When you spend as much time in a gym as I do, you get to see some pretty amazing things. People have lots of different approaches to exercise that seem to differ from the methods I was taught. Many times I’ve literally had to stop someone doing an exercise before they break or tear something. Often it helps but, sometimes, they carry on making the same mistakes.
Take the guy in my gym who does every exercise in short jerky movements, like somebody has plugged him in to the nearest mains socket. I’ve never seen him do one thing correctly and, despite offering help, he prefers to do it his way.
Or the guy who does everything at 100 miles an hour with no resistance while the sweat literally pours off him. You’d be forgiven for thinking he has a tap. And telling him to slow down only seems to make him go faster.
I could easily fill this page with myriad stories like these but I thought it would be useful to pick out five of the most common mistakes people make, in the hope that you don’t end up making them too.
1. Doing the same thing time after time
Repeating the same things time and time again can increase your risk of injury and muscle imbalance – and it’s just plain boring. To get fitter and stronger, exercise needs to be a challenge. Your body adapts very quickly to new things, so you need to change what you do regularly in order to improve.
2. Training through the pain
Pain is your body’s way of telling you there’s a problem. However, I often see people trying to carry on regardless in the hope it will just go away. It’s the fastest way to develop a serious or persistent injury that can plague you for years. If you’re walking and you feel a blister developing, do you carry on until you can’t walk?
3. Ignoring proper technique
This should probably be at number one because I see this every day. Using incorrect technique will reduce the effectiveness of the exercise and put you at a greater risk of injury. If you can’t maintain proper form, your weights are too heavy. Take the time to learn proper technique and you’ll have a much more productive workout.
4. Playing to your strengths
I see a lot of guys (and girls) who spend their time at the gym working on the muscles that look good in the mirror. By ignoring the muscles around the other side of your body, you wind up with bad posture and are more prone to injury. Try to spend the same amount of time on every part of your body. If you don’t like working your legs for instance, do them first. You’re more likely to skip them when you’re tired and ready to go home.
5. Don’t be an addict
I come across plenty of gym addicts who think they’re going to be fitter and faster by doing two or even three classes every day. Ask any instructor who has been doing just that for a few years and they will tell you how untrue that is. Not only that, most people don’t eat enough calories to sustain that level of exercise. Rest is an often overlooked but vital part of fitness. Your body gets stronger after exercise, not during it, so you need to allow yourself time to recover.
Paul is a personal trainer, writer and broadcaster. He owns the Mumford Phys. Ed. training company in Essex. www.mumfordphysed.com
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Fitness Professionals Ltd or Virtual Magazine. Consult a qualified health or fitness professional before making changes to your diet or exercise.