19 Common Gym Mistakes to Avoid

4 men on exercise bikes in the gym

If you go to the gym often then you might have seen some other people doing some things that aren’t exactly correct. It happens, even at Masters Fitness gym in Blackburn.

Here is a list of nineteen of the more common mistakes we’ve seen people make that could cause them harm or put them at risk of an injury.

Here are the common mistakes people make in the gym and how you avoid them.


1. Failing to warm up

Lots of people simply start at the beginning of their workout without warming up. Maybe they don’t know they should prepare their muscles or their training programme doesn’t have it in. Or they see more experienced people in the gym hit the weights as soon as they get in and presume they’re not warming up either.

Whether you’re there for a cardio session or working on strength (or both), it’s important to warm your muscles before starting a workout. That could be ten minutes on the cross trainer or a few extra sets of your first exercise at a much lower weight (and a higher rep range).

You want your muscles to be warm and ready for your body to be pushed hard.


2. Failing to plan

Whether it’s your food and nutrition or your fitness workout sessions, you need a plan.

It helps know exactly what exercises you’ll be doing when you come into the gym so that you can actually reach your goals.

Also, because it shows the exact exercises you should be working on that day, you won’t be encouraged to only do the ones you like.


3. Being hungry

Going to the gym for a fitness session with your personal trainer or for a workout in the gym it’s important to be adequately fuelled.

Depending on when your workout is in the day will depend on when you ate your last meal, but if your goal is to lose weight and melt that fat off your body then having the right energy in your system is super important.

If you haven’t eaten well then that could result in a negative impact on your workout session, and thus impede your progress.


4. Not stretching

Everyone will benefit from stretching their muscles. It only takes a few minutes and can be done during your time at the gym.

Some people don’t need to stretch all that much if they’re hyper-mobile, but they will still need to do some.

Others will need to stretch both at the beginning and end of their workouts.

You should do some research and speak to an experienced fitness professional about the right stretching technique and programme for your body.


5. Staying away from free weights

We have an abundance of free weights in the gym at Brockhall Village and there’s a key reason for that. Using dumbbells and barbells in your workout regime is beneficial.

If you’re just a cardio bunny or stay on the fixed machines to exercise then you’re missing out on developing your muscles more, which can lead to better bone density, increased weight loss, and reduced inflammation.

Plus, it just makes your posture altogether better because you’ll be using stabilizing muscles throughout your movements (instead of relying on a machine).


6. Using incorrect form

How do you know if you’re using incorrect form? If you experience any pain during exercise that isn’t related to DOMS then it could be due to incorrect form.

We’ve seen plenty of incorrect lifts with heavy barbells (squats, dead lifts, Romanian dead lifts, etc) as well as with dumbbells (pull over, bicep curls, etc): where someone is lifting the weight using incorrect form or is swinging the dumbbell and using other muscles in their body than the ones they’re supposed to be training.

How do you know what the correct form is?

Being shown by a qualified personal trainer is the best way. Followed by the use of mirrors when you train to know that you’re lifting the weights correctly.


7. Just doing cardio

If you don’t use the free weights area then you’re missing out.

Cardio is good for your overall fitness and can help your cardio vascular system (hearts and lungs etc), but it isn’t going to be much help if you want to tone the different parts of your body, lose weight or bulk up.

It’s going to do a really poor job at that even if you’re doing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).


8. Not having a range of exercises

If you do the same workout each time you go to the gym and have done the same programme for the past few months then you’re making a huge mistake.

Every 4 to 6 weeks you should change up the exercises you do on your workout days. This doesn’t mean changing things completely or training different body parts, but tweaking things so that you’re doing a different type of dead lift or squat (e.g., front instead of back) and other elements in your training programme.

If you continue with the same workout regime for the entire time then your progress will diminish and you’ll see a negative impact on your end goal.


9. Taking too many rest days

If you want to lose two or more stones in weight then you’ll want to be working out at least three times a week.

Preferably this will be three sessions of at least 45 minutes strength training and some abs or cardio thrown in to make the workout session positive for your body and goals.

If you then rest three or four days away from working out you won’t be able to get your three sessions in a week nor will you be challenging your body enough to ensure you reach your goal.


10. Lifting only light weights

When you’re doing strength training you should be pushing yourself. That means you want to add weight every session or every other session.

This increase in weight doesn’t need to be a lot. It can even be as little as a kilo each side (or even half a kilo) to the barbell when you’re doing a squat or dead lift, or going up one kilo per dumbbell if you’re using free weights in a shoulder press, for example.

How do you know if you’re not lifting enough weight?

Count your repetitions.

