Can TikTok’s viral “shy girl workout” trend help you improve your confidence at the gym?

No matter how long you’ve been going to the gym, the sight of a free weights section packedwith people who look like they know what they’re doing can be enough to make you want to turn around and walk back out again.

Because let’s face it: exercising publicly can feel strange, awkward and a little embarrassing. What if people are silently judging you? What if you do something wrong and get corrected? But it goes deeper than anxiety – it’s putting some women off exercise.

Studies show that women are more likely to experience gym-timidation than men (65% vs. 36%), with 55% of women admitting they are afraid they’re not fit enough to work out.49% shared that they’re often insecure about their choice of clothing, and 25% dreaded being stereotyped.

Thankfully, TikTok is coming to the rescue with a swathe of new routines termed “shy girl workouts”. 

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As the name might suggest, the aim to help women feel comfortable in the gym. The hundreds of thousands of tagged videos encourage you to “find a corner,” put your headphones in and grab a set of dumbbells, showing easily replicated exercises such as bicep curls, weighted lunges and goblet squats. To avoid “awkward” pauses in between sets, creators recommend handy tips like light stretching or mobility exercises.

“Shy girl workouts help people feel a little more confident getting started in the gym,” says PT and fitness influencer Kelsey O’Callaghan. “So many people who join the gym feel too intimidated by all of the machines, weights, barbells andsquat racks, so they just avoid it entirely.”

Shy girl workouts, she says, are not meant to keep individuals intimidated by the gym forever, but rather show them that there are workouts they can do to get started in the gym that aren’t as complex or difficult.

“It’s essentially bridging workouts to encourage women to feel more confident taking up space in the gym,” agrees Soph Allen, a fellow trainer and TikTok creator. “As this confidence builds, they feel more comfortable exploring different machines and pieces of equipment.”

How to try the “shy girl workout”

“A shy girl workout really keeps it basic and requires minimal equipment,” Allen explains. “So you’re still in the gym, but you’ve got your own little space to do your workout in and work up to exploring more.

“It’s kind of like when you enter a party, you’re not headed straight for the dance floor, you want to scope the scene first, find your group of friends, settle in and suss the vibe. Once you’ve got that sorted, the dance floor, the middle of the room, wherever feels way more comfortable to be part of.”

Indeed, most shy girl exercises involve dumbbells or machines, which add extra security for resistance training. For example, starting off with squatting using a Smith machine can help increase your confidence before tackling the squat rack.

The key is to start with simple isolation exercises (which work one muscle at a time), such as leg extensions, shoulder press or crunches. As your confidence grows, you may wish to move on to compound exercises (which work more than one muscle group) such as back squats, hip thrusts or tricep dips. But moving on to the ‘harder’ routines isn’t a necessity: it’s all about finding what works for and is enjoyable for you.

“I always say that ‘any movement is better than no movement at all’ and I believe this rings true with shy girl’ workouts as well,” O’Callaghan adds. “While they may not be the most complex or ideal workouts for hypertrophy, they are allowing people to get started and become less anxious of the gym – and that is what matters most in the beginning.”

Images: Getty

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