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Gain gym confidence with the new rules of working out

Are you putting off losing weight and getting fit because you lack gym confidence? It’s a very common problem. That’s why I’ve written down those previously unwritten gym rules so you can successfully navigate the biggest potential gym pitfalls. Use my quick, easy and instant advice to seamlessly fit in at the gym so you can start to build the body you’ve always wanted, says New Body Plan’s fitness director Joe Warner

I first joined a gym more than 20 years ago and have been a member of one ever since.

And through work I’ve been lucky enough to work out in more gyms than I can remember.

I’ve trained in beginner-friendly commercial facilities, high-end luxury health clubs, and hardcore spit-and-sawdust pits (one had a sick bucket located at every other squat rack and resistance machine).

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More than two decades of consistent training has given me gym confidence.

But I can still remember what it felt like to walk into a new gym for the first time. There’s that pang of anxiety and fear over whether you’re wearing the right workout clothes or how quickly everyone else will notice you’ve absolutely no idea what you’re doing.

The good news is that it doesn’t take very long for these initial jitters to dissipate. As soon as you start to see the results you want, the gym can quickly become a home from home.

But if you have zero gym confidence then that may stop you from ever stepping foot in the gym in the first place, even if you did muster the courage to sign up for a membership.

If a lack of gym confidence is holding you back from achieving your goal to shift stubborn body fat or add lean muscle mass to transform your body, use my expert advice below to instantly fit in at the gym so you can get the results you want!

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Always wear shorts over your leggings

Do I really need to explain this one? If you want to fit it, rather than – quite literally – stick out, always pop a pair of shorts over your skin-tight performance-boosting leggings. Yes, I know they weren’t cheap. But vacuum-packed genitals won’t give you gym confidence. It will just make you the person that everyone else refers to as “that guy”. And you don’t want to be him. Trust me.

Bring the right size water bottle

That said, size matters. But only when it comes to your water bottle. Between 500ml and one litre is the sweet spot. Any bigger than that and it looks like you’re over-compensating for something. No one needs to lug a gallon of water around the gym floor. That’s a workout in itself. So how do you know if your water bottle is too big? It takes both hands to raise it to your mouth.

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Follow a training plan for instant gym confidence

The single-best way to avoid looking like you don’t know what you doing in the gym? Know exactly what you’re doing in the gym.

And the only way to get that instant gym confidence of being 100% sure what you’re doing is right is to follow a workout plan. Have a plan means you won’t wander around looking clueless, you won’t waste a single second of gym time (meaning you get in, then get out, faster) and it shows the rest of the gym you’re serious about your session.

If you need some inspiration you can take our New Body Quiz and answer a series of quick questions about you that will help us identify the perfect plan to help you achieve your goals.

Our most popular programme is New Body Plan 2.0. It’s an eight-week gym plan based on the training principles that helped NBP creator Jon Lipsey lose 10kg of stubborn body fat in just eight weeks to land on the cover of Men’s Fitness magazine. Thousands of ordinary guys achieved extraordinary results using NBP 2.0.

Or check out my Training Club, which gives you access to my own workout plan that helped me sculpt six-pack abs at the age of 40!

If you want to get used to working out in the comfort of your own home before starting at a gym, our Six-Week Home Dumbbell workout is the plan for you!

Start a training diary

Once you have your perfect plan to follow, the next easy step in gaining gym confidence – as well as showing every other gym-goer present you know exactly what you’re doing – is to keep a training diary.

It’s one of the simplest but most effective methods to ensure you get the results you want. But hardly anyone does it. And that’s where they’re going wrong. Here’s how to start your training diary and what info you should jot down. It really is one of the very best ways to fast-track your results.

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Don’t start your session with biceps curls

If you have a good training plan to follow you’ll never make this rookie mistake. And nothing makes someone stand out as complete clueless than starting their weights workout with some single-arm isolation lifts, such as alternating dumbbell biceps curls.

