We’ve all done some silly things we aren’t that proud of. Looking back now we can chuckle slightly at the neophyte behaviour that we displayed at the gym when we thought we knew everything about achieving optimal results at the gym. In hindsight, those spandex shorts and hours of bicep curls not only looked silly, but really held up our results.
Here are the top nine mistakes people make at the gym—
Using Gravity and Momentum to Complete Reps.
Sure, we may have partaken in this nasty little habit every so often, but if we are getting the weight up to the desired position, doesn’t the means justify the end? Not if you are sacrificing form and safety to achieve it.
While we may not be as goofy as this joker, using gravity and momentum to swing the weights might give us a momentary feeling of satisfaction, it won’t contribute to our ultimate goal – strength and muscle stimulation.
An easy way to stop yourself from swinging weights is to pause between directions. Pause at the top and bottom of your movements to stiffen any effects that momentum and gravity would otherwise have.
Forgetting or Neglecting to Ramp Up the Progression
By doing the same workout, at the same weight, over and over again, the body loses the need to grow stronger. Your muscles are remarkably efficent and intelligent; they will only grow as strong as they need to. Continually challenge your muscles by confusing them with more weight, or new variations of your favorite exercises. Adding things like incline, decline, dumbbell vs barbell, and so on will keep your muscles guessing.
An easy way to monitor your progression, and insuring that you are doing a little better and lifting a little more each week, is to keep a workout log.
Cheating with Bad Form
This goes hand in hand with gravity and momentum. When you cheat you are generally taking energy and stress away from the very muscles you are trying to work!
Don’t be afraid to go down in weight a little bit if it means you are going to get better form out of it. The target muscles will get much stronger in the long run anyway, as you will be hitting them much harder when the exercises are completed. A common exercise that almost always results in poor form are standing curls.
How often do you see people start to lean back as their arms begin to fatigue? An easy way to combat this is to place yourself against a wall and pin your elbows to the side. If you have to, find ways to insure good form and maximum muscle tension.
Not Mixing It Up With Your Workouts and Routines
Routine is comfortable. It’s safe. It’s what we know. But sticking to the same old workout plan long after its run out its use leads to the familiar sense of plateauing, boredom, and eventually, discouragement.
Working out is the organized process of challenging and confusing your muscles into adapting to become bigger and stronger. Don’t rob your muscles the wonderful opportunity to adapt to a new set of movements by being scared or simply uninterested enough to not learn about some new ways to kick ass in the gym.
Sacrificing one of the most enjoyable acts of the day… Rest.
We are a work-based society. We look up to those who work their asses off, and ascribe respect to them accordingly. Rest is for sissies, and sleep is for suckas.
Unfortunately, this type of thinking can delay recovery. Sacrificing rest and recovery in order to live up to the “hard work” mantra that most of us have blasting on repeat in our brains.
Additionally, we have been imbedded with an unrealistic set of expectations when it comes to weight loss and muscle building. Products like “Six Minute Abs” and Photo-shopped and glossy ads promising the body of your dreams in 8 weeks do little to give us realistic expectations about how long it will take to see results.
Keep in mind that usually the first thing to get tossed out the window when we are busy and/or stressed is sleep. But sleepy time is just what we need most, especially when trying to build muscle. It is prime time to muscle repair and regrowth.
While every person is different, getting 7-8 hours per sleep is a reasonable guideline for adequate rest.
Not getting your carbs in after your workout
The current dogma amongst the bro-science crowd is that you need to murder a protein shake immediately after your workout. While there is no doubt that taking in protein after your workout helps stimulate protein synthesis, you also need to be ingesting some carbohydrates within the first 30 or so minutes post-workout to refill your glycogen stores.
Muscle glycogen, the primary fuel that your muscles use for producing energy, becomes depleted as you workout. After your workout, your muscles become like sponges, ready to absorb some hot, messy and nutrient-rich goodness, and that is a prime moment to feed it a solid combination of protein and carbs.
Research has shown that to achieve the full replenishment of muscle glycogen stores takes a minimum of 20 hours, even when diet is up-to-par, so remember to continue to feed your muscles good carbs even long after that 30 minute window has passed.
Mistaking Pain for Soreness
I have been guilty of this in the past. The idea of being injured is so repulsive, the notion of not being 100% physically so utterly and completely undesirable to me, that I will push the pain to the back of my mind and work out anyways.
I would like to think I have gotten a little smarter about this stuff in recent years, but I can still feel the jabbing pain in my right shoulder from doing standing upright rows after blowing out my shoulder a couple weeks prior.
DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is one thing, but if you are feeling sharp, needle-point pain in your muscles or joints, definitely take a breather from that area of the body and take the opportunity to work some completely unrelated body parts.
Not having a goal or a plan
People that walk into the gym without an idea of what they are going to do, or what they are hoping to achieve by being there, are the ones who throw in the towel after a short session because they “don’t feel like it.”
Have a goal and a plan for what you want to achieve, and not only are you more likely to achieve something relatively awesome, but you will be much more efficient and focused when you go in for your workouts.
Avoiding Weak Body Parts
We all have exercises where we like to flex our powerhouse muscle groups. The problem comes when we focus so much on the what is really working and responding within our body and neglect what we consider to be our inferior or weaker areas.
For most guys, this is legs. After all, we all know the misery and 3-day soreness binge that follows after doing legs for the first time in months (or worse, years).
Severe muscle imbalances and an asymmetrical physique is one of the curious side effects of this conditioning, and while I won’t deny that we all train for sex appeal and to impress ourselves when we look in the mirror, we should also be lifting and training for functionality and aesthetic balance. Having balance within our muscles – as with everything else in life – is key to reducing the likelihood of injury while also improving function.