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I want to try freeweights but am very self-conscious and shy.
I would like to start with a short routine to get myself used to the freeweight section of the gym. It doesn't have to be optimal in the long term, I plan to follow it for only 2-3 weeks to help grow a little bit of confidence.

What are the least awkward free-weight movements for an obese person to perform?

By awkward I mean either embarrassing ones (like glute bridges), or ones that take up a lot of space, or ones that are difficult to do properly when you are obese (for example, I can't do a full squat).


(English isn't my first language, please tell me if there is any mistake in the question)

  • Those you do at home. Buy a mat and a set of dumbbells for the price of a gym membership. Is that not an option? It's a sad reality that certain people think obese people in the gym are there for their amusement. Better do it at home if that bothers you than not at all – Raditz_35 Feb 22 at 7:32
  • @Raditz_35 Thank you for your consideration, I now some people will make fun of me but still want to try. I've been going to the gym for almost a year now (so the membership is already paid), and lost some weight (went from morbidly obese to just obese). Now I'd like to intensify a little my routine. – Orange Orange Feb 22 at 8:05
  • Sorry to ask a potentially awkward question, but where do you carry most of your weight? For example, I have a friend who is obese, but he has a very large bone structure, so although he does have a large stomach, he's also just big all over (his wrists are larger than some people's upper arms). He would be much less limited than another friend of mine who carries all his weight around his middle, to the point he has trouble sitting in chairs with arms. Both will be limited in different ways, the second more than the first. – Dark Hippo Feb 22 at 8:07
  • Either way, good job on the weight loss so far :) – Dark Hippo Feb 22 at 8:09
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    I know this isn't the question but I'd still like to tell you that everyone in the gym is there to better themselves, whether you're 150lb or 300lbs, everyone is there to become a better or more healthy version of themselves. Because of this most people I know in the gym never make fun of an obese person trying to get some work done because everyone had to start somewhere, and the fact that you're there proves you have the courage to come here and work on yourself. Don't let anyone get in the way of you improving your own health. – MJB Feb 25 at 13:50
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As much as I hate it, the unfortunate truth is that the gym can be an intimidating place, especially if you're particularly shy, embarrassed or introverted. My main suggestion would be to either 1, hire a decent personal trainer (judging "decent" can be an issue however), or 2, find someone to train with, preferably someone who knows what they're doing, but sometimes there's confidence to be gained by just going to the gym with a friend, even if they're as clueless as you.

If neither of those are an option, then I would suggest picking one exercise from each of the following sections, and try that (they're mostly the most basic variations, and I've put them in order of preference, top to bottom).

You should be able to find decent tutorials online for the majority of them. Try and not sweat technique too much to start with, you can read all the information in the world, watch all the tutorial videos and discuss with everybody online, but it won't make sense until you get some time under the bar.

Because of your size (and this is a guess as I haven't actually seen you), you may find the dumbbell variations of the exercises easier; they should allow for a greater range of motion (if you've got a big chest, then a barbell will hit your chest and stop the movement more than dumbbells).

Push

  • Standing overhead press (barbell or dumbbell)
  • Seated overhead press (dumbbell)
  • Incline press (barbell or dumbbell)
  • Bench press (barbell or dumbbell)

I much prefer overhead pressing to flat (bench) pressing for various reasons, shoulder health and more core activation being the main reasons, but try and see which variation you prefer. Overhead work can take up more room, and most gyms have benches near the dumbbell rack, and most people do dumbbell bench work, so if that seems like a safer option for you (copying what most other people are doing), then go for it.

Pull

  • Row (barbell or dumbbell)
  • Row machine (weight, not cardio)
  • Cable row (machine or cable station)
  • Pulldown machine

Barbell or dumbbell bent over rows are good, but I can see how they could be a bit embarrassing because of the bent over position you put yourself in. A lat pulldown machine / row machine is a pretty good alternative if it's something you're more comfortable using. I know they're not freeweights, but they're one of the few situations where a machine will do the job.

Hinge

  • Sumo barbell deadlift
  • Sumo kettlebell deadlift
  • Deadlift or Rack pulls
  • Romanian deadlift
  • Single leg deadlift
  • Kettlebell swing

These aren't actually in order of preference, they're more in order of what I think you'll find easiest. Sumo deadlifts look a little funny if no one else in your gym performs them, and rack pulls (deadlifts where the bar is up on blocks, meaning the starting position is higher than the floor) can be noisy depending on where you do them. Single leg deadlifts require a fair amount of balance, which can be a bit embarrassing if you can't get it right, and kettlebell swings are one of those exercises where a lot of people teach it wrong.

If you don't want to try sumo deadlifts with a barbell, then I'd recommend you do sumo deadlifts with either one or two kettlebells. Once you get proficient at them, you can look at kettlebell swings (great for fat loss), or moving onto barbell sumo deadlifts. Also, if strength is an issue, you can use less weight with kettlebells.

Squat

  • Supported bodyweight squat
  • Goblet squat (kettlebell or dumbbell)

I know you said you can't squat, but hear me out. A bodyweight supported squat, is a squat where you hold onto something with your arms, and pull yourself up as you stand up from the bottom of the squat position (something like this, though if your gym doesn't have any suspension trainer gear, you can do the same thing on a cable machine, or even just holding onto something sturdy and leading back a bit as you squat down).

Once you can, I'd recommend moving onto goblet squats. They're an excellent beginner squat movement (not just beginner to be honest, I've seen champion powerlifters use them in training).

Other

  • Plank
  • Farmers walk
  • Arm work

This can actually include pretty much anything else you'd like to try out. I'd recommend planks (if need be, you can do them with your hands on a bench as a more upright angle will make the exercise easier) and farmers walks (basically grabbing a couple of heavy dumbbells and walking around the gym carrying them, though it's an unusual one, so I understand if you'd rather not) as they're both excellent exercises that I think everyone should do. Arm work because some people like it (I don't by the way, I never bother with direct arm work).

Hopefully you'll find something useful here, one thing I would say is that even if you feel shy or embarrassed in the gym, you're there trying to better yourself and a lot of people will respect the effort you're putting in. It's a lot easier to sit on the sofa, eating pizza and watching Netflix all day, but you're putting in the hard work and making a positive change. Keep it up.

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