Gym mistakes, where people use machines in ways that they were never designed for and actually offer no benefit when used like that, are some of the most cringe-worthy things we can see. Whether in a video or live in the flesh, people using chest machines for their legs, cables where they flop around like a fish or standing calf raise machines for a shoulder press, you just want their membership revoked right there.
Aside from the fact that these are just downright wrong, they are seriously dangerous, even for the people around them. Often they lead to injury that causes people to tell everyone false ‘facts’ that these machines or methods don’t work – or worse – they encourage others to do the same. To spare everyone from laughing at you (and your ego as well), refrain from committing these common gym blunders.
1. Too much cardio, not enough weights
The common mistake is the underuse of weight training and the overuse of cardio equipment. The first inclination people have when it comes to wanting to lose weight is to hop on the treadmill or the bike, but weight training is far more effective. Weight training requires a lot more effort than simply running or cycling. This is not to say that cardio is not good for losing weight, but weight training burns more calories, and increases muscle mass, thereby reshaping your metabolism.
For women, lifting weights will not lead to a bulky physique or overly-masculine look. Women do not produce sufficient amounts of testosterone to enable large amounts of muscle to bulk up. Even a muscular look for a female requires a tonne of calories, time, and energy, and there are clinical studies to show that women respond to weight training better for losing fat compared to cardio alone.
2. Not training
The second most common mistake is not training at all. Doing cardio is better than not doing anything at all. Getting to the gym can be a difficult thing, especially after a long day at work, but going home is not going to help you achieve your goals. Don’t be overwhelmed by the gym, or the people in it, they were once where you are now and are more likely to help you if you ask, rather than ridicule you.
3. Poor form
This is the bread and butter of gym fail videos. Poor form can stem from an inflated sense of one’s ego or just a misguided idea on how to properly perform certain movements. This is one of the biggest impediments to people achieving their individual goals. Apart from this, an improper form is one of the biggest reasons people are injured while training, especially because improper form usually comes side by side with too much weight being used.
While you should test your boundaries with how much weight you can utilise, you need to know when you are pushing yourself, or when you are just using too much. The other problem with poor form is that it works the wrong muscle groups, so not only are you just wasting your time, your poor movement patterns are now being reinforced by the body. Getting yourself away from poor form is far more difficult than staying away from it completely. Remember, the better you can use a weight, the more effective it will be.
4. Poor programming
Think of the gym as a chessboard. You need a strategy, a game plan before you just walk in. Otherwise, you will be left moving pieces turn by turn, falling behind. Don’t just bunny from free machine to machine, have a strategy in your head about what you need to do, and even have some backup movements in case there is nothing available. A routine has been given a bad rep lately because of the fear of the dreaded ‘plateau’, but how will you plateau if you not stimulating anything, to begin with?
Furthermore, don’t follow a program that you don’t feel working. If you have just copied someone else’s programme, that’s fine, but make sure it is working for you. Not every plan is going to benefit everyone the same as what it does others. Make sure that your plan reflects your end goal, be it losing fat, building muscle, getting stronger, etc. Simplicity is always the best option to go for. Don’t go for programmes that have you training for 2 hours straight, with unnecessarily complicated exercises. Most of the best physique pro’s out there use simple movements to improve their bodies.
There is no such thing as overtraining your body so long as you feed it right. But remember, the brain does not work the same way. Your brain is focused on thousands of processes a day, even when you are sleeping your brain is open for business. When your progress slows down, and it will at some point, it is important to give your mental state some downtime, in order for you to reprioritise your goals and just recover.
Nerves are also affected by the continuous onslaught of heavy training. When they are fatigued, they lose their sensitivity and can impede essential functions in the body. After every eight weeks or so, give yourself a week to just relax, to make sure you keep making progress. Be careful not to fall down a slippery slope though, too much down time could see you starting all the way back at square one.
6. Riding the wave
This ties in with the programming issue above. While it is good to have a routine, you need to freshen things up once you start feeling like you aren’t really doing anything anymore. You need to challenge yourself to keep your body guessing because it adapts quickly to the stresses you put on it. They don’t need to be anything crazy or radical, just little tweaks here and there. Use more weight, or change your reps, or maybe try a variation of that exercise. It is also great to keep yourself motivated because becoming bored with your training is the fastest way to stop progress.
It is not only your routine that needs to spiced up every now and again but also the weights you use. Not from workout to workout, but mainly from set to set. Progressive overload is how we build new muscle because we are incrementally increasing the workload for our working muscle. Rather than use the same weight for three straight sets, increase it gradually after each set, so that each set becomes a bigger challenge than the last.
8. Being a sheep
This mainly applies to many that are chasing a career in fitness, but it can be applied to all of us as well. Just following what everyone else does is the easiest way to fall into the crowd. If you really want to stand out, you need to be something that sets yourself apart from everyone else. People cannot be drawn to you if they can’t distinguish you from the crowd. Be yourself, and don’t become a replica of another person.
These are just some of the more common gym mistakes that we see. At the end of the day, be yourself and make sure that your training reflects who you are, keep making improvements, and don’t forget to take a break every now and again.