Updated: Oct 4, 2020
Every gym has those few members. The ones that you see every time you go to workout. The ones that seem like they should be making tons of progress. The ones that somehow always look the same year after year and never get any real results.
If you read along, this article will show you exactly how to not become that person. It will outline the major mistakes that most people make in the gym and how you could avoid them
Mistake #1: Ego Lifting
It’s all too tempting to want to relive the glory days. Going into the gym day in and day out repping 225 on bench for a few reps just to prove you still got it.
There’s no problem doing that… if you always want to stay there and possibly get hurt.
But if you ever want to make progress and lift more over time the ego needs to be left at the door.
When it comes to strength and muscle building, it is important to get a lot of work in with submaximal weight. Submaximal weight just means a weight that is lower than your 1 rep max.
Accumulating volume with the right amount of weight will allow you to build strength and muscle without increasing injury risk. This intelligent weight selection will then allow you to recover properly between training sessions.
When it comes to staying healthy and getting stronger, recovery matters a lot.
Contrary to your favorite bodybuilder’s advice, doing 1 body part and pushing yourself to be sore for the rest of the week is just overkill in the moment, not enough volume overall, and is usually not the best approach.
If you want the best results possible when it comes to strength and size, doing 3-5 sets of a weight around 2 reps shy of failure will be a great starting point. If you could stay at that level of intensity and still go up in weight or a rep each week, you have hit the sweet spot. That is the zone where you will get great recovery and consistent progress.
Mistake #2 Poor Form
This is probably the biggest nail in the tire when it comes to trying to build muscle or get stronger.
When you want to build muscle and get stronger, one of the biggest factors is the right amount of range of motion.
If your range of motion is too much, you could risk injury. If you are doing only half the range of motion, you are missing half of the work. Along with that, you are not training all points of the strength curve.
In a nutshell, the strength curve is the path from the start of the movement until the end and the different levels of stress at each part of the exercise.
Let’s say you are doing a chin up and only going to where your elbows are at 90 degrees. If one day you try to go until your arms are completely straight at the bottom and then pull yourself up, you are gonna have a really hard time. You won’t be able to get anywhere near the amount of reps compared to when you were half repping.
Usually when you see half repping, you also see its sidekick known as crappy form.
If you are loading up so much weight that your body physically can’t hold proper form, that is a huge risk for injury. This is pretty evident when you see people doing heavy deadlifts in most commercial gyms. Their backs look like a scared cat and you wonder if they are gonna snap in half or blow a disk.
One of the best ways to avoid these issues is by first seeing what proper form and range of motion look like. This can be seen on credible Youtube and Instagram pages like those of Eric Cressey, Chris Duffin (Kabuki Strength), Mike Boyle, Mike Robertson, etc.
Once you see what the exercise should actually look like, film yourself, or ask a friend to. You would be amazed at how an exercise feels, and how it looks, can be polar opposites when you’re first learning it. After a while you will master it and be stronger and safer for the long term.
Mistake #3 Choosing Machines Over Free Weights
Let’s start by saying that machines aren’t bad. However, you do lose some benefits when you consistently choose them over free weights.
One major benefit that is lost with machines is core engagement. It is possible to engage the core on machines, but let’s be honest. How many people actually do it? How many people actually know how to engage their core in general? Very few.
When you do a goblet squat with correct form, it’s almost impossible to not get core engagement during the exercise. When you hop on a leg press, stabilization from your core isn’t needed because now you have a big pad on your back to keep you stable and support you throughout the movement.
Another benefit from free weights is the balance and coordination required to do a lot of different movements. When you deadlift with a bar or a kettlebell, you need to have good balance to make sure you don’t fall back on your butt. When you hop on a hamstring curl machine, there is no challenge to keep your balance and work all the muscles required to build and maintain it.
As we age, those muscles and coordination are extremely important to build and maintain. If you are an athlete, balance and coordination are a major key in performing your best. It just doesn’t make sense in most cases to do nothing but machines no matter what your age is.
Mistake #4 Skipping Body Parts
“Don’t skip leg day bro.”
Truer words have never been spoken.
When it comes to building muscle and/or losing fat, you never want to skip out on a muscle group.
When you are trying to lose fat, you want to expend a lot of energy when you work out. If you skip an entire body part, like legs for example, that is almost 50% of your body that you are not training. That is a ton of energy that can be used that is just left on the table.
If your goal is to build muscle, this is like the equivalent of trying to race a car with 3 tires. You may get to the finish line. Or you could break down just short because you didn’t have everything necessary to get you there. Your body develops as a whole. It would be extremely rare to see a natural lifter with gigantic arms (20+ inches) and chicken legs.
There was a study by Norwegian researchers where subjects were doing exercises to improve their arm size. One group did just those exercises focused on the arms. The other group did those exercises plus some leg exercises immediately after. Take a guess which group’s arms grew bigger…
The group that did arms AND legs. So unless you have an injury there is no excuse to skip a body part.
These 4 mistakes are so common but they are so easy to fix. Doing a little homework and putting a little intention behind what you are doing can make all the difference