7 Common Gym Mistakes to Avoid

Gym Mistakes

Starting the gym isn’t easy, I get it. It can be a nerve racking experience. Much of that nervousness comes from not knowing what to expect or not knowing what to do. I’ve spoken about this a lot.

If you look back at my previous blogs I’ve wrote plenty of articles about what you SHOULD be doing, well here’s a change of pace. Today I’m going to speak about 7 things to avoid.

Now you might think I’m focusing on negative aspects, but I think it’s important for people. As much as people want to know what to do I think you guys also want to know what to avoid.

Not Having a Program

We’ve all done it. Went to the gym and just ‘winged it’. No set plan, no rep scheme, no clue what we’re doing.

Yes for a training session here or there that’s fine, but if you’re consistently going to the gym and picking a random selection of exercises with a random set and rep scheme, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

There is no way to progress. In fact, there’s not even a way to measure progress. How do you know if you’re improving if you can’t see more weight lifted or more reps performed?

It’s impossible.

Therefore getting a simple but effective gym program is essential. If nothing else it will give you a focus. It means you won’t be wasting time in the gym thinking of the next exercise to perform.

Lifting Too Light or Heavy

‘How heavy should I be lifting?’ is a question I get asked all the time. Unfortunately it’s like asking how long a piece of string is.

I can’t give you a definitive answer. It depends on your strength at the moment. And I can guarantee that if I was to give you a weight to lift, I could be a fly on the wall at a workout in six weeks’ time and you’d be lifting the same weight.

Again, it’s about progression. There’s little or no point in lifting the same weight weeks on end. You need to start lifting heavier.

How do you judge it though? First off you should pick a weight that you can lift with proper form. At the end of your given reps it should feel like you could only have done one or two more reps.

If it feels like you could have done five or six more chances are you’re lifting too light. If it felt like you couldn’t possibly do one more rep then you’re lifting too heavy. It’s pretty likely that your form broke down, and you won’t have the energy for the following sets.

Speaking of form, if your form has broken down doing an exercise you’re lifting too heavy. NEVER sacrifice form for weight lifted. NEVER!

Spending Too Long At the Gym

You know the lady that doddles around the gym, takes a few selfies in the bathroom, does a few cable exercises, then puts up a post on Instagram about her ‘killer 2 and a half hour workout #FitFam’


She’d be far better off getting in the gym, leaving the phone in the pocket and actually work HARD for 45-60 minutes. Job done.

The gym should be in, work hard and go home. Nothing else. Yes if you’ve time, and you’re so inclined, take a few selfies in the bathroom, but don’t include this in your workout time. Don’t try to fool your ‘followers’, you’re only fooling yourself.

This ties in with having a gym program Gym programs with set reps, sets and rest periods cut down on needlessly wandering around the gym.

Of course you might bump into someone at the gym you know, and by all means stop and chat. Just don’t let this take up your entire workout.

Not Resting Long Enough

This is one I encounter with new clients all the time.

Clients are just mad to rush through their routine as quick as possible. 20 seconds simply isn’t long enough rest (read that again).

You need to take your proper rest. If you feel like you can lift again after a very short break then you aren’t lifting heavy enough.

I get that you might feel like you’re wasting time just sitting around but trust me if you’re lifting heavy enough you’d be glad of the rest.

Generally as the reps get higher, the rest gets lower. So doing heavy 3 rep deadlifts might require 3-4 minutes rest whilst a bicep curl for 12-15 reps may only require 1 or 1.5 minutes rest.

If you’re one of those REALLY impatient people perhaps you could try doing an exercise on the rest period.

For example, during the rest period during heavy squats I sometimes get clients to do a 30 second plank. This doesn’t interfere with the ability to perform the squat much.

Not Doing Exercises Because of Self-Consciousness

So the hip thrust isn’t the most flattering of exercises. Trust me I know what you mean. However, don’t avoid an exercise just because of how it looks.

No-one looks totally flattering in the gym. Being sweaty, panting and smelly comes with the territory.

So don’t think for a minute that people are staring at you and laughing at an exercise you’re performing. Trust me people before you have done a lot worse. See below……

Chasing the Burn

No pain no gain right? Wrong.

Do not enter the gym with the sole intention of absolutely ruining yourself. Muscle burn and soreness is a pretty poor indicator of progress so it doesn’t make sense to chase it.

Enter the gym with the intention of progressing. Lift more than last week, do more reps or do more sets.

Don’t just toast your muscles for no good reason. Obviously sometimes we get the ‘burn’ just as a by-product of the work we’re doing, which is fine.

Not Warming Up

Okay so I don’t always practice what I preach here.

If I get a little break between clients I’ll often just jump straight into a set of squats.

Do not do this. Chances are that you’ve set aside time for the gym, there’s no reason to skimp on the first part of your session.

Not only is it a way to reduce injury risk but it also will improve your performance; you’ll be able to lift heavier.

Don’t be that idiot that does 25 minutes manoeuvring around on a foam roller though. That’s of no benefit either.

Depending on the temperature 5-10 minutes on a cardio machine along with 5 minutes of mobility/foam rolling should be plenty.

Hope this piece clears up some of your fears and the mistakes you might be making in the gym.

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If you’re interested in taking part in a program with me why not send me an email to jamesmcdowellhealth@gmail.com

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