Feel Intimidated In The Weights Room? Here's How To Navigate It Like A Boss

Or avoid it altogether and still reap the benefits of strength training. Either way, we got you.

woman lifting weights
Image: iStock

There’s only a select few of us who can confidently say we’ve never felt intimidated in the weights room at one point or another—and even then we’re calling bluff.
Whether it be because you’re new to the weights game or joined a different gym and yet to suss out your surroundings, fact of the matter is, the weights room can feel like the most intimidating place on earth when you’re just starting out.

Now, before you go and shimmy on over back to where the treadmills (and other less-intimidating, cardio-loving equipment) lay, there’s a few little things Rhys Pritchard, Coaching Director of ION Training wants you to know (apart from the difference between a dumbbell and barbell):

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

“There’s no need to be intimidated by the weights room because it does not need to be complicated,” shares Rhys. “If you’re in a gym that makes you feel unwelcome in the weights area, maybe it’s time to find a new place to train. Don’t be afraid to ask other trainers or members for simple tips if you are confused. We all started somewhere and you’ll find almost everyone is willing to help the beginner in you. It is not uncommon for women to feel like they are in the way or taking up equipment in the weights area, it’s normal for you to feel this way and we promise the feeling only lasts the first few sessions.”
woman lifting weights weight loss
Image: iStock

Grab yourself a gym buddy

Although you’ve probably had it up to here (raises hand really high) with trainers telling you to recruit a friend, there is a legit reason for it. “A great way—albeit very obvious way—is to bring a friend with you so you can both train and explore the weights room together,” says Rhys.
“As you get stronger you can spot each other and help where assistance is needed. There’s safety in numbers and more importantly, this will ensure you have someone to keep you accountable in the colder months when the temptation to sleep in or get home a little earlier kicks in.”

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail (sorry, we don’t mean to make things worse)

BUT, as Rhys suggests, “ask a trainer either online or in person to write you a weights program so you know exactly what you are doing when you arrive at the gym. By eliminating the guesswork, you’ll feel confident in your session and you will be more efficient with your training.”
mental health fitness weights room
Image: iStock

Start off slow

Already had a few sessions in the weights room and still feel shy? Again, don’t be too quick to run back towards that treadmill. Rhys assures you that there are some easier workouts to do which include free weights opposed to complicated machines to help you on your journey.

“Try the simple ‘3 sets of 10 reps’ method to start with,” suggests Rhys. “Split upper body and lower body movements and ensure you are balanced in your training so you don’t develop any imbalances. Generally, an effective resistance session will take around 30 minutes. An example for a beginner could be something as simple as alternating between the below movements with 60 seconds in between sets;
Exercise 1
1. Dumbbell Hammer Curls: 3 Sets, 10 Reps
2. Dumbbell Split Squats: 3 Sets, 10 Reps
Exercise 2
1. Dumbbell Bent Over Row: 3 Sets, 10 Reps
2. Dumbbell Goblet Front Squat: 3 Sets, 10 Reps
Exercise 3
1. Dumbbell Neutral Grip Overhead Press: 3 Sets, 10 Reps
2. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts: 3 Sets 10 Reps

Find an alternative

Okay, so for those who really can’t go near the weights room, there are strength training alternatives that you can benefit from by using just your own body weight and some simple add-ons. “Resistance can be achieved with movements like push-ups, pull-ups, squats, TRX rows, medicine ball resistance,” explains Rhys.
“Get creative with your movement and remember weights are not 100% necessary for beginners but as you get stronger, you’ll need to incorporate more resistance with free weights—but your body weight is a great starting point! Remember, things like resistance bands and static holds can provide an immense burn and develop entry-level strength too, as do classes like reformer or mat Pilates.”

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