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Beginner Body Builder

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Checklist for Finding a Good Gym for weight lifting.

Traveling Distance and Time.

Decide how far you are prepared to travel. If the journey takes you more than 15-20 min. you are unlikely to visit the gym regularly in the long term once the initial novelty has worn off.

Type of Equipment.

Is there a good range of equipment to suit your needs? If you want to build mass, you will need plenty of free weights, benches and racks. If you are more interested in general fitness and toning, you may prefer a greater range of machines and lighter free weights.

Standard and Safety of Equipment.

Good equipment does not need to be state-of-the-art shiny machinery. Check that the equipment is well maintained with no broken or loose attachments, and is regularly cleaned and tested.

Gym Layout.

The gym should be well ventilated and well laid out, with enough space between equipment to prevent accidents and overcrowding.

Atmosphere and Motivation.

the gym environment should be motivating for you as a individual. Some gyms are very busy and noisy, others are quieter, it is important to train in an atmosphere that suits your temperament. Try to get an idea of the type of members who train there-are they serious body builders or general fitness trainers, sociable or quiet.


Check that the instructors are professionally qualified. Most instructors in the U.K. will have a certificate in fitness training or weight training, or hold a degree in sports science or a related subject.

Arrange a Trial Workout.

Most gyms will be happy to arrange a trial workout. Arrange to visit at the same time as you plan to exercise so you can see whether the gym becomes overcrowded and you need a queue for equipment.


Make sure you find out the true cost of joining a gym. Some require an initial non-refundable joining fee, plus an annual or monthly membership subscription others may allow you to pay for each workout : multiply this by the number of times you intend to train per year. Also make sure you clear about what the membership buys you, weather you need to pay extra for other facilities, and ask about different payment methods. Find out whether any discount are available(eg. off-peak membership).

Note: Weather you decide to train at home or at a gym, you should seek the advise of a professional instructor to demonstrate the exercises, at least for your initial workouts.

Should I use free weights or machines for weight lifting?

A key question for most weight trainers is: should I use free weights or machines(treadmills, steppers, stationary bike, home gyms, strength trainer, weight benches)? The issues you need to consider before finalizing your training programme are as follows:

Plane of movement

Lifting free weights develops greater balance and motor skills than using machines. Barbells and dumbbells allow the limbs to move in their natural arcs. This helps develop greater coordination skills and facilitates greater strength development.

More muscle fibres and nerve inputs (motor units) are activated to balance the weight throughout the range of movement. Accessory muscles (those which are not responsible for the movement but which assist indirectly) are also developed as they must work synergistically with the prime movers (the main muscles involved in the movement).

Since machines lock you into a fixed plane of movement, they reduce the contribution of the accessory muscles and so require less balance and skill to perform an exercise. This may be advantageous for beginners with poor motor skills and poor muscle and postural awareness, but as muscles receive less stimulation so strength and size gains will be smaller.


Free weights accommodate the natural leverage of the body and the changes in force generated through the range of movement. Most machines, on the other hand, place an increasing load on the muscle during each part of the movement, which means the muscle will not receive maximum stimulus in its biomechanically favourable position. A lower weight usually has to be selected in order to complete the movement correctly.

Result: slower gains in strength and size.


Another problem with machines is that they do not accommodate the natural leverage of the body. Everyone has a unique set of levers, which will not exactly fit a machine. The resistance cams are set to match the strength curves of the average person, which means that for everyone else the heaviest resistance occurs at inappropriate angles. Thus, a lighter weight has to be selected in order to complete the motion, reducing the intensity of the exercise and the training effect.


Several different variations of the same exercise may be performed with free weights - e.g. bench presses with different grip widths or with the bench adjusted to different angles - thus making many different exercises possible. Machines offer a finite number of exercises, thus potentially compromising overall development.


Machines are generally safer than free weights, particularly when training without a partner or trainer: they usually allow the weight stack to be returned to the starting position if you fail to complete a full repetition. But it is not so in case of dumbbells or free weights. Dumbbells and barbells can only be dropped and plates can become unsecured. When training with free weights to the point of failure, it is therefore essential to have a trainer.

Beginners should start out with machines while they are developing the basic motor skills and body awareness needed to control a movement. Once they have acquired this confidence, they can include more free weight exercises in their routine.

Aesthetic appeal

Some beginners, especially women, find free weights intimidating. Machines generally have a greater aesthetic appeal and may encourage beginners to commence training. Free weights have a more macho image, which may appeal to some weight trainers. They can encourage greater competitiveness and motivation and therefore may increase strength and mass gains.

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