Gym For Beginners: Learn How To Use Gym Equipment And Get Stronger

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featured treadmill gym for beginners
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The gym can seem unwelcoming with its complicated machines that look like torture devices. Yet, it’s the place most people swear by if you’re planning to shed a few pounds and put on some muscle! If you’re intending to visit your local gym but don’t know bench presses from barbell squats, don’t fret — this how-to guide for gym beginners will take you through effective exercises, tips and safety measures.

The best gym exercise machines and how to use them 

1. Treadmill

treadmill gym for beginners
(Credit: Bryant Tay)

As the poster machine for any cardiovascular gym exercise, the treadmill is one machine that’s seen as a must-have for any gym for beginners. Treadmill workouts seem like a cakewalk that burns minimal calories? Here are tips on how to use the treadmill effectively to shed those calories.

How to:

  • Setting an incline – While you could just set the incline to zero and walk on a flat surface, doing so would be counterproductive since the treadmill’s belt propels you forward. This would make your workout less effective than walking outside.
  • Safety – Avoid grabbing onto handrails or plodding your feet on the treadmill! Since a treadmill use is meant to mimic outdoor runs, the last thing you’ll want is a workout that’ll ruin your actual running form. Ultimately, an improper form could result in problems like weakened ankle muscles or knee pain. The right running shoes will also help with absorbing shock and making your run more comfortable.
  • Tuning in – Distract yourself from the monotony of a static surrounding with some music! Equip yourself with quality wireless earphones and conquer any run to the cadence of your favourite workout playlist.

2. Exercise bike

exercise bike gym for beginners
(Credit: Bryant Tay)

Don’t like running? Exercise bikes are a fantastic alternative to burning calories! As the second most popular cardio exercise at the gym for beginners and pros alike, many exercise bike users also appreciate how it’s less strenuous on your joints and lower back compared to running. Operation is also easy enough — simply strap on and peddle away! There are two types of exercise bikes you’ll commonly see in the gym: upright bikes and recumbent bikes.

Upright bike:
Upright bikes are closer to traditional bicycles as the pedals are positioned under your body and have a saddle-like seat. This forces you to activate your core muscles as you sit upright and adopt a healthy spinal posture.

Recumbent bike:
Recumbent bikes allow you to sit back in a reclined position as the pedals are ahead of your body. The larger seat also makes the workout more comfortable since you won’t be facing the issue of saddle discomfort. This allows users to go for longer cycling sessions since there’ll be less upper body and core muscle soreness.

3. Rower

rower gym for beginners
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The rower is a cardio machine beloved by gym veterans for offering a potent full-body workout! While it might seem daunting because of the complex movements involved, it’s one of the best exercise machines at the gym for beginners. The rower can be easily adjusted to accommodate any type of workout. From explosive sprints to low resistance rows, you’ll love the versatility in switching between routines.

There’s some finesse involved when learning how to use the rower. Start by acquainting yourself with the two parts, namely the catch and the stroke!

How to:

rower gif gym for beginners
(Credit: Bryant Tay)
  • First, adjust the straps to cover the widest part of your feet and grab the handle with your elbows extended.
  • During the catch, push back with your feet till your legs are fully extended and your hips are open so you can pull the handle towards you.
  • Complete the full cycle by sliding back with the stroke and moving your arms back to the extended elbow position, closing your hips and bending your knees to the original position in the process.

4. Shoulder press machine

shoulder press gym for beginners
(Credit: Bryant Tay)

The shoulder press machine is a great exercise at the gym for beginners looking to add more range of motion and definition to their shoulders! Being the least stable body joint, many fitness enthusiasts recommend strengthening your rotator cuff and deltoid muscles so as to withstand the strain from other strenuous activities or workouts. Without proper care, you’ll be more prone to injuries like dislocations and soreness due to the lack of flexibility and joint stability.

How to:

shoulder press gif gym for beginners
(Credit: Bryant Tay)
  • To avoid hurting our shoulder joints, make sure to first adjust the seat so the handles are level with your shoulders.
  • After selecting a suitable weight, push upwards until your arms are fully extended without locking your elbows.
  • Then, slowly lower the weights back to starting position. You should experience a strain on your shoulders as you attempt to perform multiple repetitions.
  • To ensure your back isn’t injured, maintain your posture by flushing your back against the rest and keeping it straight.

