I'll admit, the first time I walked into a weight room without my husband, I was overwhelmed and pretty intimidated. I felt like I was walking into a forbidden, exclusive club and that the proverbial record would scratch, all the big sweaty boys would stop what they were doing and turn their heads to look at the poor little girl who was obviously lost.
I waited for someone to tell me that the aerobics room was on the other side of the gym or ask me where my mommy and daddy were. None of that happened. Everyone was too busy listening to Mudvayne on their iPods and checking out their sweet biceps in the mirror to even notice I was there. I even made a few friends. Guys started asking me about my routine and making small talk and eventually everyone knew who I was and I was more comfortable there than any other part of the gym. Not so scary after all.
If you want to avoid the initial shock that I endured upon your first visit, you need to know about three pieces of equipment: the squat rack, the power rack, and the bench. There will be a lot of other junk there, but most of it is really just that. Junk. For the love of fluffy kittens, avoid the Smith machine at all costs! Not only is it completely useless, but it doesn't allow you to move the way your body naturally should. DO NOT use it. Please? That is the only thing I beg of you. (That and not doing 100 reps of bicep curls with 3lb. weights.)
|M Squat Rack - www.torquehq.com|
Squat Rack: Squats are one of the best exercises you can do for your body. Not only do they improve lower body strength, they also help you develop coordination and balance that will serve you well in any athletic endeavor. Also, they'll give you a great ass.
You can place the bar at a comfortable height. (It should be just a tad lower than your shoulders when racked.) The safety rails will catch the bar if you need to "bail" (or drop the weight). They ensure that you don't hurt yourself or break any of the equipment. Trust them! As your form improves and you start to push yourself to lift heavier, you can rest assured that you won't kill yourself. In five years of doing barbell squats, I have never needed to use the safeties, but I feel better going bigger because I know they are there.
|Power rack - www.nerdfitness.com|
Power Rack: The power rack is like the squat rack, but the rack and safety rails are completely adjustable so you can use it for multiple exercises. (Or if you are a shorty like me, you may prefer to squat and bench press here because you can customize it to your comfort.) Again, the safeties are there for your benefit. And if you fall backward (which is extremely rare, but IF!) the weights are completely contained and can't pin you.
|Weight Bench - www.workouthealthy.com|
Weight Bench: There's not much to it. The rack is adjustable, again, so you can place it at a comfortable level for you. You should be able to get the bar off the rack without rounding your shoulders or really "reaching" at all. Another request: regardless of what the bros in Tapout shorts are doing, DO NOT put your feet on the bench. This is a weak and unstable position and will become very dangerous once you start lifting heavier weights.
Like I said, don't worry about any of the other equipment. I promise this is all you will need, at least at first. And this may be an unpopular opinion, but I'm right so I don't care, but DO NOT pay for a personal training session. I'm sure there are reputable personal trainers out there, but most of them will teach you whatever cool things they learned in Men's Fitness and overwhelm you with jargon. If you aren't dependent on your trainer, you stop booking sessions and they don't get paid. I'll talk about form with you in the next part of this guide, and lead you to some sites with good videos and good advice for female lifters.