How Can You Make A Workout Appealing To A Beginner?

How can you make a workout appealing to a beginner? Getting a friend to start working out is not the hardest part. The hardest part is sticking with it. Overcome the fear and intimidation from these valuable training tips! Learn more.

TOPIC: How Can You Make A Workout Appealing To A Beginner?

The Question:

Trying to get a friend to agree to start working out is not always the hardest part. The hardest part is actually getting them to stick with it. The transformation of one's body may sound very nice, but the actual effort that needs to be made in the gym is not always so appealing to a beginner.

How can you make a workout appealing to a beginner? Be specific.

What type of things should be taken into consideration when creating a workout for a beginner?

What type of things should one avoid incorporating into a beginner's workout?

Show off your knowledge to the world!

The Winners:


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        2nd place - 50 in store credit.

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Trying to get a friend to agree to start working out is not always the hardest part. The hardest part is actually getting them to stick with it. The transformation of one's body may sound very nice, but the actual effort that needs to be made in the gym is not always so appealing to a beginner.

For those just beginning weight training, the gym can be a scary place. Everyone already seems to have a perfect physique and a lot of training knowledge, so a skinny person just starting out can be easily intimidated. And while a burst of initial enthusiasm for trying something new may be enough to overcome these first impressions, long-term commitment requires a lot of dedication and hard work. Learning to love weight training isn't impossible, though, and there are plenty of iron addicts worldwide who prove that point. Luckily, there are some simple ways to instill appreciation in the next generation of exercise enthusiasts.

How Can You Make A Workout Appealing To A Beginner?

The Importance Of Teamwork

      Having a


      is key - beginning a new activity is hard enough as it is, and having to do it alone only adds to the anxiety. Having a partner allows the beginner to be more comfortable and provides a friendly face for support, guidance and answering questions.

Start Small

      If possible, the first few workouts should be in a comfortable setting, such as a home or school gym. A massive, unfamiliar gym can intimidate your partner and make him or her dread coming back. Having a familiar surrounding, such as one of your houses, eliminates this factor and will put the beginner more at ease. A smaller gym with fewer people also offers fewer distractions and you can be sure that your workout and instruction will be uninterrupted. A smaller setting will also have fewer people to 'judge' your friend if he or she is uncomfortable about body image or relative lack of knowledge.

A Massive, Unfamiliar Gym Can Intimidate Your Partner.
+ Click To Enlarge.
A Massive, Unfamiliar Gym Can
Intimidate Your Partner.

Keep It Exciting

      Try to portray work outs as fun time, not work time. If you're in your own space, pump some tunes or do treadmill work in front of the television or video game system. Don't be afraid to have a little fun. Everything doesn't have to be deathly serious - joke around, laugh, talk and have a good time. This will put a beginner at ease and can possibly make him forget that he's actually working out!

Give Them Control

      One way to increase interest and make things more fun is to allow the beginner to have input. Once you have taught your friend the basics of what exercises affect which body parts and such, let him or her have a hand at designing a split, or at the very least an individual workout or two. Chances are, he'll pick exercises that he enjoys most as well as those that target the muscle groups he sees as a priority. This should keep the beginner interested and also gives him a reason to work harder. Seeing results from something the beginner has designed also instills a sense of pride.

Introduce The Regulars

      If you go to the gym often, you've probably made other friends there. Every gym has its regulars - the people you can rely on seeing every time you go in. Whether they are staff members or just dedicated athletes, regulars tend to know everyone and are confident. This is a great person for your beginning friend to meet, as they can help and provide encouragement if you're not around. In addition, knowing a regular will help your friend feel accepted and will make going to the gym feel like more of a social event than a chore.

Regulars Tend To Know Everyone And Are Confident.
+ Click To Enlarge.
Regulars Tend To Know
Everyone And Are Confident.

Track Progress

      Taking progress pictures or just

keeping a journal

      - whether on the forums or with pen and paper - is a great way to keep interest high. This will give your beginning friend a sense of purpose and a way to see achievement. No one wants to feel as though he is spinning his wheels. A journal and progress pictures will let your friend see if he is getting stronger, bigger, slimmer or whatever the goal is. This adds a visible element to the hard work and gives your friend something to be proud of and provides inspiration.

      Another part of this is

setting realistic goals

      - your friend will have something to be proud of if he or she can reach a certain weight of body fat level. This will also provide a reason to work hard and get to the gym whenever possible.

