Hitting the gym should be something that you look forward to. It’s an opportunity to relieve stress, meet new people, and best of all get in shape. Everyone wants to look and feel their best, and the gym is a great place to start. With all the various equipment and styles of training, also comes plenty of opportunity for mistakes. If you don’t use the gym properly you’ll find yourself frustrated, without results, or injured. Here are 25 things you absolutely must avoid doing at the gym if you want to be successful. For other helpful tips about exercise, nutrition, and healthy living, head over to SteadyStrength.
Never Workout Without A Dynamic Warm-up First
Before you start any type of workout you have to prepare your muscles to work. That involves increasing the temperature of muscles and preparing the neuromuscular connection to fire rapidly. Dynamic stretching is one of the main ways to avoid injury during exercise and athletics. Studies show that dynamic stretching prepares your muscles to produce power better than static stretching
Don’t Lift Heavy Weights Alone
Have you heard of the “Buddy System” before? Ya, well that’s basically what you should always do when you plan on lifting heavy weights. A good workout buddy should always be your spotter. Part of a spotter’s job is to keep you safe by making sure you’re using correct form. When you’re struggling with the weight it doesn’t hurt to have someone there motivating you too. Having a workout buddy makes the workout more fun and efficient.
Never Make Excuses About Getting To The Gym
Don’t ever make excuses about getting to the gym. No matter how busy you are, there is some way that you can make sacrifices or shift around your schedule to give yourself some time to stay healthy. You have to have some time to focus on yourself if you want to be as healthy as possible. Even a quick high intensity 10 minute workout is better than nothing.
An effective way to eliminate excuses is to make a home gym. Fill it with simple, and easily stored equipment. This way the gym is easily accessible. No more excuses like, “I didn’t have time to drive all the way there and back before dinner time”.
Never Be Clueless About Your Workout For The Day
Walking into the gym with absolutely no idea about what you are going to do is a big time waster. You’re more likely to have a less productive workout as well. Think about the workout plan before you get there. The best case scenario is having a long term workout schedule already written down.
One way to prevent not having a plan is to hire the perfect personal trainer. You will never have to waste time thinking about your workout. They’re job is to guide you through a progressive workout program that strengthens your weaknesses and leads you to your fitness goals.
Never Workout With A Full Belly
If you plan on training within an hour of a big meal your stomach may not be happy with you. It may cause ingestion like bloating, nausea, gas, or diarrhea. If you are planning on working hard for an hour or more it’s important to have energy, but you have to give your body about 2 hours to digest it.
You can work out on an empty stomach, for example early in the morning before breakfast. Medium intensity cardio is the best form of exercise to do on an empty stomach. It burns more fat, probably because glycogen stores are low.
Never Leave Cardio Equipment Sweaty and Gross
One of the worst ways to make friends in the gym is by leaving a trail of your sweat on every piece of machinery that you use. Gym etiquette is mostly common sense, but if you have to learn the hard way it can attract some dirty looks. Either bring a towel to wipe down your equipment, or use the paper towels that basically every gym supplies for you.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
If you don’t know how to use something, or you need a spot on your last set, don’t be afraid to ask someone. I spend a lot of time in the gym and I have almost never seen anyone say no when they were asked for assistance. Usually people in the gym are there for a common purpose and are glad to help each other out. Utilize your resources.
Don’t Only Do Cardio
Don’t be that person that comes to the gym everyday to use that same cardio machine, and then leaves. That will take you nowhere in a hurry! You’re missing out on a whole different aspect of training, which is using weights. Women tend to violate this a lot either because they think they will get masculine muscles, which isn’t true. There a ton of reasons why women should lift weights, along with everyone else.
Weight lifting tends to use a higher ratio of fat as an energy source. If you lift at an intense level with little rest time in between each set, then you will burn just as many calories as a cardio session. A long bout of cardio is great for exercising your heart, but don’t miss out on the muscle toning and fat burning effects of resistance training.
