When it comes to working out, everyone wants to build lean muscle, burn stubborn fat and get results as fast as possible.
Even with the best intentions, you can make critical mistakes that limit your results and increase your risk of injury. The reality is that the gym can be a dangerous place with heavy weights lying around, crowds of people and strenuous exercises.
To make sure you get the fitness results you want and prevent needless injuries, avoid these 10 mistakes:
1. DOING THE SAME WORKOUT
It’s tempting to stick with the same thing all the time — the same workout, the same order, the same weight. To achieve awesome results, you have to continually increase the stimulus on your body so you can build more muscle and burn more calories.
Break your training program into 4–6 week phases where you focus on different aspects: strength, speed, hypertrophy, power, etc. Then, within each phase, aim to increase your resistance and intensity from workout to workout to get continual results.
READ MORE > CROSS-TRAINING WORKOUTS EVERY RUNNER SHOULD TRY
2. ALWAYS DOING THE SAME INTENSITY
The secret to great fitness is simple: stress your body to recover and grow — then, do it again and again without pushing yourself too hard.
If you always use the same intensity — the same weight, the same number of sets, the same number of reps, etc. — you won’t improve. You have to incrementally increase your intensity from workout to workout to stimulate a change within your muscles.
The easiest way to do this is to use a little more weight each time you train. For example, add 5 pounds to your deadlift every time you do it and you’ll slowly increase your strength. You can also add another set or two and increase the volume you put on your body.
3. ALWAYS TRAINING TO FAILURE
It’s a misconception that you have to push your muscles to exhaustion for them to grow. The reality is, your muscles grow when you stimulate them, not when you crush them.
When you push to muscular failure and can’t do anymore reps, you put a lot of stress on your muscles and nervous system, which makes it harder for your body to recover and grow. You also risk training injuries. While that’s OK periodically, you shouldn’t do that every time you go to the gym.
Instead, your goal should be to gradually increase the stress you put on your body without pushing to failure. Add a little more weight with each workout so your muscles slowly adapt. If you feel like you can’t do all the reps, stop short before failure.
4. OVERARCHING YOUR LOWER BACK
Nobody wants to blow out their back while lifting heavy weights. It’s good form to slightly round the spine during exercises like squats and deadlifts. Yet the pendulum can swing to the other extreme: If you arch your lower back too much, you put tremendous stress on the joints.
It’s not just with squats and deadlifts. Even while pushing weights overhead, people often overextend their lumbar spine to compensate for a lack of shoulder mobility. Instead, tighten your core and your glutes to stabilize your lower back and keep yourself in a safe position.
5. NOT USING A FULL RANGE OF MOTION
It’s not just “cheating;” it’s also tough on your joints. For example, with a back squat, if you don’t go down to parallel, you keep a lot stress on your knees instead of moving it to the stronger muscles at your hips and glutes.
Make sure to use the correct technique and range of motion for every exercise.You’ll get the maximum muscle-building benefits and strengthen your joints the correct way.
6. USING A “SUICIDE” GRIP
The bench press is one of the best exercises for your muscles, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. One mistake, and you could drop a dangerous amount of weight onto your ribs, neck or (worse) face. That’s why it’s critical to have a spotter while lifting challenging weights.
It’s also important to grip the bar correctly. Holding the barbell in a way that your thumb is behind the barbell — called a “suicide grip” — increases the risk of the barbell slipping from your hands.
7. REMOVING BARBELLS DANGEROUSLY
Maybe you’ve seen this before: A guy using the incline bench press removes all the weight from one side of the barbell. The bar starts leaning to the other side and is about to flip over when, thankfully, all the plates fall from the other side and crash on the ground. Don’t let this be you.
When you take the plates off your barbell, always leave a 45-pound plate on one side to act as a counterbalance.
Speaking of which…
8. NOT USING WEIGHT COLLARS
It’s hard to do heavy squats and worry about your plates sliding around at the same time. That’s why you should always use weight collars and clips.
No matter how perfect your technique, the barbell will move and the plates will shift. If a weight plate suddenly falls off, the bar could flip up (due to the lack of balance) and hurt you. Using weight collars is a simple move to avoid a serious injury.
9. NOT USING THE SAFETY BAR WHEN SQUATTING
In power racks, there’s a safety bar you can set to catch the barbell if it’s too heavy to squat. Always use this. You never know when you’ll need to dump the bar.
Set it to a position that’s just slightly lower than the bottom of your squat. (You don’t want to accidentally tap it while squatting — it throws off your concentration and your exercise.)
10. EXERCISING IN BUSY AREAS
Avoid exercising in areas designed for foot-traffic. Not only could you hit someone, but also someone might hit you if they’re not paying attention.
Always work out in the areas designated for exercise. If you’re doing a circuit of exercises, try to keep your equipment within the same space so you won’t risk bystanders interrupting your flow, accidentally taking your weights or bumping into you.
Pro tip: If you’re doing an exercise that covers a lot of ground, leave your towel and water bottle on the ground as a placeholder.)
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT WORKOUT