Switch Things Up

      Those training for




      will already have a lot of


      , so training in the same style or using the same lifts on a regular basis. For a recreational, more casual lifter, especially a beginner, this probably isn't going to be that entertaining. To keep things fresh for your beginning friend, switch up routines and exercises, even training protocol (MadCow, DC, Rippetoe, etc). Try to cater to their interests - if they despise


      , having five sessions per week won't keep them wanting to come back for more.

Be Mindful Of Their Schedule

      Any activity is not going to be welcomed if it clashes with a person's usual routine. Make sure that when you lift with your friend, you're not forcing him to skip out on a favorite activity. Also, if your friend is not a morning person, don't wake him up at 5am to exercise. Placing workouts at inconvenient times will make your friend less likely to continue. But if you workout during a time that your friend might otherwise be sitting around bored, he will be more enthusiastic about it. The sooner you incorporate lifting into a routine as a habitual action, the more likely your friend will be to continue.

Provide Motivation

      Everyone needs


      , and I believe it provides much better results. So get your friend pumped up! Show him some motivational videos or competitions. Start watching World's Strongest Man. Burn a special workout mix on a CD. Demonstrate how much lifting can improve their performance in their favorite


      . Introduce them to some members of opposite sex at the gym, or have someone pay them a compliment. These little things can add up to a lot of motivation and fun.

Get Competitive

      Making things competitive can always make things fun. While logging workouts provides some self-competition, going head to head can make things even more interesting. Challenge each other to a maximum lift or maximum repetition contest, or even something outside the gym such as tire-flipping. Obviously, proper safety precautions and common sense should be used at all times. Because lifting is mostly an individual pursuit, adding a competitive edge will spice things up and make it more interactive and social.

What Should You Consider When Creating A Workout For A Beginner?


      No matter what your reason for lifting, you should take into consideration what your friend wants to accomplish as well. If your friend is beginning to lift to improve for a


      , try to find some exercises or drills that improve



cardiovascular endurance

      , and explosive


      and power. Trying to add 50 pounds of mass onto a sprinter or distance runner isn't going to help him out at all, even if that's your goal personally. Also, if your friend has exhausting practices on some days, try to avoid scheduling workouts on those days.

Are They Trying To Improve Performance For Sports?
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Are They Trying To Improve
Performance For Sports?


      Chances are, your friend doesn't know much about lifting if he is just beginning. However, don't assume this. Before you start teaching things in a dumbed-down matter, make sure you're not boring your friend with things he already knows. But if his knowledge is limited, make sure you aren't blowing through things without explaining why they are done. Let them know about the importance of










      While everyone wants to push around heavy weights, this isn't appropriate for those who have no experience. Rushing into things and ego lifting is nothing more than a good way to get injured. On the other hand, starting out with 5lb weights for someone who is just beginning lifting but has played football for years isn't going to provide a benefit either. Make sure you explain exercises that need to be explained and guide your beginner friend on proper form. If they are not ready for more complex lifts, do not rush them to try to catch up to you, everyone works at their own pace.

Time Commitment

      Take care to understand how much time your friend wants to dedicate to lifting. Though you may be in the gym everyday, this sort of


      is not for everyone. At first, your friend may not want to commit a lot of time to lifting, and that's fine. Let him get familiar with it first. Try to keep sessions to a reasonable length and don't start out with very technical 6-day splits with isolation exercises. Many beginners start out with only three full-body workouts per week, and that's fine. This will help your friend ease into things and decide whether or not he wants to make a lifestyle out of it or just maintain it as a hobby.


      This point cannot be stressed enough. Listening to what your friend's likes and dislikes about


      is key in making sure he has fun. While you will do a lot of talking because you are teaching, make sure you stop from time to time and gather input. If your beginner friend isn't saying much, ask for his opinion. This will make him feel valued and involved in the process, which will make it more enjoyable. Let him know you're open to anything he has to say.

You'll Do A Lot Of Talking, But Be Sure To Listen.
+ Click To Enlarge.
You'll Do A Lot Of Talking,
But Be Sure To Listen.

2nd Place - littlesimone
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Trying to get a friend to agree to start working out is not always the hardest part. The hardest part is actually getting them to stick with it. The transformation of one's body may sound very nice, but the actual effort that needs to be made in the gym is not always so appealing to a beginner.

I'm not a workout professional, but I have been a beginner in terms of working out. (In many ways, I still am!) It was a friend that got me back into working out after years of being away from it. Putting myself in the shoes of the beginner I would say that the first place to start is by identifying expectations. Barring any sort of psychological disorder, it's fair to say that everyone one wants a rockin' body, but weeding through all the nonsense in terms of fitness can be very defeating.

