A gym workout can be the underpinning of a great day if you know what you're doing when you get there. If not, it can feel daunting stepping onto the gym floor without knowing what to do or where to go.
So, if you're looking for some guidance on where to start, the below guide will show you how to carry out one full-body workout and one for the lower body. Most importantly, you'll also learn how to exercise in a safe way that keeps you free from injury or burnout.
For those of you who find the thought of that first gym workout overwhelming – perhaps you're lost on knowing which free weights to use or wondering how long a good workout at the gym should be – know that we're here to advise you, as well as a ready-made gym workout plan for women designed by PT Andy Vincent.
How long is a good workout at the gym?
A solid gym workout shouldn't be determined by the number of minutes spent in the gym. It's easy to half-try 45 minutes of 'exercise', spending most of the time on your phone and not getting sweaty, and leave feeling like you did a good session. What you should be aiming for is focused minutes, completing reps and sets efficiently with correct rest time, good form and challenging but appropriate weights. As with almost everything else in life, quality trumps quantity when it comes to gym workouts.
How to start a gym workout for beginners?
The best practice for beginners at the gym is:
Keep workouts simple
Start lighter than you think
Follow an expert plan not a bunch of random Instagram posts
There’s always scope to add on weight if the weight isn't enough, but starting too heavy runs the risk of injury, especially in the early days as your body adjusts to a new routine.
What makes a good gym workout for a beginner?
"Recovery is also essential. So, depending on your goals, scheduling two strength training days and two cardio conditioning days, with a day off after each strength day would be ideal. We want to challenge the body and give it the time to make positive adaptations to your workout demands."
Once you feel confident as a beginner with free weights or resistance machines, you may benefit from splitting your strength days like so:
Upper and lower body sessions
Or push and pull exercises
Ideally, complete your cardio after strength or preferably, on another day completely. "We want to work hard but we must focus on our recovery," she adds.
What to wear for a gym workout?
The way to determine the best leggings for you is by thinking about what you're going to use them for. If the basis of your go-to gym workout is strength training, you're probably going to want to think about a pair of gym leggings that are squat-proof and supportive; but if cardio workouts are more your thing, a pair of running leggings might be better.
After leggings, comes the sports bra – one of the most important bits of kit when it comes to gym workouts for women. If you have DD+ breasts, you're probably going to want a sports bra for large breasts, to make sure you get the right levels of support. There are also sports bras for running if treadmill intervals are more your thing. Basically, whichever one you choose, make sure it fits well and minimises bounce – breasts can move up to 14cm if left unsupported during exercise which can exacerbate sag and skin damage.
How to fuel your gym workouts
Regardless of diet choice, pre- and post-workout nutrition is crucial. While there are a number of beliefs and practices to correctly fuelling an exercise routine, there are a couple of core tenets to keep in mind too.
Firstly, foods that are higher in protein will help muscle repair and regeneration post-workout and this can be achieved by adding a protein shake into your diet or ensuring that you’re getting enough protein in your diet through food.
Secondly, a good way to demystify the impact of your diet is to track food by counting macronutrients, also known as counting your ‘macros’.
What are macronutrients?
Macronutrient is a broad term that refers to these three key food groups our bodies require to function - listed in the order of how your body uses them for fuel.
By calculating the ideal macronutrient intake for your goals – be it fat loss, building lean muscle or maintenance - you’re able to eat in alignment with your goals without unnecessarily cutting out any food groups that could stimulate feelings of restriction.
Build a simple 30-minute gym workout with these 8 exercises
Try these eight moves as a 30-minute gym workout once a week.
Do: three circuits, starting with exercise one and ending with exercise eight.
Rest: two minutes in between each round (from one to eight).
Focus: on the area you're working to really feel the burn and maximise effects.
1. Barbell hip bridge
This exercise benefits: glutes
A) Sit on the floor with a bench behind you and a weighted barbell over your legs. Roll the bar so it’s directly over your hips and lean back so your shoulder blades rest on the bench.
B) Drive through your feet, pushing up your hips (shoulders and feet supporting you). Squeezing your glutes, extend as high as possible. Hold for 5 secs then slowly lower. Do 20 reps.
Side note: if there's no barbell available you can use one heavy dumbbell instead.
This exercise benefits: abs
A) Lie on your back with your arms skywards and legs raised and bent at 90 degrees.
B) Slowly lower your arms behind you as you extend your left leg out in front on the exhale, then gently return to the starting position and repeat, this time extending the right leg. Lower the weight if your back arches off the floor. To take it up a notch, hold a 6kg dumbbell. Do 10 per leg.
3. Dumbbell lunge
This exercise benefits: glutes, quads, hamstrings
A) Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand, then step forwards into a lunge on your left leg. Hold for 3 secs, then push off your left leg to return to the starting position.
4. Renegade row
This exercise benefits: abs, shoulders
A) With a dumbbell in each hand, start in a plank position, keeping your pelvis as stable as possible. Row your right arm back without twisting your shoulders, keeping your elbows tucked in to engage your lats. End with your dust by tier hip, then lower the dumbbell back to the floor.
B) Repeat on the other side, then do a press-up. Do 10 reps.
5. Romanian deadlift
This exercise benefits: core, hamstrings
A) Holding a barbell in your hands, keep your knees slightly bent, your back straight and your core embraced.
B) Hinge forwards at the hips, keeping your arms straight so the barbell is directly in front of your legs. Hold for 3 secs then return to the starting position. Do 10 reps per leg.
6. Floor press
This exercise benefits: shoulders, triceps
A) Lying on your back, holding two dumbbells in each hand in front of your shoulders. Tuck your pelvis under and keep your core tight.
B) Push the dumbbells overhead, holding your wrists strong. Then reverse to the starting position. Do 10 reps.
7. Goblet squat
This exercise benefits: Hip flexors, quads, lats, calves, glutes, hamstrings
A) Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold your dumbbells together in front of your chest, elbows down.
B) Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat, elbows brushing the insides of your knees. Hold for 3 secs then push yourself back up. That’s one rep. Do 20 reps.
Side note: this demonstration is shown using a kettlebell. Both a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell is fine for this exercise.
8. Floor dumbbell Russian twist
This exercise benefits: core, abs
A) Sit on the floor with your ankles together. Hold a dumbbell with both hands. Twist your arms to one side, clasping the dumbbell firmly.
B) Hold the dumbbell so you are nearly touching the floor. Embrace your core and do the same on the other side. Do 10 reps.
You Might Also Like