, some studies have shown that static stretching before a workout could actually be detrimental to a workout. Yes, you read that right. It’s better to not stretch at all than to do static stretching, according to some studies.
Dynamic stretching is completely different, however. See here for more about the difference between dynamic and static stretching. In this video, there more examples of advanced dynamic stretches!
Now that you’re warm and have done your stretches, you’re probably ready to go home. We get it. But hang in there for a bit longer. You’ve got goals you want to achieve, remember?
Pro Tip: If you haven’t exercised for a while (or ever), the above may be enough for you. You can always stop it there, be proud you made it to the gym, and try again next time.
Perform all exercises for 2-3 sets each, 8 to 12 repetitions.
If you don’t know already, reps (or repetitions) is the number of times you perform a specific exercise and sets are the number of cycles of reps that you complete.
1. Leg Press Machine
Note: Some leg press machines may look different to this. It doesn’t really matter which one you use, as long as it’s similar.
2. Chest Press Machine
3. Lat Pulldown
4. Shoulder Press Machine
5. Low Row Machine
If your gym doesn’t have this machine, any seated row variation will do.
6. Abs Crunch Machine
Some gyms won’t have this machine or any type of abs machine. That’s fine.
You can choose any of these 4 best core strengthening exercises for beginners. Even if your gym does have this Abs crunch machine, you may want to incorporate these – they’re a great addition to your gym workout for beginners.
The reason why we said 2 OR 3 sets is that…
If you’re new to the gym and haven’t exercised for a while, start with 2 sets of each. If you’re fairly healthy and exercise outside of the gym, start with 3. Judge it by your experience levels and how you feel.
Leave your ego at home. This is one of your first workout sessions. You don’t need to go 110%, especially if it’s going to leave you sore for weeks, and hating the gym. Do what you can, and keep consistent by coming back.
That’s going to benefit you more than one intense session.
Cardio to finish (optional)
Depending on how much time you have left, and how you feel after this workout, you could finish off with some cardiovascular work.
Realistically, this may be too much for most beginners, but we’ve added it in for people who might only be able to get to the gym once or twice a week and are happy to do longer sessions. Or for those who are super eager…
Doing cardio after a workout also depends on your goals. If your goal is to lose weight, you may want to consider doing some at the end of a workout in order to burn more calories and create a calorie deficit.
Our blogs in the weight loss section can help if you don’t know what calorie deficits are, and want to learn more about weight loss.
If you’re trying to add muscle and still have energy, you might want to skip this part and do another few sets of the weights above. There are still many benefits to cardio (see below). Our weight gain section goes into more about gaining muscle, and how being in a calorie surplus is imperative.
Choose any piece of cardio equipment you enjoy – any will do here. We like to do some rowing or use the treadmill.
If you’re a beginner to the gym, you’re going to want to look good with a new gym bag or backpack. Check out our selection…
Why is this The Ultimate Gym Workout for Beginners? What makes it so special?
Now that you’ve seen our gym workout for beginners, you’re probably thinking “What makes it so special?” There are two reasons:
- It focuses on a combination of strength training and cardiovascular training
- It works all of the muscle groups multiple times per week
Why is strength training important?
Strength training is important, regardless of your goals. Building muscle means a faster metabolism, reduced risk of injury, improved bone intensity, better sleep, looking and ultimately feeling better, and many more.
As you get older, you naturally start to lose muscle. Strength training can help to overcome this.
If your goal is to gain weight, you don’t want to gain fat (at least we don’t think so!). You want to gain muscle. This is why strength training is important – you obviously need to do some type of resistance or strength training in order to achieve this. And this is included in this workout.
If your goal is the opposite with weight loss, strength training is also important. You’ll look better, and have the benefits of burning more calories. Either way, no workout is complete without some form of strength training, and this is why it’s been included in our Ultimate Gym Workout for Beginners.
Why is cardio important?
Cardio is just as important as strength training. Again, this is irrespective of your goals. Many people who want to gain weight think they don’t need to do any cardio. You don’t have to. But you should.
The benefits include improving your cardiovascular health, lowering blood pressure, strengthing your immune system and many more. Regardless of your goal, include some cardio.
