The Gym for Beginners Guide

Plenty of us have strong health and fitness goals. If you’re part of the gym for beginners club and hitting the gym for the first time ever, or back after a long absence, what should you do?

When you’re first learning your way around strength and cardio equipment, it’s good to stick with the basics. Here’s a simple plan you can use for your starter routine.

There are four basic elements you need in your beginning routine:
  1. Warm-up
  2. Cardio
  3. Strength
  4. Cool down/stretch

Simple, right?! And here is what else you need to know about your gym workouts:

  1. At first, plan to use this full-body workout every other day (allowing at least one day in between workouts). In the future, you can change your approach to alternating different workouts so you can come every day. For now 3 times a week works great.
  2. You will progress this routine as you go, depending on your fitness level. Keep your increases steady—don’t overdo it, because to be fit, the long term wins.
  3. Your intensity level should be that you feel you are exerting yourself—working hard, breaking a sweat, breathing heavier—but not so tough that you have to drag your body along or feel you’ll collapse under the weight! A 7 on a scale of 0 – 10 is a good guide.

The Absolute Gym for Beginners 60-Minute Routine

If you’re unfamiliar with any of the equipment you need for this routine, you can carry this list around with you and go on a little “treasure hunt” to locate what you’re looking for (the strength machines are labelled). Also, you can ask a staff member to point you in the right direction or show you how to set up if you’re uncertain.

Finally, remember you have a free Personal Training session as a new member. Take advantage of it and have your trainer help guide you through your optimum gym for beginners workout, check your form, and advise you personally on weights, sets and reps.

Warm-Up and Cardio:

Happily, you can warm-up on the same machine you’re doing your cardio on, by taking a brisk walk. It will get your blood pumping and your oxygen flowing. So, head to a treadmill.

You might want to select a 20-minute walk with a warm-up included, or simply set your moderate warm-up pace and walk straight ahead for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, increase your pace until you are walking at that “7” level of perceived exertion we talked about up above. Continue on for another 15 minutes, then slow down for a couple of minutes to finish your cardio warm-up.


Make your way over to the strength equipment, and have some water on your way. You’ll be working for a few minutes on each of these exercises below, to total about 30 minutes. You’re already about 25 minutes into your routine, so it will leave you with 5 minutes for your cool down.

It doesn’t really matter what order you do these exercises in, but if you find it convenient, you might enjoy working the lower body first as listed below. Try for 8 – 12 repetitions of each exercise. Again, the weight you work with should make it tough to do the set–not a painful push to get through, but not so light that you could do 30 of them!

Beginner Strength Training Routine

leg press

Leg Press: Sit on the machine and position your feet shoulder width apart on the crosspiece and your hands holding the grips on the sides of the seat. Bend your knees to lower the weight without changing the position of your hips. Take your time—you shouldn’t bend so deeply that your bottom comes up off the seat, and don’t thrust your legs out to lock your knees, either. Go for smooth control.

leg extension

Leg Extension: Sit on the machine and hook your feet under the padded bar. Adjust so your knees extend off the end of the seat and the footpad is near the top of your ankles. Hang on to the grips on the sides of the machine and extend your legs until they are straight, then hold briefly before lowering back down. Don’t swing your legs up.

leg curl

Leg Curl (Angled Lying Curl Machine): Adjust the machine so as you lay your torso flat on the bench, your legs are fully extended and you can comfortably grab the side handles. Curl your legs up toward your body without lifting the hips off the pad. Slowly return back to starting position by straightening the legs.

chest press

Chest Press: Sit on machine with feet flat on floor and knees aligned with ankles. Grip the handles, keep spine straight and hold those abs as you straighten your elbows to push the handles forward. Return the handles back to start by slowing bending the elbows.

bicep curl

Biceps Curl: Follow the instructions on the machine to set the seat position, arm position and weight. Grab the curl bar with hands palm-up and rest back of arms on the padded shelf. Curl the bar to bring it upwards by bending the elbows, then lower down to the starting position.

Gym for Beginners

Triceps Pressdown (Cable Machine with Rope Attachment): Face the cable machine and use a thumbs-up grip to grab the rope attachment from the high setting. Bring your elbows into your sides and make your forearms parallel to the floor. Then push the rope down toward the floor, keeping your elbows in, until your arms are extended.

Cool Down and Stretch:

Allow your last 5 – 10 minutes to be about slowing down a bit, and starting your recovery period off right. You can head back to the treadmill for a few minutes of walking at your warm-up pace, or just take a brisk walk around the gym. The mat can give you a chance to cool down as well, for example a set of crunches and some side planks followed by some hamstring, calf and shoulder stretches will work just fine. Another option is to perform a yoga series if you know one, such as Sun Salutation.

Find More Workouts Like This

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