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Top 10 Gym Mistakes: Are You Sabotaging Your Workouts?

If you want to see real results, you probably shouldn't be making any of these mistakes at the gym. Find out what they are and how you can fix them here:

Each time we resolve to shave off some weight and gain some strength, we vow to make use of our gym memberships and work out more regularly. But each time, for one reason or another, the initial determination peters off and before you know it, you haven’t exercised in a couple of months.

This happens for a few reasons. Maybe gymming is just not your cup of tea (solution here). Or maybe you have too little time (solution here). However, one of the biggest reasons people quit working out is because they don’t see the results.

Well, we’re here to kick not-seeing-results in the a**. Here are some of the top mistakes you probably make at the gym that might be sabotaging your workouts:

1. Only doing cardio

Source: asimplehabit.com

Source: asimplehabit.com

We get it. Cardio is simple. You just need to slip on your sports shoes and get on with it, whether “it” means the bike, the treadmill (or should we call it the dreadmill), or the elliptical. There’s close to zero learning curve and you could even read a book while you’re breaking a sweat! The thing about cardio is that while it’s great for burning calories and building stamina, it’s not a building a lot of muscles. And muscle is leaner than fat, so by doing weight training, you’re also toning your body.

What to do instead

If you combine cardio with weight training, then you have a nice little exercise routine that helps you to both build muscle mass (which boosts your metabolism when you’re not working out) and lose fat [1]. Doing weight training before cardio also enhances fat burning [2].

2. Exerting too little effort

Even if you’re a regular resident at the gym, appearing 7 times a week, it’s not going to get you anywhere if you don’t put enough effort into your workouts. “But I do work hard!”, you mutter. “I’m doing lots of vigorous high intensity exercises, and I sweat a lot!” Unfortunately, a study [3] published earlier this year disagrees with you. According to the researchers, the subjects in the study often overestimated how hard they exercise. When asked to walk at a moderate or vigorous pace, few subjects maintained the heart rate required to classify the exercise as moderate or vigorous. In other words, we always think we’re working out harder than we actually are.

What to do instead

Tracking your heart rate is the easiest way to tell if your workout intensity is doing anything good for you.

According to the CDC, for moderate exercises, you should try to get to about 50-70% of your maximum heart rate; while for vigorous-intensity exercises, you should aim for 70-85% of your max heart rate. Here’s an easy calculator to use.

Most gym equipment come with heart rate monitors, but you could also get one for your wrist. Remember to also listen to your body, however, and don’t keep going if your body says absolutely not.

3. Doing stretches before your workout

Several studies have now shown that static stretching before exercising could be counterproductive to your workout. It doesn’t help to prevent injuries and could actually affect your strength and speed [4]. A review of 104 studies on people who only did stretching exercises during their warm-up showed that it reduced muscle strength by 5.5% [5]. Another study showed that men who did stretches before lifting weights lifted 8.3% less weight than those who didn’t stretch [6].

What to do instead

Experts believe that instead of stretching, warming up dynamically could do much more for your workout. Try moving the muscles that you’ll need in your workout. Do some jumping jacks, squats, skip rope or whatever that’ll get your heart rate gradually going up and loosen your muscles so you don’t get injured. If you’re out of ideas, try this moderately tough warm-up.

4. Leaning on equipment at the gym

Source: fabuloussavings.com

Source: fabuloussavings.com

I admit it. I do this sometimes. Especially when I’m wheezing and about this close to dying on the treadmill. However, it doesn’t really make you feel all that much better, so all you’re doing is decreasing the intensity of your workout and burning less calories. Is that what you really want after all the effort and time you’ve put in?

What to do instead

Stop slouching over gym equipment. Instead, if you really can’t go on anymore, think about lowering the speed / resistance to give yourself a breather, then turn it up again.