How Can You Make A Workout Appealing To A Beginner?

I think that many of the things that keep people from making changes is fear of the unknown, fear of looking foolish, and lack of belief that their efforts will pay-off. If the beginner isn't one to take chances then appealing to their sense of adventure isn't going to motivate them to hit the gym and exercise. In fact, doing so may send them in the opposite direction!

Reciprocal relationships are the best so if you want this person to start exercising, then commit to be their workout buddy a few times per week, and then make sure that you are spending time with them doing something that they love as well (provided it's not pigging out at McDonald's). Maybe for every two hour romantic comedy that you have to endure (GAG!) they agree to give back time with you at the gym?

Also, how you ask them to begin a regular exercise routine can make all the difference. Saying, "I enjoy spending time with you and I want to share something that I love to do with you" will likely have a more positive impact than "Gee, I really wish that you would take better care of yourself and start exercising." The former says that you care about the person but the latter says that they embarrass you.

Tell Them You'd Like To Share Something You Love Doing With Them.
+ Click To Enlarge.
Tell Them You'd Like To Share
Something You Love Doing With Them.

So, how do you go from exercise agreement to follow-through? Rule #1 is that short-term goals are the key to long-term success. An absolute newbie to exercise and fitness is not going to be motivated by what they could look like a 6 months to a year from now! One of the concepts that I had to commit to when I first began working out regularly was that it takes times for payoff! As humans we tend to want instant results but that just isn't realistic. I don't think anyone would expect to work at a job for one day and then expect to receive a full two-weeks-worth-of-work paycheck.

In order to receive that kind of payoff you have to do the work first. The same is true for fitness. I think that this has to be stated in plain language to every beginner. No work, no pay! Mini-goals and two week progress checks create reinforcement of positive behavior. The conversation could be something akin to "Okay, Susie, I know that in a year you want to look like (such-and-so fitness model) but in two weeks what changes do you expect to see?" If they say that in two weeks they expect to look like such-and-so fitness model then you have someone with highly unrealistic expectations on your hands and straight talk is the only thing that will shock them into reality!

And this is where mini-goals and two week progress checks come into play. For me it was, "In two weeks I want to eliminate sugar from my diet, lose 2lbs of body-fat, and be able to jog for 20 minutes straight on the treadmill 3 times per week." That was my first mini-goal. After two weeks, I saw results and wanted to see what would happen the next two weeks, and on and on and on. To a seasoned fitness buff or professional this may seem like nothing but to a fitness newbie this is a big hurdle.

What Should You Consider When Creating A Workout For A Beginner?

The obvious things to consider are health issues/restrictions, emotional issues, and the self-discipline level of the beginner. If the beginner has any health concerns they must be encouraged to see their doctor before beginning an exercise routine. If a person has a heart condition it probably isn't wise to encourage full-out sprints on a treadmill right off the bat! If a person is otherwise healthy, then encouraging exertion isn't such a bad idea but "too much too soon" is going to have a rebound effect of avoiding exercise. If you want your friend to stick with it, then don't expect them to instantly meet your level of fitness.

Establishing the habit of exercise for a beginner is, I think, the most crucial step. One of the most frustrating things for beginners is merely establishing the habit of exercise. It's too easy to just do something else. Creating a habit-forming plan and then holding them accountable to the plan (in a non-domineering or threatening way) is essential.

Humans are enjoyment-based, plain and simple. No one wants to do endlessly what they absolutely hate so if your newbie-to-exercise friend hates riding a bicycle then don't insist on taking spin classes together. If they like elliptical machines but you prefer to spin then suck it up and encourage the elliptical which brings me to the second frustration for newbie's: trying to live up to the unrealistic expectations of friends and trainers in terms of abilities when newbie's first begin establishing the fitness habit.

What you believe is encouragement might actually be perceived by the newbie as being shoved in front of a freight-train. Everyone wants support but no one wants to be dominated and destroyed (unless, of course, you're into that sort of thing, in which case, that's a topic for another discussion and, hopefully, not on this website!).

Your Encouragement May Be Perceived As A Shove In Front Of A Train.
+ Click To Enlarge.
Your Encouragement May Be Perceived
As A Shove In Front Of A Train.

What Should One Avoid Incorporating Into A Beginner's Workout?

