10 Mistakes You’re Making at the Gym and How to Solve Them


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Gym Mistakes happen. They are a fact of life. Don’t bury yourself in guilt. Here’s how to bounce back and be better than ever.

Walk into any gym at any hour and chances are strong you’ll see someone training with poor form. Whether they are rounding their back on a deadlift or squatting with poor posture, many people train with bad habits. Poor technique on exercises can result in injury. That’s why every movement should be done with the goal of perfection. But, that’s not the only issue. Gym-goers have lots of other bad habits. From not setting goals to using too many machines to not stretching, these are just a few of the many mistakes people are making in the gym that are holding back their progress.

Entering a gym for the first time can be overwhelming for most. There are rows of cardio equipment, two dozen weight machines, several pulley systems, a circuit training area and free weight section all under one roof. Where do you start?

Do you try a new one each day?

Stimulus overload.

Having plenty of equipment variety at your disposal can be helpful to achieve your goals. But, having too much can also cause you to get off track. To best achieve positive results, start by setting your goals. Then, hammer out a plan, adhere to the program and work hard. It’s that easy. Follow those rules and correct any of the mistakes on this list. You’ll reap the rewards.

# 1 You Keep On Changing.

Switching exercises every day just for the sake of trying something different will not get results. Instead, grind it out. Stick to a plan for 4 to 6 weeks before switching it up again. During that period, the body will adapt to your new plan.

Is the goal strength?

Training for a marathon?

It doesn’t matter. Progressively increasing the challenge during this period forces your body to adapt to the stress you undergo during training. After the 4 to 6 week period, switch things up. Why? To ensure your progress doesn’t plateau. Make a plan. Then, stick to it and get it done.

# 2 Your Work Has No Balance.

Next time you hit the weight room, take a look around at others. Everyone has his or her strengths and weaknesses. Working solely on your strengths is a poor choice if you want to achieve results. By focusing on your weaknesses more, your body is brought up to speed, performance increases and risk of injury goes down.

It’s true: Everyone has his or her favorite exercise and top muscle group to work out. They also don’t like some exercises or working a certain body part. That’s normal. Focusing too much on one muscle group can create muscle imbalances and not only decrease performance but boost your injury risk. If you regularly skip back exercises but hit the chest twice per week, you’ll overdevelop your pectorals and cause a rounding of the shoulders. You’ll also create poor posture.

Instead, commit to a well-balanced plan. For every pushing exercise such as a bench press, do a pulling exercise such as a lat pulldown. inverted row? That’s too bad! Instead of jumping under the bench press twice per week, grab a barbell and develop those back muscles. Find your weakness and turn it into one of your strengths. Adhering to a well-balanced program is the best way to achieve positive training results.

# 3 You Are Overtraining!

A well-balanced training regimen not only means working all muscle groups. It also means getting plenty of rest. One of the most common problems among not only athletes, but also people just trying to lose weight, is overtraining.

Your body needs rest. That’s especially the case with the consistent wear and tear it undergoes during training sessions. During rest, your body repairs its muscles, building them back up bigger and stronger.

By placing it under significant stress every day with no rest, the central nervous system gets fatigued. The body doesn’t recover and performance plateaus or even dips. Other changes also happen. This includes an elevated resting heart rate and the loss of lean muscle mass. Don’t overdo it. Pencil in rest days to allow your body to hit each training session with maximum effort.

# 4 You Spend Time On The Phone.

Cell phones shouldn’t only have an airplane mode. They should also come with a training mode. There is a reason why gyms have a no talking on the phone policy. It’s distracting to members. A gym is a place to work out. It is not a social hour.

By keeping your phone on during a workout, you can’t fully focus on your training. Text messages are coming in, work emails flood your inbox and, before you know it, you’ve been sitting on a bench for 10 minutes distracted by your phone.

As soon as you step out of the locker room into the gym, turn your phone off or onto airplane mode. This eliminates that distraction. You’ll not only be able to focus entirely on your workout with no distractions, but you will be more efficient in the gym. Those texts and e-mails can wait. They’ll still be there when you’re done working out.


# 5 You Lack The Focus.

Exercise ADD is something many people have. As soon as the new hottest workout comes out, so many jump on board. After a week, they get bored and try something new. Constantly switching up your training program and randomizing workouts is a big mistake. Sticking to a plan and getting your body to adapt to the exercises and become more proficient at the movement is the best way to approach things.

By randomizing your workouts for variety or to prevent boredom, you’re doing your body no favors. Why? The more you do an exercise, the better you get at it. You are able to add more reps, more weight and make gains in your performance.