5. Chest press machine

chest press gym for beginners
(Credit: Bryant Tay)

The key to an upright posture is a strong chest and back! Besides being a major aesthetics goal for experienced gym-goers, robust pectoral muscles can aid in tasks involving upper body strength. Whether you’re facing a heavy door or shopping cart, the chest press machine is your key to making any pushing activity a cinch. With a focus on correcting overall form and compounding the use of chest, bicep and shoulder muscles, the chest press machine lets you lift heavier weights without worrying about stabilisation or balance.

How to:

chest press gif gym for beginners
(Credit: Bryant Tay)
  • Common chest press injuries at the gym for beginners often occur due to improper height adjustments so make sure the handles align with your chest before commencing.
  • While planting your feet firmly on the ground and gripping the handles, exhale and push the bar outwards to full extension without locking your elbows.
  • Following this, steadily guide the bar back to your chest and breathe in to recover before repeating.

6. Lat pulldown machine

lat pulldown gym for beginners
(Credit: Bryant Tay)

Toned back muscles are key to balancing out your upper body so you won’t encounter a rounded back. Besides relying on the rowers’ explosive arm action, you can also work on your back muscles by using the lat pulldown machine. Effectively targeting your latissimus dorsi, the lat pulldown isolates this muscle group and strengthens your body’s pulling capabilities, making exercises like bodyweight pull-ups easier over time.

How to:

lat pulldown gif gym for beginners
(Credit: Bryant Tay)
  •  Adjust the seat and bar height to ensure you can comfortably grasp the bar, achieve full range of motion and tuck your knees under the knee pads. This will prevent you from flying off the machine or injuring yourself from improper use.
  • Technique-wise, use a wide grip to pull the bar down until it’s at chin level. While pulling, make sure you squeeze your shoulder blades and contract your back muscles.
  • Thereafter, steadily release the bar and return it to its starting position without letting it crash into the weight plates.

7. Free weights (dumbbells & barbells)

dumbbells gym for beginners
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Looking to take your workouts to the next level? No gym for beginners guide would be complete without using free weights. They’re the best way to exercise those smaller muscles that go untouched by gym machines. 

How to:

dumbbell press gym for beginners
(Credit: Bryant Tay)

For a solid upper body exercise, try dumbbell presses! Instead of sitting in an upright position on the chest press machine, you’ll be lying on a flat workout bench and using dumbbells.

dumbbell press gif gym for beginners
(Credit: Bryant Tay)
  • To begin, place both dumbbells on your lap while seated in an upright position. Once you’re ready, lay down and transition towards a supine position.
  • Then, press the weights upwards till your arms are fully extended and carefully lower them back to your mid-chest to complete one repetition.
  • Once done, simply sit up with your dumbbells tucked by your sides to finish your set. This will test your balancing capabilities and let you work both arms independently.
barbell squat gym for beginners
(Credit: Bryant Tay)

As for lower body exercises, the barbell squat is one comprehensive exercise any gym for beginners guide must include. Testing your core and lower body muscles, barbell squats utilise more muscle groups than most leg machine exercises!

barbell squat gif gym for beginners
(Credit: Bryant Tay)
  • To begin, stand with legs shoulder-width apart and place the barbell on your shoulders. Next, descend by sending your hips backwards — similar to how you’d sit on a chair.
  • You’ll need to straighten your back and flex your core throughout since balance and posture is key here! Keep descending until your hip joints are lower than your knees.
  • Once you’ve reached the required depth for a deep squat, drive through your heels and force your hips back up to return to a standing position.

Maximising gains and strength with our ultimate gym for beginners guide

Upon completing this gym for beginners guide, you’ll be adept at answering anyone with questions on how to use gym equipment! If you’re on the lookout for gyms that support midnight workouts, we have you covered with our guide to 24-hour gyms. Bored of constantly hitting the gym? Read our guide to scenic cycling routes and the best climbing gyms in Singapore for an alternative workout.

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When he's not telling others why Tom Holland is the best Spider-man, Bryant can be found indulging in football banter and exploring the vast world of gym fitness. He'll also buy you a cup of coffee if you can name a video game he's never heard of!