New Year, new body: Tips to getting started

Q: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the gym? – Jimmy G.

A: Joining a gym is a good first step, but what you do there – and how you do it – is what really matters. The good news is that it’s never too late to begin an exercise regimen and you’ll be surprised by how quickly your body responds to the stimulus of resistance training.

With consistent effort in the gym, you will find in a few weeks that you have more energy, your metabolism increases (burning more calories and incinerating body fat), muscle tone visibly improves, quality of sleep is better and, overall, you simply feel better! Scientists estimate that every hour of vigorous exercise extends our lives by two hours.

Here are five bits of basic advice for you or anyone starting out in the gym:

1) Learn Proper Form: Guys tend to become “know-it-alls” in a gym environment and would rather turn blue in the face than ask for help. The fact is if you don’t know or execute proper form, not only will you deny yourself the full benefit of an exercise but you could actually injure yourself pretty badly. Investing in even a handful of sessions with a personal trainer is worth the investment to learn the correct form and benefits of specific exercises. If that’s not an option for you, find a gym buddy with some experience to show you the ropes. I also encourage you to educate yourself by watching videos of exercises online and reading magazines such as Men’s Health.

2) Do Compound Exercises: Compound exercises – that is, multi-joint exercises, which recruit multiple muscles or muscle groups – should be the staple of all of your workouts. These include exercises such as the Seated Row, Bench Press, Lat Pull-down, Chin-up and, the best of them all in my opinion, the Squat. For example, the Squat, when executed correctly, will work your quadriceps (front of your upper leg), hamstrings (back of your upper leg), gluteus maximus (buttocks), calves, lower back and even your core. The benefits of incorporating several compound exercises in each workout are staggering. Among them, you will be able to use heavier weights and build strength faster, your heart rate will remain elevated resulting in great cardio conditioning, and you’ll burn more calories during each workout.

3) Opt For Free Weights: It’s easy to jump from one machine to another at the gym and believe you’ve done a great workout, but the truth is machines typically restrict your range of motion and are less effective than free weights and cables in building muscle. Use free weights such as dumbbells or an Olympic bar with weight plates as much as possible and learn all the ways you can use a Cable (pulley) Crossover station.

4) Plan And Track: It sounds nerdy to carry a notebook and pen around the gym, but planning your workouts in advance and tracking your progress are extremely important. You will want to record the date, name of the exercise, weight and number of repetitions. Many cell phone apps now offer this ability. Your goal is to progressively increase your weight. In the first three months of your program, I would recommend you plan total body workouts in order to condition your muscles. Ultimately, you can target specific muscle groups in different workouts.

5) You Are What You Eat: Exercise is important and is an essential key to good health – but your efforts will be counter-productive if you don’t also learn how to eat properly. Eating balanced meals comprising the correct ratio of proteins, carbs, and fats, ensures you have the energy you need to perform in the gym.

Peter Jackson is a certified personal trainer and the owner of Push Fitness, a private, full-service personal training gym in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which offers a variety of fitness programs for individuals, couples and small groups. Peter welcomes your questions: e-mail [email protected] or visit

Pete’s Workout Tip

If you’re one of the guys who execute your bench press with your feet on the bench and your butt in the air – STOP! This is a surefire way to lose your balance or injure yourself. For best results, keep your feet firmly planted on the floor, with your buttocks firmly planted on the bench. Most importantly, pretend you are bending the bar in two. This will increase the tension in your chest and the effectiveness of the exercise.

Courtesy of Healthy Living News

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