5 Most Common Mistakes In The Gym

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 - 9:39am

By Michele Silence, MA

If you work out in a gym, you want to make the most of your effort and time. By paying attention to a few basics, you can dramatically improve your results while keeping injuries at bay. Here are the five most common mistakes made in the gym and how to avoid them:

Mistake #1: No warm-up/cool-down

If you want to stay injury free, your body absolutely must warm up properly. Muscles don’t stretch or contract fully until warmed. Expecting them to do so without preparing them sets you up for tears and pulls.

  • Tip: Do something to gently increase the temperature of your muscles – walk a few minutes very easy on the treadmill or do a set of reps on the machines at a very low weight. Give your body a chance to go through some of the motions in a very gentle manner before adding the workload.

When you’re finished, make sure to stretch out each major muscle. If you aren’t sure how, look for a wall chart or ask a personal trainer for help. When you don’t stretch, your body loses flexibility. Good flexibility not only increases athletic performance but also plays an important role in helping you stay injury free.

Mistake #2: Poor posture

Poor form can negate your results and be downright dangerous. Pulled muscles, torn tendons, and back problems are just a few of the hazards that can result from performing exercises with less than perfect form

  • Tip: When using cardio equipment, stand tall. On treadmills, keep the incline and speed adjusted so you can walk without having to hold on to the machine. Avoid leaning back while hanging on with your hands. For stair steppers, keep your upper body lifted. Leaning forward and resting the upper body on the machine means the effort is too difficult. Lighten the load or slow down so that you can stand as you normally would walking up a flight of stairs. When using an elliptical trainer go for a full extension of the legs each time. And, on cycles sit upright.

When working with free weights, keep the spine in a straight line from neck to tailbone. Dropping the head forward can lead to neck strain. When standing, bend the knees and tuck under the pelvis, protecting the back and decreasing added strain.

Mistake #3: Not using a full range of motion

Whether walking on the treadmill or performing a set of bicep curls, you need to use a full range of motion. Muscle strength increases when exercises are done through a complete extension/flexion and joints stay more mobile.

  • Tip: On the treadmill, take large strides. In a curl, follow the movement completely to the very top of the lifted position and then all the way down to the fully extended position. This one tip alone can greatly enhance your results and keep your muscles working at their peak level. No matter how fast you go or how many reps you do, it won’t be as effective as fewer and easier exercises done with a complete range of motion.

Mistake #4: Working only a few muscle groups

How many times have you seen top heavy bodybuilders strutting around with hefty shoulders on skimpy little legs? Choosing to work only a few muscles not only gives the body an unbalanced appearance, but sets it up for problems later. When some muscles are worked and others ignored, muscle imbalance occurs. That means eventual injury from day to day activities.

Fitness rip: Make sure to work out all of your muscle groups to ensure the correct development of your entire body. If you aren't sure how to do so, look for an exercise chart most clubs post or spend at least one session with a personal trainer.

Mistake #5: Selecting an inappropriate amount of weight and/or speed

This is definitely a good example of when more is not better. An appropriate weight is not how much looks good on the dumbbell when you’re hoisting it over your head.

  • Tip: The correct weight and/or speed is that which you can do repetitively in a slow manner using good posture. The slower the movement, the more controlled it is and the less likely you’ll get hurt from it. And, your muscles will definitely be working instead of depending upon momentum.

Conclusion: observe the basic rules for a safe and rewarding workout

Keep these tips in mind during your next visit to the gym. Once you’ve integrated them into your routine, you’ll feel the difference, you’ll stay safe, and you’ll make your workout really work for you.