Like anything worth doing, going to the gym requires some study and background knowledge if you are going to have a productive workout. Ignoring this lesson, too many people go to the gym without preparing or studying and they end up making one or more of the following common workout mistakes.
1. Exercising Without a Plan
A successful workout requires goals and a plan by which to achieve those goals. That being said, too many people think that just going to the gym is the important part of exercising. They wander from machine to machine, doing a few reps on each with alternately too little or too much weight. We’ve all seen these people at the gym and, if you’re one of them, now is the time to change. After all, exercising without a plan or goals can result in a frustrating workout that doesn’t produce any physical changes or lead to an overall fitter physique. If you don’t currently have a comprehensive plan, spend a few hours to develop one by identifying goals and then consulting articles and experts to decide how to reach them. A good plan isn’t easy to create but it does pay off in the long-term by yielding steady physical progress.
2. Not Changing Your Workout
Once you have a workout plan, it is tempting to simply follow the plan without change every time you are at the gym. Following the exact same plan is comfortable and familiar and your workouts can become pleasantly mindless but such comfort, although relaxing and pleasant, does not produce a good workout. Part of the problem is with mindset and how engaged you are in a never-changing workout. Of course, the larger problem is that the same workout with the same number of sets and reps and exercises slows your rate of progress because your muscles get used to this routine and stop working so hard. In order to avoid any lost progress, it is necessary to change aspects of your workout every two or three weeks. This can mean substituting one exercise for another or any other sort of change but I find that the most effective thing to do is change the number of reps you do in each set.
3. Relying on Machines
But developing a plan and changing that plan on a regular basis are not enough if you are not also incorporating more than machine-based exercises into your routine. Building your workout around machines is certainly enticing because it looks easy enough to just perform a few reps on each and your progress is always easy to measure. Although machines are understandably appealing, it is best to devise a workout plan that includes more free weight and bodyweight exercises than machine exercises. After all, machine exercises tend to isolate single muscles or small muscle groups whereas complex, non-machine exercises can be performed that work a wider range of muscles at once. This will improve the pace of your progress and insure that those smaller muscle groups rarely worked by machines get just as good of a workout as major muscles like your biceps, triceps and abs.
4. Failing to Stretch
Of course, even the best-laid plans can be ruined if you fail to stretch before and after your workout. A healthy exercise routine should include a brief warm-up followed by a series of stretches and then the main workout, cool down and another series of stretches. Exercise-related injuries are the number one threat to steady progress at the gym and remembering to stretch before and after you lift will lower your possibility of suffering such injuries. Just remember never to stretch your muscles cold but always to include that brief cardio warm-up before your first stretching session.
5. Not Eating After Workout
If you are working out to gain or tone muscles, one of the worst things that you can do is not eat something at the end of your workout. Too many people wait too long before eating after a workout or don’t eat anything at all in the hour after they exercise. In order to make the most out of your exercise, make sure to consume something high in protein within the first 20 minutes after you exercise. It’s largely impractical to have a full meal after the gym so try using protein supplements in the form of shakes immediately after your workout. This will help your muscles grow and repair after your time at the gym. If you are seeking to reduce muscle mass, then avoid high protein shakes and search for a more balanced supplement that contains fruit and fiber to make you feel fuller longer.
These five common workout mistakes impede the progress of many people at the gym but you can avoid them if you recognize them and take the steps laid-out above to counter them. Remember, education is key to getting the most out of your workout so take some time before you start going to the gym to review these mistakes so that you don’t repeat them.