10 Most Common Workout Mistakes…

… and how to avoid them.

We all have the best intentions when we go off to the gym but all too often we make the same mistakes. Whilst this isn’t usually a bad thing, after all it’s how we learn and improve, some of the most common workout mistakes can actually be doing us more harm than good. We’re not trying to scare you out of going to the gym but it’s worth taking time to learn what those mistakes are and how to avoid them.

We’ve interviewed leading personal trainers and coaches to find what the top most commonly made mistakes are and the steps you can take to makes sure you don’t fall into the trap of them.

1) We expect to see results overnight.

Thinking that because you’ve been to the gym once you’ll see a marked difference straightaway is a bad mindset to have. Not only is it a bad motivator but it could also result in you over doing it. These days we all expect things immediately but there’s no such thing as instant if you’re working out. No matter what your goal is the changes will be gradual. If your body changes too quickly it can be a shock, this is why ‘crash’ diets never work – it’s not the diet that didn’t work it’s the speed at which you lost the weight. After all if you’ve never run more than a few yards before you wouldn’t expect to be able to run a full marathon by the end of the week would you?

Instead of having one massive goal break it down into smaller more manageable steps. Going back to our marathon analogy for example, set yourself the goal of doing a 20 minute run at first. When that’s no longer a problem set yourself the goal of running the 20 minutes without stopping. Then, slowly over time increase the time you run for and before you know it you’ll be running the full marathon. It’s also a good idea to keep a record of your progress, you’ll then be able to look back and see the progress you’ve made. Rather than looking in the mirror every morning expecting to see a change you’ll be far better served to check monthly instead.

2) Not warming up or down.

Warming up:

I know you probably think that you don’t need to warm up before a workout but in not doing so you can easily injure yourself, especially if you’re doing a more intense workout. You don’t need to spend a long time warming up – a minute or two is all you need. The idea is to warm your body temperature up by just 1°-2° C (or 1.4°-2.8° F), this will make it easier for your muscles to work properly and less likely for them to be damaged.

It depends on the type of workout your going to do but you just want to get the blood flowing and muscles warmed up. A few simple squats, bends, twists, stretches or shrugs should be all you need to do. It’s worth noting though that in a recent study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research whilst being crucial before other workouts, stretches should be avoided if you’re doing strength training as it can diminish the strength by causing a lack of stability in the joint.

Warming down:

You’ve finished your workout so why do you need to warm down? It’s a very common misconception that you don’t need to warm down after a workout. During a workout your heart is working much harder than normal and suddenly stopping after a session can result in a higher risk of passing out. A 5 minute warm down is usually enough to prevent this. Warming down will also help reduce the soreness in your muscles and help to maintain your flexibility.

This is very easy to fix and only takes a few minutes. Gently cool your muscles down by doing a few stretches such as rolling your shoulders. This will also help to displace the lactic acid that’s built up in your body.

3) Not drinking enough.

Surprisingly this is probably one of the most common mistakes people make. You’re busy working out and not thinking about drinking but if you’re not properly hydrated then you’ll tire much more quickly and your muscles are more likely to suffer from cramp. While making sure you are drinking enough it is important at anytime it’s even more important during exercise as without consuming enough liquid your body isn’t able to regulate it’s temperature as effectively which will affect your performance and in extreme cases can even result in heat stroke.

The amount of water you need is dependant on a number of factors, for example men sweat more than women also the bigger and fitter you are the more you’ll sweat too. You’ll need to take the intensity of your exercise into account as well as how humid the weather is. The best rule though is an extremely simple one but you’d be amazed how many people don’t listen to it – simply drink if you’re thirsty! If you’re after a more scientific solution though weigh yourself first thing in the morning and again after a workout then compare the results. For every kilogram you loose you need around 1.5 litres of fluid.

4) Not sticking to a plan.

All too often people don’t follow a programme and change what they’re doing too often. Changing your workout plan too often can actually slow your progress down and make the whole workout less effective. You can make small changes to your regimen but if you don’t give it at least three months you won’t see any lasting or meaningful results from it.

Before you blindly follow what somebody else is doing because you want to look like them take some time to create a workout plan that’s right for you, a lot of gyms have people on hand you can speak to for advice. If you’re trying to follow a plan that you hate you won’t be able to stick to it, that’s not to say a workout plan should be easy but it should be fun. You can read our guide on the perfect workout regimen here.

