The Beginner’s Guide To Navigating Gym Equipment

Joining a gym is a huge step toward creating a better, healthier life. If you’ve made that step, congratulations! Like all new training programs getting started can be a little daunting, particularly if you haven’t worked with gym equipment before.

Let this be a guide to help you navigate the different gym equipment as well as providing general advice for those beginning their gym training journey.

How to use different gym equipment

If you’ve just joined the gym, then chances are you’re still getting used to the different equipment and how to use them. While they may look intimidating there’s nothing to be anxious about. As soon as you learn the ropes, you’ll be frequenting them and making them part of your usual routine without a second thought.

How to use cardio equipment at the gym

The cardio area is a favourite with most gym-goers. It’s a great place to start if you’re just beginning too. Most gyms have their own designated cardio area with all the cardio equipment such as treadmills, ellipticals, stair climbers, and stationary bikes.

These machines are designed to give you a good cardiovascular workout, hence the name ‘cardio’. The benefits of cardio exercise include:

  • Weight loss
  • Good heart health
  • Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Better sleep
  • Increased bone density

All of these machines are easy to use once you get the hang of how to properly use them. Most machines will have instructions printed on them to show you how to use them and which muscle groups they target.

A lot of people complain that they become bored while walking or running on a treadmill, so to make things interesting you can play with the different functions on the machine and set yourself ‘mini goals’ while you workout, for example, aim for 5 minutes power-walking and then slow the pace down to a slow-paced walk, but put the incline level up so that you’re simulating a hill climb to work your legs and glutes.

After 5 minutes, go back to a brisk walk and then finish the last 5 minutes at a high sprint.

How to use strength machines & free weights at the gym

The weights area is probably the most daunting of spaces in a gym, especially for beginners. Here you’ll find most of the avid gym-goers or bodybuilders, which makes it intimidating if you’re just starting out. Not to mention, the strength machines and weights themselves often look like you need an engineering degree just to figure them out!

But the good thing is that most gyms group their machines together according to which muscle group they target. For example, the machines for ‘leg day’ will usually include the leg press machine, leg extension, and leg curl machine.

For the arms, back, and shoulders, you will see the lat-pulldown machine, shoulder press, chest press, and seated row machine. Like the cardio equipment, most weight machines have ‘how-to’ instructions labelled on the front of them so that you can see how to properly use them.

Along with the weight machines, there will be a section for free weights. This includes dumbbells, barbells, weight racks/squat racks and bench press stations. The weights area is for strength-training, allowing you build strength and muscle.

If you’re stuck, ask for help

When in doubt, ask for help. It may sound cliche, but it’s the best advice you can get. You will quickly come to find that gym-goers and staff members are more than happy to help you if you have a problem or need advice on how to use a piece of equipment. Remember, they all started as a beginner themselves!

There is generally a camaraderie between gym-goers no matter the differences in fitness level or expertise. You’re all there for the same purpose; to be happy and healthy!

General gym equipment etiquette

Moving onto the gym floor and navigating the various gym equipment can be intimidating.

How does this machine work?’

‘Do I put my leg there?’

I’m going to embarrass myself in front of everyone!’

We get it because we’ve been there! Everyone was a beginner, even that dude over there bench-pressing 200 kilos.

Learning how to use certain weights, machines and the proper gym etiquette is like navigating uncharted waters; but we promise it will become second nature to you in no time! Let’s begin with basic gym etiquette to save you any awkward encounters:

1. Take note of the ‘house rules’

Every gym has its own set rules when it comes to the do’s and don’ts of club etiquette. Usually when you walk into the gym they will have these rules clear to see to ensure the comfort and safety of all gym-goers. Some of these rules can include ‘No taking selfies’ for the privacy of others.

2. Bring a towel to wipe down equipment after use

For the comfort of others, please bring a towel with you to the gym. No one wants to sit on or use sweaty machines left by the person before them. Be respectful to other gym users by wiping down your machine after use.

3. Re-rack your weights

This is probably one of the biggest pet-peeves of all gym devotees. There’s nothing worse than needing a set of dumbbells and finding them strewn around the floor. The same goes for using the squat rack. Once you’re done with your routine, do the right thing and take off the plates to leave the barbell free for the next person.

If you’re too exhausted or sore from your workout to move your weights, then ask one of the trainers to help you, they’d be happy to do so!

4. Be mindful of others space

The gym floor should be like defensive driving. If there’s someone working out near where you need to be, be mindful of them and give them the space they need to be able to work-out freely without having to worry about bumping into you.

If you need to get past them, be sure to give them space and move around them so as to not interrupt their workout.

5. Don’t hog equipment

Once you’re done completing the maximum amount of reps you need to do, free up the machine for someone else to ‘work in’ after you. Don’t leave your towel and water bottle on a machine to claim it if you aren’t currently using it. Someone else may want to workout on the same piece of equipment to complete their routine.

6. Try to avoid the chit-chat

For a lot of people, the gym is a place to escape. While some use it as an excuse to catch up on the latest gossip, most just want to get in and smash their routine and get out without having to get held up with small talk from strangers.

If you are with a gym buddy, try not to be too loud and avoid sitting around chin-wagging while someone’s on the bike next to you trying to focus on their workout. It’s all about being considerate of others.

Learn how to properly use gym equipment

Bailey Fitness has a large range of state-of-the-art equipment and friendly staff to help you figure out your way around. Find a club and join Bailey Fitness today for a quality, comfortable and friendly gym experience.

Author Avatar

Adam Bailey

Adam Bailey is the owner of Bailey Fitness. He's a big believer in putting in the hard work to achieve great results. At Bailey Fitness, he strives to support a like-minded community who work towards their health goals.

Get all of our latest health, fitness & nutrition
tips sent straight to your inbox