Working out regularly is one of the best things you can do for your fitness and health.
Regular training improves your cardiovascular health, strengthens your muscles and bones, lowers stress, aids sleep, increases memory among other things.
That said, as frustrating as it might be to hear, simply going to the gym and “pushing your body” hard isn’t enough.
To reap all the benefits of regular exercise, you must do it right, or you might be better off not exercising at all.
This is especially the case when you commit serious workout mistakes that could get you hurt and disappointed.
The truth is, everyone is guilty of these.
They’re mistakes that anyone can make, especially when taking up exercise for the first time.
I bet that you don’t want to spend more time in the gym getting mediocre results, or even worse, getting injured.
The last thing you’d want is to get hurt.
To help you do things right, here are the five workout mistakes you need to avoid like the plague.
1. Doing Cardio Before Lifting
Cardio is key, but it can be counter-productive when it’s done at the wrong time.
Well, it’s not always a mistake because what you do first hinges on your training goals.
But if lifting weights is the priority, pounding the treadmill belt for 45 minutes before you load up that barbell squat may compromise your results.
In fact, by the time you get under that bar, you’ll be exhausted.
This limits your performance and fitness growth.
It also contributes to bad form and increases your injury risk.
Save your strength by doing the heavy lifting first, then perform the cardio if you want to.
Don’t have the energy after an intense strength workout?
Then move it up to another day (or later in the evening).
2. Static Stretching Before a Workout
A regular stretching routine helps you avoid injury and optimize performance, but doing it before a workout can be counterproductive.
Instead of preventing injury and enhancing performance, holding your stretches for a long time may increase injury risks and limit your performance.
Static stretching (holding a stretch to the point of feeling tension) before a weight lifting session will sedate your nervous system down and make you sluggish, according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
You’re also more likely to tear or pull something when your muscles are not yet ready.
Start your strength workout with a proper warm-up of 10-minute dynamic movements to loosen up your joints and get your muscles ready for the heavy lifting.
Dynamic stretching helps you shift into workout mode by increasing your joints’ range of motion and firing up your muscles in preparation for the work ahead.
Ideal dynamic stretching moves include:
- leg lifts,
- walking lunges,
- arm circles,
- knee to chest
- straight leg kicks.
Save the static stretching after the workout.
3. Ignoring Weaknesses
Just because you are naturally good at push-ups doesn’t mean that you should ignore chin-ups or planks.
If you’re serious about boosting your overall fitness and become a well-rounded athlete, resist this temptation to simply focus on what you’re good at.
You should stop ignoring your weaknesses.
Staying stuck in your comfort zone will hinder you from reaching your full fitness potential.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Work on identifying what you’re bad at.
Then start doing the exercises you’ve been avoiding the last few months (or years).
I know this is the last thing you want to do when you hit the gym.
A lot of it comes down to mastering the technique.
The rest is just details.
Next, once you have a good idea, build a well-rounded training program with a focus on maintaining strengths and improving weaknesses.
4. Ignoring Recovery
Proper recovery is an often-overlooked part of a workout routine with risky consequences.
Ignoring proper recovery hinders your ability to train.
You also might be setting the stage for injury, burnout, and serious issues.
Downtime helps your muscle tissues rebuild and repair the micro-traumas caused by exercise stress.
This is key for increasing strength and reaching your fitness goals.
Messing up with that process will only limit your results.
Plan recovery time into your training schedule the same way you plan your workouts.
Schedule rest days—especially between hard workouts.
Also, plan a recovery week every three to five weeks, by drastically cutting on your training volume.
Listen to your body and pay attention to any overtraining early warning signs.
5. Unrealistic Expectations
So what are your fitness goals?
Are they realistic for you?
If your goal is to lose 30 pounds in a month, gain 10 pounds of muscles, and run a sub-3-hour marathon in less than three months, and you only have 40 minutes a day to train, then know you’re heading in the wrong direction.
Chasing unrealistic goals is the fastest way to compromise your workout resolve.
If you are expecting to make giant leaps giving your due diligence, then then you’re setting yourself for one thing: failure.
Fitness growth is a slow and long process.
It does not happen overnight.
Set small and realistic goals and write them down.
Monitor everything related to your goals, so when it comes time to gauge progress, you have clear measuring tools to gauge your progress or lack thereof.
Exercise within your fitness skill.
Forget about others.
Sure, the success stories you read online can motivate you, but your fitness journey is yours alone.
make the most out of it and stay within your fitness level.
6. Not having a Plan
Guess what’s the best way to waste your time at the gym?
Start your session without a set plan.
Have you ever headed to the gym wondering what you’ll be doing that day, then reached for whatever dumbbell, kettlebell, or machine available?
Here’s the truth.
The best way to waste your time at the gym is to start your session without a set plan.
We’ve all heard of the saying “failure to plan is planning for failure.”
This couldn’t be more relevant for getting the most out of your workout.
When you jump in blindly, you’ll severely limit your gains.
This is why it’s important to set your intentions beforehand.
When you have a good plan, you won’t accidentally skip muscle groups, and won’t wind up looking like a lost tourist in the gym.
Make sure to have a clear plan of action for an effective session before actually stepping into the gym.
As a general rule, perform a minimum of three 30 to 45-minute sessions in a week—with a maximum of six hours of training.
Write down your exercise plan before heading to the gym.
For example, you can write, “Today I’ll complete three sets of chest presses, pushups, pull-ups, clean presses, and planks.”
That might seem rudimental to you, but a mediocre plan is better than no plan.
7. Bad Form
Bad technique is another of the most common workout mistakes I see many make at the gym.
Your lifting technique can make or break your strength workout.
Not only can you injure yourself by ignoring form, but you waste your time and cut your effort short.
Is that something you want?
I don’t think so.
Mastering proper technique is the fastest way to achieve your goals.
It helps you get the most bangs out of your workout buck.
Make it a rule to practice every strength exercise with no weight in the mirror before you add resistance.
Once you have mastered form and are pretty sure you’re using up the right muscles for a movement, then you can add weight.
As a rule, whenever lifting weight, make sure you’re doing the following:
- Keep your shoulders down back
- Engage your core throughout
- Keep your back flat
- Listen to your body the entire time
- Rely on the targeted muscles, instead of momentum, to do the lifting
You can also look online for additional guidelines and form corrections.