15 of the Biggest Mistakes That Trainers See at the Gym

The greatest and most humbling part of the fitness world is how much more you learn the more often you go. After six years of rigorous training, I still find myself learning something new. The key point I discuss with my clients is getting to know your body. Through years and years of training, you start to develop a training and diet pattern that works best for you and only you. Understanding the individual needs of your specific body type is the key to your success in the fitness world. Envisioning your ideal body type and linking that to what works for you nutritionally and physically is the ideal formula to getting what you want.

For most of us (including myself) there will be minor bumps and mistakes along the way. Don’t be discouraged, look at it as being knowledge and experienced gained as opposed to making a mistake. We all make mistakes. Human error is common amongst all of us. They key is how to react to the given error, by  embracing your mistakes and learning from it, the choice seems pretty clear. After six years I still find myself making tweaks to my workouts and nutritional intake; the more you go, the more you learn and grow from any given situation.

The following list includes some common mistakes gym goers typically make without even knowing about them. These are 15 of the most common gym mistakes. This list is meant to educate and not poke fun at people. I admire every person who decides to pick up a weight and seek some sort of change in their life. (For more about myself and what I do, visit my Instagram page).

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15 Mind and Muscle Connection

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One of the most frequently asked questions I get from clients is: “Why don’t I feel it?” Oftentimes this is probably pertaining to form, but sometimes it is simply a mental problem. The focus on the contraction is simply not there. When performing an exercise, not only do your muscles have a need to contract, but your mind does as well. When performing a set, you must envision mentally which part of your body you are contracting. This will lead to greater results and much more definition in the area you are focusing on. The mind muscle connection remains one of the most underrated aspects in the gym.

14 Training Without Water

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Physical activity when training causes water loss in the body, and many factors attribute to this. Duration, intensity of the workout, the climate in the area of your workout and the type of clothing you are wearing are all factors that affect a loss of water in the body. Weight, gender, age and metabolic rate also directly affect water loss. When training, the contraction with your muscles causes a metabolic heat in the body, the body then sheds this heat in order to maintain its temperature by sweating; hence, the reason you sweat. Dehydration can lead to a decrease in power and the capacity of one’s workout. To maintain power, an optimal amount of hydration is necessary.

13 Not Keeping Track Of The Significance Of Your Reps

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When you have a goal in mind, keeping track of your reps is vital. For regular hypertrophy, the ideal rep range is between 9-12 reps. If someone is seeking relative strength gains, 1-5 is the ideal rep range. Finally for someone looking to lose fat or gain strength endurance, a 13-20 rep range is ideal. Your end goal must always be anticipated when trying to figure out your ideal rep range.

12 Lifting Too Light

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Over thinking at the gym can have many negative effects. For some people, stressing proper form can cause a decrease in weight lifting, leading to muscle loss. Yes, performing exercises properly is the biggest key, but performing an exercise with challenging weight is what causes growth to your muscle tissue. Make sure an ideal balance of form and lifting challenging weight, is always at an optimal level. Be sure to reach these two variables with a proper rep range in mind.

11 Looking At Others

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This is something we see way too often at the gym; trainees looking at others for either inspiration or to poke fun at. Looking at someone for inspiration is acceptable, though one thing that should be kept in mind is that what works for someone, may not work for you. Our bodies are all different and react to certain exercises differently. The key is to find that fine balance on what works for your body and what simply doesn’t. How can you find this out? By simply listening to your body and noticing which exercises are effective, while also figuring out which ones cause pain rather than gains. The ideal formula is to practice what you believe in and perfect it to its finest.

Another reason people may look at others is to poke fun at their under developed physiques. I strongly urge you not to be that person. Every person that commits to lifting a weight is seeking a change in their life, which is quite admirable. Focus on your own goals and use your experience and knowledge to help others, as opposed to poking fun at them. Your input can help someone in more ways than you think.

10 Over Training

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Our body can normally withstand between 45 minutes to an hour of a workout; after that, our system begins to deplete. Working out longer than two hours can be useless and just take away from the body as opposed to adding. When discussing over training, joint injuries are typically the most common side effect. Negative effects of over training can also go much deeper. Loss of lean mass, low testosterone levels, depression, sleep disorders, low self esteem, weak immune system and heart failure can all be associated with over training. If you do decide to exercise between 5-6 days a week, be sure that your fueling is optimal and be sure to hit all your macro needs during the week. A proper diet is the best way to fight the negative consequences involved with over training.

9 Not Stretching Before Or After

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Developing a stretch protocol is key when training. Stretching is one of the most undervalued practices in the world of fitness. One of the most common associations with stretching is the fact that it can indeed prevent injuries. Stretching also has other benefits, such as increasing ones range in joint movements, improving muscle stability, increasing blood flow to the body before beginning a workout, and increasing your energy levels. The most beneficial stretching protocols before training are ballistic stretching, dynamic stretching and survival stretching. For post work out, Static stretching and PNF stretching are regarded as the most effective protocols.

