Hitting the gym when you're
new to working out or after a long break is the best — and the worst. On one hand, moving your body feels amazing, and it's always exciting to kick off a new habit. But on the other, figuring out how to use confusing exercise equipment or pretzel yourself into the correct form can seem intimidating. The right fitness plan, however, can give you a boost of confidence during the first few days or weeks of a new workout regimen. The key: sticking to moves that will lay the foundation for your future gym adventures. You're looking for exercises that are easy enough that you don't feel embarrassed or overwhelmed testing them, but are functional enough to help you build real strength. To help you get off to a solid start, we asked two trainers to share their favorite beginner workout moves for the gym. These movements will hit several large muscle groups at once to quickly improve your posture, strength, and energy levels. They also offer up a starting point for more complicated exercises, so you'll be able to build on the plan as you get stronger. You can do all these moves together as one workout, or start with your favorite four and work your way up to all eight. Our trainers: Joey Foley, the cofounder of Punch Pedal House in New York City and a former D1 Football player; Heather Stevens, a master instructor at Studio Three, an interval-cycle-yoga studio in Chicago This move is simple and engages several muscle groups, Foley says. "It's an excellent drill for mastering proper squat form," he says. "It works the legs dynamically and the upper back, core, and shoulders isometrically." Goblet Squat How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. Squat down, sitting back with your hips like you're slowly easing into a chair. Push through your heels to stand back up. Do 10 to 15 reps three times. At first, use just your bodyweight. As you get more comfortable, you can add a dumbbell. "Hold it in front of your chest as if you are supporting a large cup or goblet," Foley says. "This forces [you] to keep a strong core, shoulders back and straight back, so there little to no pressure on your lower back." More This exercise gives you plenty of bang for your buck. It works many muscles in the legs, Stevens says. Reverse Lunge How to: "Starting with all ten toes facing straight forward and feet hip-width apart. Step one leg back, bending your back knee until it hovers just above the floor," Stevens says. "Shift your weight onto your front leg to come back to standing. Repeat on the other side." As the move becomes easier, try it while holding two small weights just above your shoulders with your elbows bent. When you get to a standing position at the top of your lunge, straighten your arms for a press. Do 10 reps. More Weighted Sit-Up "The sit-up is another great foundational exercise," Foley says. "Weighted sit-ups will build balance, stability, and strength." They also correct the mistakes of a regular sit-up because they help you control your momentum as you raise yourself up. How to: To begin, lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Hold a two-pound weight against your upper chest. Use your abdominal muscles to contract your core and lift your torso off the floor, raising the weight above your head as you do so. Your hips and feet should be stationary and grounded to the floor. Do 15 reps. More Arnold Press The perfect starter shoulder movement. Foley says it makes a great foundation for many upper-body moves. You can do it seated on a bench or standing up. How to: Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Bring them to shoulder-height with your palms facing your chest, and the ends of the weights touching each other. "Press the dumbbells overhead, straightening your arms while rotating so that your palms are facing forward overhead," Foley says. Your elbows should still be slightly bent. Bring your dumbbells back to shoulder-height. Repeat 10 to 12 times. More Alternative Side Lunge with Press Foley says this move is dynamic, and will help beginners gain strength in several muscle groups. How to: For the side-squat, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Take a deep breath and a significant step out to the side with your right foot (out as far as you can while still keeping both feet flat on the floor). As you descend into a lunge, keep your toes facing forward, and land on the sole of your foot. Shift most of your weight on your right leg as it dips into a 90-degree angle. Keep the other leg straight. Your glutes should be working behind you. To come back up to standing position, explosively push off with your right foot. Do eight reps on each side. "Start with no weight so you can build stability and balance. As you progress, begin to add in on," Foley suggests. You'll hold a light dumbbell in each hand. Bring the weights to shoulder-height. As you step into the lunge, press the dumbbells overhead, keeping your shoulders square and your core flexed. Lower the weights back to shoulder height, then return to standing. More Incline push-up This is a great way to work up to a regular push-up, while still building core and arm strength. How to: Start in an incline plank position. Your hands will be on a workout bench, coffee table, chair seat, or steps. Hold your body flat like a board, engaging your core, balancing on your toes with your feet behind you. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees, but keep them close to your ribs, lowering your upper body into a push-up position. Push back up to start, and repeat up to ten times. More Russian Twist Just about every exercise requires core strength or stability, and this move will strengthen that area several ways — both in your abdominals and obliques (which are located on the sides of the abdominals). How to: Sit with your knees slightly bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lower your torso partway down towards the ground, so your body is in a "V" shape and your core is engaged. Clasp your hands together in front of you and twist your torso from side to side, Bring your clasped hands down as close to the floor as possible while maintaining your form with each movement. Twist from your core, not your shoulders. Start with bodyweight, then try it while holding a light weight in your hands, Foley suggests. More Bicep curls
"The bicep curl is essential," Foley says. It builds up strength in
both the upper and lower arms
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. "Keep your arms close to your body with your elbows slightly touching your obliques, and your palms are facing your hips," he says. "Keeping your upper arms stationary, bend your elbow like a door hinge, raising your arms while twisting your palms towards the sky to touch your upper chest."
Exhale as you curl the weights up to shoulder level while contracting your biceps, and inhale and you bring them back down into starting position. Do 15 reps.
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