In this article, I’ll share 5 of the most common mistakes that I see people make in the gym. These are the things that lead to you:
They are not ranked in any particular order, they are just the most common things I see that could be done better. When I look at making changes, I try to identify what is the biggest thing that is holding me back right now or what is the smallest thing I can change that will bring about the greatest boost to my results. Doing this, we can be more efficient with our time and effort and make sure we build habits and sustainable routines. As you read these tips and decide to take action, make sure to implement only one at a time until it is ingrained in what you do before trying to add on the next layer.
# 1 – Failing to plan and track
So you made it to the gym, you have on your new workout gear ready to smash your goals but you look around at all the fancy equipment and have no idea where to start.
You first have to figure out what your goals are, then decide on the route you are going to take to get there. If you are really unsure then speak to one of the trainers and see what advice they can offer. Don’t worry if you can’t afford personal training, any good trainer will be happy to give you a bit of advice and point you in the right direction. As you educate yourself a little on what it takes, you can start to plan out your week of training smarter and plan each workout so you know exactly what you will do and how much you need to do in order to progress. As a general rule of thumb your session should follow this structure:
Write down what you do and how you feel. Read it back, evaluate what went well, what seems to be working and start to figure out your body and what it responds best to. This will make it clearer what you need to do next time and what is lagging so you can focus your efforts on those areas that will be the easiest to improve.
#2 – Not warming up effectively
One of the biggest mistakes I see in the gym is not warming up at all or properly for the stress you are about to put your body through. There are many good reasons for warming up. Firstly, it will start to get the blood flowing around the body to the working muscles, carrying the fuel for exercise. A good warm-up can also set the tone for your session, if you go in with intent and a well-planned warm-up then it will set you up to have a meaningful session with higher motivation and less distraction. The final reason that I will mention is that it can help undo some of the bad habits that modern living gets us into. For example, if you spend a lot of time seated, driving or hunched over a computer then a good warmup can help open up the shoulders and loosen up the hips in preparation for big full body movements. This can help restore normal function to the body and start to raise awareness of the crutches we develop in modern life.
If you aren’t warming up at the moment effectively then this is something you should look to implement straight away. You’ll probably find those tight muscles or restricted joints during certain exercises disappear!
#3 – Not Working Hard Enough
Are you working hard enough to get the benefit you are looking for?
If you want to get stronger or build muscle, you need to lift heavy weights. This doesn’t mean you should go to failure but you should get to the point where you only have 1 or 2 reps in reserve at the end of your set. This will provide your muscles with the stimulus it needs to grow. If you are training to get fitter or burn off extra calories to aid with weight loss then you need to stress the cardiovascular system. That means elevating your heart rate enough and keeping it elevated for long enough that your body will be overloaded enough to improve. If you are comfortably able to hold your phone and scroll through your Facebook feed while you are doing cardio then the chances are you aren’t working hard enough to get the results you are after.
# 4 – Too many isolation exercises
For most, your gym time is very limited as you juggle to fit exercise into your busy lifestyle. That’s why your time in the gym should be focused on exercises that provide you the highest return.
Think about training movements rather than muscles. Movements generally work large groups of muscles as an integrated unit meaning that you can get more overall work done and reap bigger benefits for the time you invest. It should go without saying that the biggest muscles are in the lower body and around the hips, this means you should be utilising lower body movements every session within a full body split.
Rather than doing 4 different bicep curl variations, trying doing plenty of pulling exercises like barbell row, dumbbell row, TRX supine row, Pullups, Pulldown you get the idea!
Similarly instead of doing tricep kickbacks, pushdowns, extensions try dips, press-ups, overhead press, bench press, incline press.
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#5 – Program hopping / following trends
Do you jump on the latest internet program, see initial results which slow then jump straight onto the next one?
Do you have any idea what the underlying principles are that lead to you making progress and getting the results that you want?
Progressive overload is probably the most commonly understood principle to get fitter or stronger but people often take it to the extreme. Imagine you have been a following a linear progression 5×5 strength plan for 6 weeks that has you squatting once per week improve your leg strength. Do you hit the panic button and jump straight into squatting 3 times per week on a huge volume Russian strength routine? Yeah, that will work but it’s not necessary and it probably going to lead to you burning out pretty quickly! A smarter option might be to bring the reps down a bit on your 5×5 and introduce an extra day of squatting with some lighter weights for higher reps. Over time, you’ll start to figure out what works for you and what your body responds best to. You should try out new things and be opened minded to new techniques but don’t stray too far from what has been working.
Make sure you avoid making these mistakes so that you get the most from your gym time in 2019.
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Allan Young is a Personal Trainer and coach educator in Glasgow who operates Strength Coach Glasgow and is a 4x Scottish Champion Olympic Weightlifter.