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Hello.  I just got a gym membership and wanted to start doing some lifts with the machines.  I know from the NF posts and from starting to read Starting Strength that free weights are supposed to be the way to go.  How do I get past the idea that the machines seem more accessible to a newbie?   I was thinking about paying for a little time with a personal trainer to make sure I was doing it right.

 

But about spotters...  I can see press and deadlift, spotters shouldn't really be necessary, but Starting Strength says you need a spotter for your bench press and two spotters for your squats.  How do people manage that?  I go to the gym alone.  I can see having a couple of guys to spot your squats being no problem if I was working out with a football team or something, but I can't imagine having two people on demand.  Can you do without spotters if you're not pushing it with the amount of weight?  Of course, that brings up the question of why aren't you pushing it with the amount of weight your working with, but "because I don't have a spotter" seems like a good reason.  I want to work out with what I can do about 5 reps with; I'm not trying to find out my 1 rep max or anything.  But it does seem like it would be easy to get in a situation where you go down with the weight and can't quite get back up, and you're not in much position to even try to drop it, even though you're relatively close to the ground.

 

Also, from the articles it seems very anti-rebellion to use a Smith machine, which seems like it would be the natural alternative to squats if you don't have spotters.  I've only used the leg press machine so far, which I understand is a poor substitute since you aren't stabilizing, and it allows you to push more weight than you probably would with a real squat. 

 

And the chest press and deadlift don't need spotters, but how do you make sure you don't end up in a pickle and just drop the weight.  I'ld hate to be that guy that drops the weights at the gym, because it seems like it would be at the very least loud and probably unsafe.  Starting Strength doesn't make a deal out of grip or anything.  Is losing your grip normally not a problem unless you're working with extreme amounts of weight?

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Goblet squats are a great option, especially for beginners because it helps encourage good technique for a more upright torso position. Or a squat rack with safety bars is another strategy.

 

For presses, dumbbells help prevent some risks, but then add others (eg. dropping a weight on your face) - just ask the internet for techniques to safely bail from failed lifts. You can even press in the squat rack (again, with safety bars), if you want.

 

Grip strength is often a limiting factor, but shouldn't be an issue for beginners. Also, if you're looking at starting strength, I'd highly encourage you to add in at least a horizontal pull (eg. inverted rows) to help prevent imbalance.

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You're overthinking things a bit.

 

Step one, free weights are just as accessible to a newbie as a machine - provided you've done the research.  If you think about it, machines aren't that accessible because you have to search all of the variants to find the ones to target the muscles you want, and they give nothing about programming.  Yes, they have muscles highlighted, but that doesn't actually tell you anything.  You read SS, so you actually are going to have an easier time with the free weights.  That said, yea, a trainer for checks isn't a terrible thing.  You could also take videos and post them in the Form Check forum here.

 

As for spotters.... Rip goes a bit overboard.  First of all if you're pushing crazy weight (relatively - I have friends who squat regularly what would be twice my PR), yes, have spotters.  But your regular work sets and weights should be weights that you can semi-comfortably manage.  And besides that, a proper squat rack will have safety bars - so the *worst* case scenario is you let the bar roll off your back and onto the bars behind you.  Really if something is too heavy or you're too fatigued to move it, you'll know.  And you'll likely be able to rerack before it gets that way.  The number of times I've loaded up a bar, gotten under it, lifted, and gone NOPE out is a lot. If you're going for super stressing PRs?  Yea, you'll want spotters.  But you're just starting, so you probably aren't going to need them for a bit, because you're going to start from the bottom and build up.

 

The same goes for the bench press.  Unless you are purposefully trying to beat a PR, you aren't going to load up a bar and be totally unaware of how you feel about it.  But you're at a gym - if you're feeling questionable about things, you are always able to look around the weights section and ask someone for a spot.  Most people at a gym are fine with doing that.

 

As for dropping weights, sometimes it happens.  Grip fatigue happens, and lack of grip strength happens.  The issue with dropping weight isn't that it's A Terrible, Unforgivable Thing.  The issue is if you're the person who drops every weight, every time, regardless of the load, reps, sets.  Yes, dropping the weight might turn a few eyes with the noise, but you aren't going to be shunned if you pull some weight and don't give it a feather landing every time.  And again - you're more than likely going to be able to know when you're going to lack the ability for a controlled landing.

 

Not that lifting workouts won't offer surprises to you, but once you get going and doing things regularly you're going to have a pretty solid idea of your ability to move weight, and whether you'll need a spotter for things or not.

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Thanks for the advice.  Even later in Starting Strength, it switches to saying you really only need one spotter.  Anyway, I did a little research with the Google and found that it seems pretty reasonable to just setup safety's in the power rack for squatting, and that if you're concerned about the bench press you can even do that in a power rack with safety's around, so that all sounds pretty reasonable.  I'm going to see if the gym trainer that I'm supposed to meet with today can show me a power rack and maybe watch me squat the bar.  That should make me feel more comfortable with the whole idea.  The fact that I've never seen a power rack has probably led to me overthinking it all a bit.

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59 minutes ago, MaD MaLKaV said:

I'm going to see if the gym trainer that I'm supposed to meet with today can show me a power rack and maybe watch me squat the bar. 

 

Just, uh, make sure the trainer actually kinda knows what the hell they're doing.  A lot of the general gym "trainers" out there will end up trying to steer you to machines (smith and otherwise) under the guise that it's "safer" for you.  Which if you are completely not body aware might be true, but provided you have some semblance of awareness and safety you're fine with free weights.  Also when I got my tours with trainers at a few gyms, even though I specifically said I'd use free weights they STILL made a point to show ALL of the machines I said I wouldn't be using.

