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Get back into gym training to lose fat and build muscle

Not been to the gym for a while? Don’t worry – it happens. But don’t turn “not for a while” into “never again” and get back into gym training the smart and simple way to finally build the leaner, stronger and fitter body you want, says New Body Plan’s Joe Warner

Maybe you’ve never done any gym training, but want to get into weights because you’ve read about some amazing fat-loss success stories. Or maybe it’s been months and months since your last gym training session, and you’re not sure what to do to start shifting that stubborn beer belly, man boobs, or lower back fat.

We’ve all been in one of those scenarios at one point. And if you’re there now it’s very common to feel more than a little “gymtimidated”.

I was right after lockdown. Gyms had been closed for so long and I’d not lifted weights properly for ages. It was inevitable that I felt a little gym intimidation for those first few sessions back.

So, if any of these unhelpful thoughts have crossed your mind, you’re not alone – they’ve crossed mine too. (But keep reading to find out how to overcome them!).

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Common reasons to avoid gym training

• I am heavier than I when I last went to the gym
• I am nowhere near as fit or strong as I was before
• I don’t know what to do once I am back there
• I don’t want to get injured or be sore for days on end
• I don’t have the motivation or desire I once did
• I don’t want to be judged, laughed at or looked down upon

The best-case scenario is you have just one of these negative thoughts. That means you only have a good first session back rather than a great one. But there’s a real danger that these demotivating thoughts are so overpowering you cancel your gym membership and never set foot in that place again.

Get back into gym training quickly and easily

The good news is that the solution to all of the common concerns listed above – and any other reasons stopping you from dusting off your gym bag – is really simple. You just need to follow my six-step guide below to make a smooth and effortless transition to being a gym bunny, and all the physical and mental health benefits that come with it.

Remember, it doesn’t actually matter if you’re heavier than you were, or not as strong or lean or muscular or fit. You can’t change the past or what’s happened up until this point. But you – and only you – can control what happens next. And by getting back into your training now means you’ll be looking and feeling better than ever before you know it.

1. Have a gym plan to follow

Yes, you need a clear session plan so you know what exercises you want to do, and the sets, reps, and rest periods you want to hit, but first we need to establish the “new normal” basics.

When are you going to go to the gym? What day and what time? Do you need to book a dedicate workout slot beforehand?

Also, do you need to wear a mask? Can you use the changing room, showers or toilets? What can and can’t you take on to the gym floor? Double check ahead of schedule to avoid any nasty surprises or mistakes that see you turned away.

Once you’re in the gym, you don’t want to waste a single second or lose a drop of motivation by looking around you, scratching your head and working out where you should start working out.

The smart approach is to have a plan to follow so you can focus 100% of your energy on getting the session done and avoid the gym floor mistakes so many people make.

If you’re after a simple session as your first workout back, look no further than this six-move total-body dumbbell session to get moving. There’s also our free back and biceps gym training session, or try my chest and triceps weights workout instead.

Ready to begin a proper fat-loss or muscle-building gym training programme? You can now access more than £500-worth of fantastic workout plans (as well as meal plans, calorie tracking, and many other innovative transformation tools) in the brand new and updated Club New Body Plan app!

2. Ease yourself back into gym training

Now you’ve got a session plan to follow you need to do a proper warm-up. Why? To prepare both physically and mentally for the workout ahead. Start with some mobility drills. Then do some warm-up sets of your first couple of exercises. Start with high reps of a light weight, then with each subsequent warm-up set increase the weight and decrease the reps until you feel ready for your first “work set”.

This smart warm-up strategy is even more essential if you’ve not trained with weights for a while, or if you’re no longer a spring chicken. You need to train smarter as you get older. And that starts with “greasing the groove” before each session to prime your muscles, joints and connective tissue to avoid injury.

It actually makes sense for everybody to gently ease themselves back in, whatever your age or current fitness level. Even if you’ve been regularly training with weights at home, your first week back in the gym is not the time to attempt a deadlift, back squat or bench press one-rep max. The risk hugely outweighs the reward, so take your time and do it right.

Think of it like this: your only real objective for these first few sessions back is to enjoy them. Why? To build back up your motivation and passion for lifting weights to re-establish your positive gym habit. And that will only happen if you get through this first week unscathed!

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3. Focus on good weight-lifting form

Proper lifting form is one of the most important of the seven essential training variables yet the one many people most overlook. Now you’re back in the gym good form must be at the forefront of your mind. Not just because it works your muscles more intelligently, through a greater range of motion, and replicates real-world movement patterns. But also because it’s the best way to avoid strains, pulls and other injuries that could put you back one the sidelines before you’ve even got back in the game.

4. Allow time for a recovery-boosting cool-down

Not doing any gym training for a while (or ever!) has one big positive. Now’s the perfect time to introduce some new healthy gym habits, such as cooling down and stretching. Why? Adding these essential elements to each session will accelerate your progress to a leaner, stronger and more athletic physique. And you’ll be taking smart steps to injury-proof your body so you can stay fitter, healthier and happier for longer.

Think about dedicating the final five to 10 minutes of your to a proper cool down, rather than running straight to the car and driving home as soon as you’ve finished that last set of biceps curls.

Your body needs to adjust from a “resting state” to an “active state” at the start of a workout through a proper warm. And it also needs to do the reverse after your final work set. Why? To reduce your heart rate, lower your core temperature, and flush the accumulation of waste products from your muscles to kick-start the recovery process. Some mobility moves, active stretching, or a walk on the treadmill will all help speed recovery up.

The last thing you want is an injury or even such painful and stiffening delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that it’s going to be at least another week for you can even contemplate your second gym visit!

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5. Don’t compare yourself to others in the gym

Much like lifting with perfect form, this is another #NewBodyPlan commandment that’s worth reinforcing right now. It’s common to look around the gym floor at the younger, slimmer and more muscular guys and feel either envious of their physiques. Or feel worried they’re judging you for not also looking like a Calvin Klein underwear model.

Firstly, these guys are only ever looking at themselves in the mirror so they don’t even know you’re there (unless you happen to walk in between them and their reflection).

Second, and more importantly, you can only ever compare yourself to you. No one else. Are you a step – no matter how small – closer to your goal than you were yesterday? If you’re in the gym following a training plan, or working out smartly at home, then your answer is yes. And that’s all you need to think about.

6. Give yourself time to get life-changing results

We all want to be the proud owner of a stronger, lean and fitter body immediately, but Rome wasn’t build in a day. The longer it’s been since your last really solid period of consistent training then the longer it’s going to take to get to where you want to be.

But the more consistent you can be now that you’re back doing gym training – three times a week is good, four times a week is great – then the sooner you’ll be feeling good, enjoying exercise, and taking those small but satisfying steps of progress.

That’s one of the many brilliant things about fitness. Yes, it feels like you can loss “fitness” quite quickly when you don’t train. But it’s amazing how quickly it comes back. Especially once you find the perfect plan that quickly delivers the health and happiness-boosting results you want.

To find your perfect plan, take the New Body quiz!
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