Are you exercising regularly, yet not seeing the results you want? Or, have you gotten derailed by a pulled muscle and other type of injury while working out? Have you ever felt tempted to drop out or stop exercising all together because you’re so bored and not getting the results that you feel you deserve? Well, don’t give up your fitness program just yet!
Maybe the problem isn’t the exercise itself but the way you’re exercising. Exercisers (especially beginning exercisers) often make mistakes that keep them from getting the most out of their workouts. The following are some of the most common exercise mistakes people make in the gym and how you can keep them from derailing your fitness program.
#1. Doing the “gym slouch”. I see so many people in the gym leaning on equipment and I always ask myself, why? You’ll see people on the Stairmaster, elliptical machine, treadmill, even on the bikes leaning over, leaning back and hanging on for dear life. I even see them when they’re grocery shopping, leaning on the cart, slouching and dragging themselves through the store. Did you know that when your back is rounded, your spine doesn’t get enough support and if one of your goals is to strengthen your core, this is definitely not going to help. So stand or sit erect when you’re working out, engage your core and get those results!
#2. Get a grip. Holding on too tightly to the cardio equipment lets you “cheat” and contributes to slouching. It also keeps you from moving your arms which can boost your heart rate and burn extra calories. If loosening your grip makes you feel too uncomfortable, instead of gripping the bar, just lightly rest your fingers on it. As you get more comfortable and gain cardio confidence, drop a few fingers off or drop one hand entirely, allowing your arm to swing freely while keeping a stable base. Soon, you may have just the index fingers resting there for security and eventually you will be walking as freely as you did when you walked into the gym.
#3. Catching up on your reading. If you’re doing lots of reading on the elliptical, bike or treadmill, you’re probably not getting a good workout. Instead of going through the motions of your basic cardio routine, put the book down and focus on your body, your breathing and your intensity level.
#4. Walking with weights. Carrying hand weights when you walk might seem like a good way to add strength training to your cardio workout, but it compromises your stride. By holding weights in your hands, on your wrists, or on your ankles, this causes your body to move in an exaggerated manner. Leaning forward or back too far can add unnecessary stress on your quadriceps, ankles, shins, as well as your lower back and shoulders. Try to keep your cardio and strength training separate.
#5. Thinking cardio is enough. Many people think they only need a cardiovascular exercise program to get awesome results. You’re partially correct but as we begin losing muscle at age 30, strength training builds lean muscle tissue which increases metabolism and burns more calories. You need to add strength training into your workout routine at least 2-3 times a week for the best results.
#6. Catching up with social time. If you have enough energy to catch up with friends while you’re doing cardio or talking on the phone, you’re probably not in a good target heart rate zone. This goes double for talking and holding onto the hand grips, especially on a treadmill. A good rule of thumb is to do your cardio as you would if you were walking, jogging, running or cycling outside.
Weight Lifting Errors
This is something near and dear to almost all personal trainer’s hearts. Our goals are to help our clients get the best results possible as well as all members of our gyms, training studios and the world at large. These are some of the things that people do when they’ve moved from the cardio machines and on into the weight room. Do any of these mistakes below sound familiar to you?
#1. Copying a trainer’s or client’s moves. This is pretty much the nature of the beast and can become pretty frustrating to personal trainers but not for the reason that may think. Often trainers train their clients based upon goals, time and/or pre-existing injuries. With this in mind, if a personal trainer is doing a certain move, they are basing it upon their client’s capabilities and goals. And while this may look great, it is highly advisable not to try to copy those moves or get on the machines that trainers just used without checking or changing the weights accordingly.
Personal trainers are your best line of defense in getting great results, but doing exercises without knowing the proper form and technique can cause injury, pain and discomfort. The solution is to talk with a personal trainer and purchase a packet of training sessions that will be based upon your specific goals and capabilities.
#2. Lifting too heavy or too light. In order to get great results, burn more calories, increase lean muscle and decrease body fat, lifting weights is a must. But how much weight should you actually lift? Heavy weight with low reps or light weight with high reps? Are you getting the results you want? Women tend to lift weight that’s are simply too light for them, thinking they will “bulk up” and get big if they lift heavy. Men tend to lift weight that are too heavy for them to start with since most guys want to get huge. A good rule of thumb is to lift weights that you can do for 10-12 repetitions with the last 3-4 reps becoming more challenging. If you’ve been lifting the same weight for over 6 weeks, it’s time to change up your routine, either by increasing your weights, reps or sets. Again, contacting a Certified Personal Trainer is always an awesome option.
#3. Hanging out on the equipment. This is one of the biggest no-no’s, especially when the gym is busy! Completing your set, and then instead of briefly stretching and continuing on, sitting on the machine during your rest time! I have actually seen people reading books and magazines, during their “rest” time. Please keep in mind, that if you’re resting for more than 30 seconds and there are others waiting to get on that machine, either finish up or let them work in with you on the machine.
#4. Dropping weights. Yes, we understand that the weights are heavy and you’re working hard, but dropping those heavy weights on the floor is a big no-no. Not only can you damage the floor, but you’re going to need to pick them back up to either use them again or to put them away. Keep in mind that some weights (especially those covered in rubber) can bounce and roll, so just put them on the floor without the two foot drop.
#5. What’s that sound? I’m not sure who originally told someone that loud grunting when working out was acceptable, but let me tell you, it’s not! Not only is it distracting to the other gym members, but when you’re grunting, you’re usually not exhaling on the exertion since you’re too busy making noise. The same goes for squealing! Yes, I’ve heard women squealing when they are lifting weights as well as other sounds that belong more in the bedroom than in the gym. I’m not saying you can’t make any noise, but keep it down to a little growl, grunt or squeal!
#6. Wiping down equipment. Whether you’re working out hard or hardly working out in the gym, please wipe down the equipment after using it. Whether it’s a cardio machine, weight machine, or a free weight bench, common courtesy and respect dictates that wiping off your sweat, makeup or anything else that you’ve left behind is a great way of helping keep your gym clean and sanitary. This includes the handles on the cardio machines, any sweat that is on the floor, the seats on the bikes and all the benches that you lay on or lean against. Until next time, keep moving, keep it clean and train smart!