I see it all the time. A guy does 10 minutes on the treadmill then grabs a pair of dumbbells and starts curling. After a few sets he wanders around looking for some clue or inspiration as to what to do next. Failing to find it, they simply end up leaving.

All New Body Plan programmes, like all high-quality training plans, will schedule the more technically-challenging compound lifts – such as the deadlift, the barbell bench press, or the barbell overhead shoulder press – at the start of a session.

Why? Because you’re fully fresh and able to lift heavier with better form to get the biggest bang for your buck. You’ll work more muscles in less time and get better results, faster.

We then add isolation lifts, such as biceps curl or dumbbell lat raises at the end of a workout when you have less concentration or energy and can lift safely without undue risk of injury.

If you’re not sure of what exercises to do in what order, then you need a training plan. Here’s how to select the perfect plan for your age, exercise experience, and goals.

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Don’t do cardio before weights to get gym confidence

Confusion over whether a session should have cardio first then weights, or weights followed by cardio, confuses almost every new gym goer. So here’s the final word: weights come first. Always. No exceptions.

Why? Lifting weights requires a significant amount of focus, co-ordination and rapid firing of muscle fibres to be done safely and effectively. That requires a fully firing central nervous system. So you want to be fresh and full of beans when lifting, especially when lifting heavy.

But if you do cardio before weights you run the risk of trying to lift heavier weights in a fatigued state with a tired central nervous system and flagging concentration and focus.

This is why all New Body Plan fat-loss programmes that include a cardio element schedule the cardio training either as a Fat-Loss Finisher – a type of high-intensity interval training drill – to be done right at the end of a session after all the weights work is done. Or as a standalone low-intensity steady-state session on non-weights days to serve as an effective calorie-burning active recovery session.

The key to better body composition – the technical term for lowering body fat levels whilst increasing lean muscle mass – is to be clever with cardio. And that means always doing it after weights, or on its own day.

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Always put your weights back to gain gym confidence

There are two types of people who don’t put their weights back once they’ve finished with them: gym first-timers, and complete assholes. And I’m guessing that don’t want to be instantly-identified as either.

To seamlessly fit in at the gym then always return dumbbells to the rack. And strip the weight plates from your barbell or the plate-loaded resistance machines once your last set is over. It takes seconds and makes life so much easier for the next user.

So what if the previous person left their weights out? That doesn’t mean you have a license to do the same.

Think of it this way: you’re a complete beginner and want to use a barbell. But someone has left it loaded with 25kg plates each side. So you’re not able to strip the bar safely. So you can’t use it. The previous person has negative affected your workout. Don’t be that person to someone else.

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Never distract someone who is lifting

Having just said it’s essential you put your weights away once you’re finished, my advice comes with a caveat. You doing so must never distract someone who’s lifting. That means not putting weights back on a rack or resistance machine currently in use, or walking between someone and a mirror if they’re mid-set.

It’s best to wait until they’re finished and then return your weights. Otherwise you distracting them or getting in their eye-line if they’re using the mirror to maintain their good form could cause them a big problem. And nothing will curb your gym confidence faster than getting shouted at by an irate regular.

I’ve been distracted more times than I can remember. Just recently someone tried to take a weight plate off the chest press machine I was using – and I was in the middle of a set!

Another time I was doing the barbell back squat in a squat rack when someone climbed through the sides of the cage to get a plate from the opposite site. It almost caused me to fall backwards with the bar. The worst part? The guy was one of the gym’s personal trainers!

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Clean up after yourself

With the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully in the rear view mirror, I’ve noticed fewer people bother to wipe down equipment once they’ve finished with it.

But a great way to gain gym confidence is to be a considerate gym user. Wiping down machine handles and headrests, or dumbbells and barbells, takes seconds but will make you feel better about yourself. And you’ll get appreciative nods from more experienced lifters, making you feel right at home.

And it should go without saying – if you leave a “snail trail” of sweat over a bench or on the floor, wipe it away. Would you ever want to sit, stand or lie in someone else’s sweat stains?

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