Intimidation by the free weight area of a gym is more common among men than you’d think.

Here are 10 ways to overcome self-consciousness if you’re an overweight man who’s wanting to get fitter, stronger and leaner.

Find Something You’re at Ease With

No matter how fat or out of shape you feel, find an exercise in the free weight area that you can do with good form — something that you feel in control of, even if the weight isn’t that heavy.

Use Hammerstrength Equipment

Many gyms have the Hammerstrength brand equipment.

These machines will help novice men with their transition into the free weight area.

This equipment is roomy enough to accommodate very large men.

If your gym doesn’t have this brand, no problem. Any quality gym’s free weight area has a section of “machines” that you load weight plates on (like with Hammerstrength).

The machines isolate various parts of the upper body for building muscle.

Have a Plan on Paper

You don’t have to enter the free weights area with confusion and guesswork. Have your routine down on paper first. Know exactly what you’ll be doing.

Make Your Workouts so Challenging that You’ll Be too Distracted to Be Self-Conscious.

Don’t go easy. Go hard, but with common sense and GOOD FORM to avoid injury. If your workouts are challenging you’ll be too fatigued to feel intimidated.

Keep a Journal

Keep track of progress so that every time you enter the free weight area, you know exactly what you lifted the last time and can make comparisons.

Hire a Trainer for a Few Sessions or More

A personal trainer will show you the basic ropes. This way you won’t have to worry about incorrect form or “looking funny.”

Predetermine Your Time Spent in the Free Weight Area

If self-consciousness is getting the best of you, determine the amount of time you’ll spend there, even if it’s just 10 minutes.

This way you’ll be able to reassure yourself, “It’s only for 10 minutes,” or, “Only five more minutes to go.”

However, don’t be surprised if your pre-set time is up before you know it and you want to stick around for longer.

Make Some Goals and Review Ahead of Time

These won’t be the goals you’re probably thinking of as you read this, such as, “Bench 10 more pounds than last week.”

They’re goals such as the following:

  • Prevent type 2 diabetes
  • Live long enough to watch my children enter middle age
  • Smile when my future grandkids can’t keep up with me on a hike
  • Get rid of the fat around my heart

Avoid Prime Time

If possible, work out late in the morning, in the early afternoon or after 8 pm when there are no crowds.

Shutterstock/LightField Studios

If you’re still struggling with what you call intimidation, anxiety or self-consciousness about being in the gym’s free weight area … my bonus piece of advice is the following:

No matter what you do at the gym, include the bench press, deadlift and back squat. These are the three powerlifting moves.



Many competitive powerlifters who place or win competitions are overweight.

If you’re doing moves that overweight men do at powerlifting competitions, you’ll feel less insecure about being around the men who look like physique athletes.

Back squat. Shutterstock/Dean Drobot

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



Top image: Shutterstsock/Motortion Filmsveweight Men, Free Weight Area, Gym Intimidation