8 Setting Unrealistic Goals When Starting

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One of the most common mistakes people make when starting the gym is setting unrealistic goals. Each goal should be measurable, attainable and with an end date in mind. Many people try to press the fast forward button, but unfortunately this method simply does not work. The most effective way to grow is gradually, week by week. I often tell clients they need to learn to love the gym and not grow to hate it or become bored of it. In fact, hitting the gym too much when starting off can lead to boredom and, later on, quitting the gym altogether. The best way to start the gym is gradually, by going a maximum of three times a week. This will allow you to develop a sense of excitement to go workout and not over doing it at the same time. Gradually increasing your days and finding a passion for weight lifting is the key balance new trainees must find when starting off.

7 Doing Your Reps Too Fast

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Time Under Tension (TUT) is one of the most undervalued aspects of weight training. Whether someone is in a rush or simply always performs their reps quickly, they are missing out on an optimal rep range, which leads to many more benefits than a quick rep. Having a proper tempo when using TUT can improve metabolic response, deal with fatigue at an easier rate and expand the fibers in your muscles more effectively, leading to growth. Taking your time and following a proper tempo when performing an exercise properly is absolutely vital. Be sure to figure out what your ideal tempo range is depending on what your outcome goals are.

6 Training Without A Program

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I often compare training without a program to playing a sport without a game plan; you might win a couple of games, but at the end of the day, what is your team’s identity? The same can be said for weight training. You will get some gains but at the end of the day, what is your goal? What is your true identity? Without a program or game plan, this question simply cannot be answered. Having a program keeps things fresh and allows you to envision an end goal. Frequently changing your program prevents you from feeling any type of boredom and at the same time, it keeps you motivated and provides you with new goals every month, with your end goal always in mind.

5 Doing Too Much Cardio

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When trying to lose weight, cardio is the most effective tool at the gym. However, if your goal is to build lean muscle mass, cardio can have an adverse effect. When training, it is important to not overdue cardio if building muscle is your primary goal. Doing too much cardio will simply eat away at your muscle and cause you to lose the gains you worked so hard to build. Once again, finding a balance is key. Doing cardio 3-4 times a week, with 15-20 minutes at a jogging pace, will provide a perfect balance for someone looking to gain lean muscle mass.

4 Long Breaks

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Following proper rest times is another factor lifters typically forget about. Engaging in a long conversation with a buddy can set you back more than you think. Each type of training has its own distinct rest time periods. Regular hypertrophy breaks range between 90-120 seconds. Fat loss/Strength and endurance breaks range from 10-90 seconds. Finally, Strength break range from 3 minutes all the way up to 6 minutes. So unless you’re doing some serious strength training, keep your conversations short. Each rest period has its significance and long rest periods trigger a testosterone adaption which allows for a greater load to be lifted with adequate recovery. Shorter rest periods with higher volume trigger a greater GH response. Growth hormone is necessary for protein synthesis, tissue remodeling and most importantly, fat burning. Do not under value your rest time.

3 No Nutritional Backing

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Proper nutrition is regarded as the fuel for your workout; without proper fueling, your workout will suffer. Be sure to follow a proper diet plan according to whatever your given goal might be. Without following a proper diet, working out will be a constant struggle. Factors such as loss of energy, decreased motivation and risk of injuries are all things that can happen when one is not following a diet. Be sure to create a plan that is right for you with an end goal in mind. If you must, seek professional help for a proper nutritional plan.

2 Ego Training

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Ego training is one of the most common problems with people that workout. This often leads to injuries and later quitting the gym altogether. Training with your ego never leads to anything good; all it really does is give gym goers a bad name and intimidate the younger generation to lift a weight. Training and bettering yourself everyday should be a positive experience and not something that intimidates you because of the people associated with weight training. I advise experienced lifters to stay humble and help give weight lifting a better name. At the end of the day, we are all in this for the same reason- to better ourselves physically every day. Train hard, focus on yourself and most importantly, set a good example as someone who is a role model and not someone who is constantly ego driven. Food for thought for some of you out there.

1 Form

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Improper form is the biggest gym killer. The purpose of proper form is to engage your muscle fibers properly. When the form is not optimal, your muscle fibers are simply not growing, causing you to stay at a standstill. Bad form can also cause numerous injuries, and usual cause for bad form is pushing heavy weights. Weights should not be pushed, they are meant to cause a contraction in the body with your muscle fibers. Pushing weight will not do much for you, unless you are planning on training for power lifting competitions. The key is to contract properly and engage your muscle fibers, causing them to grow. I strongly urge anyone training to perfect your form when using a given weight before increasing the weight. For people starting to workout, always remember that building strength takes time, as does proper form. Finding a balance between the two is the key for optimal gains.

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