Working out can be immensely rewarding for the body and mind. What many people don’t realize even after years of working out, however, is that there’s a chance you may need to reevaluate your technique. Even seasoned gym rats can make common mistakes before, during and after a workout. We spoke to some experts to find out what they are and how to avoid them.
Skipping your warmup
Being excited about your workout is great, but not if it makes you want to skip the boring old warmup and get right into working out. Jamie Hickey, Nutritionist and founder of Truism Fitness says that warm ups loosen tense muscles and improve elasticity, which makes you less likely to injure yourself. “It also improves mobility, flexibility and circulation.” Caleb Backe, Certified Personal Trainer and Health Expert for Maple Holistics agrees. “If you’re forgetting about balance and flexibility, you might be doing more harm than good. Skipping the warm up, cool down or any other stretching can lead to tightness and delay recovery.” Some days, getting into stretches can feel cumbersome, especially if your body feels tight to begin with. Several yogis and fitness experts have started to recommend CBD as an effective way to combat this. Whether applied topically or ingested, CBD can support flexibility and reduce soreness and recovery time. In fact, gyms and yoga centers across the UK have been adding CBD to their facilities for its body boosting benefits!
Going too heavy
It can be unnerving to see everyone around you at the gym lifting way more than you, but that isn’t necessarily the best way to motivate yourself to lift heavier, says Hickey. “Lifting heavier weights than you should will hinder your technique. You’ll use muscles that you don’t want to target and increase chances of injury.”
Not focusing on form
Staying in perfect form is harder when lifting weights, but that’s also when it’s most important. For instance, a common error when doing barbell bicep curls is swinging the barbell and arching your back, which means your biceps aren’t doing the work. Hickey says there’s an easy way to combat this. “Practice the move with light weights first to help activate muscle memory.”
Sticking to the same routine
One of the most common workout mistakes people make is doing the same workout every time. Fitness experts recommend changing your workout to see improvement. “Doing the same moves will still give you benefits, in the sense that you’re working up a sweat and boosting cardiovascular health,” says Caleb Backe. “But you’re unlikely to see real gains that way. Your muscles need to be challenged which means increasing reps and time.” Jamie Hickey agrees, “we all have our unique favorite exercises, but your body will quickly adapt to the workout. Vary your exercises and change your fitness regimen every 6 weeks to keep your body guessing.”
Not breathing right
Your response to this may be, ‘but can you really breathe wrong?’ And the answer is, when it comes to working out, you definitely can! Often people don’t breathe at all while performing reps, making it more exhausting. Holding one’s breath is especially common when doing situps or pushups. Dr. Nikola Djordjevic, MD and co-founder of Loud Cloud Health explains why this is a huge mistake. “Depriving your muscles of oxygen is a sure way to get tired quicker!” Changing your breathing pattern is easier said than done, though. “It might be difficult to change your habits, but it’s crucial not only to breathe but to do it in a rhythmic pattern.” In other words, when doing situps you should inhale as you sit up and exhale as you go back to the ground. Djordjevic adds that breathing correctly is like an exercise in itself, in that it takes time and patience to perfect. With longer workouts and less tiredness, it definitely pays off!
The ‘bad’ strength exercises
There are certain strength exercises that can be harmful, not because they are inherently so, but because it’s almost impossible to maintain perfect form while performing them. We spoke to Dan DeFigio, Fitness Expert and Veteran Personal Trainer who told us about a few common exercises in this category.
Tricep bench dips
“It’s pretty much impossible to keep your shoulders from dumping forward when you do these,” says DeFigio. The technical term for it is ‘anterior tipping of the scapulae’, which he says can subject you to rotator cuff or bicep tendon injuries. A good alternative might be cable tricep pressdowns or ‘skull crushers’.
Also known as curtsey lunges, this move places the weighted leg in a potentially harmful position called the ‘valgus knee position’. Adds DeFigio, “This places stress on the ligaments and meniscus.” He recommends sticking to backwards, forwards, diagonal or side lunges.
“If you were to write down the recipe for a move that automatically impinges the rotator cuff, I would be abducting the arm with internal shoulder rotation – exactly what you do when you perform traditional upright rows.” A good alternative could be overhead presses and lateral raises.
Doing aerobic exercises wrong.
There are many potential mistakes to make when doing strength exercises, but you can do cardio wrong too! Dr. Len Lopez, Strength and Conditioning Coach, Nutritionist and Chiropractic Sports Physician spoke to us about the mistakes he sees most often.
Going too fast for your current level of fitness.
Most people assume they can perform aerobic activities (including jogging, running, cycling, dancing, etc) faster than they are conditioned too. For the most part, the body will be aerobic when ones heart rate is below 70-75% of their maximum heart rate. Unfortunately, most people keep their heart rate at around 80% of their maximum heart rate when doing aerobic exercise. Why is this bad? Because when you put that kind of stress on your body, you activate anaerobic metabolism.
Anaerobic metabolism is inherently stress producing and occurs during moderate to high intensity workouts, but can only be done for short periods of time. Aerobic metabolism, on the other hand, is stress reducing. It involves low intensity workouts for a longer duration, helping you burn fat and continue burning fat even once you’re done with your workout.
DeFigio says there’s a simple solution here – slow down! The only people who should be training with a heart rate of 80% of their maximum heart rate are elite marathoners and triathletes. If that isn’t you, slow down and take some stress off your body.
Burning the wrong fuel
Just because you burned calories, it doesn’t mean you burned fats! That may sound confusing, but here’s how it works:
The body can only burn carbs, proteins or fats for energy.
The intensity of your workout determines whether you burn lean muscle or fat. Low intensity aerobic exercises burn fat.
Your body will always burn carbs for quick energy and can do it anytime. But the problem arises with low carb diets or not eating enough before a workout that is moderate-high intensity.
If you haven’t eaten enough carbs to get you through a moderately intense workout, you’ll burn through them very quickly. This will leave you with only proteins (or lean muscle) to burn up for energy, which is the last thing you want!
The solution? Eating enough carbs to sustain an intense workout. And in case you haven’t had your fill of carbs, stick to low intensity workouts to burn through fat without affecting proteins.
Staying in sweaty clothes for too long
While not technically a workout mistake, this one can be especially harmful. Daniel DeMoss, Personal Trainer and fitness nerd stresses the importance of changing after a workout. “It seems negligible, but that’s not the case. If you don’t change your clothes, it exposes you to rashes, acne/folliculitis and yeast infections. Bacteria and fungi love warm, moist environments.”
There's a lot to know about best practices for your workout, and it's hard to keep everything in mind. But this infographic from Rave Reviews breaks things down in an easy-to-digest way.
If you made it to the end of this article, it’s because you clearly care about your body and health – which means you’re on the right track! The one workout mistake that’s all too common and hasn’t been mentioned yet, is giving up on your workout. As with anything else that’s worth doing, workouts require consistency to see lasting results for the body and mind. Have any more fitness mistakes to add to this? Let us know!