Never Get Intimidated By Other People Lifting
In almost every gym there will be big, strong guys throwing weight around. Don’t be afraid to get in the mix. One reason people leave weight lifting off the workout schedule is because they are intimidated by the other guys using the weights. Let me share a secret with you: No one minds! Chances are, they are in their own zone and won’t even notice you using the weights right next door. Just grab your weights and do your own workout without a second thought.
Never Forget The Proper Gear
Dressing properly can effect how you workout, and your safety. ALWAYS have close toed shoes in the gym. It protects your feet from stubbing your toes or weights that could possibly fall on them. If you are planning an athletic workout it’s also pretty hard to move without the right shoes.
I’ve always found it helpful to keep a filled gym bag in my car with literally anything I might possibly need. You don’t even have to bring it into the gym everyday, but if you have it out in your car it’s easily accessible. Some absolutes that you should always have are a change of athletic clothes, training shoes, a supplement shaker, and a towel.
Never Use Incorrect Form
If you don’t know how to do an exercise correctly, then don’t do it without doing one of two things. Either go ask a personal trainer who knows what they are talking about, or go to theSteadyStrength Youtube Channel to learn how to do various different exercises correctly.
Doing exercises incorrectly, especially with heavy weight can cause serious injury. A common mistake during the squat and lunge, for example, is placing all the weight on the ball of the foot instead of the heal. That places a lot of pressure on the knees, instead of letting your glutes handle it.
Never Stick To The Same Routine Everyday
Your body needs to be placed under stress in order to adapt, change, and get better. If you do the same thing every single day your body will get used to it, and then stop adapting. This is a big reason for plateaus in fitness results. If you stop seeing results in weight loss or fat loss, first check your workout. It might be because you aren’t switching things up.
A big reason people do the same things over and over is because they get good at it. It offers a level of comfort. The weight room is NOT a time for comfort. Comfortable workouts don’t produce results! Work on the things that you don’t like. Chances are you don’t like it because it’s a weakness. Eliminate your weaknesses in order to see results!
Never Rely Too Much On Machines
Resistance machines have their place in an effective workout routine, but they should absolutely not be the main focus. If the bulk of your workout is done on machines everyday, you may not be getting the best results. Machines work in a set range of motion, therefor there is less activation of the core muscles and stabilizer muscles.
Free weights force you to use your core and stability to control them. When more muscles are involved, that means you will gain more strength and burn more calories. They are much more versatile as well, so it’s smart to use them for your main lifts.
Never Lift Too Much Weight, But Don’t Go Too Light Either
In general, when this rule is violated it’s the men that lift too heavy. On the other hand it’s mostly the women that lift too light, but don’t get me wrong this isn’t always the case. In any case there are probably multiple reasons for doing so.
If you lift more than you can handle, your form will be the first thing to go. When technique fails there are two things that happen. The risk of injury goes way up, and also the muscles that are supposed to be working aren’t. Therefore all that showing off isn’t doing much. Don’t ever sacrifice good form for more weight.
In the opposite situation, if you use weight that’s too light the muscles won’t get the proper stress they need to grow and burn calories. When you use a challenging weight, stabilizer muscles and core muscles have to get involved to complete the lift.
Find a weight that is challenging, but that you can still handle for at least 8 repetitions. Then move up to heavier weights gradually.
Never Rush Through Exercises
Rushing through exercises will not do you any good. People who rush through exercises without going through a full range of motion only defeat the purpose of the exercise. To ensure the effectiveness of your workout, focus on every repetition. Make sure your form is correct and consciously feel the muscles working where they should.
As my mentor always told me, “speed kills”, the exercise that is. Going slow on resistance exercises makes your muscles work harder.
There is a time and place for speed and explosiveness. If you are doing an explosive movement then use speed and power, but that still doesn’t mean that you have to rush to the next rep.
