Filled with loud clanging, the occasional exhausted grunt and — shall we say — aroma of exertion, the weight room can be an intimidating part of the gym, whether you're new to strength training or exercise in general.
While it can be easy to stick to the cardio section, don't let insecurity keep you out of the weight room. Put these seven tips in action next time you're tempted to shy away from the heavy stuff.
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1. Practice Body-Weight Exercises
Body-weight exercises are a great place to start, especially if you're new in the gym. You can begin by experimenting with simple, easy-to-learn movements like squats, push-ups and core exercises right at home, recommends Meghan Takacs, trainer at Performix House and founder of the #RunWithMeg app.
Body-weight movements are usually the precursors to many weighted exercises, like a barbell back squat or barbell chest press. Getting the exercises down without added weight allows you to perfect your form before transitioning into more advanced versions. Starting with body-weight exercises can also increase your confidence, says Takacs.
2. Start in the Cardio Section
While the goal is to gain more confidence in the weight room, you can actually warm up to the idea in the cardio section. Takacs advises that newbies do some people-watching from the treadmill or elliptical. Keep your eyes on someone that looks experienced in strength training and observe the exercises they perform. It's even better to observe trainers with their clients.
"See what they do. If they are doing something you can't, think about how you could possibly modify the movement to do it yourself," Takacs says. "This also makes your cardio time go by much quicker!"
3. Show Up With a Program
It's easy to feel at a loss when you don't have a game plan. You can beat insecurity by hitting the gym with a printed or electronic program in hand, recommends Holly Perkins, certified personal trainer and author of Lift to Get Lean. Don't just settle for any intro to strength training workout, though. Instead, consult a trainer you trust to help build a program specific for your body, experience level and goals.
"What this does is this gives you confidence knowing you are doing something smart, intelligent and appropriate," Perkins says. "It automatically gives confidence so that you know what you're doing."
4. Be Strategic With Social Media
Social media can be a great way to dip your toes into new forms of exercise, says Takacs. Following Instagram accounts of knowledgable strength-training professionals can help give you some further instructions on form and function. Not sure who's legit? Start by following Takacs at @meg_takacs and then add @coachbriannunez and @alexsilverfagen to your feed, too.
When you find videos you want to try or moves you'd like to replicate, you can save them to your account and bring them right to the weight room. Or, try searching for applicable hashtags like #beginnerexercises, she adds.
5. Let Your Music Fuel You
Music is a great mood-boosting workout tool and can even motivate you to exercise longer, according to a March 2018 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The researchers compared exercise times for two groups of people and found that those who listened to music sweat it out for longer.
Takacs recommends creating a "baller, super motivating playlist with whatever music makes you feel like the unstoppable badass that you are." Once you've got that, you're one step closer to crushing your next gym session.
6. Use a Timer
The clock app on your phone can be used as more than just a cooking timer. Perkins recommends using it to track your rest periods between exercises. Timing your rest periods can help keep you focused on the task at hand and keep your mind from wandering.
"[Using a timer] joggles your brain to be focused on time, rather than allowing your brain to wander, get insecure and have all of those conversations that we have in our heads," Perkins says. "By having a timer running and the goal of urgency to do something in a certain amount of time, it really helps to shift your focus."
7. Practice Active Self-Talk
Perkins wants you to program positive self-talk into your workout like it's another exercise. Between each set that you perform — that's right, each set — take a look in the mirror or pause for a moment and give yourself a compliment (internal or aloud). Reward yourself for practicing good form or even following a helpful breathing pattern during your exercise.
"This works miracles. It's like brainwashing," Perkins says. "You're going to end up leaving the gym feeling so confident and so good about yourself and proud of yourself. When you feel that way, there's nothing in your environment that can cause you to lack confidence."