5. Doing the same routine all the time

You’ve been going to the gym at least 4 times a week, hitting the treadmill, doing your rounds on the weight machines, and ending with a breather in the steam room. You should give yourself a pat on the back for keeping it up! However, you’ve probably also realised that you’re not seeing significant results anymore, not since the first couple of months of “HEY I CAN LIFT THIS” or “HEY I LOST LIKE xKG” high. This is what fitness gurus call “the dreaded plateau“, and it happens because your body adjusts to your exercise regimen and stops needing to work as hard.

What to do instead

Switch up your routine. If you’re always running on the treadmill, why not try cycling instead or some HIIT workouts? Instead of lifting weights, how about some power yoga? Mixing up your workouts will keep your body working to adapt to the different exercises and best of all, you won’t get bored!

6. Speeding through your weight training 

Source: fitsugar.com

Source: fitsugar.com

Doing strength exercises fast creates a momentum which does the most of the work for you. Because you lift fast, you’re probably reducing the efficacy of the workout. Overly fast resistance training could also stress out your muscles and joints too much.

What to do instead

Exercise physiologists believe that to get stronger, increase your muscle mass and lower your risk of injury, you should slow it down [7]. Also make sure you maintain the correct form to get the most out of your training.

7. Not adjusting the weight machines

Weight machines are built to be used by different people of different body sizes. It might be more convenient to just sit down on the machine and do your workout, but the settings might not be adjusted to suit your body and could reduce your workout efficiency and cause injury in bad cases.

What to do instead

Take 15 seconds to check out the equipment you’re using, and adjust it till you’re comfortable and in the right form.

8. Ignoring some muscles while weight training

Source: ign.com

Source: ign.com

Many people focus on certain muscle groups over others. Some people want to have a six pack, while others want to have macho arms, and forget to work on other muscle groups in their bodies. The result? See pic above.

What to do instead

To achieve a strong, balanced body, you need to work all your muscles. Find a strength training routine that focuses on all major muscle groups.

9. Not cooling down

It’s very tempting to finish your grueling workout and just jump in the oh-so-satisfying shower, but that could also be your highway to muscle soreness. When you’re working out, the blood vessels in your legs expand, so more blood flows through them. When you stop moving abruptly, the blood pools in your lower body and slows its return back to your heart, which can make you dizzy and lightheaded. Doing some light cooling down exercises will ensure enough time for your body to recover [8].

What to do instead

Your cool down should last any time between 5-15 minutes and should target some of the muscle groups you’ve used. Stretching is good, or walking, and remember to breathe. Need ideas? Try this awesome 5-minute cool-down stretch routine by Fitness Blender.

10. Forgetting to hydrate 

Source: perezhilton.com

Source: perezhilton.com

This rule applies before, during, and after your workout. I’ve always wondered how people who never brought their water bottles to the gym make it through their workouts. Usually I would be parched 15 minutes into my run and would need a quick sip of water. And this is because your body loses fluids through your breath and sweat when you’re exercising. Those who don’t hydrate before and during their workout will feel dizzy and lethargic.

What to do instead

Water helps your muscles function better and your mind to stay alert during your workout. The next time, drink some water a couple of hours prior to exercising, and keep a bottle nearby to sip on it whenever you need to during your workout [9]. Be careful not to overdo it though, as guzzling down too much at a time could lead to water intoxication. It’s always best to sip little by little instead of taking big gulps.

Bonus

11. Grunting exaggeratedly

Source: mountrantmore.com

Source: mountrantmore.com

Many of us like to grunt while working out, especially while doing weights. That’s perfectly fine. But OVERgrunting on purpose just to show off is not (when you’re lifting very little weight to begin with). Sure, it makes you feel like The Hulk lifting a bus off 50 innocent schoolchildren and their sexy mothers, but think about the rest of the people sharing the same space as you.

What to do instead: Be considerate. Grunt when needed to give you that boost of energy, not to show off.

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What other mistakes do you know of that people commit at the gym? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

 

Written by Jolene Foo
A writer with a penchant for alliteration, Jolene is also a seaweed and green tea junkie in a love/hate relationship with working out. She likes reading everything, from cereal boxes to tombstone inscriptions, and trying to find meaning behind the words.

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