Common Exercise Mistakes

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Walk into any gym, and you will find people doing something cringe worthy—from exhibiting crappy exercise form to doing useless routines that don’t really accomplish anything. Here are a few of the common mistakes I have noticed in the numerous gyms I have worked out in.

Doing your cardio too slow or too fast: Often I see people seated on an exercise bike pedaling away at a leisurely pace, checking their smart phones. They do not focus on their workout nor have they worked up a sweat. Go into the gym with an intention of making your work out count. Just showing up does not count. On the other hand there are those that are working at such a frantic speed they can hardly breathe. Stay in the desired heart rate range to achieve optimum results.

Using weights that are too low: This is the most common mistake with women. They are under the notion that if they even touch a heavy weight they will sprout gigantic muscles out of nowhere. Women simply do not have the testosterone levels in their body to grow such muscles without a great deal of hard work and a near perfect diet.

Using weights that are too high: Now we move to the other end of the spectrum and it is a common mistake with men. When you lift a weight that is heavier than you can handle, your form becomes incorrect and not only do you sacrifice the benefits of the exercise but you put yourself at risk for serious injury. If you are planning on lifting a weight that is heavier than you think you might be able to lift but still want to, get someone to “spot” you. This person will essentially give you an extra little hand if you need it or if your form is becoming incorrect or you are risking an injury. Remember though, a lighter weight with good form is always better than a heavier weight with poor form. Guys, remember – big biceps look more attractive to women than a guy with bad form!

Not paying attention to your form/posture: It is essential to maintain proper posture and form. One of the best examples I have seen recently for this was this man doing barbell curls. I think he was probably working every muscle in his body except for his biceps. First, he had way to much weight on the bar, and second, he was hoisting the weight up by arching his back and creating so much momentum that the bar literally flew up as he “curled” it. Not only was this putting a great deal of stress on his back joints due to the enormous amount of movement, but he was also stressing his shoulder girdle and all the tendons in the arms. This exercise was nowhere near beneficial for him and he would have been far better off with a simple set of bicep curls with dumbbells using correct form.

Leaning on the cardio machines: This is a common mistake, especially among those on the stepper machines. Handrails are there in case you are falling off the machine and need help, or to rest your towel on, not to hold you up. I’m sure you’ve seen it many times before, the person on the step machine who looks like they’re holding on for dear life, their arms supporting all their weight and feet barely even touching the pedals. Another example is the person on the treadmill who is walking on an incline and holding on to the front rails. This is supposed to stimulate you walking up a hill. If you were walking up a hill in real life, do you think you would have a handrail in front of you to help pull you along? I don’t think so. So, why would you use it when you are working out? The whole point of working out is to challenge your body, not ensure you have a good enough grip to keep from falling of the treadmill. If you are hoping to improve your cardiovascular health, than rely on your own body strength to get you through your workout.

Leaving the workout room without stretching: After taxing the muscles, the best way to prevent muscle soreness and cool down your body is by performing some light stretching.  This will help keep you limber and help lengthen any muscles that may have cramped up during your workout. Remember to keep the stretches controlled (no bouncing) and hold each one for 10-30 seconds. One of the reasons you are working out in the first place (hopefully) is to improve your health and prolong the time your body stays mobile. One of the greatest restrictions that come with aging is lack of range of movement. By including stretching in your workout, you will help keep your body limber and agile for many years to come.

Gunning for six-pack abs: You can perform abdominal crunches until you are blue in the face, or do “planks” till your spine feels like jelly but this doesn’t mean you’re burning fat from your abdominal area. That is because the idea that you can “spot reduce” simply isn’t true. In order to lose weight, you have to burn calories — and when you do, the body sheds fat all over, not just in one specific spot. Remember, the fitness industry is a multi billion dollar one and there is no shortage of trainers that will promote any hype or myth to get your business.

Not drinking enough water: Water regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints. It also helps transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy. If you are not properly hydrated, your body cannot perform at its highest level. You may experience fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness, or more serious symptoms. Do not head to the gym without that water bottle!

Skipping warm-ups: Although it may save time, dodging the pre-workout warm-up is a surefire way to get injured during a tough workout. Have a dedicated warm-up that involves bodyweight exercises like lunges, squats, pushups, and jumping jacks to elevate your heart rate before you attack the weights head on. It doesn’t matter if you’re short on time; you need a warm-up in your workout.

Not planning out your routine ahead of time: Walking into the gym without a plan in mind is a bit like heading to the grocery store without a shopping list. You will end up wandering aimlessly back and forth, spending way more time than necessary. Your plan of attack should be well thought out in advance. Include the exercises, sets, and reps as well as the order you want to do them in so you can plan your route around the weight room. Keep it in the notes of your smartphone or write them down if your phone distracts you.

Focusing on everything but your workout: The importance of being “mindful” of the task at hand cannot be overstated. Reading or watching TV can adversely affect the quality of your workout because the distraction can literally slow you down. Socializing with friends between sets is a distraction


Caution – It is important to consult your doctor before you start any exercise program.



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