First Day at the Gym - In between optimal weights?!

  • Hey everyone! Today was my first day at the gym, trying to do an upper body workout. I ran into some trouble pretty quickly! I either was putting on too little or too much weight while trying to figure out what my 5,6,7,8,9,10 intensity levels were.

    I was using weight machines (Cybex brand) and their scale (on all upper and lower machines) read as 12.5., 25, 37.5, 50, 62.5 etc. Most machines have an extra 5 lb (or maybe 10?) free weight to add to the stacks, too. However, as much as I fiddled between numbers, I kept finding myself struggling to find my proper intensity levels. I either couldn't complete sets, or I knew I was finishing a self-prescribed level 10 with too much ease. If I want to truly push harder by adding small increments of weights by next week, I'm stumped. I get one more upper body workout this week to figure it out. Any suggestions? Should I repeat "easy" weights by next week to make sure I don't hurt myself if I'm not strong enough? I was literally quaking and losing form whenever I tried to raise weights by one higher increment, or just found it too easy and wasn't breaking a sweat by the next lower increment - that one weight measure difference on the scale made all the difference. I just couldn't seem find the happy middle with almost all of the workouts!

    Maybe I should switch to free weights (dumbbells) until I'm strong enough to handle the designated machine weights at higher levels?

    Thanks for reading, I look forward to your ideas and help! I really want my summer challenge (first one ever) to be efficient and get me the energy and fitness levels I'm looking for!

  • I suggest trying your first set of 12 reps with a comfortable weight. then, add that 5lb add-on weight for your 10 rep set. then take that add-on weight OFF, and bump it up to the next plate. It might take a few workouts for you to find that sweet spot that works for you. If the machines are not your thing, then definitely try the free weights! You will get the added bonus of utilizing more stabilizer muscles by using the free weights.

    good luck! let me know if you need any help!

  • Marleenie-

    Congrats on starting BFL!  I agree with erica start with a comfortable wieght and add in increments of 5lbs and if you can not preform the excerise correctly (form 1st) then step down in wieght & use the same weight for you next rep.  I have to do this on lat pulldowns example ... 12 @40lbs, 10@50lbs, 8@50lbs, 6@60lbs and then a set of 12@50lbs and then rows 12@40lbs for my 10s.  I will increase weights once I am strong enough to do the 60lbs correctly at more reps.  I use mostly free wieghts for the same reason erica says about you use more muscles to stabilize.  Also, it took me about to week 3 to get the weights figured out and start feeling that I knew what I was doing.  So, it will be awkward at 1st, but it will then fall together.

    Good luck on your BFL journey!

  • Greetings Marleenie and Welcome to the BFL Forum,  I did try my first challenge in BFL (C1) to use mainly the machines and the results were not as good, I don't think as using less machines(minimum) and more free weights. I believe you do get more of a workout with the free weights than the machines with regards to the goals in the program. When using machines though, does your gym or machine have the smaller unusual shaped 5lb and 7.5 lbs rubber add ons. that might help with going in-between when moving up in weights from one to the next. (our gym has those but I do have to go hunt them down on the floor occasionally). In my Challenge C2 and this one I am using almost all free weights whenever possible. Hope this helps you out. Keep Moving Forward!