Instead of randomly selecting exercises, you need to stick to the basics. For example, a squat is a basic movement and one of the best muscle-building exercises you can do. But, there are several different squats you can do. For example, you can do a goblet squat, back squat, overhead squat, front squat and many more. The variety is there. Stick to the basics and don’t overthink it.

#6 You Aren’t Being Consistent!

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, the word consistency is a noun meaning “the state or condition of always happening or behaving in the same way.” To develop good habits, you must be consistent with them.

If you only pick up the dirty dishes once every two weeks, it doesn’t become part of your routine. If you exercise once every two weeks, it also doesn’t become part of your routine. Consistently exercising in a safe manner results in it becoming a habit. Your body will adapt to this routine.

Coming once per week to the gym and performing a high-intensity workout is not a good habit. Working out once per week isn’t giving yourself enough of a chance to succeed. Also, you’ll be very sore after because you place a ton of stress on your body in just one session. By doing this, your risk of injury increases, motivation wanes and positive results aren’t achieved.

Make exercise part of your routine. Try to do it at least 30 minutes per day, five days per week. Mark it on your schedule. Be consistent in the gym and results will follow.

#7 You Use Machines Way Too Much.

Machines line every commercial gym. From the hip adduction machine to the chest flye machine to the calf raise machine, there is a fancy-looking machine designed to hit every part of your body. Using machines should not be the main focus of your workout.

Unless you’re recovering from an injury or have some major muscle imbalances, machines should either not be used or just be a complementary piece. Why? Weight machines aren’t natural. They restrict your range of motion to one plane. In life, our bodies do not move like that so why not use exercises that will help our everyday activities.

Instead of doing a leg extension on a machine, try a squat. We squat every day in our lives and the whole lower half of the body is activated. Stabilizer muscles, the ones that help support your posture and contribute to the bigger compound exercises, aren’t fully activated while performing weight machine exercises. During free weight exercises, they are. Do yourself a favor. Skip the weight machines and focus on free weight exercises.

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#8 You Overdo Isolation Exercises.

Everyone wants to look good on the beach. The bulging biceps, horseshoe triceps and six-pack abs are often referred to as the beach muscles. If you want those muscles bulging, you should focus a lot more on the arms and abs right?


Many place too much of an emphasis on isolation exercises. Isolation exercises, such as a biceps curl, target one muscle group. Whether you are training for the beach, for an event or looking to get stronger overall, isolation exercises should only make up a small fraction of your workout program.

Compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, rows and presses should be the foundation of your program. If you consistently progress on your compound exercises, the reward will be much greater than placing a strong emphasis on just arm and abs exercises.

Compound exercises hit multiple muscle groups, are the key to building muscle and help incinerate fat. The beach muscles aren’t made doing biceps curls. Grab a barbell, do some barbell rows and overhead presses and you will get much more benefit.

# 9 You’re Doing Too Much Core Work.

There is a separate workout area for core training in many gyms and everyone spends the last 15 minutes of their training session working on this group. That makes it right, doesn’t it? Wrong. Yes, your core is a very important area and it is crucial to keep strong and stable. Without a strong core region, risk of injury increases, posture suffers and most movements are performed wrong.

But, by hammering out endless sets of crunches of all different varieties every workout, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Cut down on the volume. Stick to just three core exercises with each hitting a different plane of motion. Try a set-up for a hinging movement, a Russian twist for rotation and a plank for a hold for three sets.

Most training programs get plenty of core training from just the compound movements. Squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench presses, rows, pull-ups, dips and many more hit the core region. Stick to those, sprinkle in a few isolation moves and keep it simple.

# 10 You Skip The Post-Workout Steps.

After you finish that last set of your workout, it’s time to cool down and stretch. The stretching portion is one of the easiest steps to skip since all the heavy lifting is done. But, your body needs a good cool down and stretch.

Take 5 to 10 minutes and begin by going on a light walk. This cool down walk allows your heart rate to drop gradually and prevents you from feeling light-headed or passing out. Follow this with some static stretching, holding each stretch for at least 30 seconds.

Your muscles are still warm and are able to stretch even further. After static stretching, grab a foam roller and roll over your muscles. This is a form of self-massage and helps prevent your muscles from cramping and contributes to a faster recovery. Your cool down and stretch is a part of the workout. Don’t skip it.

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Create good habits by fixing your mistakes in the gym. Practicing good habits creates routine. Don’t look like someone who has never stepped inside the gym. When you step foot in the weight room, your only thoughts should be on training. Stay focused and stay strong to ensure you will achieve positive results.

By Adam Clark, CPT


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