We don’t need to be told another time the numerous benefits of weight training for men and women. Aside from the obvious physical benefits it brings for both men and women there is now evidence that supports the view that muscle mass brings long term health benefits such as reducing the severity of chronic health conditions like heart disease and type II diabetes and even preventing osteoporosis by improving bone mineral densities
What is it that makes the weights room so scary? Is it the sight of those huge metal dumb bells, the grunts and yelps that fill the room as they as they are thrown to the ground or just the sight of those super-fit bodies that confidently strut across the floor?

If you’re new to the gym, I’ve a spoiler alert for you; these people were once you. It might be hard to imagine but they too were once beginners, unsure of where to start. It’s no easier for men than it is women. Men are somehow expected to know by nature what to do with weights, yet women are still sadly outnumbered by men in weights areas in the gym which can be a strong deterrent. Fear of the weights section generally stems from two things; fear of not knowing what to do and fear of doing things incorrectly. Thankfully these two fears can be overcome.

Have a Plan

You wouldn’t plan a trip to a foreign country on a whim so why should a trip to a foreign part of the gym be any different? Knowing exactly what you’re going to do will increase your confidence and make you more comfortable in this new surrounding. Do research beforehand such as watching tutorials on Youtube or Instagram. Practice the movements at home beforehand in front of a mirror so you’re confident you’re doing the right thing. Keep the exercises straightforward and don’t get carried away with technical and complicated moves you might have seen someone Insta famous do. Don’t run before you can walk and master the basic movements such as curls, overhead presses, lunges etc. first.

Focus On Form Over Weight

This is something that even non beginners are guilty of. Gym goers, it’s time to park the ego! For most non powerlifters looking to increase lean muscle mass you should be aiming for 10-15 reps before failure. Chose a weight you can achieve this number of reps with comfortably without compromising your form. Opting for a weight that is too heavy and skews your form will not only be counterproductive but could lead to injury. If you’re unsure of your form, don’t be afraid to ask for help, either from a PT or someone experienced in the gym. Neither will mind offering help; rather they will be flattered you asked!

Choose Your Time Carefully 

For the first few trips to the weight room chose a time that is quiet where you can get comfortable in your new surroundings without worrying about looking silly by doing something wrong. If your work schedule confines you to peak times during the week, set your alarm for a little bit earlier at the weekends and go while everyone else is still in bed. Not to mention you’ll feel like a total bad ass pumping iron while everyone else is still snoozing!
Fear of the weights room is normal and understandable. Overcoming it is not easy but achievable. One of my personal motivations to make the move to weight training was that I like to challenge myself and push myself out of my comfort zone. I take solace in the fact that no one knows everything about fitness and even the fittest looking people in the weights room still have room for improvement. Some of them are probably doing something wrong but the difference is they have the confidence to make it look right!
Whether we are overweight, underweight, shy or confident, we are all in the gym for the same reason and that is to improve our bodies. Whether you are a beginner or a regular in the weights room, we are all equal and deserve the same level of respect.
With that in mind, if you are a beginner contemplating your move to the weights room, I hope this has encouraged you to make the move now. I guarantee you will reap the benefits and you will watch your confidence soar both in and outside of the gym.

[1] A Prospective Study of Weight Training and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Men
Anders Grøntved, MPH, MSc,a,b Eric B. Rimm, ScD,a,c,d Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH,a,c,d Lars B. Andersen, PhD, DrMED,a,e and Frank B. Hu, MD, PhDa,c,d
Arch Intern Med. 2012 September 24;
[1] Watson SL, W. B. (2015). Heavy resistance training is safe and improves bone, function, and stature in postmenopausal women with low to very low bone mass: novel early findings from the LIFTMOR trial. Osteoporos Int., 2889-94.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2624336