 

People can be dumb.

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Well, my trainer meeting isn't until Monday now, but I snooped around the gym a little on my own, and I'm pretty sure they don't have a power rack.  They're section with free weights seems a little puny in general.  I don't even see a big collection of dumbbells.  Maybe I'll look for another gym after my groupon is up in three months.  Too bad I really like the location of this one.  Either way, I guess I'll be messing with the machines until August.

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Oh, good news everybody. My local Muv Fitness gym has a power rack in Irmo, and two in West Columbia (12 mins away instead of 6 mins). My wife will probably make me stay where I’m at until my groupon runs out in three months, but there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to sign up for a gym with a power rack then.  In the meantime, I’m dropping by there tonight to check out their Irmo facilities. I’ll probably go there unless the one power rack tends to be busy at my times, but if it does, I can go to the West Columbia gym with two power racks. 

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Ok, went to the new gym, checked out their shiny power rack.  Also eyed their collection of squat racks and benches.  Plus noticed they have a solid dumbbell collection if I need that for anything.  Definitely feels like I'm in a place more in line with my free weight goals.  Setup for a consult with a personal trainer that specializes in power lifting, so he should know free weights.  That's all the good news. 

 

The bad news is that when I went to work out, I was still intimidated by the free weights, so I just did a couple of circuits in their machine area and ignored all the shiny stuff that I got shown on my tour.  I'm only starting with like the bar for squats, benches, and overhead press and a couple of plates for deadlift and barbell rows to get the bar to sit right, so it should just be a simple form check.  I'm pretty weak, but I can do a lot of exercises with 35 pounds one handed, so a 45 pound bar should be nothing.  I even used to bench with a real bench back when I was a kid, so I don't know what seems so scary about that.  I've watched all the Stronglifts videos, and I read Starting Strength recently, so I have a good mental understanding of what it is that I'm supposed to be doing.  It seems like it shouldn't be so hard to actually get started the right way. 

 

I guess I'll have the personal trainer check my form in a couple of free weight exercises; maybe that will get me over the hump to getting started.  I wouldn't mind having him watch me fail in the rack, to make me feel better about inevitable failure.  I may venture into the free weights before my appointment with him on Monday.  I've got a two week pass to familiarize myself with the gym.  I'm sure I can get over whatever mental block is holding me back.  In the meantime, any other advice is appreciated.

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On 5/8/2018 at 7:28 AM, MaD MaLKaV said:

And the chest press and deadlift don't need spotters, but how do you make sure you don't end up in a pickle and just drop the weight.  I'ld hate to be that guy that drops the weights at the gym, because it seems like it would be at the very least loud and probably unsafe.  Starting Strength doesn't make a deal out of grip or anything.  Is losing your grip normally not a problem unless you're working with extreme amounts of weight?

...I've been that guy...warning, 190 lbs DOES make a loud noise when it drops off your back and hits safety bars from about a 1 foot drop...lesson, if I'm that tired...DON'T DO IT.

 

No injury, and laughs were had by many people (Did scare somebody at the front desk). It got so damn quiet in the whole place...I think even the radio stopped playing. I like how a friend put it..."Now you know your limit...as does the whole gym." And you know what happened the next time...Nothing. It actually became kind of a joke. (This whole story was done inside a power rack).

 

Also, (I'm not sure about all benches) but look for a bench that has a bail out peg/rest on it. The YMCA I'm leaving just got new benches a few months ago with large hooks about 4 inches above your chest. They're bailout bars, practice bailing out with an empty bar some to get comfortable with it. I've done stronglifts since october (from what I understand, very similar to SS) and only had a spotter a handful of times (Less than five). When bench weight is light, ( < 120 lbs), you should be able to roll the bar down your stomach/torso if you can't get it up (que quagmire joke/gif). I do that routinely.

 

The only caution/advice I'd give about the power rack, make sure you set the safety bars low enough that you get a full squat. That was my problem for about 2 months.

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Deads + OH Presses = no spotters needed, no adjustment of height of pins, safeties etc, so great ones to start with. 

 

Bench Press = start light, learn to bail on the weights (just learn how to do it, with 2 rubberised 5kg weights on the bar).

 

Squats = start light, learn to leave it on the safeties on a failed rep. 

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On 5/15/2018 at 8:17 AM, MaD MaLKaV said:

The bad news is that when I went to work out, I was still intimidated by the free weights, so I just did a couple of circuits in their machine area and ignored all the shiny stuff that I got shown on my tour.  I'm only starting with like the bar for squats, benches, and overhead press and a couple of plates for deadlift and barbell rows to get the bar to sit right, so it should just be a simple form check.  I'm pretty weak, but I can do a lot of exercises with 35 pounds one handed, so a 45 pound bar should be nothing.  I even used to bench with a real bench back when I was a kid, so I don't know what seems so scary about that.  I've watched all the Stronglifts videos, and I read Starting Strength recently, so I have a good mental understanding of what it is that I'm supposed to be doing.  It seems like it shouldn't be so hard to actually get started the right way. 

 

Completely normal. When I first started, anything I couldn't easily do for 5 freaked me out to get under. Now I routinely put weights on my back that would detroy every ligament in my knees if I were to stumble or squat wrong. You gain confidence, you get used to it, learning to talk yourself under the bar is an interesting experience.

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