I’ll keep this short and simple as the gym can be complicated enough.
Before I list out the common gym mistakes, the following is based on strength training and building a more “toned” look, but it can also be applied to other exercises.
You’re Trying To Do Everything
Ah yes, the old adage of surprise your muscles with new exercise each week – say sprinting one week then going to weights another week, yoga the next and then spinning the week after, or just going to a million different classes each week. Consistency is key.
Too much variability means you won’t progress at what you want to get better, stronger or faster at. Understandably it’s more interesting to use a cable instead of a barbell, instead of a dumbbell or bodyweight to work muscles, which is completely fine. The key is to make sure there’s some element of consistency to be able to track your progress to ensure you’re achieving progressive overload.
You’re Not Lifting Heavy Enough
If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
Yes, it’s a phrase that makes me cringe and want to slap the person saying it but it’s in fact true. In order to build muscle, you need to break it, so if you find yourself lifting a weight that’s a little too easy for you and nothing’s visibly changing, maybe it’s time to up the weight.
And don’t worry, strength training doesn’t make you big, it makes you strong.
Just to go into the science behind it is that microscopic tears occur in the muscles when you lift weights. These tears fatigue the muscle and then are rebuilt over the coming days with decent rest and nutrition. Once the muscle rebuilds, it increases its size, strength and endurance.
You Stay Too Long
Find yourself able to get through the latest Netflix series on the treadmill over the course of the week? Unless you’re training for endurance, you might be doing a little too much. More isn’t necessarily more.
Surely the more calories burned the better? To what end?
In truth, it was something I used to find it hard to get my head around but now it’s about quality, not quantity.
Exercise is a stress on your body and too much causes your muscles to fatigue which lessens the quality. Also, poor form can creep in as a result and no one wants that!
The calories you burn in the gym are only a very small part of what you expend outside of the gym. Focus on NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis), which is the energy you burn going about your daily life. This is what makes the difference.
More on this in my article, 23 Hours.
You’re Going Too Much
Invest in Rest. #TeamNoDaysOff have got it all wrong. Especially if you’re training to failure, you’ll need to give those muscles and tendons 48-72 hours to recover, hence workout splits and rest days being integrated into regular gym goers’ programmes.
Quality will trump quantity on most occasions unless you’re only going once a week.
Ideally you should aim for training at least twice a week, with each muscle group volume being 10 or more sets a week.
Keep the above in mind when you’re next hitting the gym or looking at a new training programme and you’ll find that winning formula.