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Common Workout Mistakes You're Probably Making (And How To Fix Them)

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

So, you've decided to get fit by signing up to a gym. Lovely stuff. But – and you probably know this – now the hard work truly begins.

Those first few steps into the world of the weights room can be daunting enough. Don't make it harder for yourself by making these rookie errors. There's six to avoid. Read them and take note. Your gains are waiting for you.

1. Too much, too soon

Don't have unrealistic expectations. Sadly, you're not going to be ripping the seams of your shirts after a single week in the gym. "People expect massive results instantly, which often leads to them over training and injuring themselves or quickly losing interest," says Mohan (Trainer). Feed your urge for instant gratification by setting yourself achievable short term targets and goals. Three workouts a week and a kilogram or two of muscle gain or weight loss (depending on your goal) is a great starting point.

2. Static stretching

Bending down and touching your toes before a run is little more than a dangerous waste of time. Static stretching discourages your muscles from performing at their peak. "View your muscles like bluetac," says Bryant. "Cold bluetac snaps when stretched; warm bluetac becomes longer and softer." Swap your toe-touches for dynamic lunges to get more spring in your step.

3. Useless warm ups

Pedalling on the static bike for 10 minutes might get you hot under the collar, but when you hit the bench your chest will still be cold. "If you're going to run then warm up by running. If you're going to lift weights then first mimic the actions with bodyweight moves," says PT Rajesh. Warm ups must match the training you're about to do in order to get blood flowing to the right muscles and reduce your risk of injury.

4. Reps over ROM

It's range of movement, not number of reps, that is key to increasing strength and building muscle. "Squats, for example, should go as low as you are able while maintaining a neutral spine," says Bryant. "If you’re not doing this, then it's not a proper squat." The same can be said for all exercises. If you want optimum muscle activation you need to maximise both range of movement and muscle time under tension. When you can no longer complete a rep slowly and with perfect form, it's time to take a rest period.

5. Machine head

Weight machines allow even complete beginners to lift a large amount of weight and are a good place to kick off your resistance training. But unless you soon start to incorporate free weights into your workouts you'll stop improving. "A Smith machine, for example, offers a very limited range of movement and doesn't involve any balance," says Ashford. Free weights, on the other hand, allow you to use natural movement, activating more muscle fibres and leading to greater muscle gains.

6. Finding a routine

Starting to feel more confident wih your workouts? That's a bad sign. "You should stick to a programme for six weeks and then change," says Bryant. Your body quickly adapts to the strain you put it under and, to ensure constant progress, it's essential to mix things up and keep your muscles guessing.

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