A fitness center can be an intimidating place, and there’s no place scarier than the weight room. Forays through this metal jungle can be bewildering. As you look around for the few familiar machines you’re comfortable accepting torture from, you notice that everyone else looks like they were raised in the place, suckled on the bench press and taught to walk in lunges. They glide from one exercise to the next with effortless expertise. They move with clear-sighted purpose. There is no indecision–only muscle-rippling action.
You, however, are a stranger in a strange land. You try to study the brawny natives without them catching you stare. You wander around, studying the exotic devices. After bravely attempting an exercise or two, you ask yourself, “Do I really belong here?”
If you can relate to this, you’re not alone, and there’s a wonderful website that can help: “Exercise Prescription on the Internet” (ExRx.net), “a free resource for the exercise professional, coach, or fitness enthusiast featuring comprehensive exercise libraries (>1,400 exercises), fitness assessment calculators, and reference articles.” I would add that it’s also a terrific resource for those exploring fitness, a bit more suspicious than enthusiastic.
The site is incredibly expansive and can itself be intimidating, so I want to focus on its weight-training portion. Here are some highlights of what’s offered:
- The “Beginner’s Page” contains helpful information about gym etiquette, which can relieve some of the anxiety about not standing out. (It also contains a questionnaire to take if you’re unsure you’re physically ready to begin an exercise program.)
- The “Weight Training Guidelines” provides direction for how many repetitions of each exercise should be done, and how often.
- The “Weight Training Instructions” directs readers to a workout that’s best for them, and leads to recommendations of specific exercises to choose.
- Finally, my favorite aspect of the site: hundreds of exercises are demonstrated in the exercise inventory. This can be incredibly valuable for checking your form, for finding new exercises, or for learning more about an exercise you saw someone else performing. (Exercises are helpfully divided by muscle area of the body.)
If you’d like to explore the strange land of the weight room, perhaps one day becoming one of its denizens, ExRx.net could be a helpful guide. Again, this website is a bit intimidating and can feel overwhelming at first; if you’d like more personal assistance, consider working with a fitness trainer at your gym for one to two sessions. A trainer can introduce you to equipment and exercises so that you’re comfortable and safe (many gyms offer equipment tutorials for free).
(Image by Flickr user Mr T in DC /via Creative Commons)