Published December 1, 2020
Working in gyms for years, I've seen 15 common mistakes quite often. Even if you're not a super serious gym-goer, knowing what not to do is very important. I hope you'll find these helpful.
Exercising on an empty stomach. Low blood sugar while working out means you run the risk of passing out. I can't tell you how many times I've run to get people quick sugar to keep them from dropping. Most recently, someone passed out cold — blue lips and all — while sitting on a weight machine. Please, eat something before going to the gym. A light snack should be sufficient.
Only doing cardio. Cardiovascular work is necessary, but for your body composition to change, you need to lift weights. Plus, there are numerous benefits of weightlifting.
Only doing weights. Your heart needs a workout, too. Add some interval cardio, 2-3 days a week for 15-20 minutes.
No warm-up. Your joints and muscles need to be prepped for a workout. Do some bodyweight movements, walk or lightly jog before starting your workout.
Not stretching after. Lifting weights tightens muscles, which over time can lead to joint issues. Stretching helps keep your joints healthy.
No post-workout recovery. It's important to refuel after your workout. Eating a protein and carbohydrate source helps your muscles rebuild after a lifting session.
Forget water. You need half your body weight in ounces of water each day. If you work out and sweat, then you'll likely need more than that. Leaving your water bottle at home definitely sets you up for being under the daily recommended intake.
Lack of variety. If you always do the same movements or rep schemes, your body will get used to this and stop changing. Don't stick to the same types of cardio. Change up reps, sets and rest periods. If you usually stick to weight machines, switch it to dumbbells.
Resting too long between sets. You may not care enough to pay attention to the lifting phases — strength, hypertrophy or endurance — but you still need to watch the clock. Unless you're lifting heavy weight and doing few reps, you shouldn't rest for more than 45 seconds between sets.
Skip muscle groups. It's important to lift opposing muscle groups. For instance, performing lots of bicep exercises and few tricep exercises will leave you unbalanced and potentially lead to injury.
Dropping your weights. This is my No. 1 pet peeve in the gym. I know Crossfitters would disagree, and of course, you should drop your weight to avoid injury. But if you can't control the weight when putting it down or back on the rack, then it's too heavy.
You don't sweat. While I have known a few people who barely sweat during a hard workout, it's rare. If you walk out of the gym without even glistening, you likely didn't work hard enough.
Wrong form. When lifting weights, the wrong form can lead to injury. In addition, it usually means your muscles won't get the full benefit of the movement. If you're unsure on form, Google the exercise or look around for a more experienced lifter to ask.
No plan. While having a written out, programmed routine is great, if you don't want to be that detailed, at least go into the gym knowing what you're doing that day. Otherwise, you'll spend most of your time wandering around, jumping on the next machine that's free. You may even end up frustrated and leave the gym altogether.
Incorrect breathing. Breathing at the right time is crucial when lifting weights. You want to exhale on the harder part of the movement (concentric phase), and inhale on the easier part of the movement (eccentric phase). It may take a few times in the gym to get this down, but keep at it!
Lainey Greer is a Ph.D. student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Her blog is https://greerlainey.wixsite.com/embodiment.
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