When was the last time you checked your form at the gym? Maybe not since you got that cool new movement down pat and mastered the workout. Even the most seasoned gym regulars who I know make mistakes from time to time. These mistakes can cause you a big pain in the ass, literally. We’re always being told what we should do at the gym by trainers, but how many of them make an example of what shouldn’t be done? “Lift this, throw that, curl this, lower, harder, speed it up!” — yikes! I’m going to go over some things that I think are very important for you to know next time you head to the gym, and you might be a little surprised at what you find out. So grab your sneaks, throw that chin up and get ready to get proper!
*Mistake 1~ Skipping The Warm-up
Lifting weights with tight muscles isn’t very smart. Before we pick up even the lightest weight, it’s recommended that you get your blood flowing, sharpen your mental alertness, increase your metabolic rate, and increase soft tissue extensibility by getting those muscles nice and warm. This greatly reduces the risk of injury by a long haul. Warm-ups don’t need to last long — around 10 minutes on a cardio machine at a moderate level. If you’re doing legs, this should be a good enough warm-up. When doing upper body (back, chest, arms or shoulders) always start off with light wights, and keep your reps high, to get to ensure your muscles are prepared for your the hard work load ahead.
* Mistake 2~ Not Stretching
Warming up and stretching are two of the most overlooked aspects of the fitness game. Stretching keeps our bodies young, limber, loose and lubricated. Especially in cold climates or in early mornings, stretching first thing can be the best thing you can do to get through your demanding day. By stretching each day, we maintain the flexibility that’s compromised with age and a sedentary lifestyle, while keeping our muscles long and reducing our risk of injuries, predominately pulls and strains. Without stretching, the natural length of a muscle is changed, leading to muscles imbalances and weakness. Done correctly, you should feel mild discomfort in one or more muscle groups, not pain. Three important things to follow when stretching… Stretch only until you feel a gentle tension. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds. As you hold each stretch, breath deeply, stretching a little farther with each exhalation.
*Mistake 3~ Holding Your Breath (The Valsalva Maneuver)
Everyone should know that we can’t get too far without oxygen. Oxygen is the necessary catalyst for sustaining just about every body function when an activity is prolonged for more than 30 seconds. Holding your breath isn’t going to make you do any activity longer. It can be dangerous, especially for those who have high blood pressure. When we workout, our heart rate rises and so does our blood pressure. Holding your breath for any unnatural length of time is very unsafe. The chances of passing out or becoming dizzy increases when you do this. Try not to grip the weights too tight either. You’d be surprised how many people don’t even realize they’re doing both of these almost every time they workout. Next time you lift weights or do any cardio, do yourself a favor and focus on your breathing. It’s good to get yourself into the habit of checking your breathing pattern and heart rate about every five minutes.
* Mistake 4~ Compromising Form When Lifting Heavy Weights
Something that makes me cringe every time is when I see someone working out with a heavier weight than they know they can handle. When doing anything upper body you want to make sure you keep your core tight, not compensating by throwing your back into it. You should be concentrating on the muscle group you’re working on solely, isolating them, making sure they’re the only place you feel the burn. If lifting heavy is your thing, you should be doing 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps, 10 maximum with perfect form. Jerking, bouncing or swinging are not part of the workout. You’re not going to impress anybody by looking sloppy, lifting far more weight than we know you should be, and pulling a muscle right in front of us.
* Mistake 5~ Trying To Build Muscle & Lifting Too Light
If toning up without bulking up is your goal, you’ll definitely want to pay close attention to this. When I first started working out I was so scared to lift heavy weights, because I didn’t want to look like a man. I’d stay far away from anything over 15 pounds and I always kept my reps too high. At first you’re going to need to play with the weights a little bit to figure out just how strong you really are. Here’s the way toning up is done the right way. Grab a weight, if you can do more than 15 reps it’s too light. If you can only do 8-9 reps (with good form each time) the weight is too heavy. Find a weight where you can only lift it 12-15 times MAXIMUM, do 3 sets, while maintaining perfect form each time. Numbers 12, 13, 14, or 15, however high you decide to go, should be so hard to do that you can’t possible do another one without compromising form and blowing out your muscle (hypothetically speaking). As you get stronger and you’re able to do more than 15 reps with no problem, then it’s time to bump it up another notch!
* Mistake 6~ Arching Your Back When Squatting
Squats are one of the best workouts to get your lower half firm and tight. Squats work just about every aspect of your legs, from your calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, even your core. You can tone some serious muscle doing this workout, and not only that, leg days burn serious calories. Bump up that calorie expenditure by incorporating some explosive moves like squat jumps, tuck jumps and lunge jumps. When starting to squat down, act as though you’re going to sit on a chair, butt sticking out, chin high, face forward, making sure you don’t descend too far down. Your best bet is to put a flat bench or chair underneath you to ensure proper form and guide you to let you know when to come back up. If holding weights in your hands, bring them just below your knee, then come back up. If using an assisted weight machine or weighted bar on your shoulders, come down as far and as comfortable as you can without compromising form or putting too much weight on your knees and lower back.
* Mistake 7~ Stopping Too Short
In order to get the full benefits of working out, we’re going to have to work through a full range of motion. Don’t confuse this with hyper-extension, which is when you do more than the full range of motion (example; coming up too much when doing a lower back extension, making your back arch when it should be straight). A perfect example is when doing bicep curls. A lot of people don’t extend their arms all the way down, and by doing so, you’re not engaging all the bicep has to offer. Each exercise should be done in a slow, controlled movement through the complete range of motion. When done correctly, the full range of motion should be stretching your opposing muscle (in this example the triceps), while contracting and strengthening the muscle that you’re working (the bicep).
*Mistake 8~ Putting Strain On Your Neck When Doing Crunches
We’ve all done it. Crunches can be a tricky thing to master for first timers. Pulling up on your neck, instead of pulling up by engaging your abs is a common mistake we make. A couple tricks you can try are putting your arms across your chest, or taking your index and middle finger and placing them behind your ears, doing crunches that way. This way your not allowing yourself too much arm strength to pull your upper body up with. When doing crunches always keep your chin high, not tucking it into your chest, which is another mistake, and focus on a spot on the ceiling. Contract on the way up, keeping the core tight, and exhale, to ensure your getting the most bang for your buck.
Are you guilty of a few of these? I know I was when I first started. Let me know if you have any questions or comments by replying below 🙂