You are busy, yet you have important training goals and you invest your valuable time into hitting the gym and striving to reach these goals. However, just because you go to the gym, does not mean you are getting the most you could out of your time there. Whenever I’m in a gym, I often see people failing to achieve the results they want not because they don’t show up and not because they don’t work hard, but simply because they make these costly training mistakes.
Note: please don’t think I’m trying to poke fun at you or anyone who makes these mistakes. I have made more training mistakes than almost anyone. Anyone who gets off the couch and gives up their valuable time to hit the gym has my respect. As a trainer I have devoted my career to helping people get better and faster results. It kills me to see people show up, work hard and yet fail to reach their goals simply because they are making these mistakes.
1. Following mainstream fitness trends
I like the fitness industry for what it can be and for the great people in it who strive daily to make it a better place. However, much of mainstream fitness is simply creative ways to get someone tired. Just because you are getting smoked each session, does not mean that you are getting better. Just because sets of 100 reps with the power snatch with leave you gasping for breath does not mean that is the best use of that exercise. And no, you don’t need a totally new program/exercise each time – muscles do not need to be confused. You don’t need “new and different” you need “tried and proven”. You don’t need to get smoked, you need to get better.
2. Inferior exercise selection
When I’m at the gym, I see people working really hard on really easy exercises. Most guys seem to spend their whole workout doing exercises that have them sitting in front of the mirror. Ladies seem to gravitate towards cardio machines and doing endless sets of crunches on the ab mats. Then you have people trying to be functional and hit their core by trying to do “strength training” while standing on an unstable surface device. By simply picking great exercises, you can get way more results for the time you put into the gym!
Related: How to Pick the Best Exercises For Your Goals Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3
3. Using the wrong training loads
Some folks come to the gym and effortless whip through their sets and reps. They could do more but they under-load because they are afraid of getting too big, they don’t want to get hurt or they have never had a good coach or training partner push them as they have no idea what they are capable of. Others let ego get the better of them and lift beyond what they can safely lift. Remember you want to lift big weight because you have earned the right to lift them. Always remember to come to the gym to build strength, not to demonstrate it.
4. Cutting range of motion
Sure there are times when partial range training can help and when restricting excessive range of motion is better on your joints. However, most of the time cutting your range of motion will make your training easier and less effective. Remember work = force x distance. If you are not careful, you will do little changes to your range of motion without realizing it. Examples include:
- Cutting your squats high
- Lifting your chin up when doing chin-ups to make you think you pulled yourself all the way up
- Not fully extending your arms when doing pull-ups
- Not fully retracting your shoulder blades when doing rows
- Dropping your head for push-ups to make you think you go all the way down
- Lifting your bum off the bench when bench pressing
- Not fully locking out your deadlifts
5. No plan
Every time I’m at the gym and I overhear someone say to their friend, “hey, what do you want to do today?” I instantly translate this into, “We are going to waste our time for an hour.” If you are serious about getting great results, you need a plan to get there. Never come to the gym without a plan. Sure there are times when you come to the gym, feel like garbage and need to modify your plan – that’s life. However, before your next session, sit down and write out what you are going to do or hire a coach write a program for you.
6. No training log
Just doing great exercises will not get you to your goals. Getting great at great exercises is what you need. One of the most important things you can bring to the gym is a training log. After each set, write down what you did. When you are setting your goals for your current training session, look back to what you did last time to see how you can beat your previous performance.
7. Extreme warm-ups
Some people skip warm-up and this is not a good idea. A proper pre-training prep can help you move and train better. However no one gains muscle, burns fat or improves long-term performance by warming-up. Don’t get carried away here.
Related: The Best Way to Warm Up
8. Cardio-only for fat loss
Go to any gym and where do you find those struggling to lose fat? On the cardio machines. Where are the lean folks? Lifting weights. Success leaves clues. Sure, you can do some cardio, but do the right kind and unless you are training with weights 4 days a week, don’t just come and spend your whole session doing cardio.
9. Hands on spotting
Hence the name, spotting is done with your eyes, not your hands. Have your hands ready, but do not touch the bar unless the lifter truly needs help. Even if you are not lifting the weight, if you are hands are on the bar, you are stabilizing the weight and making thing easier for the lifter. Don’t be the guy at the gym yelling “It’s all you bro!” while you help the lifter through each rep. Check out this video for more info...
You can’t multi-task. Texting, checking emails, watching TV, chatting with friends, trying to pick up a date and all the other things people do at gyms to distract people from hard training should be done before or after the training session. Also, unless your job or family responsibilities truly demands that you be accessible during your training session (e.g. your wife is pregnant and about to go into labor), give yourself a well-needed phone break. When you come to the gym to train, focus 100% on training. Then get out and focus on life.
If you are making some of these mistakes, don’t worry. I’ve made more training mistakes than most people. Now you know and now you can have more productive sessions. Or, maybe you are a training superstar who does not make any of these mistakes. Good on you! However, I bet you know someone who could benefit from this. If so, please share this with them.
How about you? What mistakes do you see when you are at your gym? I welcome you to share the mistakes you have seen at your gym in the comments section below or on my Facebook Page.