Everything has its own language, even fitness. However, beginners do not understand all the jargon so avoid talking to them as though they were born in a gym. If your newbie-to-exercise friend feels as though they need a translator to speak to you in the gym then chances are they aren't going to want to exercise regularly.

Can you imagine being lost in a country where you didn't know the language and the one person that you actually knew refused to speak to you in your native tongue? Wouldn't you want to hide under a rock and never come out? Reps, sets, intervals, isometric, etc., may make sense to you but it's going to take your friend a while to get it. If it's your goal to show off what you know then get your ego-strokes someplace else. Keep it simple until they begin feeling confident and then build incrementally.

Don't expect your newbie-to-fitness friend to spend 90 minutes in the gym 6 days per week straight out the gate. 30 minutes on a treadmill 3-5 times per week might be all that they can handle for the first few weeks and then a basic add-on of a simple weight routine that incorporates all the major muscle groups maybe twice a week thereafter. Machine can be very intimidating so sticking with a basic dumbbell routine is important to quell fear and build confidence.

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Working out can be a very exciting, adventurous experience. It can also, however, be scary and unnerving. Everyone knows the benefits of exercise and living a health conscious life but it can appear too much of a challenge to maintain. They are usually not aware of all of their options and get bored with the ones they are more familiar with.

As a friend, personal trainer, or whatever role you're playing, you should emphasize to the Newbie that this can be fun and rewarding if they look at it in that positive light.

In order to help them with adherence to an exercise program, find out what their interests are. Encourage them to broaden their horizons and experiment with new things as well. From here we find out what their goals are. Consider both their interests and goals when formulating their workout.

Take "Before" pictures and "Before" measurements of all areas, especially those that are pertaining directly to their goals. This way they can track their progress. The scale is not always a good indicator of your progress. Seeing that you're losing inches is great motivation to keep going.

What Should You Consider When Creating A Workout For A Beginner?

It's good for you to know the various options available, as you can only teach what you know. If they want to focus on muscular strength and building lean muscle, initiate a workout routine using machine weights. With a machine, it's usually only one way to complete the exercise and therefore leaves little to no room for injury. They more than likely will not know proper technique; therefore introducing them directly to free weights poses greater risk of injury. As we all know TECHNIQUE IS EVERYTHING! In addition to injury, they're more than likely wasting their time using too little or too much weight, unaware of their own strength.

Introducing Them Directly To Free Weights Poses Greater Risk Of Injury.
+ Click To Enlarge.
Introducing Them Directly To Free Weights
Poses Greater Risk Of Injury.

If their goal is to tone up and achieve greater flexibility, you may want to suggest attending a Yoga or Pilate's class at a fitness center.

They may be interested in swimming in which case he could begin swimming lessons at the YMCA or go to the neighborhood pool and perform a couple of underwater exercises.

You'd also want to introduce them to multiple exercises that can be performed right at home simply using bodyweight and house furniture. One of the main reasons people don't workout is because they insist on the lack of time. It would be quite convenient for them to be able to workout and not have to leave the comfort of their own home. Plus, if they can't make it to the gym, they don't beat themselves up and become complacent with guilt. I've begun building a home gym of my own and use it quite often. There isn't always time to drive across town to Bally's. Plus, it's a whole lot cheaper. I also enjoy Fit TV and have introduced it to a lot of people. It features a lot of workout programs such as aerobics, salsa dancing, and yoga and a number of other options to enjoy at home.

The obvious option is if they want to workout in the gym but want to avoid getting bored easily; give them a circuit to try. This is composed of 4-10 exercises working the upper body, lower body, core, or full body. It makes the time fly and keeps them guessing. Give them adequate rest in between exercises and sets and HAVE FUN WITH IT!

One very important aspect of fitness that even the buffs look over is to enforce stretching. Stretching needs to take place before and after your workout. It prevents injury to the joints and muscles. It also lessens soreness the morning after which they'll be thanking you for.

What Should One Avoid Incorporating Into A Beginner's Workout?

Don't do so much that they can't walk the next day. This is a common mistake a lot of people make. They get so sore that they don't want to go back the next day or the next or the next. Before they know it, it's been two weeks and they feel like they're starting all over.

Don't encourage working out for more than an hour. If they feel like they have to train for too long, this will be another excuse to not workout.

Know what type of person you're dealing with and what type of reinforcement they need. If they prefer positive reinforcement and you're beating them over the head with guilt and drumming all of the benefits down their throats to motivate them, they'll be running for the nearest exit. Understand the notion of ?Different strokes for different folks?.