So my wife and I signed the family up for the Gym. It is a University Gym and it is stocked with more geegads then I have a clue about. Frankly I don’t have a clue about anything Gym related.

Goal for my wife: drop 50 libs. 

Goal for me: drop the wine belly and get strong and some balanced definition.

Goal for my 6 year old son: learn how to swim.  We have signed him up for lessons.

I get the use a towel to wipe down the seat and put your weights back where you found them.  As to what to do?  I just pick up weights and move them around 6 times and do that 3 times and that is all there is to it right?  I don’t think it is that simple.

They have the option of hiring a “personal trainer” AKA a student studying this stuff – I’m not sure about that.

So for the Gym goers of this forum, can you give me a clue?  My wife is up for doing strength training with me doing the same maneuvers at low rep high weight sets.  So I have a partner in this adventure.

What are your gripes?

How did you started out? 

What went well in the beginning?

What failed? 

Any and all information would be helpful.  

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I have no gripes about my gym; love it and very lucky to have it.

I started when I turned 40; in a small community gym with an assembly of machines and limited free weights. Wanted to not be a skeleton anymore. Made some very modest newbie gains with a machine-only plan; felt better.

Machines got boring, and I kept hammering at them to get bigger. Wasted YEARS that way.

Switched to free weights, re-educated myself to train more like a powerlifter and BAM. Physical transformation in late forties. Learned that diet and rest were as important, if not more, than what I do in the gym.

Lots of side benefits; feel better, bodyfat in a slow decline rather than increase, better reflexes, speed, and the new strength is awful useful around the yard.


One problem with exercising in general is that there is too much information out there and too many people giving contradictory advice. The new person gets frustrated and ends up becoming a google robot by spending hours researching a magic routine. After several years of trial and error, I came up with the following universal truths that work:

Low reps and high weight work. Forget about the 8-12 reps vs 12-18 reps debate. Perform 5 sets of 5 reps (5X5)

5X5 is not "the perfect" routine but it is a good routine. To build strength you want to lift something heavy for about 4-6 reps. This allows your body to get used to lifting heavy things and it starts to adapt to lifting them, by building muscles to handle the weight. The reps also build some volume because your body starts to learn not only how to lift something heavy once, but to lift heavy things more than once. 5 sets of 5 reps are simply easier to remember than 4 sets of 6 reps or 6 sets of 4 reps. Either of those programs are great.

Next focus only on compound exercises with a barbell. I am going to rank the exercises by degree of importance:





That's all you need to do. Many will want to add other exercises that are pretty decent, but I don't see a point to adding them if you can master the above exercises. Some might say to add some rows or good mornings, but there is no point. The above exercises are all you need. In fact I only perform 2 of the above (deadlifts and press) and I am stronger than the typical average Joe.

Try to add weight to the above exercises each time you go to the gym (I strength train 3X a week which is a good rule of thumb) I also add 5lbs to my lifts each time. Eventually you will not be able to do all the reps with the weight. Simply try again next workout, and if you fail on the third time reset the weights by 10% and build back up again.

When I was younger I tried to find the "perfect" routine by doing all sorts of crazy exercises (such as doing various angles of the bench press (upper chest, middle chest, lower chest) and it became absolutely ridiculous and got me nowhere. You have to train like a caveman and focus only on the basics.





Amen to that.

I must have missed this! LOL!

I train with my football team so I am in a gym everyday. what you want to do is dedicate different days to different muscle groups and do at least 30mins of cardio. Swimming while your son gets lessons will greatly improve your cardio, leg strength, and overall health. Back to the weights, what you can do is look up different exercises for different days. You can do an upper body day then a lower body day or focus on your back or chest more for other days. You'll get the hang of it

It certainly helps to have someone walk you through it once so I wouldn't hesitate to hire the trainer / student once to give you a feel for how everything works and to give you an idea of what a basic workout could be.

Otherwise, go to Chapters or a magazine shop, go to the section for workout magazines and check for special edition guides by Men's Fitness or Men's Health; they usually look like small books rather than full-sized magazine. They're usually under 10$. They'll usually have titles like "Your Summer workout Guide 2014" or "2014 Guide To Gym Routines" or stuff along those lines. I've found them very helpful in the past.

You could also go lurk on . There are tons of resources for noobs on there, including lots of Youtube videos.

There is a lot of information out there, but before you go committing to one plan or start plan hopping, I'd think really hard about what your goals are.  Are you looking to build some muscle mass, lose fat, or get as strong as you possibly can?  

If you're looking for strenght, you might want to try the "5x5" plan.  

If you're looking for fat loss, look into a routine that involves "weight lifting complexes". 

If you're looking for a mixture of both fat loss and strength, maybe go with "Wendler 531 plan"

Just keep in mind whatever plan you choose, be sure to push yourself each and every day.  Take a mini notebook with you to the gym, and track the weight and number of sets and reps done.  

As for myself, I started out with 5x5 and after plateauing and a change in goals, I switched over to more of a hypertrophy based program to lose a bit of bodyfat and gain some muscle.  If I could tell my former newbie self anything, I say "don't waste time doing endless hours of cardio, focus on hypertrophy for a few months first to build muscular endurance and a bit of muscle, and then jump to a strength routine, and lastly, pay more attention to diet and rest".  

