Thursday, July 19, 2007

How to find a gym & the basics of muscular conditioning

A few weeks ago one of my friends was telling me his dilemma when he goes to a gym. When he walks into one, he doesn't know a thing about the equipment, and does what "people tell me to do. I know squat about muscular conditioning".
I'm a trained fitness instructor, but I know I'd feel the same way walking into a gym because I don't like machines. I prefer free-style aerobics or other group exercises where you are not dependent on equipment.
Nevertheless, gym machines have been developed by industry experts and definitely have a lot of value in them. There are machines for anything you want to do- from curls, presses, extensions, pull downs to running.

I was going to type this all up, but I found an excellent article online on How to Find a Gym. Here are some of the points from it, but I encourage you to read all 5 posts from:

The Beginnings

  • Get the right shoes, comfortable clothes
  • The first week: Explore the gym and familiarise yourself with it. Even drop in to some of the classes. There are lots of options. Talk to a trainer and ask for gym education and general advice.
  • Attend orientation if there is any. Ask for a free workout pass.
  • You have taken the first step, don't get discouraged!
  • Money: don't go overboard by getting a membership at a fancy gym, if you're just a beginner. Also, proximity is key. If the gym is too far from where you work or live, chances are, you wont go there as often. Many gyms have chains across the city and you can use your membership card between them.

Setting up a routine

  • One of the biggest motivators is going with a friend. However, don't depend on your friend completely.
  • Variety: You want to be able to workout all the parts of your body.
  • Intensity: With muscular conditioning, start with low number of repetitions and increase gradually to build endurance. Adding resistance (weights) builds strength.
  • It's important to learn how to use the equipment properly. So make sure you take the time to do it. Start with the easier ones, such as cable pull downs, bench presses, and whatever looks easy.
  • Keep yourself hydrated! Can't stress this enough
  • And most importantly, be conscious of your breathing. Take deep breaths in and out.


  • The technique is very important. Improper use of equipment can cause long term injuries. So you may be working out for a long time and getting into shape, but actually wearing away your knee joint. That's why, when observing people in the gym, watch them for getting familiar with the equipment, but not for the technique.
  • Keep your movements slow and controlled. Use the joint's entire range of motion whenever possible.
  • Always position yourself properly. Keep a neutral spine and pelvis and tuck your tummy in.
  • When doing floor work, keep your back rounded.
  • Stretching after muscular conditioning is extremely important. Stretching reduces excess muscle tension in areas such as the upper back.


  • Perform 20-30 minutes of resistance training: 2 seconds lift, 2 seconds hold and 4 seconds lowering. 1 set [8-12 repetitions] takes about 60-90 seconds, then rest 30-90 seconds.
  • How do you know when to stop? It's recommended that the participant exercise to temporary muscle fatigue or maximal failure (where the lifter can't do 1 more repetition) with good technique, muscle control, and a full range of motion.
  • Make sure you give your muscles enough rest after the work out. 2-4 times a week is good.

I hope this is helpful. It's quite amazing how advanced the fitness industry is. There's just so much you can do, so no excuse for not exercising :)

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