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a beginner’s guide to the gym

December 23, 2016

Entering a gym for the first time can be very intimidating and often stops people from joining one, here’s our jargon buster to help!

It can be frightening when you do anything for the first time, because you ultimately entering the unknown and putting yourself in a vulnerable position. However, it is important to remember that going outside of your comfort zone is a great way to build confidence and joining a gym can be the start of a new healthy lifestyle, as well as a great way of blowing off some steam.

So to help we have taken a look at some of the common questions and issues a gym newcomers may have to face, settle down with a smoothie and have a read…

gym jargon

Jargon often makes it difficult to understand what people are talking about and referring to in many instances, particularly if it is your first visit to the gym. Let us help you get the gist of what is being said with our handy jargon buster:

Cardio Equipment

Cardio equipment in a gym typically includes stationary bikes, treadmills/running machines, cross trainers and rowing machines. “cardio” is short for cardiovascular and relates to equipment which primarily workout the lungs and heart. People will often use cardio equipment for the fitness benefits and for fat loss.

Free Weights

Include dumbbells, barbells and medicine balls; often used in conjunction with a bench. They are called ‘free’ because users are not constrained to specific exercises or movements. You can do dozens of exercises with each piece of equipment. They are primarily used to build strength and muscle. The free weight area is often the most intimidating for beginners, which is unfortunate as free weights offer a range of health and fitness benefits. Free weights are often touted as superior to resistance machines.

Resistance Machines

Include chest press and leg press. These are machines that are used to build strength and muscle. Most resistance machines only perform one movement and one exercise (with the notable exception of the cable machine and the smith machine). This generally makes them easier to use than free weights.

Sets & Reps

Primarily relate to a way of organising weightlifting and resistance exercises. A rep is short for “repetition” and refers to the number of times that you perform an exercise. For example – if you do 20 press ups, you have done 20 reps. Sets are a collection of reps. If you did 20 press ups, once – this would be 1 set of 20 reps. If you do 20 press ups, then rested for a minute, and did 20 more press ups – you have done 2 sets of 20 reps. A typical weight training workout will consist of 10-20 sets. Interestingly, research has shown that perform just 1 set of resistance exercise can produce substantial benefits in terms of strength development.

Isolation & Compound Exercises

A weight training programme will normally focus on compound exercises. These are exercises which utilise a large number of muscles. Compound exercises include squats, leg press, chin ups, bench press and deadlifts. Compound exercises are also regarded as more ‘functional’ as they transfer more effectively to real-life scenarios such as moving heavy objects. Isolation exercises focus on smaller muscle groups or muscles. These include exercises such as tricep extensions, bicep curls and calf raises.

gym faqs

Now you have the gym lingo down, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions relating to the gym:

Should I do Cardio or Weights?

It is generally best to do both but the amount of time dedicated to each type of exercise will depend on your goals and baseline level of fitness. For more information about goals, see our previous blog post on the topic.

Both cardio based exercise and weight training can be used to improve fitness and reduce body fat. Although it is a lot easier to get started using machines such as the cross trainer or treadmill which can provide a challenging workout with limited risk of injury or requiring any technical proficiency. Cardio machines can help you to build a base of all round fitness, before attempting more advanced, high intensity training protocols that incorporate weights (such as ‘supersets’).

Weight training is also an integral part of any thorough fitness programme – providing great benefits in terms of increased bone density, controlled blood sugar levels and improvement or maintenance of physical strength. Many people avoid weight training as the are afraid of getting too ‘bulky’. This really is a fitness myth – it is extremely difficult to build muscle. If you are still concerned however, many of the benefits of weight training can be experienced with body weight exercises like press ups and free standing squats.

What is the fat burning zone?

“The fat burning zone”, refers to low intensity exercise, such as a light jog on the treadmill. It is generally considered to be an out of date concept in relation to weight loss. To calculate whether or not you are in the fat burning zone, there are a number of mobile phone apps which can determine the correct heart rate.

Fat stores in the body supply a high percentage of energy when we exercise at a low intensity. As we work harder, the body will tend to use more carbohydrates. Low intensity exercise does have many health benefits, however it burns relatively few calories. In addition, training for 30 minutes in the fat burning zone, will also tend to burn less absolute calories from both fat and carbohydrate, compared to training for 30 minutes at a high intensity.

High intensity exercise, such as sprints, burn a relatively high number of calories during, and for hours after, an exercise session. There are also greater cardiovascular health benefits associated with training at a higher intensity.

What is HIIT training?

High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT, consists of bursts of maximum intensity exercises, followed by a short rest period. HIIT is great because it burns so many calories in a short space of time, it is also great for fitness and overall health. Due to the high intensity, it can help to build or maintain muscle & strength, as well as improve cardiovascular health and sports performance.

Before attempting HIIT, it is generally recommended that you build a base of fitness with some lower intensity cardio. HIIT is a fantastic way to get in good physical shape, fast, but be warned that the first few sessions may produce a large amount of muscle soreness.

How Long Should I rest in Between Sets?

This depends on your goals. In relation to weight training:

  • Rest periods of 3 to 5 minutes are generally recommended for those looking to build strength.
  • Rest periods of 90 seconds to 2 minutes are recommended for building muscle size
  • Rest periods of 45 to 90 seconds are recommended for building muscular endurance

Will Sit Ups Tone my Stomach?

Not really. Performing sit ups will not do much about any body fat which may be covering your abdominal muscles. The best way to get a toned stomach is to undertake a tailored exercise programme and to eat a healthy, balanced diet. The only way to reduce belly fat, is to reduce overall body fat by burning more calories and/or consuming less. In addition, sit ups are not usually recommended anymore due to strain that they can put on the lower back – opt for crunches.

We hope this blog post has been of some use to you are you gear up for your new exercise regime, remember to set realistic goals and don’t compare yourself to others, and strive for improvement & happiness, never perfection.

If you are lucky enough to own one of the holiday homes at Aberconwy Resort & Spa, remember that the staff at Langley’s Country Club are more than happy to help discuss your fitness needs and show you the ropes. We also have gyms at Talacre Beach Holiday Park, Swanage Bay View Holiday Home Park and the brand new Lake District resort – Keswick Reach Lodge Retreat.

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