In the weight room, there are generally two types of apparatus - free weights and machines, each having their benefits.
Machines are a great way for individuals interested in weight training to get started. They serve as somewhat of a training wheel, using assistance from cables, cams, and guide rods that help in isolating different muscle groups and in teaching how certain exercises are performed. Some machines come attached with selectorized weight stacks, making it easier to increase and decrease the amount of weight being used, which also saves time by not having to load and unload bulky free weights.
Free weights are those that don't require any assistance from cables or eccentric cams such as barbells and dumbbells. Free weights are great because they don't restrict the body to any one range of motion, thus allowing the individual to make whatever adjustments that are necessary to perform the exercise properly. Another benefit is that free weights offer more variety in exercise allowing the muscle to be worked and developed from different angles. When doing free weight movements, be sure to select a weight that can be controlled on both the positive and the negative. Fast jerky movements can be potentially dangerous to you and people around you. As a measure of safety, it is always a good idea to have a spotter around in case of emergencies.
When working out in a gym or health club, there are many things that should be considered. First and foremost is safety. Often times people get so involved in what they are doing that they fail to realize how easily accidents can occur. Therefore, you must always be aware of your surroundings. For example, leaning on an exercise machine while someone else is using it can be dangerous because clothing can get caught in moving parts and also there is the chance of fingers and hands getting smashed in between weights. Therefore, machines are not to be leaned on. Leaving barbells and dumbbells stacked on benches can also be very dangerous because they can roll off the bench and onto the foot. The proper gym etiquette would be to return the weights to their rack in between sets, not stack them on the bench or scatter them around on the exercise floor.
Before starting on an exercise program, it is always best to have some idea of what level of fitness to start from. Many times people go into an exercise facility with little or no knowledge at all about exercising and wind up overworking themselves to the point of total exhaustion or near injury. They will usually jump on a bike or a treadmill, work up a nice sweat, and perceive this as having a good workout. The fact is, lying out in the sun produces a similar "sweating" effect, but offers nothing in the form of exercise. Sweat is simply the body's natural cooling system. Below is an example of a basic bodybuilding circuit training program. This program is usually followed by two additional circuit training programs before introducing split training.
Basic Weight Training Program
Bike Warm-up for 15 minutes
Barbell Bench Press - Chest
Lat Pulldowns - Back
Lateral Raises - Shoulders
Barbell Curls - Biceps
Tricep Pushdowns - Triceps
Crunches - Stomach
Calf Raises - Calves
Leg Curls - Hamstrings
Leg Extensions - Quadriceps
Perform all of the above exercises from 1 to 3 sets at 12 to 15 repetitions each.
All exercises should be done at a steady, rhythmic pace allowing the muscle to work the full range of motion. Beginners should concentrate on good form and keeping a steady workout pace instead of using heavy weights. Once the muscles have gone through a conditioning stage, it might be safer to challenge heavier weights. Perfect form creates perfect physiques.