10 of the Biggest Mistakes Trainers See in the Gym from 10 of the Biggest Mistakes Trainers See in the Gym

10 of the Biggest Mistakes Trainers See in the Gym

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10 of the Biggest Mistakes Trainers See in the Gym

From all of the various cardio machines to dumbbells and resistance equipment, there are many different ways to make mistakes at the gym. The good news, though: many can be easily avoided and corrected with some tips and guidance from certified fitness professionals. We chatted with a handful of personal trainers and coaches to round up a list of some of the most common mistakes made in the gym. Here are the exercise errors they said they see all too often.

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Starting without an assessment.

“There are simple assessments that every person who wants to begin an exercise should do,” says Maurice D. Williams, a NASM and NSCA certified trainer and the owner of Move Well Fitness. “The advantage of the assessment is that it gives you an overall picture of you current fitness level. Assessments such as the NASM Overhead Squat Assessment or Gray Cook’s Movement Screen will tell you what muscles need attention for stretching and getting stronger, which can help prevent injury.” For gym members, getting a basic fitness assessment is usually easy. Most gyms with personal trainers on staff will offer a free assessment when you sign up for a new membership.

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Skipping the warm-up.

Williams said that he frequently sees people begin their workouts without preparing their body for movement. “Performing a warm up can ensure that the body will be ready to exercise and help prevent injury,” he said. Williams suggests beginning every workout with some foam rolling, mobility work and dynamic stretches that mimic the exercises and movements you’ll be focusing on in your workout routine that day. Additionally, you should also take five to 10 minutes to cool down and lower your heart rate at the end of each workout.

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Performing exercises incorrectly.

“As a result of lack of instruction and watching other people exercise, many people today simply do exercises incorrectly,” Williams explained. “Exercises such as push-ups, squats, planks, lat pull downs and lunges—to name a few—have been performed incorrectly for such a long time that many view incorrect form as being correct.” For beginner exercisers, Williams recommends working with a qualified fitness professional in order to learn proper form and technique. 

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Forgetting to fuel properly.

OK, so perhaps this mistake doesn’t necessarily happen “in” the gym, but Williams said it’s definitely a common error. “We are bombarded with a lot of false information about what we should or should not eat,” Williams said. But when it comes down to it, he explained that our bodies are like cars, and in the same way that cars need fuel function properly, so do our bodies. “While some can get away without eating before exercising, most cannot. Therefore, I recommend you eat at least one to one-and-a-half hours before you work out. Food provides your body with the energy it will need to function.”

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No program progression.

“This is probably one of the biggest mistakes I see that prevents goal development,” Williams said. “Oftentimes, people do the same exercises each time they workout, but in order to see results the exercises must go through some type of change. For example, if your goal is to get strong, then you must continually apply change to your variables—sets, reps and weight—to avoid a plateau and injury, but allow for resistance development.” Todd Nief, owner and director of training at South Loop Strength & Conditioning, says he sees this mistake all of the time, too. “The vast majority of people never follow a program that progresses them from where they are to where they want to be,” he said. “Many folks have a program and do the same thing every time—three sets of 10 reps on the bench, three sets of 10 on the leg press, do some sit-ups, run on the treadmill and then go home. Or, they have fitness ADD and do yoga and spin and boot camp.” To avoid this, Nief said, you’ll need to balance a variety of competing demands. “In basic terms, the goal is to make the routine slightly more challenging every week,” he explained. “Either by adding more weight, doing more reps or reducing rest times. This should be done in small increments so that progression can be made, because if the jumps are too big, then progress can stall here as well.”

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Performing exercises too fast.

“While some exercise programs are designed to be done fast, like power workouts for example, not everyone should be doing them,” Williams explained. “Too many people perform their exercises faster than their body is prepared for. Exercises such as crunches, push-ups and overhead should presses should not be performed fast unless your body has been properly progressed to handle that stress. Most people exercising are not prepared for fast exercises and end up being injured.” Make sure to perform your strength training exercises at a pace that allows for full range of motion and that feels comfortable but slightly challenging. 

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'Cheating' to finish reps.

“People ‘cheat’ for several reasons,” says James Mosley, Jr., a small group fitness trainer and sports nutrition consultant. “Usually, either the weight is too heavy or they’re in a hurry to finish the workout.” He said. You should be working with weights that allow you to move through a full range of motion. “This will result in better stimulation of the muscle,” he added.

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Poor posture.

Angela R. Horjus, fitness center director and wellness specialist at Cascade Hills Country Club says she frequently sees poor posture in the gym, which is why it’s one of the most important things she focuses on with clients. “The first core lesson I teach my clients is how to hold their frame so the muscles we work can memorize a properly aligned kinetic chain,” she said. “We begin by facing the mirror and cue from the floor up—knees and toes aligned; keep a soft bend in your knees; a slight pelvic tilt, as if your pelvis is a fishbowl and you're leveling the water; draw your abs in and up; open your chest as you draw your shoulders back and down away from your ears; and finally, slightly retract your chin so your neck is in alignment with your spine.”

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Holding onto the treadmill.

Horjus said she also sees many gym members walking on the treadmill with a large incline while hanging on to the top of the machine, which is an extremely ineffective way to work out. Instead of holding onto the machine, she suggests creating stability with your body by engaging your core and leaning slightly into the “hill.” People who hang on to the top of the treadmill on a super high incline just to go through the motions are most likely causing unnecessary torque to their spine,” Horjus said. “The moving tread literally moves their legs. The only effort on their part is to put one foot in front of the other so they don't fall off.” Instead, try reducing the incline so that you can safely walk on an uphill grade without having to hold on.

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Not focusing on the workout.

“We have separation between church and state but no separation between work and workout,” said Shane McLean, an ACE certified personal trainer and creator of Balance Guy Training. “Gym-goers are easily distracted by their smartphones, spending text messages, checking Facebook and taking conference calls. “Lifting weights and getting yourself or keeping yourself in shape is not serious business, but does require some of your attention. Mindlessly going through your workout will set you up for lack of results and injury.” He suggests scheduling your workouts and treating them like important appointments that cannot be interrupted by your phone. “Leave your phone and work at the office for just one hour a day. It will make a huge difference to your stress level and your waistline.”

10 of the Biggest Mistakes Trainers See in the Gym