When you’re ready to grow in some aspect of your life, you usually know on some level that means trying something new. Whether it’s your job, your relationships, or the way you manage your finances, you know when it’s time to adjust your focus and learn. Your workout routine needs to grow just like other areas of your life, so why do we walk past those mystery machines in the gym day after day and always forget to bring those new exercises?
Obstacles in the Gym
Even regular gym goers can be nervous or apathetic about learning a new machine or exercise. We might feel like everyone is watching as we study the machine instructions, make awkward adjustments, and get on and off to add or take off weight. Maybe we’re not even nervous, but we’ve become very comfortable in our routine and forget that trying new things could really benefit us.
I remember when I became curious about FreeMotion cable machines. They’re the machines with two long “arms” that move up and down. You’ll see people doing everything from shoulder presses to leg curls on these machines.
For awhile I thought, “Oh, those machines aren’t for me.” But one day I just walked up to a guy using it and said, “So how do you adjust the arms on this thing?” He gladly told me, and since then FreeMotion machines have become an assest to my training. I can’t even imagine being without them now! The instructions right on the machine, by the way, and of course there’s YouTube.
My biggest obstacle to trying new machines used to be machine seat and foot adjustments, along with the occasional outlaw safety lever. As a petite person, I always have to adjust everything as small as it’ll go. Plus, some safety levers are not intuitive to release (such as the hack squat machine). Struggling with a stubborn knob can feel awkward and frustrating, but all it takes is one time to get it right and then you know how to do it. From then on, you know how to wiggle the knob, you know how far to pull the seat, and you know where to position the bar (especially if you write it down in your trusty training journal). Then you can add that machine to your repertoire of exercises. It feels good! (For the record, you have to push up a little with your feet to release the hack squat safety bars.)
Self-Growth in the Gym
Not only does trying new things in the gym get us out of our comfort zone, it’s one of the best ways to break out of plateaus, the bane of anyone trying to see results. If you’re bored in the gym, trying a new machine, or exercise can reinvigorate your whole routine. And of course, it gives us a great sense of satisfaction to learn new machines or exercises.
When you’re starting something new, tell yourself:
- It’s ok to use no weight at all at first, and may even be safer. You want to know how the range of motion feels first so you don’t injure yourself.
- It’s ok to wait until you’re with a workout partner. Having a workout partner can make trying new things infinitely easier. You can both struggle and succeed together as you experiment with different adjustments and weight.
- It’s ok to ask a personal trainer who happens to be standing around how to use a machine or where a machine is. Be careful about asking other gym members; you won’ t know if they’re doing it correctly.
- It’s ok to make adjustments after you’ve started. I found that on decline bench presses that my back arched uncomfortably during the first set. So I got up and moved the foot support closer.
- It’s ok to learn proper form at home before doing it in the gym. For free-weight exercises, do the movements at home in front of a mirror.
- It’s ok to bring printouts to the gym and use them in the quieter areas before attempting them in the weight room.
- It’s ok to just do your thing, without worrying about what other people think. You deserve to be there just as much as anyone else, and you should give yourself credit for learning something new.
Even as someone who’s in the gym four or five times a week, I still feel more comfortable learning new things a certain way. I practice with printouts in a quieter area of the gym at first, and I might go at a less busy time. Lately I’ve found that it’s much easier to learn new machines with a workout partner who can spot me and watch my form. You have to find what’s comfortable for you and then do it. If you feel nervous or unmotivated, just think about how you’ve felt when you’ve grown in other areas of your life – and then make it happen in your workout routine.