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5 Common Gym Mistakes That Could Keep You from Your Goals

Posted by Jill Derryberry on Jun 30, 2022 3:05:44 PM
Jill Derryberry
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As a trainer, I encourage people to work out in any way that will keep exercise in their life consistently.  Some exercise is better than no exercise and I’m not too much of a stickler about the exact process, as long as it is done safely and is a regular part of a person’s life.  However, you may have a clear goal when you are in the gym and are working toward that aim.  Whether it is to build muscle or lose weight or something else, you want to see progress.  There could be multiple ways to get to your goal, but there are some common mistakes that happen in the gym that could prevent you from moving forward and achieving your goal.   


1. Not Having a Plan 

I heard recently that going into the gym without a plan is like shopping at the grocery store without a list.  As I mentioned already, any exercise is beneficial.  However, if you want to reach a certain goal, it is essential to have a training plan.  A personal trainer will create a plan and program specifically for you, your fitness level, and your goal.  They will make sure you get the maximum efficiency out of your workout plan and that it will progress you toward your aim.  First together you will define your goal and then create a plan to achieve it.  The plan for gaining strength may be something like a full body strength routine 3 non-consecutive days a week.  Then the program will detail the exercises to be performed those days along with how many repetitions (reps) and sets of those exercises to do.   


You’ll never hit a target if you don’t aim at it. 


2. Bad Form 

Performing an exercise incorrectly could mean not reaping the benefits of that exercise, or worse, it could lead to injury.  The challenge is knowing if your form while performing an exercise is good or knowing if you are using a machine correctly.  When starting out, you may not know the proper form and then when you do know how the exercise should look when done correctly, it can be hard to see your own form.  (This is why there are mirrors in the gym!) This is another instance when having a trainer could help.  They will ensure you are executing the exercise properly.  A knowledgeable workout buddy can also help here.   


Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it. – William Penn 


3. Lack of Intensity 

There are days when I’m not feeling it and my workout isn’t that intense.  I don’t push myself as hard as I could go.  We are all going to have days when we don’t feel 100% and we do what we can based on how we feel that day.  However, if you are phoning in your workout every time, you probably won’t achieve your goal.   


The appropriate intensity level of your workout is based on your goal and your fitness level.  In general, your intensity should be at a moderate or vigorous level for maximum benefit.  To tell if you are at a moderate exercise intensity- check your breathing.  Moderate activity feels somewhat hard, and you are breathing faster but you are not out of breath.  You can carry on a conversation, but you can’t sing.  Moderate intensity means your heart rate is 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate.   Vigorous exercise intensity feels challenging – your breathing is deep and rapid, and you can’t say more than a few words without pausing for breath.  Vigorous intensity means your heart rate is 70% to about 85% of your maximum heart rate.  For weight loss, the more intense or longer your activity, the more calories you burn.  For strength training, using heavy enough weights to tire your muscles after each set is the necessary intensity to reap all the benefits of resistance training (along with good form).   


Push yourself in your workouts but keep in mind the balance of high intensity and overdoing it.  Overdoing it can increase your risk of soreness, injury, and overtraining.  When new or returning to exercise after some time off, start at a light intensity and gradually build up to a moderate or vigorous intensity. If you are not feeling any exertion and your heart rate is less than 50% of your maximum heart rate, it may be time to pick up the pace.  If your heart rate is over 85% of your maximum heart rate or you feel like you can’t catch your breath, dial back your intensity. 


If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. 


4. Doing The Same Workout for Too Long or Always Doing Something Different

If you aren’t progressing in your workout, you most likely won’t see any change.  There are many ways to progress your workout and it should be done when your body has adapted to your current training program.  For example, if you started walking on the treadmill for 20 minutes at 3mph for 3 days a week and after doing that for 4 weeks it is starting to feel easier, it is time to progress by either adding time to your workout or going faster.  Another example, if you have been using 5-pound dumbbells for bicep curls for the same number of reps for as long as you can remember, it is time to increase your weight or increase the number of reps you do.   


On the flip side, always changing up your workout isn’t necessarily a bad thing but if you are training for something specific, it may not get you there.  Sticking to your workout plan for 4-6 weeks will allow time for your body to adapt to it.  It should start to feel a little easier after a few weeks (because you are getting stronger!).  That’s when it is time to make changes to your plan to progress your training.   


“The difference between try and triumph is a little umph.” – Marvin Phillips 


5. Inadequate Rest in Between Workouts or Exercises

 Rest is an important part of any fitness plan.  Without adequate rest in between workouts your muscles don’t have the opportunity to repair from the training.  Strength training creates tiny tears in your muscles.  In the 24 – 48 hours after the workout, the muscle is repairing itself and that is how it gets stronger.  Without adequate rest time in between working that muscle, you won’t see progress in your strength, and you put yourself at risk for injury.  Many training plans will split the muscle groups into different workouts on different days so you can exercise more days a week and have shorter workouts while still giving muscle groups 24-48 hours of rest in between workouts.  For example, someone may work their back and biceps on Monday then do exercises for their chest and triceps on Tuesday, so the back and biceps get a break.  It is important to be mindful of this but also of rest in general.  If you are working out most days of the week (even with the muscle split workouts) it is beneficial to have at least one true full rest day each week to give your body a break, so you are rested and ready for your next workout.   


Sleep is another important factor in the rest between workouts.  To get the most of your workouts (as well as other health factors), strive for quality sleep for at least 7 hours a night. 


Another important rest time to consider is the time you rest in between exercises during a training session.  The appropriate time to rest in between exercises depends on your goal (a trainer can help you with this).  In general, resting too long lowers the intensity of your workout.  Not resting at all in between exercises may mean you won’t do as much as you could if you took 30 second to 1-minute breaks in between circuits (3-4 exercises done back-to-back) or individual exercises.  If you are looking to build pure strength the rest time will be longer so you can lift heavy weights each set. 


Learn to rest, not quit. 


Exercise helps to prevent some chronic diseases, boosts bone strength, improves brain health, improves your mood plus even more benefits.  Ensuring you aren’t making these common mistakes will help you reap all the benefits of exercise as well as meet any goal you have set.  So, make a plan, know how to perform the exercises correctly, workout at a moderate or vigorous intensity, progress your training plan and take adequate rest.  You’ll reach your goal and be stronger and healthier!   


Need help reaching your fitness goals?  Contact a LivRite trainer today for a free fitness assessment!