So you're ready to get that toned body you've always dreamed of. Enough of looking at those love handles and wondering what that six-pack looks like under all that extra skin. You're determined and have even taken the step of buying a gym membership. So now what? It's important that all newcomers know what to do when they actually get to the gym so they don't find themselves standing in front of a machine and looking at it like it's from a different planet. Below are some tips from Bodybuilding.com for all beginners to take into account before reaching for those weights. Once you figure out how to work the machines – and how to do it safely – you will be well on your way to a more toned, muscular body.

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Ego

You should never let your ego get in the way of a good workout. Looking to impress your friends should not be at the top of your agenda when weight lifting because chances are you will try to lift too much or lift with the wrong form. While your friends may think it's cool when you tell them you lift more weight than they do, you may actually be doing yourself harm. Lifting while using perfect form is way more beneficial in the long run. You're body will thank you later.

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Bacteria

The gym is full of sweat – and not just your sweat. Think about the countless other people that have used the machines before you did. You must make hygiene a priority so make sure you take time to wipe down the weights before and after you use them. Getting sick from someone else's germs will lead you to miss future workouts.

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Socializing

When you first go to the gym you may find it's a cool place to socialize but don't let talking to new friends get in the way of your workout. If you start talking you will be taking too long in between sets to weight lift so your body will not be getting the full workout it needs. Make sure whatever talking you do is small and doesn't interfere with the flow of your routine. Small talk equals bigger results.

Socializing

 

Collars

Many newcomers find it hard to balance a barbell while squatting or bench pressing, which could lead to favoring one side over the other. This leads to one side of your body coming up faster from the lift and could result in the weight sliding off the weaker side. Using collars on the weights will help make sure they don't slip off the bar and leave you lying flat on the floor.

Collars

 

Quality over Quantity

When you are new to weight lifting you may go into it thinking more is better. But when you are just starting out you should lift what your body feels comfortable with, increasing the weights with each new workout. You want to focus on form and quality over bragging rights on how much weight you were able to lift. And only make your workout last as long as your body lets it. If you push too hard too soon you will end up with an injury or even a dislike of the gym, which could lead you to quitting.

Quality over Quantity

 

Mix it up

If you want the perfect combination between weight loss and toned muscles you need to combine weight training with cardio. Men typically head straight for the weights when they go to the gym and women go straight to the cardio machines. For the best results you should do both. Just doing cardio will burn up all the muscle that you have, leaving you looking smaller but without the curves. Just doing weight lifting will not help you lose the body fat so people can actually see the muscles you are building. It's suggested you do about three full body weight workouts and three to four half hour cardio sessions a week.

Mix it up

 

Plan it

Keeping a journal of what muscle groups you want to work out each day along with a cardio schedule will help keep you on track. There is no sense simply walking into the gym without a plan. You will be more likely to just do a little bit of work on each machine without knowing what areas you are improving on. You need direction to help you get results.

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Nutrition

It doesn't matter how much you work out if you don't take care of your body at home too. Training and nutrition should always go together because you can't get one without the other. If you take the time to feed your body right while training it to look nice you will get the results you want.

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Warming up

Whatever you do, don't go to the gym and start lifting weights before preparing your body. Your muscles, soft-tissues and joints need a good warm up to get ready for the pressure you are about to put on them. A good warm-up will increase your body temperature and nervous system. It will also help lubricate joints and allow you to move with better form during your workout.

Warming up

 

Listen to your body

If you're doing too much your body will tell you. And you need to listen to the message it is sending. Maybe squats aren't right for your back. Maybe lunges leave your joints in pain for days after. If any type of exercise makes your body ache, especially one side more than the other, you should drop it and find a new one. It's not worth risking an injury that will take you out of the gym for months.

Listen to your body