Besides the communal urinal trough at a major sports stadium, the gym is the one place where guys worry about what other guys are thinking. No one wants to look like a weight-training newbie—including newbies. But I’ve spent a lot of time in gyms, and the truth is, 95% of guys have no idea what they’re doing—even if they’ve been lifting for years. (At least not when it comes to getting the most out of their workout in the least amount of time.)
I’m lucky—my job requires that I talk to the world’s top strength coaches and exercise scientists every day of my life. (I’d prefer to cut it to five days a week, but I’ll take that up at my annual review.) So I’m privy to the latest in cutting-edge training information. And that means you are, too.
Here, you’ll find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about weightlifting for beginners. If you’re completely new to weight training, this information will knock years off your learning curve. And if you’re a gym rat who’s been using the information in this magazine since puberty, you’ll be surprised how much it’s all changed, even since the last issue. That’s because this isn’t just a “Beginner’s Guide”—it’s the unveiling of the new Men’s Fitness training philosophy. Consider us your monthly ticket to faster fat loss, super strength, and massive muscles. From now on, the only place in the gym you’ll have to worry about size is in the locker room.
Before You Start
» Stay hydrated. Muscle is 75% water. So weigh yourself on a digital scale before and after your workout. Then drink the difference in ounces of water.
» Take two towels. One for your post- workout shower, one for sweat-soaked equipment. (Always wipe your filthy slime off the bench between sets.)
» Be prepared to spot. As a beginner, ask the person exactly what you should do.
» Embrace the dumbbell. You won’t need a spotter, you’ll rarely have to wait for a pair, and they’ll work your muscles harder than machines.
» Control the weight. As a beginner, never use a weight that’s so heavy that you need momentum to lift it. A simple gauge: You should be able to pause for at least one second before lifting a weight.
Q: What should I do the first day?
A: Start with the workouts in this magazine. Each month, we’ll feature two all-new plans in our Personal Trainer section: one for fat loss, and one to build muscle and strength.
But if it’s your first trip to the gym, you’ll probably feel a bit awkward, so for the first two weeks, just do three basic exercises: dumbbell alternating lunges, push-ups, and underhand-grip bent-over rows. (They’re featured in “Double-Barrel Blowout” on page 112 of our Personal Trainer section, or ask the floor trainer at your gym for help.) Do 12