Never settle for doing just one set when you work out.
Don’t think that you have to absolutely crush your body every time you train to get results.Overtraining is the result that you will get when your body has had enough. It is a combination of symptoms like extreme fatigue, long lasting soreness, depression, irritability, and more.
Don’t think that soreness and fatigue aren’t supposed to happen. This is an extreme case, so you have to know the difference. To avoid this situation get full nights of sleep, eat highly nutritious food, and optimize your workout through active rest.
Don’t Only Focus On The Muscles That You Can See
Focusing only on the “beach muscles” is a big scam. Most of those muscles are secondary and small compared to the rest of your body. For example, the biceps are a small muscle group. If your workout consists of 500 bicep curls, yeah they will be pretty sore, but you really didn’t do much calorie expenditure.
Most of the “beach muscles” like the biceps, triceps, abs, and calves are involved in the lifts that get bigger muscles involved anyways. Think about the squat, for example. the main working muscle is the glutes. Your calves and core are also involved in this movement though.
Worry about the show-off muscles quickly at the end of your workout. It doesn’t take much to fatigue those smaller muscles.
Don’t Come To The Gym Just To Socialize
The gym has a social aspect, there’s no doubt about it. There are aerobics classes, spin classes, and some trainers put on group training sessions. There is a time to socialize, but when someone is in the zone don’t bother them.
A good time to meet new people is immediately upon entering the gym, before a class, after class, or even at the water fountain. The key is to know when it’s acceptable to talk to someone, and when they want to be left alone.
If someone is just walking around, it may be ok to walk up to them and start a conversation for a very short time. If someone looks like they’re in the zone and they have headphones in, they probably don’t want to talk to you.
Keeping the social aspect of the gym to a minimum will also keep yourself on task as well.
Don’t Lift With The Same Scenery Everyday
The same gym everyday can get repetitive and boring. Changing your workout location might also force you to change up your workout routine. That’s a good thing, as we found out in tip #14.
Don’t let redundancy effect your workouts. Find new places that you like to train so you have a backup plan if you get bored. Keep in mind, these places can be other gyms or even the outdoors.
Don’t Leave Your Legs Idle
Your legs are the biggest and most powerful muscle group. If you have a strong base in your legs, more often than not, the rest of your body will follow suit. A lot of leg exercises involve upper body strength as well. Your legs are capable of burning a high number of calories and producing a lot of strength.
Don’t Only Lift Weights
Lifting weights will give you all the aesthetic benefits that you want, but you can’t forget about your heart and lungs. Even if you’re a bodybuilder you have to do cardio on a regular basis to exercise your heart and help your lungs to work efficiently. Cardio also burns a ton of calories, but most of it is from glycogen stores.
Don’t Neglect Static Stretching
After a workout when your muscles are warm is the time to hold stretches for extended periods of time. Static stretching increases your range of motion, mobility, and helps your body recover. This is different from the dynamic warm-up that you should do at the beginning of your workout.
Static stretches should be held for at least 30 seconds. As you get older, muscles tend to get stiffer and less pliable so the stretches need to be held longer. This type of stretching relaxes your body and can prevent serious back pain.
Don’t Train Without Hydrating Yourself
Water has some incredible health benefits. The body needs water to function properly, especially at intense levels of training. The most efficient way to always make sure you have enough water is to bring a gallon jug with you. You can add flavor to the water as well, which will make it slightly easier to drink.
Never Do A Hard Workout Without Refueling Afterwards
After a tough workout your muscles will be depleted and in a catabolic state. That means your body will start to break its own tissue down for energy. You don’t want to lose lean muscle mass so you have to intake lots of carbs and protein, ideally within 30 minutes of a workout. Chocolate milk has an optimal ratio of carbs and proteins for recovery.
Protein supplements are effective and practical, but you want to make sure that the sugar content is low. The absolute best way to refuel your body is with an actual meal.