Making the decision to start an exercise program can be daunting, especially if you are a beginner. Walking into a gym can be downright intimidating, especially if you may not know exactly what to do.

This chart below highlights precisely what you should do when you get to the gym

Since it relies more on movement patterns rather than working specific muscles, you can mix and match exercises for a different workout every time.

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Simple exercises and simple movements can produce huge gains, whether you are looking to get stronger, build muscle or lose fat. The best programs utilize these simple movements, so you can’t go wrong.

Scroll down to download Chris Cooper’s Gym Exercise Chart For Men

Squats

They don’t necessarily have to be with a barbell on your back that you would typically see walking into a gym. For a newbie, it can be kind of intimidating to load a bar on your back, especially if you’ve never squatted before. Start with a body weight squat, even if you have to hold onto a bar to learn the movement.

You can easily progress this to goblet squats while holding a dumbbell. When you feel ready, you can progress to back squats or front squats. Or not at all. It’s going to depend on how comfortable you are with your squat.

Hip Hinges

Hip hinges make up a group of exercises where the movement is hip dominant, as opposed to a squat which would be more quad dominant. Deadlifts are probably the best known hip hinge exercise, but you can include hip thrusts, Romanian deadlifts, kettlebell swings and good mornings as well.

Same as the squat, progress or regress as needed. You don’t necessarily have to deadlift with a bar right off the bat. Kettlebells and dumbbells work really well also.

Pushing movements

The number one pushing movement you tend to think of is the bench press because, as we all know, when you go into a gym on a Monday, EVERYONE is benching. Unless you’re cool like me, then you’re deadlifting. But pushing is much more than just the bench.

Push-ups, overhead presses and landmine presses also fit this pattern. As with the previous two movements, the tool that you use can be changed from a barbell to a dumbbell to a kettlebell, to bands and beyond.

gym exercise chart for men_2

Pulling movements

Pulling movements are great for a strong upper back, which will actually help shoulder and low back health. When you think pulling, you think pull-ups and rightfully so. It’s one of the best bodyweight pulling movements.

However, there is a whole myriad of pulling movements that you can do, whether you do it with a barbell, a dumbbell or a machine. My favourite pulling movement is a bodyweight row using the TRX. I can have a client progress or regress very easily just by moving the placement of their feet.

A little closer towards the anchor, the harder it gets and visa versa, so, as fatigue sets in, there’s no need to stop the set, just adjust foot placement. Additionally it’s a great assessment tool to see how well a client can keep their body in neutral.

As with the pushing movement, pulling movements can be done with both arms or just a single arm at a time. It’s up to you as to what you want to do, but you can easily mix and match it.

Lunges

Lunges and other single leg exercises like step ups or split squats are a great way to increase the strength capacity of the leg on its own. Additionally there is a challenge to one’s balance once you move away from a bilateral stance. What does that do? Forces your core muscles to work a little harder. Make sure you add in single leg exercises, as it will be a greater test for your body.4

Core exercises

When you think core exercises, visions of crunches or sit-ups may come to mind, but in this instance I want you to think “Anti” as in anti-extension, anti-rotation and anti-lateral flexion. The core is meant to create stability and resist movement. That’s its primary objective.

Have you ever carried your luggage on one side or maybe the groceries? That’s a hard one sided anti-lateral flexion exercise. Think about adding any of these into your program when doing core exercises.

Conditioning

Most people place too much of an emphasis on doing cardio, meaning going for a run or getting on a treadmill or elliptical. That kind of training does have its place, as it builds aerobic capacity which is great for all sorts of health markers. Conditioning, on the other hand, represents developing other energy systems, specifically ones that are more anaerobic.

This can range from doing hard sprints, which are my favorite, to battle ropes, or just pushing a heavy sled up and down a length of turf. When you go to the gym, you want to feel like you worked out. Most people want that tired, sweaty feeling and nothing will accomplish that more than a few bouts of conditioning.

For example, doing a 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest interval period of battle ropes for 8 consecutive rounds will accomplish all that. And it’s a great way to finish off your training session.

gym chart infographic

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