5) Concentrating on one area or lopsided workout.

Our body’s are based on symmetry and working on just one area or unevenly working both sides can cause an imbalance which in time will cause weakness in certain areas (such as the back) and a marked reduction in balance. On top of that it can also lead to PCL tears (tears in the posterior cruciate ligament that helps to stabilise the knee) which can prevent you working out for at least nine months.

High intensity interval training is very good at making sure you evenly work your entire body, it’ll also help your aerobic fitness too. You should also add more variety into the mix, instead of just doing curls also add pull-ups, deadlifts and thrusts for core strength and stretches for increasing mobility and flexibility.

6) Not getting enough sleep.

Sleep is one of those things that most people don’t consider, especially when it comes to working out and general health. As well as a multitude of other things lack of sleep can effect your ability to loose weight because it disrupts your body’s ability to use insulin. When functioning properly your body uses insulin to remove fatty acids and lipids from your blood stream which in turn prevents them being stored and turning into fat. In the long run this excess of insulin can end up being stored in things like your liver.

The simple answer is to get more sleep. That may sound like a flippant solution but we tend to think of sleep as unimportant so don’t prioritise it. If you can try to plan your day so that you can get enough sleep. If you want to get up early to workout before going off to work fine but just make sure you go to bed earlier too. Some people need more sleep than others but the consensus is that we all need around eight hours.

7) Trying to do too much exercise in one day.

There’s nothing wrong with doing cardiovascular and strength training but it’s not a good idea to do them at the same time. If you’re aiming to build muscle and strength then doing cardiovascular work beforehand will eat into your energy reserves. This will then limit you ability to exert yourself while lifting weights. Likewise if you do the strength training first you will be tiring your body more than you need to and thus won’t get the full benefit from any cardiovascular workout you do.

Like we say there’s nothing wrong with doing them both but just don’t do them on the same day.

8) We think of working out as a chore.

If you start to think of your workout as something you have to do you’re already putting a negative slant on it. While this in itself may not be a bad thing at first you’ll find that in time you’ll start to find ways of not doing it, after all how often do you say to yourself “I’ll do the washing up in the morning” then put it off until later. It’ll also lead to frustration.

If you’re able to workout with a friend, it’ll help keep it fun as you’ll have somebody to talk to but it will also help to push you more too. If you’re not able to workout at the same time as somebody else then consider creating a social network of people with similar goals to yourself. A bit of friendly competition is always good but you’ll be able to help and encourage each other too. You’ll also be able to share tips and benefit from other people’s experiences.

9) Consuming too many calories.

This is a very popular misconception that you think that because you’re working out you can eat more or that after a work out you can eat what you want. However sensible it might seem this reasoning could end up undoing all of the hard work you’ve put in to your workout. Think about it this way if you’re trying to loose weight you need to maintain a calorie deficit, eating the wrong thing or over eating after a workout will most likely negate that deficit.

It’s important to eat after working out, in part because your muscles need protein to help them recover and repair. Before you start though you’ll need to get your basal metabolic rate (or BMR) and then from that you’ll know your daily intake. You can use our calculator to find your BMR. Once you have that you can use it to plan your food for the whole day, taking into account any post-workout meal or shake. This way you’ll know in advance exactly how much you’ll be consuming each day so will be able to maintain the deficit.

10) Reducing other exercise.

Just because you’re working out regularly it doesn’t mean you should stop all other forms of exercise. It’s important to add your workout to the day rather than use it to replace something else. After all you wouldn’t say because you had a bowl of soup you didn’t need to drink anything else for the rest of the day would you! If you stop all other exercise and spend the rest of the day resting then you’ll quickly find that you’re not burning as many calories as you thought. This is because when calculating your daily calorie goal your normal activity level is taken into account. Replacing that with a workout and not recalculating your diet will result in you consuming way more calories than you need.

If you find that your workout is taking you to the brink of exhaustion you need to find a different regimen, you shouldn’t do it to the point where you can’t function in your day to day tasks. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT (any movement that isn’t vigorous enough to be classed as a workout) actually burns a lot more calories than you might think – up to 2000 a day! So you can see why you need to keep active. That’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t rest after a workout but don’t let it turn into spending the rest of the day in front of the television.

If you’re looking for the perfect workout regimen why not continue reading here.