It's definitely worth it to hire the personal trainer for 1 or 2 sessions to get you started and show you proper form.  Otherwise, you're risking injury.

I have terrible muscle memory.  I could practice free throws for hours every day and still not be consistent.  I'm also one of the few people who would rather have 1,000 words than a picture.  This probably doesn't describe you or your wife, but if it does, it'll adjust how you learn to exercise.  You'll probably want more time with an expert to check on your form, and you'll want to read about exercising rather than going straight to YouTube.

Gripes - People who use equipment as chairs.  People who take up a whole bench in the locker room with their stuff and don't move it when you come in and obviously need the space.  Disney Channel.  Teenage boys who smirk at the low weights I use.

Start - My husband was a gym rat and showed me how to use several machines and some free weight exercises.  Several months later, I had 3, 1-hour sessions with a professional trainer.

Well - I started for back pain.  I'm sure yoga and pilates would have helped eventually, but in terms of hours spent for pain lessened, Weight-bearing exercises helped more.

Fail - I stayed on a low-weight, high-rep routine for 2 years.  I bulked up, and have spent several months on a different routine to lose those inches.

Gym Etiquette:

Rack your weights.

If you're using a piece of equipment and a guy asks to, "work a set in" you're taking too long.  It's the equivalent of asking to "play through" on the links.  Let him.

Don't sit on a piece of equipment making phone calls, updating your log, shuffling music.  Get in, get done, GTFO.

If you need to use the head or get some water between sets, hang your towel on the equipment.  Unless there's an over aggressive staff, it'll be there when you get back.  Don't leave it there.  Don't do it if you need to take a shit.

Put your towel in the bin, not the floor.

Wipe before, and after.  Wear a real shirt.  There's some nasty fucks at the gym.

Don't stare at the girls.  Don't get on the bike behind the step machine.  Don't be a fucking creeper.

In the locker room there will be fat old guys hanging out naked.  I don't know why either.

Go ahead and do curls in the power/squat rack.  Both Rip and Pavel told us to.  Fuck everyone else.

As to what to do?  I just pick up weights and move them around 6 times and do that 3 times and that is all there is to it right?  I don’t think it is that simple.

That's pretty much it.  Even a good rep count.  You have the same goals as every other guy, so my question to you is, do you want to work out, or do you want to train?  Anything you do will work for the first twelve weeks (how long is P90X?)

Fat Loss:

Remember this mantra; your abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym.  Clean up your diet.  Cut out starches, sugars, and breads as much as possible.  Americans overdose on carbs and the physiological effects are, it causes you to store fat, despite your caloric intake.

Keep your steady state cardio (running, bike, swim, eliptical, rows etc) round about 45 minutes per session.  Once you push it over an hour per session, the physiological effects are, it causes you to store fat, despite your caloric intake.

Those two things are important.  Human bodies are designed to run marathons every other day and store fat while doing it if we're reduced to starchy vegetables, all on a caloric deficit.  Keep your SSC sessions short, you can do multiples in a day, just separate them out by a few hours (eg.  walk in the morning, at lunch, after dinner). 

When it comes to fat loss, walking burns the same amount of calories as running.  Don't let anyone lie to you with fancy studies.  Three miles is three miles whether you do it in 45 minutes or 18 minutes, and burns off about a can of Mountain Dew.  Remember that caloric cost the next time you pick up a soda.  Three miles.  I don't like moving that much.

Don't let anyone lie to you about HIIT (high intensity interval training) either.  Scientists use the word "significant" different than lay people.  The study which showed a significantly higher caloric burn with HIIT over SSC realized a 50calorie difference over a week's time.  That's one extra chocolate chip cookie you get to eat per week.  For all that sweat, one cookie, per week.  What HIIT does do is act as an appetite suppressant, unlike SSC which makes you ravenous.  It also takes less time.

Your wife as a workout partner:

Will cause issues.  Men store fat in different places, lose it in more aesthetically pleasing sequences, and lose it faster than women.  After four weeks of 45 minutes of walking around the block after dinner every night; you will need smaller pants, she will need a smaller bra.  It's unfair and it sucks, but there it is.

If she starts in with a strength training program before a fat loss program there will be body composition issues.  As the muscle is strengthened and "toned" (gets harder), it pushes the fat further to the surface causing her to look even frumpier, before the fat loss hits.  Even worse, the scale will not move at best and may even go up, due to the greater density of muscle over fat.  This goes for you too.

She will have concerns about "bulking".  Men will lie to her and say it's impossible.  They are idiots.  Human muscle is not sex differentiated and responds to training in the exact same way in males and females.  Testosterone is not the end all be all to muscle growth.  Women have greater amounts of free floating growth hormones in their bodies than men.  I've seen women bulk unintentionally because some dickhead assured them they wouldn't, and stuck them on a body building routine.  If she's going heavy, keep the total rep count per exercise under 15 (eg. If you're doing 5x5, have her run 3x5).


What'd I miss?

Flesh out about cardio for weight loss.  In one paragraph, you say they should do 45 min. of cardio.  In another, 3 mi. in 18 min. v. 45 doesn't matter.


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