Know your way round the gym!

2013Mar05_GymWorkouts_AHave you ever walked into a gym and felt intimidated? To a novice, it can often seem that everyone else knows what they are doing and how to use every piece of equipment with expertise and finesse. Even those who have a grasp of what bits of equipment they should grab hold of might not really understand what bits of their body they are benefitting.

If you find working you way around the gym as puzzling as a maze then you need to start off with some basic clues as to what is what.

A big mistake gym newbies make is trying to ‘have a go’ on every piece of equipment, regardless of whether they are using it in the right way, or it is set up properly for them, not to mention, whether its suitable for what they want to achieve.

Here’s a rundown of some classic gym equipment and what type of exercises each is ideal for:

  • Elliptical: One of the most popular pieces of exercise machines in any gym, the elliptical mimics the motion of walking and running. You slot your feet into the ski type spaces, grab the upright bars and use your own momentum to move. You can change the resistance but how fast you go is up to you. The elliptical offers a good cardio workout and it’s perfect for people who want a low impact exercise that isn’t pounding on the joints. It’s great for your legs as well.
  • Rowing: Some people vow that the rowing machines offers the best overall exercise, which is ideal if you’re short on time and can only fit in a limited workout. This piece of equipment challenges the upper and lower body. However, you need to make sure you don’t overdo it, that you sit correctly and follow through smoothly with movements, rather than losing control. Your legs start the rowing motion as you extend these and pull in the oar, before reversing. If you’re unsure then ask, so that you’re not in danger of hurting your back.
  • Treadmill: Sometimes the old classics are the best and the popularity of the treadmill is set to keep on running long into the future. Make sure that you hold on as your speed increases and slow down properly rather than get to the point where you have to hit the emergency stop button or jump off. You set the speed and difficulty and your body follows. The key is to get into your stride. Start with a gentle walk. Monitoring your heart rate is a good way of making sure you’re working at a cardio level too.
  • Pulldown: Sitting on a bench, you can pull the bar down in front of you, to below your chin level. You need to keep your back straight and grab the bar shoulder-width apart. Movements on the pulley should be slow, methodical and controlled. This exercise is great for strengthening your upper body, and is ideal for beginners too. What you need to make sure of is that the weights are set correctly. This means that they’re not too light so you feel the bar is flying away almost, but not a strain either.
  • Leg press: A challenge to your lower body, the leg press uses weights to build strength and get your muscles working. If you overdo this machine you’ll really feel the burn later so make sure the resistance is not too fierce and don’t do too many reps. Keep your knees in line with your feet, your back straight and make sure movements are smooth and controlled. Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you let it down.

Gyms are created specifically to get your fit and get your body in the shape that you want. While there might be certain ways of using equipment properly, if you really want to get the most of your gym sessions then chatting to a gym or personal trainer is advisable. In turn, you can use the equipment effectively, rather than what might turn out to be embarrassingly by trying to tackle complex looking machines on your own.

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