Your Beginner’s Guide to a Successful Gym Session

Herba Blogger

Are you someone who avoids gym sessions because you don’t know how to use the equipment, or feel you intimidated? Let me help you gain some knowledge so you can walk in to your next gym session with confidence!

I’ve spent a lot of time working in a gym, and I’m very familiar with the deer-in-the-headlights look of a new gym-goer. They tend to come in with new tennis shoes and an outfit that screams ‘I’m new and nervous!’ If this sounds like you or someone you know, let me help reassure you with a simple routine so you can make your next gym session fun and effective.

Beginner Gym Session


First things first: find the stretching area when you get to the gym. Grab a mat, sit down and perform some simple stretches. You can also calm your nerves by doing something that feels familiar. Some of my favorite simple stretches (among many) are:

  • Neck stretch: Sit up tall and slowly roll your neck from side to side. Hold the stretch on each side after a few rounds.
  • Upper back stretch: Loosen muscles in your upper back by reaching your arms out wide and then crossing them over to the opposite sides.
  • Calf stretch: Stand up and place one leg in front of the other. Slowly bend the front leg, keeping the back leg straight with heel on the floor. Repeat on the other side.
  • Quad stretch: Hold on to something for balance and while standing, grab up one ankle and gently pull back until you feel a stretch in your thigh area. Repeat on the other side.
Warm-up with cardio equipment

Once you’ve looked around during your stretch, head over to your favorite piece of cardio equipment and spend 10 minutes getting warmed up at a steady pace. If you need help operating a machine, the gym staff are usually more than willing to help get you started. Some cardio machines you might try are an exercise bike, treadmill, or elliptical machine.

Free weights

After you’ve warmed up, go to the free weights area. Grab a set of dumbbells that suit your fitness level and perform some upper body exercises. If in doubt, always choose a lower weight—good form can be more effective than a heavier weight. Here’s a sample beginner level strength circuit:

  • 15 overhead chest presses
  • 5 bicep curls
  • 15 dead lifts

Repeat so each move is done 30 times.


Back to cardio equipment! Spend 20 minutes doing an interval style workout. I advise using the manual setting instead of using a pre-selected program, as it will give you confidence with the equipment. For beginners, work hard for 30 seconds, and active rest such as walking or a much slower pace on your machine of choice for 30 seconds. .

Hit the machines

In my opinion, the squat machine is the simplest piece of equipment in the gym. If you’re a gym newbie, this is a great place to start with machines. Perform three sets of 10 squats using a light weight. Other machines to consider are the chest press machine, leg press machine, and hamstring curl machine.

Cool-down stretch

It’s time to go back to the stretching area for a cool down. Hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds. Be creative and make up your own favorite cool down stretch routine. Do what feels best for your body.


Still intimidated? Join a group!

Definitely take advantage of group fitness classes if they’re available at your gym, because they tend to cater to all fitness levels. Group classes are a great way to learn body awareness and simple body movement techniques that you can transfer onto the gym floor. Finding a good class may take some trial and error, but never feel like you have to stay in a class that you’re not enjoying! There is nothing worse than feeling like you’ve wasted an hour of your time doing something that you don’t enjoy, or getting injured because it is too advanced for your current fitness level.

Don’t be intimidated by the gym or by the people in it. In fact, the majority of regular gym-goers love to help out a gym newbie! The ideal situation would be to have a personal trainer guide you through your first few gym sessions. However, if a personal trainer is not in your budget, simply take me with you on a piece of paper or on your smart phone, and work out by following along with one of my videos or blog posts. After a few short weeks, you’ll no longer be the new one in the gym, and you might even be able to offer help to the next new exerciser that you see walking through the door.

By Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA – Vice President, Worldwide Sports Performance and Fitness

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