The gym is a great way to get in shape, stay fit and healthy, and whether you train alone at home or if you have a personal trainer, having some understanding about your gym training will help you reach your goals. Here are 10 tips to get you started.

Set goals to keep motivated and monitor progress

Determining whether you want to lose weight, build muscle, tone up or increase your fitness will shape your training. Keeping motivated is the hardest part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and the best way to do this is to set achievable goals that are directly targeted to reaching your overall goal. For example, if you want to get fitter, aim to increase your running distance or speed every week.

Personal trainers

Personal trainers are a tremendous help to stay motivated, to increase your productivity and to guide you through personalised routines. However some caution needs to be applied. Again, know your own goals and work with the PT to reach them. Remember the PT is there to facilitate your own goals, not theirs.

Starting out

You should always start your gym program at a very low intensity. Ensure your weights or cardio level is low enough for you to have good technique. One of the most common complaints we see is that people try to push themselves too quickly. By starting out light, you will build good technique and a good foundation of muscle strength and control and will actually improve your muscle strength/ fitness much quicker than if you start with heavy weights.

Overtraining

If you wake up tired in the mornings and have trained excessively hard, then there is a good chance that you have over trained your body and you need a rest. For best gains, ensure you have adequate sleep and rest between sessions. Overtraining can affect your immune system, can make you feel tired and will reduce the effectiveness of your seasons.

Working complimentary muscle groups

By choosing an exercise that involves more than one muscle group, you can maximise the effectiveness of your workout time and get a full body workout with only a few exercises. These exercises are actually more functional, as we rarely use just one muscle at a time. Compound exercises include: squats, lunges, chin ups, rows etc.

Choose Free weights over machines:

Free weights are much more beneficial for your work for a number of reasons. They are more functional, work more muscles and burn more calories.

Vary your training

The body is extremely good at adapting to exercises. If you continue to do the same exercise every session, you will soon hit a wall in terms of your gains. This is because the body quickly gets used to the exercise and becomes really efficient at it.

Nutrition

Nutrition is almost as important as the work out itself. A low fat, high protein diet will ensure weight loss and muscle gain.

For both cardio and weight training, sufficient protein is required to build muscle. One myth that we hear a lot is that you should cut out carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the body’s fuel and are needed to ensure you have an adequate energy level.

Hydration

It takes the body a couple of hours to absorb water. Ensure you regularly drink water throughout the day not just while training!

Work harder not longer

Try to keep your training down to around 45 minutes. This ensures that you can maintain a high intensity workout for the whole time. If you increase your work out time, you will have to increase your rest periods and the workout will become less effective.

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Shane Scott is a physiotherapist at Life Ready Physio Yokine.

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