There’s nothing wrong with being a beginner. To change your body and see incredible results, you have to start somewhere. Whether you began your fitness journey as a new year’s resolution, decided to get healthy for your family, or just want to improve your athletic performance, we all start at the same place: the gym.
By now you’ve probably learned the basic rules of the gym, how to structure your workouts, which exercises are best to build a particular muscle group, and felt the improvement in your cardio and breathing. Congratulations. But are you still making mistakes that beginners make?
The truth is you could be making mistakes that not only slow your gains, but also leave you looking like a kid on his first day in high school. Never fear: keep reading for the ten best ways to avoid looking like a newbie and improving your gym experience.
Dodge these mistakes to hit your fitness goals faster.
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The easiest way to avoid looking like a novice is to surround yourself with experienced partners. They’ll teach you the unwritten rules of gym etiquette, how to get a great workout in, and how to get results.
If you’re brand new to fitness (or afraid of looking like a hopeless rookie), enlist the help of an experienced friend.
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Talk with the people at the front desk, snack bar, trainers and managers. Building relationships with the staff gives you instant credibility and can even lead to lasting friendships. It also makes trainers more likely to give you free diet tips or workout advice.
Don’t make it hard on yourself—talk with the people who are paid to talk to you.
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You don’t need a workout ensemble worth hundreds of dollars, but you do need appropriate clothing for exercise. Leave the hiking boots, cargo shorts, sunglasses, jean shorts, and snowboarding goggles (yes, I’ve seen this) at home.
Instead, wear a comfortable top, athletic shorts and sneakers. Also, ditch the high-rise white socks. These, for whatever reason, make you look like a newbie.
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The squat pad is the calling card of the newbie: it prevents lifters from feeling and controlling the barbell and coddles your upper-back muscles. If you’re doing back squats, carry the barbell on the meaty part between your shoulders.
Although it will feel uncomfortable at first, you’ll quickly get used to the pressure.
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If you’re on your phone for most of the time at the gym, your workout is too damn easy. Get real results and really push yourself to lift more, sweat more, and rest a little less.
You can fill any idle time with activation exercises like hip bridges, band pull-aparts, or even a plank.
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Avoid aimlessly walking through a gym looking for things to do—you’ll never get a great workout, waste time and look like a newbie. Instead, plan your workout before you get to the gym.
You’ll save time, move confidently between exercises, and get the most results from your workouts.
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If you’re a scrawny guy who stands by the mirror and does five different kinds of arm exercises, you’re probably a newbie.
Instead, do heavy, multi-joint exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses and rows to strengthen a lot of muscle groups at once—that’s the best way to build a lot of muscle, boost your strength and transform your body.
You’ll rarely see a newbie in a power rack doing squats. Be that guy. Don’t be surprised if a veteran walks by and compliments you.
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Although cleanliness is great, newbies will place their towel on everything—even if it interferes with their exercise or is unnecessary.
For example, they’ll grip a barbell by wrapping a towel around it, place a towel on their traps before back squats, or place it on the ground and do pushups on them.
Use your towel to stay dry, not as protection from foreign surfaces.
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When you squat, never set up to the barbell by looking away from it. That mistake forces you to un-rack the barbell by walking forward and, thus, re-rack it by walking backward. That’s just dangerous. How can you possibly re-rack the weight if you can’t see the pins?
Always squat in a direction that allows you to put the weight back by walking forward.
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Newbies read the labels on all the machines. Although it’s nice that they want to learn how to exercise properly, they’ll never master a movement by studying it a few seconds beforehand.
I highly recommend investing in a few personal training sessions. Just one or two workouts with a knowledgeable trainer will outdo anything you’ve done before (especially if you’re a newbie), save you valuable time, and teach you the basics you’ll use for the rest of your life.