Some of the most common reasons people avoid going to the gym or spend all of their workout time on a static bike or treadmill are that they aren’t sure how to put a gym workout together, don’t know how to use free weights or other equipment, or are put off asking for help, leaving them to stick with what they know.

There are literally thousands of workouts you might choose to try, whether you’re looking to boost your cardiovascular fitness, want to lose weight and feel fitter, or have a specific strength or sports-related goal. Getting started is always the hardest part.

I’ve put this short guide together to share some hints and tips about broadening the range of workouts you perform based on your own unique training goals, avoiding fitness plateaus and making sure you continue to make progress – whatever type of workouts or movements you pick.

Principles of Good Gym Workout Training Sessions

Regardless of your aims, and whether you follow a certain programme or attend classes like CrossFit, Hyrox, spin, or circuit training sessions, there are a few fundamentals to remember whenever you’re trying to decide where to focus your efforts.

Training With Consistency

A frequent challenge for gym-goers is that they start with amazing enthusiasm but rely on motivation to keep them going. We all have good and bad days, and committing to a consistent workout routine is really important if you’re serious about getting healthier, stronger and fitter.

Scaling back workouts to a manageable level of strain is much wiser than pushing yourself beyond your limits and needing a few days off to recover, which inevitably means you end up right back where you began.

The standard advice is to prioritise three workouts a week, although that might vary depending on limitations around the opening times at your local gym or the times of day you’re free to exercise around work and family commitments.

However, if you have an established pattern and commit to it, whatever the weather, you’ll soon find that consistent training becomes a habit and not something you have to force yourself to do.

Targeting Continual, Steady Progression

Your gym workout should be fun, challenging and interesting, but it’s also not meant to be easy. Everybody is different, but your starting point, when deciding on the right rep range, selecting a resistance setting on a machine, or picking a weight to lift, should be something you can manage, but that requires you to put in effort.

The perfect balance means you challenge your muscles, lungs, and heart rate when you train without pushing yourself to the point of excessive strain where it’s easy to injure yourself.

Progressive overload is the gold standard, where you find the right level for you and gradually add to the intensity of your workouts. Over time, that approach means you can either train harder, at a greater level of difficulty, reduce your rest breaks in between sets, or perform more repetitions of a movement and make ongoing progress towards your fitness goals.

Incorporating a Variety of Workouts

Workout boredom can whittle away the best resolutions, and if you are repeating the same gym sessions every week, you will start to lose interest and almost certainly won’t progress as much as you otherwise might. That doesn’t mean you need to incorporate dramatically different exercises into your training every day, but that you don’t exclusively lift weights or spend hours on the cross trainer. Instead, the idea is to introduce varied, stimulating exercises that ensure you stay motivated.

A personal trainer can provide programming based on your aspirations, as well as in-person coaching to show you how to perform movements safely – this is a great solution if you find it hard to add different movements in your workout sessions and have become a bit bored of the same old routine.

Concentrating on Good Form

Form is never something to compromise on. Even if you’ve been strength training for years, one bad lift can cause serious injury to your back, joints, and muscles. I’ve mentioned the importance of progressive overload, but it’s also essential that you don’t take risks or try to lift a crazy one-rep max that is way beyond your current ability.

Fitness isn’t about ego or competing with the person next to you, but achieving the best you can from your own personal starting position – an easier or lighter movement performed correctly is more valuable than double the repetitions with bad form.

Focusing on Full Body Movements and Exercises

Finally, we all know that there isn’t such a thing as targeted fat loss, despite myths that performing a set of specific workouts will ‘tone’ your waist or that following a high-cost workout plan is ‘guaranteed’ to help you lose a percentage of the fat around your hips.

While many people love movements like bicep curls or pull-ups to build muscle in their arms and shoulders or always add a core section to the end of their workouts to help develop more defined abs, the best approach is more holistic.

It is absolutely possible to grow one muscle group larger than another by repeatedly performing the same workouts and ignoring everything else. However, this will likely lead to imbalances, a disproportionate shape (nobody wants to be accused of skipping leg day!), and possibly even injuries where all of your strain is constantly focused on the same small groups of muscles.

Instead, working on muscle endurance, cardio sessions, and varied workouts, including those big compound movements that work your entire posterior chain—think squats, deadlifts, and bench presses—will improve your overall strength and fitness. If you’re not keen on heavy barbells, you can use alternatives like picking your chosen dumbbell weight for goblet squat repetitions and accessing the same benefits.

Every gym workout plan you follow should be shaped around these aspects to ensure you avoid overtraining, don’t hit plateaus where you can’t seem to make any further progress or find yourself stuck lifting the same weight month after month.

If you’d like more personalised advice about putting together a gym workout plan, please get in touch with your local Chichester personal trainer and online fitness coach, and I’ll be happy to discuss the best ways to refocus your efforts at the gym to extract maximum results.