Starting Gym Workout – Beginner’s Guide
I hate Google suggested searches and I hate personal biases of trainers. What’s the best “starting gym workout” if you’re just getting back into fitness? The best workout to me might be the worst idea ever to you, or vice versa. So let’s ask a different question – what do you currently do for fun? What do you think seems like a fun or cool idea?
Martial Arts Fitness
If you grew up playing Fatal Fury, King of Fighters, Soul Calibur, Tekken, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Samurai Shodown, Virtua Fighter and Guilty Gear then you’ll enjoy cardio kickboxing, actual kickboxing, brazilian jiu jitsu, or any other martial art. You fall into this same category if The Expendables was a movie you only dreamed of when you were growing up. My Push Ups & Pizza program is going to be right up your alley.
I’m a fitness martial arts enthusiast. I like hitting and kicking pads because it sounds cool and it makes me feel like a tough guy. I hate sparring, I don’t really like getting punched in the face, and I hate having my back against a wall while people try to punch me in the face. But I love getting my heart rate up, hearing cool fight noises, and sweating like crazy. So, when my brain is in cardio / HIIT mode I go to the academy and punch and kick things. Then when my brain no longer wants to punch and kick things I go find something else to do.
This would be a good avenue for anyone looking for weight loss as well. The hypertrophy aspect is questionable at best (it’ll vary by academy as some academies do indeed include what I’ll be addressing next) at more “traditional” locales where they’re more on a calisthenics type approach.
Non Traditional Gym Equipment
If you want to look toned and have an optimal range of motion and strength then I suggest going down the functional training tools path. If you’re stuck in an office all day typing and want to strengthen your forearms I would also suggest going down this path.
Not everyone wants to be a bodybuilder and use the squat rack, or learn how to clean and jerk a barbell overhead. Or they just don’t want to have to learn complicated movements to get a good workout in.
There’s a group in between the cardio television group and the dumbbell / barbell group. This group wants to put on muscle, knows machines are bad (unless it’s a functional trainer cable machine) * and doesn’t want to spend a ton of time trying to figure out how to do a particular movement.
Medicine balls and suspension trainers are probably the best solution to address this, followed up by kettlebells and bulgarian bags. Kettlebells and bulgarian bags can get complicated with certain movement patterns, but for the most part you can pull off gaining muscle without diving too far down the rabbit hole. Many HIIT / Crossfit studios like throwing in kettlebells (although as a snob from the School of Strength I believe some of the teachings to be “not optimal”) for the lean muscle mass / conditioning aspect that the movements can produce.
This group may also include things like tire flipping, clubs, axes, sledgehammers, actually carrying bails of hay, and anything else you can possibly think of that isn’t “traditional fitness equipment.” I have a portable landmine with handle attachments in my studio, but always forget to grab it (it requires a bit of extra setup compared to just picking up a bell in the corner and throwing it around for a bit before setting it back down.)
Squats, deadlifts, rows, and presses can all be done in one form or another with non traditional equipment. With a medicine ball you can lay on your back and chest press the ball up into the air (working an explosive pattern with lighter weight) getting a similar movement pattern to that of a traditional bench press. Or you could have a partner drop said medicine ball onto your abs, teaching you how to brace properly.
* side rant – machines are bad because everyone is a different height and everyone’s body moves slightly different. machines lock you into a specific movement range, negating that you may move differently / strengthening you only in a particular range of motion / strengthening only a particular muscle group thus opening you up to potential injury when you’re doing something like walking down the street. *
Traditional Gym Equipment
There is nothing wrong with being in this group. If you’re new to the gym, or took a break after playing high school football and are now getting back into the gym, then you probably fall into this category by default. Most gyms have exercise bikes, treadmills, barbells, and dumbbells. Even cruise ships have dumbbells and treadmills (but lack the non traditional equipment.)
If you’re a beginner just looking to do some strength stuff you don’t even really need a gym membership. A set of adjustable dumbbells will get you pretty far.
A set of dumbbells will allow you to perform chest presses (like a barbell bench press, only you have a weight in each hand, which lets you build strength slightly differently as the weight is distributed in a different manner), rows, raises, front racked squats, deadlifts, and probably about a million more exercises.
If you’re looking for a particular routine to get started with, let’s chat. You really shouldn’t follow any particular routine you found on the net without talking to someone first. The “generalist” routines are written in a manner to try to help “everyone” and therefore they help no one. You need a routine that’s designed for where you’re currently at in life and what you like to do.