At some point in your life, you’re likely going to end up going to a gym. But not just any gym – probably some kind of commercial gym.
First of all – good for you for taking the steps to bettering yourself!
Unless you’re some of those crazy Crossfit fans, then you will probably end up having a workout at the gym. Often times, home gyms just don’t have everything we need. They’re lacking things like heavy dumbbells, squat racks and barbells. So in order to get full workout in, we head on over to Gold’s Gym, LA Fitness, or maybe 24 Hour Fitness.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get a great workout in. Rather, it can be kind of hard to focus and stay that way at the gym. Whether it’s the weird, blaring music, the half-death machines or the people who have no clue what exercise they’re doing (yeah, we’re talking about both the clients and the trainers here), sometimes you just aren’t going to get the best workout routine.
But don’t worry –we’ve come up with a pretty good mentality that’s going to allow you to get a good workout in without having to worry about everything else going on at these busy places.
Just about every commercial gym is the same – and how to use gym machines correctly is a key to this.
It’s safe to say that just about every gym has endless rows bursting full with elliptical machines and treadmills. There are also rows with some kind of weightlifting machine. There’s a room or two for some kind of low-impact cardio lesson or class. And then, usually in the back or somewhere upstairs, the gym has the free weights set up.
Even though it is within your reach to exercise and totally kick ass while you’re in a commercial gym, it’s going to be hard to do this without drawing some weird looks and unwanted attention. But these other guys just don’t know how to work out at a gym.
After all, if you use the squat rack for more than just squats (we will get to that later) and decide to throw in some overhead presses, deadlifts or some power cleans, you’re throwing off the meathead’s vibe here! Or, God forbid, you add some weight to your belt before you head to do chin ups or pull ups. You may feel like an outsider – and this might prevent you from doing exercises in the future. Which may end up holding you back in the long run. With us so far?
So with this article, we want to dive into what kind of mentality you should have while you’re working out.
First, you have to start with the basics. If you decide to get a gym membership, then there are things you absolutely have to have in order to get a good workout in.
What Do I Look For in My Workouts at the Gym?
If you’re getting a tour and walking around the building, and you don’t see any dumbbells (or if the dumbbell weight stops at 20 pounds) we’ve got one word for you my friend – RUN. It doesn’t matter if the employees say it’s safer with the machines.
You should also be on the look out for either a full squat rack or a half. A good workout for both women and men should have a few barbell squats incorporated. Plus, with this rack available, you can easily do overhead presses, as well as power cleans, bench presses and deadlifts.
Look around for a bench press bench. They should have adjustable benches too. Obviously, this is for bench presses, but you can also do incline dumbbell presses, 1-arm dumbbell rows and more.
There should be a few other things too, like a pull up bar so you can do pull ups, hanging knee tucks and chin ups.
Have a decent place to stretch, exercise balls (for when you do knee tucks and to get your full range of motion during crunches), a rowing machine (this one is an added bonus), some cardio equipment so you can do interval training and a cable machine in order to do triceps pull downs and more.
If they have all of this, great! Now you can test it. Don’t just sign up right on the spot – give it a go before you commit. Often times, these big commercial gyms have trial memberships, so you can try before you buy. And once you’ve decided this is it, this is the gym for me, then it’s time to start working out.
First things first – this is a BYOM situation – bring your own music. We aren’t afraid to say it – the gym music is usually pretty terrible. You have your songs that get you motivated and ready to go. Odds are, the gym isn’t playing those songs. Instead, they’re playing the latest from Taylor Swift and whatever is popular on the pop station.
Not only does it get you all excited and pumped up, but it also gives you a major step up – you can tune everyone around you out.
Why does this matter?
Because like we said, you’re going to do training and various exercises that might draw a few strange looks here and there. So instead of focusing on what these other people are thinking or worrying about, just pop in your headphones and keep your head down – just worry about you.
And while we don’t hate on the cardio equipment (as far as the rowing machines, the treadmills, stair climbers, elliptical machines and all of that jazz) a workout isn’t exactly complete if you spend your entire time in the cardio section.
Hopefully you are already aware that lifting weights can actually burn up a ton more calories than regular old cardio. And, obviously, it will help beef up your muscles, too.
Are All My Workouts At The Gym Going to Involve Cardio?
So we suggest going for the weights first and then finish up your workout with some intervals.
