We don’t need to tell you that regularly hitting the gym is one of the best things you can do to support your health. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t improve on your time spent at the gym. In fact, even the most dedicated gym rats have been guilty of these common fitness mistakes. With so many pieces of equipment to choose from these days and an onrush of ideas and tips coming from social media, it can be hard to set up (and stick to) a proper routine—let alone get in some good stretches before tackling a solid sweat session.
Of course, some of these mishaps are fairly minor, but they can actually lead to huge setbacks in terms of gains. In order to get the results you want, while saving yourself time and making your workouts more effective, make sure you avoid these following mistakes.
Skipping a Warm Up
Some people do it to save time. Others do it because they think their bodies are in such peak physical condition that they simply don’t need one. But skipping your warm up is all but guaranteed to lead to injuries (or at least soreness) during a tough workout. You should have a go-to warm up that involves a few bodyweight exercises to elevate your heart rate and stretch out your muscles before you attack the weights head on. No matter how short of a time you have, always include a quick warmup to further increase blood flow to your muscles.
Cardio Before Lifting
Cardio is crucial for a workout plan. But you want to do it at the right time. And the wrong time is just before you lift. Jumping off the treadmill and heading straight for the squat rack? You’ll be winded and fatigued. That means you’ll not only have poor form and less stamina to get through all your reps, but you run the risk of injury as well. Instead, get your form-intensive lifting session done first, and then hit the cardio area.
Lifting Too Heavy
Trainers will tell you not to lay it all out right away. You’re not proving anything to anyone.
When it comes to how much iron to pump, a good rule to keep in mind is to underestimate your strength by 20%. Only you’ll know how much you can comfortably lift—you want some strain in order to build muscle but you need a place to build on too. So start a little lighter. Once you do seven to 10 reps and get your form set, add another five to 10 pounds. Do another set. Feel like you can handle a little more? Add a few more pounds. You’ll find the sweet spot when you struggle with the final rep in a set of 10 without breaking form.
Slacking on Your Form
This might be the most popular of all the mistakes men make. Either they’re lifting too much to keep proper form or they’re rushing to get as many reps as they can without worrying about proper form. Either way, you lose out when you cheat like that. And what’s worse, you could be missing out on real gains. Utilize a trainer or do some research on what exercises are best for your goals and how to properly execute them. Then use the mirror (or your cell phone camera) to rigorously monitor and critique your form.
You’re Wasting Time Comparing
Whether you’re looking at the big guys preening in the mirror at the gym or the fitness influencers making everything look so easy on social media, be careful not to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. It’s a common pitfall. If you push yourself too hard just to try to keep up, you’ll end up burning out or pulling a muscle—either way, you’ll set yourself back. Instead, set goals for yourself and chart out where you want to be in three, six or 12 months.
Not Timing Your Rests
As important as it is to push yourself when working out, the time you’re not pressing, lifting or crunching is equally just as important—not just for your stamina but for building muscle. You don’t need to spend more than an hour in the gym, so timing your rest periods is key. You’ll be more efficient and end up working your muscles harder.
* Stay Hydrated: If you don’t think you need a water bottle at the gym, chalk that up as another mistake. Maybe you use the walk to the water fountain as an excuse for a longer rest, but you’re not fooling anyone. Bring a bottle, stay hydrated and your workout will yield better results.