Let's start with a list of equipment that is in most gyms for you to use.
- Resistance machines
- Kettle bells
- Cable machines
- Pull up bars
- Cardio machines
- Medicine balls
You will get a variety of these in most gyms and different ones will involve you using different muscles. Examples would be the chest press or leg curl machines. These machines allow you to work on the muscle without so much of thinking about your technique. This is due to the machine being in a fixed position. All you have to worry about is whether you have to push or pull. They are great for beginners as you can just jump in the seat, read the signs that are usually on the apparatus and away to go.
With dumbbells you can perform with isolation exercises and compound exercises, both of which will work up a sweat. Dumbbells come in all weight and sizes so there's no excuse for not using them. Target the biceps with bicep curls, squat with them by your side to make your squat more challenging or perform a dumbbell woodchop as an all round body exercise. There are no limits with dumbbells and you can hit every muscle with them with the right exercise.
The kettle bell or girya (Russian) is a cast-iron weight (resembling a cannonball with a handle) used to perform ballistic exercises that combine cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training. This piece of equipment can give you a great workout if used correctly. The kettle bell is like no other piece of equipment because why it has stayed popular for so long. They can be a bit awkward at first so you will have to patient and have a play with it. At first I would recommend trying a kettle bell swing to get a feel for the odd shape of the weight then try sumo squats and kettle bell extensions. Once you get the hang of it you could try using kettlebells, then it gets tricky. Overall a great piece of equipment.
Barbells are very similar to dumbbells in a sense that you can do most of the same exercises. The barbell is a lot larger and requires both hands to perform most of the moves. Large movements are done using a barbell such as Olympic lifts. These require a bit of practice before getting heavily involved with weight but are brilliant for getting all round body strength and power.
Most beginners will stay away from cable machines as they feel like they do not know what they have to do. Truth is, it's easier to use cables than using the likes of dumbbells, why? Because similar to resistance machines the cable is already set up so you only have to work on technique and angle. You can do all the basics on a cable machine, curls, bench press, squats etc. You will mostly see people performing triceps pull downs as it's hard to get the same movement with other pieces of equipment. Only down side of cables are that there are normally only one set per gym which means you're usually waiting about. Always have an alternate exercise just in case you're left queuing.
Pull up bars
As beginner you will not be running towards the pull up bars to warm but do not forget about them altogether. Pull ups are great for your lats, shoulders and arms. Changing your grip so that your palms are facing you will work these muscles also but put more emphasis on your biceps. If you're lucky you may have an assistant pull up machine in your gym, if not, practice pull ups with negative pull ups. To do this jump up to the bar and slowly let yourself down. This will work the muscles needed to perform pull ups then over time try a few full pull ups.
These are the heavy looking industrial chunks of metal that take up lots of space in the gym but for good reason. Racks are mainly used to perform squats with a barbell, a very popular exercise. It allows you rack the weight up high so that you do not have to lift the weight up from the floor (Taking a lot of energy from you before potentially big lifts).
A bench can be utilized in many ways. It's used to bench on, lean on, step on, and curl on. Bad thing about the bench is that most gyms do not have enough of them and just like the cables you end up waiting. If this is the case most of the exercises performed on the bench can be done standing.
Quite often a treadmill, rower, cross trainer or bike will be in your local gym. On these machines you can improve your stamina, burn calories and work your heart hard. Most would think that a cardio machine is the ultimate fat burning machine but this is not the case. Practicing weight training can burn just as many calories as what you can on a cardio machine. When doing cardio if your main aim is to burn calories stick to no more than 20 minutes and either do interval training or fartlek training.
These can be used in a number of ways and are a great piece of equipment. Most gyms will not have a great range of these as most people do not know what to do with them. The balls can be used to do sit ups, most compound moves and can be literally thrown about. How many pieces of equipment can you throw about without getting a gym ban, not many, so why not have a go? Find a flat wall where you can throw the ball hard at the wall, pick the ball up and repeat. Throw the ball from the chest as if you were a netball player. You could try power slams too by slamming the ball on the floor, picking it backing up and repeating. These are great exercises to burn a load of calories.
You should not be afraid of having a go at anything in the gym and if you are un sure ask a member of staff, a gym instructor would enjoy helping as they do not partially do much in their 'shift anyway. Everyone starts from the bottom and has no clue what they are doing and that goes for guys that now wear vests also, so have a go and try your best.