If you’re on a four set workout of eight repetitions then you should be getting tired by rep seven on the third set, and struggle to finish the eighth rep on your last set (and you might not be able to complete it). If you can easily do fifteen reps when your target is eight then that’s a clear sign you need to put the weight up.


11. Lifting too heavy

Maintaining correct form and lifting heavy enough weights is a great step along your journey of building some definition in your muscles and feeling much stronger.

If you pile the weight on and think you can handle it, but you end up lifting a weight that is way too heavy for you then you’ll probably find that your form is compromised and that could lead to an injury.

This is a mistake many beginners make and it’s best to consult with an exercise professional at Masters Fitness.


12. Copying others

When you’re at the gym and you’ve been shown the correct form from your personal trainer it’s then important to stick with that way of doing things.

Don’t be put off if someone else does something a different way. It could be that the way they are doing the exercise is completely wrong.

Also, there are many different videos of people (mainly beginners) in the gym doing some strange exercises in a funky way and using equipment in a way that it shouldn’t be used.

If you’re ever in doubt then ask one of the trainers in the gym. Even if you’re at one of the big chains like Pure Gym Blackburn, the fitness instructors there should be able to show you the correct way to complete an exercise.


13. Doing exercises too fast

If using correct form is one way to cause an injury, completing the repetitions in an exercise is a way to do that too: when you believe that you can progress to the next weight up but then do an injury because it turns out to be too heavy.

Also, if you go too fast then you don’t let the exercise of that muscle group do the work, which means you won’t see the maximum impact on your goals. And, you’ll get the DOMS effect for it but you won’t have worked the muscle as hard as it can be worked.


14. Resting for too long (or too short)

Lots of people don’t take the right amount of rest that they need to for the exercise programme they are doing (provided that they have a programme to begin with!).

Try not to take five or ten minutes rest in between exercises or sets to talk to your friend. You won’t be able to keep up the intensity needed to actually work your muscles hard.

But, try not taking too little of a rest either. Doing this can mean you won’t be able to complete the number of reps in your sets, and if you do manage to struggle through then you will probably find that you’re not keeping the correct form.

Resting appropriately ensures you get the maximum impact from your workouts.


15. Forgetting to do the “big 5” exercises every week

Five main exercises should be trained each week.

Squats, dead lifts, bench press, overhead press and row should be performed every week.

That doesn’t mean you’re going to be doing the exact same exercise each programme, nor does it mean you’ll always be using a barbell or a dumbbell for each respective one.

These exercises will be varied (provided you refresh your workout programme every four to six weeks) to ensure you complete all of these five exercises.


16. Doing your workout in the wrong order

If you’re doing a workout then you want to do the main exercise at the start.

In general, this can be taken as the most challenging exercise for that particular day. So, if you’re doing chest and triceps then don’t start with a tricep press and do your bench press last. That’s the completely wrong way around.

When you get your fitness programme you should be able to see that a lot of the main exercises (those that take the most energy to complete) are completed in the first part of your workout session.


17. Not using full range of movement

To get the most of your time in the gym it’s important to use the full range of motion that the exercise has. If doing that and keeping correct form means that you need to lower the amount of weight that you’re lifting then that can be a good thing.

Keep in mind that it’s better to lower the weight you’re moving and do things fully and properly than motoring ahead and causing yourself an injury. That’s when you’ll need injury rehabilitation.

You’ll also find that if you use the full range of movement then you work the muscle the most.


18. Failing to keep hydrated

Water is important and this is especially true when you’re in the gym. When people workout they sweat. If you’re not properly hydrated then that could lead to dehydration. Never a good thing.

You could also experience poor form, lower your ability to lift heavy weights, and your recovery will be a lot slower than if you were drinking enough water. This means being properly hydrated before, during and after your workout.

So, taking a sports bottle or a shaker bottle with you to sip during your workout is a good idea.

To know if you’re adequately hydrated it’s good advice to monitor the colour of your urine. It should be fairly clear, and the darker it goes generally means the more dehydrated you are.


19. Not monitoring progress

Keep an eye on your progress.

Whether that’s updating a sheets document with how what weights you were lifting this week or how many reps you did to failure, it’s important to know how far you’ve come in the last few weeks.

This will help you enormously with motivation and your mental health, as well as in the future when your fitness coach writes your next programme.

You will find that, as you progress and become more confident, they will challenge you with different and interesting exercises. Not only to stave off the boredom but also to challenge your muscles.


Have you been making any of these 19 mistakes in the gym?

If you have then don’t forget to note down the ones that you are making and look to correct them. If you need any help then don’t forget to reach out to a professional for some advice and guidance.

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