Working out seems easy enough, right? Go to the gym, try out a few weight machines, add in some cardio, and call it a day.
If only it were that simple! To help you get the most out of your time at the gym, and ensure you’re getting bang for your buck with your workouts, Tom from our Education Team has highlighted some common mistakes he sees in the gym, and how to go about fixing them.
Common Gym Mistakes:
1. Not going through a full range of motion during your exercises.
To get the most out of your gym session and exercises within the session, it is important to take each rep though a full range of motion. The range of motion may depend on your individual mobility (e.g. your squat may not be as deep as someone who is more mobile). Completing an exercise through a full range of motion with good form will increase the amount of work the muscles need to do, as well as promote good posture and joint function.
An example exercise I see this on regularly is the cable triceps push down. Focusing on elbow extension and the triceps – if we don’t take the elbow from full flexion to full extension we are making the exercise easier. Taking the muscle through a full range of motion allows there to be mechanical tension on the muscle at different lengths, therefore creating a better stimulus for adaptation.
2. Incorrect Footwear
Having the correct footwear not only allows you to get the most out of your exercises, but can also reduce the chance of injury and improve your exercise technique.
Running shoes have lots of cushioning to provide support and absorb shock, which is great for running, however if your gym session contains exercises such as barbell squats or deadlifts, the added cushioning from runners is doing more harm than good.
For exercises such as squats, deadlifts, RDL’s or any exercise that we want a stable lifting platform and need to apply force into the ground, a flat sole shoe that has a firm base is better. It will allow better balance and improve the stability of your lift, allowing you to lift heavier weight and thereby increasing your results (while being safer).
The flat sole’s can also improve your technique on these exercises. Cushioned shoes such as runners don’t allow you to plant your feet flat to the floor. If you’re wearing runners, you might find that you are either more on your toes or rocking back to your heels. This movement and unstable nature will affect your ability to perform an exercise with correct technique.
Look to match your footwear to your training. Nike and Reebok both have shoes with flat solid soles designed for lifting weights, even shoes like Converse can be used. Keep your runners for running.
3. Too much time on isolation exercises
While there is definitely a time and place for isolation (single joint) exercises within a resistance training program, spending too much too much time on these exercises can slow your progress. Compound (multi joint) exercises allow you to work multiple muscle groups in one exercise. Most of us have limited time to train and be at the gym. If you allow yourself one hour, three times per week to train at the gym you will be much better off spending your time on compound exercises rather than isolation.
Compound exercises will allow you to work more muscles in a shorter amount of time. This will assist in either building more muscle (increased volume of work) or fat loss (as you will burn more energy).
If you currently have more isolation than compound exercises in your program, consider changing it up. I have included an upper body session example below.
Looking at these examples, there are only 4 exercises in the compound session which will allow you time to do 4 sets of each exercise. This is still 2 sets less overall than the isolation session, so it will be more time efficient. Even though we have less sets in total, each muscle group is getting more stimulus. While there are no bicep curls in the compound focused session they will be getting work in both the seated row and face pulls. We also have the added bonus of working our upper back muscles (rear delts, rhomboids, middle trap) in both the seated row and face pull.
Focusing your sessions on quality sets of compound exercises can help your session be more efficient and effective. If time permits there is nothing wrong with finishing 1-2 sets of biceps and triceps, but make sure you have maximised your time in the gym first.