However, we’re going to tell you this – stay far, far away from any weightlifting machines. Machines aren’t as good for you as you may think. In fact, they actually strip away the critical stabilizer movements within your muscles, and this isn’t going to help you in the real world. So when you head over to the Smith Machine to do some controlled squats, you’re going to be killing your back. We suggest only one Smith Machine – and that’s the inverted body weight rows.
Because you aren’t using these machines, what will you be using? Things like kettlebells, barbells, and dumbbells; which are usually found in the back of the gym. That’s where you will be spending your time, so get used to it now. As for the ladies, no need to be intimidated – you can keep up with the guys.
Another piece of advice we touched on a little bit – ignore most of the people there. From the clients to the trainers, it’s best to just push everyone out. Almost everyone there has no idea what they’re doing, so you’re going to serve as that person who gets strange looks with your gym workouts – even though you’re doing the right thing and getting a better result.
Almost everyone around you is going to be doing completely pointless exercises, with too much weight, improper form and not even doing the exercise correctly.
And that means if you’re going to take advice from anyone, you should be very careful…or don’t listen. If you aren’t completely comfortable giving them a wealth of your own knowledge, then just listen, smile, nod and walk away.
We don’t want to stereotype on the matter but here’s the thing – the guys in the gym are usually focused on bicep curls and bench presses. Women on the other hand usually spend a lot of time doing cardio (by a lot of time, we mean like hours), with half an hour with abs and then maybe some dumbbell workouts with 5-pound weights – and usually, there isn’t even the sheen of sweat on their foreheads. You don’t want to be like either one of these groups. You can do better than this because you are better than this. Period.
You don’t need to worry about what other people are thinking or what they’re doing. In fact, odds are they are feeling a lot more self-conscious at what they’re doing, so they’re focused on themselves. Just stick with your headphones in and head down routine and then leave.
We’ll leave you with a couple more tips and tricks you can use to make the most out of your gym time.
First, you should have a specific time you want to work out. The best times are during the day (when everyone else is at work) or very late at night, like right before the gym closes. After all, it’s pretty hard to do circuit training if every piece of equipment is being used at the same time. One of the times you definitely don’t want to go – right after work. There’s the mad dash of people trying to squeeze in time before they head home.
What Do I Need to Bring to Workout At The Gym
As for accessories, bring your keys, a small backpack, a towel and a water bottle. If you don’t bring a water bottle with you, and you decide to grab a drink from the fountain, odds are you will lose your spot. Your towel can also serve as your “reservation” for a piece of equipment. Just don’t take advantage of this –you don’t want to be taking long leisurely breaks or talk to your friends while you’re there. In and out.
Next, get out! You don’t want to go over an hour with your workout. And if you aren’t exactly dead by the end of your workout, then you aren’t doing something right. You need to push yourself even harder to get better results. You may love lifting weights, but absolutely hate going to the gym, so do what you have to do to get out of there fast.
You can also help yourself succeed before you even get there. Before you even get to the gym, put your headphones in and get in the zone. Have a pre-made playlist with all your favorite songs that do wonders to get you pumped up.
By the time you get to the gym, you will be amped and ready to go. From the walk from your car into the gym, make sure you’re in the zone. Keep your head down as you walk in and get right to it. You don’t even need to use the locker room – go there in your clothes and change when you get home.
Focus on you and go from there. By blocking out everything around you, you will truly make the most out of your time at the gym. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much better of a workout you have once you’re able to block out everything around you – from the annoying trainers, to the clueless clients, to the annoying Kesha soundtrack the gym seems to play over and over and over again.
Oh and if you’re looking for some awesome songs to get you pumped for the gym, we have quite a few suggestions. Artists like AC/DC, Breaking Benjamin, Bush, Disturbed, DMX, Dropkick Murphys, Guns N’Roses, Kayne West, Metallica, Nirvana, Nas and Offspring can seriously get you going.
Music plays a huge role in getting your heart rate up and your excitement flowing. Make sure you have the right soundtrack (and the right headphones) before you head into the gym. Focus is key – and music can give you the focus you need to stay dedicated to the exercise at hand. So ignore the weird stares from the people who likely don’t know what they’re doing and get to work. They won’t have much to say when you start getting ripped and showing major results when they have close to nothing to show.