Going to the gym was one of the best decisions I made as a teenager. It taught me about discipline, the importance of consistency, and a number of other life lessons I've carried with me ever since. Below, I've outlined my top 5 gym tips for beginners who want to get started in the gym for the first time.
1. Set Realistic Expectations
Don't expect to make huge gains right away. This will be a long-term process, and understanding that from the beginning will help you tremendously. Many people start lifting, don't see the progress they want in the first few months, then quit. A popular saying in the lifting community is:
Rome wasn't built in a day.
And neither is a killer physique. You will absolutely see progress if you remain consistent, but strength and muscle mass take time to build.
2. Learn the Basics
It's just lifting weights, how hard can it be, right? Truth be told, a lot of weightlifting is pretty simple, and most people overcomplicate their training program and diet. Instead of getting wrapped up in the latest fads, here are some tried and true fundamentals to get you started:
- Weightlifting for Beginners - Here, I explain what I consider to be the best beginner workout program: pull, push, legs. I also discuss different types of exercises, rep counts, rest periods, and other lifting program basics.
- If It Fits Your Macros - IIFYM, also known as flexible dieting, involves tracking your calories and macronutrients to gain or lose weight. Learn about protein intake and other dietary factors that can impact your performance.
- Supplements for Muscle Growth - What bodybuilding supplements do you actually need to take? The simple answer: it depends; though most lifters take protein powder, creatine monohydrate, and a pre-workout.
- Mindset Is Everything - Understanding the why behind your training, and being mentally present, will give you a huge advantage as you work toward your goals.
3. Create Winning Habits
If you haven't heard it yet, here you go...
Fitness is a lifestyle.
While cliché, this saying holds a lot of weight. To make the most of your progress in the gym, you need to make fitness a part of your daily life. Several winning habits I rely on include:
- Training consistently (don't skip days just because you "don't feel like lifting")
- Eating enough protein every day (roughly 1g per pound of bodyweight)
- Getting quality sleep (try to average at least 7 hours)
- Enjoying treats in moderation (e.g., 2-3 beers vs binge drinking, or eating out only once per week)
Everybody's winning habits look a little bit different, so find what works for you. Most important, though, is to remain consistent.
4. Discipline > Motivation
If you rely on motivation to get into the gym and reach your fitness goals, you won't last long. Motivation comes and goes, but discipline is forever. As Jocko Willink, retired United States Navy SEAL officer, likes to say:
Discipline equals freedom.
If you have the discipline to put in the work now, you'll have more freedom to do what you want later. Motivation is fine, it can help from time to time, but discipline is required to create the winning habits necessary to achieve your goals.
5. Have Fun
I've lifted for over a decade because I truly enjoy the lifestyle and people in the community.
When you enjoy what you're doing, you're more likely to stick with it.
So find the aspects of weightlifting that you have the most fun with and capitalize on them.
And don't worry about looking out of place as a first-time gym goer. Remember, everybody at the gym is there to improve themselves; everybody needs to start somewhere. Many of the strongest guys in the gym are also the nicest and most willing to help new lifters. Keep a positive attitude and enjoy the process!
When I created this list, there were a lot of related ideas I needed to exclude for brevity. Below are some honorable mentions that didn't quite make my top 5 beginner gym tips:
- Ease Into Your Lifting: When you first start lifting, you should take a few weeks to learn different lifts and compound movements. They're going to feel awkward at first, so start with minimal weight and high repetitions to get comfortable, build confidence, and avoid injury.
- YouTube Is Your Friend: You don't need to pay for a fitness coach or trainer to learn how to lift weights. You can find how-tos on just about every exercise imaginable on YouTube.
- Avoid Distractions: A lot of people go to the gym to socialize. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but try to avoid extended conversations that mentally remove you from your workout and get your body cold. The same is true of scrolling through apps on your phone and texting. Remember why you're at the gym and stay focused.
- Pay Attention to Recovery: As you make progress in the gym, it can be tempting to skip rest days and warm ups. Don't make this mistake. Recovery is an essential part of building muscle.
Making progress in the gym isn't rocket science. It simply takes consistency, effort, and a little bit of know-how. If you have any beginner fitness tips you think I missed, add them to the comments below!
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