Getting the results that you’re hoping for from those sweaty gym sesh’s and weight workouts actually comes down to a lot more than just repping it out.
If you’re not working out right, then it all could be a big, fat waste of time.
Because working out wrong means that you may not be:
- burning as many calories
- building as much muscle
- actually getting stronger
- neglecting key muscles
And you might actually run the risk of hurting yourself, which poses a whole other set of problems (which we’ll go into as we go).
This means that it’s important to work out in an informed way, and not fall into common traps.
That’s why we’ve outlined 6 common ways you’re probably working out wrong – boss these and you can hit the gym (or the tarmac) prepared and reap the rewards!
1. Skipping the stretches
I know what you’re thinking. Stretches? Really? But in all seriousness, stretching is an often-overlooked element when it comes to working out.
Often this is because we dismiss it as not being important, that we don’t have time for it, or that we’re just so damn keen to get into whatever exercise we’re planning on doing – because that’s how you get the results, right?
Although this is partially true, stretching is an integral part of working out.
Without stretching, your muscles and joints can begin to tighten after use, decreasing your flexibility and making it harder to perform certain exercises or to exercise regularly – both which are key to long term fitness and maximising your results.
Stretching also helps to prevent injuries and increase blood supply to your muscles to reduce muscle soreness so you can recover quicker and, ultimately, work out more!
Pro tip: Stretching is also proven to help your mental health too. Stretching can calm the mind and provide a much needed mental break after an intense workout. Yoga is a form of stretching whilst toning, so stretching doesn’t have to boring either – work those muscles as you get the definition you’ve always dreamed of.
2. Form and technique
Another huge mistake you could be making is lifting weights or performing other exercises without the proper form and technique. It can be easy to get caught up in the amount you can bench or how low you can get in your Bulgarian split-lunge, but pushing your body to perform with the wrong form can cause you to hurt yourself as well as your performance.
Having the correct form allows you get the best out of your workout, since you can build up your strength in a more controlled and effective way.
Preventing injury is the key here, and if you go too hard, too fast without knowing what you’re doing, an injury can put you out of the gym for weeks, if not months. Specifically lifting heavy weights with poor form can lead to muscle tears and joint problems.
Below you can check out some of our favourite workout diagrams, showing you exactly how to perfect your form for some common moves.
Biking and running
The same goes for running and cycling technique. If your technique for either of these is wrong it can lead to long term knee damage.
Running too flat-footed can cause your joints to jar, whilst locking your elbows while cycling can put unnecessary strain on your arms and shoulders.
It’s advisable to go to a few classes, or ask some advice on form and technique before you start a new exercise, so with each of these sports, get some guidance.
If you are a seasoned runner or cyclist, the frequency of your workouts means that you should ensure you have the correct technique even more so. You can have your gait or technique analysed at specialist coaching sites, or get a more experienced friend with good technique to look at you form.
3. Avoiding your weaknesses
It’s all too tempting to avoid the exercises you’re not so good at in favour for those you know you can lift big on. It can be a good confidence boost for sure, but it can also lead to asymmetries and injuries. It’s all too common to see people who have skipped leg day one too many times, or only work out those mirror muscles.
Avoiding working on what you’re bad at doesn’t only lead to issues of aesthetics, but can also mean you injure yourself when performing certain exercises which engage those weaker muscles.
One of the most common examples is having a strong chest but weak back. This pulls everything forward, including your shoulders, and leads to a limited range of motion and possible injury.
Fortunately, this is a pretty easy mistake to overcome – at least in theory. The main obstacle is your mind! To stop avoiding what you’re worst at in the gym, you first off need to identify what those things are. This is the easy part.
Just ask yourself: “what’s the last thing I want to do when I go in the gym?” or “what exercises/machines do I always swerve?”. Boom. You’ve found out what you’re neglecting.
Here comes the more difficult part: start doing those exercises regularly. If you can overcome the mental barrier, you’ll be well on your way to a more balanced physique.
The importance of hydration cannot be overemphasised. It’s probably the number one most important element to any successful workout. If you’re not hydrated enough before, during, and after a workout, it can lead to a number of problems.
Water is incredibly important for physical exercise because it regulates your body temperature, lubricates joints, and helps to transport nutrients around your body. Plus, the amount each of us needs to drinks differs depending on size and exercise – Bupa give some great guidelines as to how to work out how much you should be drinking.
Not being hydrated enough can mean that you feel fatigued, in fact dehydration is one of the main causes of fatigue even whilst not exercising. It can also lead to muscle cramp, dizziness, and headaches.
So always makes sure you drink plenty of water before you work out, and bring a bottle of water in with you and take regular sips throughout your session. Make sure you also hydrate heavily after your session to recover.
5. Doing only muscle isolating exercises
The consequences of this mistake in the gym are fairly similar to those of the previous tip. By doing only exercises which isolate certain muscles, less obvious muscles can be neglected. This can lead to an unbalanced physique, joint pain, and muscle injuries. Examples of lifts which isolate muscles are bicep curls and hamstring curls.
Another reason to perhaps avoid isolated exercises is that they don’t mimic the real world. Doing a load of leg curls won’t suddenly mean you can ski for hours without your legs burning out.
Instead, it’s much better to do compound lifts like squats, bench press, and the king of all the lifts: deadlifts. These lifts engage multiple muscle groups at once, so will help you avoid injuries and neglected muscles.
6. Not working hard enough
We’ve all seen them in the gym, the group of guys who stand around the bench press chatting for about 15 minutes in between each set. Although catching up on last night’s episode of Game of Thrones might be important, it won’t help you reach your #goals in the gym. Lifting weights should be intense, and you should end your session heart racing and sweaty.
Don’t leave too long between sets, and the same goes for separate exercises. It’s normally advisable to do 5 different exercises each time you go in the gym, with 5 sets on each exercise, although this differs based on your training programme. Either way, you should be leaving that gym feeling like you’ve pushed yourself.
If you’re not sure you’re current session plan is challenging you enough, check out our awesome 4-Week Workout Plan to Get Ripped Fast – we can assure you, this one works!
This list, although far from exhaustive, should go some way to helping you get the most out of your workouts, or point out where you might be going wrong at the moment. So, get out there and get exercising!
And if you’ve enjoyed this article, or found it interesting, share it on Facebook and Twitter, email it to your colleagues, or print it out and stick these integral guidelines to the walls to the ceiling, to the back of the toilet door. Just do whatever you feel best. We trust you.