A woman lifting weights at a gym.Share on Pinterest
TikTok’s ‘Shy Girl Workout’ trend may be just the thing you need to help tackle your gymtimidation. Pedro Merino/Getty Images
  • Shy Girl’ workouts are proving popular on social media platforms like TikTok.
  • The trend includes demonstrations of simple, easy-to-replicate exercises that can be performed with minimal equipment.
  • These workouts are said to help gym beginners overcome the fear and anxiety that accompanies working out around others.
  • Experts believe the trend can be beneficial but advise gym users to progress to more complex workouts over time.

Have you ever walked into a busy gym and felt intimidated by all the scary-looking equipment? Perhaps you’ve avoided going to the gym at all for this very reason.

If working out around others is a source of anxiety for you, then a new trend, known as the ‘Shy Girl’ workout, may be for you.

The trend has been gaining traction on TikTok recently with the #shygirlworkout hashtag amassing over 315 million views on the social media platform. The trend sees experienced gym goers, fitness influencers and PTs demonstrate beginner-friendly workouts.

Proponents say it can take away some of the fear people experience when starting out at the gym by focusing on easy-to-replicate exercises and shorter workout routines.

Research suggests that many people experience “gymtimidation” and women in particular are likely to face anxiety about working out around others.

A poll commissioned by Sure Women found that, of the 2,000 women surveyed, one in four shy away from exercise for fear of being judged. A third of the respondents were worried that other gym users would view them as a novice.

The Shy Girl Workout trend promises to quell these fears. Can it really ease your gym anxiety, and make working out around others something to be enjoyed rather than feared?

“The ‘Shy Girl’ workout trend utilizes very basic movements and minimal kit, most often just a set of light to moderate weight dumbbells,” explains Brahm Gallagher, a personal trainer, and former US Army fitness instructor. “This can ensure new gym goers aren’t overwhelmed by the big machines or big groups of people posing and/or monopolizing certain equipment.”

In the past, you might have spotted fitness influencers performing complex movements with heavy weights and found this off-putting. In contrast, ‘Shy Girl’ workouts are made up of simple exercises that you can quickly learn to perform.

Many of these are isolation exercises; a form of movement that works one muscle at a time. (Think push-ups, shoulder presses, and crunches.)

Gallagher says this allows gym newbies to become more comfortable with basic weight resistance movements.

These types of workouts can also help you develop confidence in the gym and allows you to become aware of what muscles you’re using during each movement.

Psychologist and personal trainer Anna Sergent says not only is it easier to learn these movements, but it’s also easier to build on them.

“As you focus on one body part, you have a greater capacity to remember the correct posture, form, and technique,” she explains. “Once you’ve learned to perform these simple exercises it can be a fun challenge to add another muscle group to the exercise making it a compound movement.”

Simple movements aside, Shy Girl Workouts typically require less equipment and usually mean you take up less space in the gym too.

“This style of workout can be completed in one area so there’s no need to move around the gym a lot. You won’t need to share equipment with others or interact with other gym-goers, either,” Sergent notes.

So, do the experts think this style of workout is helpful when it comes to quelling gymtimidation?

Sergent says it can be incredibly beneficial for those who prefer to take their time and ease themselves into exercising, as well as those who want to follow their own exercise pace.

Add to that, it could help you find a love of exercise that you didn’t know you had.

“By listening to your body and mind when it comes to exercising you may discover that it is a lot of fun instead of a chore,” she points out.

Sergent’s only caveat is that once you’ve mastered ‘Shy Girl’ workouts it’s important to increase the intensity and set new goals to continue progressing on your fitness journey.

“Eventually you’ll need to progress from simple or isolation exercises to more complex and difficult exercises. If the exercises are kept on the same level the progress will stagnate and you may get bored,” she notes.

‘Shy Girl’ workouts are beginner-friendly, and so it stands to reason that once you’ve passed the beginner phase you should move on to something new to ensure your body remains challenged.

Gallagher agrees and says progression is key but believes ‘Shy Girl’ workouts can be an excellent starting point in terms of confidence.

“By focusing on simple movements and isolation exercises there is a sharp drop in perceived imposter syndrome that can happen in a gym, and limited movements equate to limited opportunities to perform exercises incorrectly,” he says.

While ‘Shy Girl’ workouts can help some people take their first steps on a new fitness journey, Gallagher believes some beginners may fair better with a personal trainer (PT).

“Not everything seen on social media is what you should be doing, depending on experience or fitness level,” he points out. “If all else fails and your fears are still rampant don’t be afraid to ask for help. PTs are there because they want to help people feel better, move better, and look better,” he surmises.

What else can you do to feel more comfortable at the gym? Sergent says wearing gym clothes that make you feel confident, bringing along a friend, and making sure to visit the gym before signing up can all help you conquer gymtimidation.

Lastly, if you’re new to the gym, Gallagher says, be proud of yourself.

“You’ve already taken the hardest step by starting,” he points out. “The best advice is to bear in mind why you are training. Why did you start? What are your goals? What can you achieve if you stick to a routine and don’t quit?”

When you combine this attitude with accessible routines, like a ‘Shy Girl’ workout, you may be more likely to stick with it.

As the adage goes, “You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.”