See here for more benefits of aerobic exercise (or as we know it, cardio).
Why work all muscle groups multiple times per week?
There are two major mistakes beginners make when going to the gym.
- They don’t do any strength training at all (usually people who want to lose weight).
- They only exercise one body part a day (usually people who want to gain muscle).
We’ve already discussed why strength training is important, irrespective of your goals. But let’s get on to the second point.
If you’re exercising multiple times a week (4 to 7), exercising one body part a day could make sense, even as a beginner. We say could, because we still don’t believe that exercising this way is optimal. However, it’s perfectly reasonable if you’re exercising at that frequency.
The issue is that most beginners won’t train this often. Even with the best of intentions, it’s difficult. Here’s why we prefer to train each muscle group multiple times per week:
- Training each muscle group multiple times a week can lead to more muscle growth. Don’t believe us? Check out this article for more.
- As a beginner, the hardest part is getting to the gym in the first place. Whilst you may have the best of intentions to go multiple times a week, it may not happen. At least this way you’ve worked the muscle group, instead of missing it completely when things get busy.
When should you move on from this Ultimate Gym Workout for Beginners?
Once you get bored of it.
This workout is good enough to last weeks and even months, depending on how often you go to the gym, and what your goals are. As mentioned above, it includes both strength training and cardiovascular training, as well as working all of the muscle groups multiple times a week. It’s the Ultimate Gym Workout for Beginners for a reason.
The truth is:
It’s boring to do the same workout every session. We understand. Especially if you’re going to the gym multiple times per week. There’s plenty more equipment in the gym that you want to try.
There are also other benefits of moving on from machines. Strength training with dumbbells and barbells is the next step up. Free weights are more functional, can help you to gain more muscle, improve your balance, and can help you to burn more calories. See here for more on the benefits of free weight vs. machines.
Once you’re ready, move on to them. But if you’re not comfortable, stick to this routine. It’s entirely your choice.
How often should beginners go to the gym?
It’s a good question, and it depends on your goals. As a guide, we recommend 3 workouts a week.
The reason we say 3 is because people who go from zero to 6 or 7 workouts a week tend to burn out quickly. Their bodies aren’t used to this level of exercise, and it’s difficult to keep up. Resting is important, too.
3 workouts a week is also enough for you to achieve whatever goals you have, whether it be weight loss, weight gain, or general fitness.
If you want to be active on your days off, consider doing walking, yoga, or any other form of low-intensity exercise. You could even do this in the gym if you want. However, you may start to quickly hate it if you spend all of your time there.
Pro Tip: Try not to overdo it on your rest days, as you’ll want to be fresh for your next workout. It’s easy to do this. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Remember: these are just guidelines. Some people will be happier doing more than this, and some less. If you have goals that you want to achieve in a shorter timeframe, you may want to consider exercising more often than what we’ve recommended here.
What is the best gym workout to lose weight?
We’re glad you bought this question up. In order to lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit. Our weight loss section talks about this in more detail. A calorie deficit means that you burn more calories than you use per day.
In terms of the best gym workout to lose weight, the workout above is sufficient in order to lose weight. It’s a great combination of strength training and cardio (we’ve been through the benefits of both above).
If you don’t like the workout above, feel free to adapt it in order to achieve your goals. If you’re going to the gym more often than the 3 times we recommend for beginners, you may not want to do the same workout every session. Feel free to do your own workouts alongside our one.
Do what makes you happy, and what you’re likely to keep consistent with. There are no best gym workouts for beginners. The best ones are the ones you stick to for long enough that you achieve your weight loss goals.
In our Ultimate Gym Workout for Beginners, we’ve gone through various topics. We’ve discussed correct gym etiquette, our gym workout for beginners, as well as various questions you may have related to this.
We’ve covered everything a beginner needs to know to get started and progress in the gym. Now all you need to do is get started.
Pro Tip: Try out our workout, but feel free to adapt it according to your needs. Once you get more comfortable in the gym, add other exercises or substitute exercises. Keep it exciting for you, so you’ll stay consistent.
What are your favourite gym workouts for beginners? Let us know in the comments section below.