fitness

How to use the weights section at the gym.

Image: iStock.

Even in my days of boundless gym motivation, there was one section I always actively avoided: the weights area. It was filled with men watching themselves lift huge weights in the mirror and women who actually knew what they were doing. But most importantly it was full of huge, imposing Transformer-like pieces of equipment that looked, if we’re honest, like torture devices.

With no clue how to operate the machines or even what to do should I somehow manage to get it working, my year-long dalliance with the gym was weight-room free. And I’m not alone.

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“So many women sign up to a gym and never venture past the cardio machines into the weights section,” explains Fernwood Fitness expert Edwina Griffin.

“But in doing so, they’re not only missing out on half the value of their gym membership, they’re also missing out on half the results. Yes,  doing only cardio will get you some results eventually, but weight training actually burns a crazy number of kilojoules.”

Here are five simple exercises with weights to get you started. (Post continues after gallery.)

Common reasons we bypass the dumbbells include being embarrassed about how they look when they sweat, uncomfortable with training in front of members of the opposite sex or afraid of looking ridiculous while trying to use a complicated piece of machinery.

In reality, Griffin says, these are all concerns that can be easily fixed.

"The truth is most people are too busy focusing on their own workout to worry about you're doing," she says.

"If you're worried about looking silly, start with what you do know. Get comfortable with the weights are by using the space to perform a simple body weight circuit."

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"Try a combination of squats, lunges, push-ups, tricep dips and sit-ups. As you feel more confident in the area, you can try doing the squats with a medicine ball," she says.

"All good gyms should have a variety of free weights, functional equipment and resistance machines, so no matter what level you're at, you can use the equipment to create a workout that's right for you," she says.

Weight training will make you leaner and stronger. Image via iStock.
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Booking in a couple of sessions with a personal trainer is a great way to establish a weights program and have a professional show you how to use the equipment properly.

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"Regular weight training reduces a woman's risk of osteoporosis, diabetes and heart disease, and studies have also shown a promising link between weight training and an improvement in women's confidence levels, self esteem and body image along with a reduction in depressive symptoms from those suffering with depression," she says.

It's also effective at strengthening the core muscles which for women with small children (or thinking about children) would make actions like lifting small children much easier and less likely to cause injury. (Post continues after gallery.)

Studies have also shown that adding an extra 1.4kg of muscle mass can increase your metabolism by up to seven per cent, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight.

"A well-designed strength training program can build your body into a kilojoule-burning powerhouse, developing muscle that burns fat even while at rest," Griffin says.

"The body adapts very quickly to steady state aerobic exercise, and while it still burns kilojoules, if you do just cardio you'll find yourself needing to continue decreasing your kilojoule intake (hello hunger!) and performing long, endless sessions on the treadmill in order to see results," she says.

Do you use weights at the gym?