What not to do as a beginner in the gym?

It’s not beginner’s luck but a combination of research, figuring your routine and sticking to it that makes your workout land as you start your training.

When I started strength training long years ago, there was a dearth of information. All we had were popular magazines like Muscle & fitnessMuscleMag etc. Most of the information in these publications was regurgitated “gymbros” myths. We copied programs supposedly done by the bodybuilding champs, thinking naively that we would soon look like the Arnold Schwarzeneggers of the world. But, alas none of us developed physiques like the famous champion bodybuilders! Little did we know that most of those champions were juiced to the gills and those programs were a figment of the magazine editor’s imagination.

The situation now has completely changed. Information is available on the phone, laptop etc. All kind of websites are available which promise to turn the average gym enthusiast into a Hercules. We are suffering from information overload. I do not envy the young people looking to gain muscle and become strong as it would be very difficult to discern whose advice is legit for training, diet and supplements.

Whether it was less information in the past or information overload now, the problem remains the same. The lack of proper guidance for the newbie! I hope that the following list will help the readers avoid costly mistakes in the gym, so that their journey in the fitness world is fruitful, whatever their goals might be. Here goes:

1.Goals: Have a defined goal before you start. Getting in shape, losing weight, gaining muscle are not specific, well defined goals. Losing 10 kgs, running 5 km in 30 minutes are very specific goals which can be worked towards with a proper plan. This does not mean that as you go along, goals will not change but it is necessary to start with a goal.

2.Simple program: Pick a beginner’s program which usually means working the entire body three times a week. Newbies do not need the latest program followed by the medal winning powerlifting or bodybuilding champion no matter what the websites/magazines might promise. Also please note simple does not mean easy!

3.Consistency: Stay with the beginner program for at least six months. Work hard on it and get out of the gym. Your workout should not take more than 50-55 minutes at the most. You can socialize after you have finished working out.

4.Prioritise: Getting to the gym should become all important. Avoid any activity which might make you miss your workout. I am not saying become an asocial being who exists only to workout but a certain singlemindedness is required. Otherwise, progress will be difficult.

5.Big lifts: Most beginners tend to stay away from the multi-joint lifts like squats, deadlifts, standing presses, barbell rows. Do not avoid these exercises as they provide the most bang for the buck. In fact, the way I see it, single joint exercises like chest flyes, leg extensions, pull-downs are “advanced” or “shaping” exercises i.e., should be done by trainees who have spent some time in the gym doing the big exercises adding mass to their bodies.

6.Avoid hopping programs: Stay with your program and do not jump to the latest program on the Internet. This is a surefire way to not make progress.

7.Nutrition: Learn about basic nutrition. Foods which have carbs, protein, fats. Also learn which foods agree with you and which trouble you.

8.Technique: Learn proper technique from an experienced coach or trainer. This will go a long way in helping you stay healthy and get the results from each exercise.

9.Ego lifting: When a lifter, newbie or experienced, lets his ego influence the load on the bar, bad things happen. Ego lifting is the quickest route to being injured. Under-estimate your strength, rather than over-estimate it.

10.Slow and steady: This is a cliché but it is true. Building muscle, losing fat does not happen overnight. Too many times I have been asked how quickly could the trainee lose 15-20 kgs of blubber? Nobody puts on 15-20 kg of weight overnight and nobody can lose it quickly. The longer you take to lose it, the greater the chances you will not gain it back.

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