Evaluate Your Gym Training
Nurse Susan explains the six ways you could be sabotaging yourself in the gym.
Are you hitting the gym regularly but not seeing results? Are you getting frustrated and thinking about just throwing in the towel? Before you give up, take a step back and evaluate the way you are training. You could accidentally be sabotaging your progress with one of these six common mistakes.
You Do Not Follow a Program
A lot of new gym-goers go in without a plan. They just meander around, do a couple sets on an open machine, then walk on the treadmill for a few minutes and call it good.
Some exercise is better than nothing at all. But, if you do not have a plan, you are not really maximizing your time and are going to have a hard time seeing results.
Luckily, the fix for this is simple -- find a program and stick with it.
There are lots of free programs available online that you can try out. If it is within your means, you might also want to hire a trainer to create a plan just for you.
If you are trying to create your own workout plan, make sure it follows this basic format:
Once you have a program, make sure you stick with it for a few weeks. It will take a while for you to see results, so it is important to be patient and trust the process.
You Skip the Warm-up
A proper warm-up is essential, not just for avoiding injury but also for making significant strength gains.
A good warm-up should start with some light cardiovascular exercise. The goal here is to increase your heart rate and literally warm the body up.
After this, you should move on to some dynamic stretches and movements like lunges or bodyweight squats -- the exercises you do during the warm-up should be similar to what you will be doing during your actual workout.
Static stretching is not ideal before a workout. In fact, it can actually lead to injury since you will not be comfortable with the new range of motion you have introduced.
Your warm-up does not need to take a long time -- 10-15 minutes is usually sufficient.
You Neglect Small Muscles
If you are not happy with your physique, you may want to consider switching up your routine and paying more attention to small, frequently neglected muscles. Some that you may be skipping include:
Working on your lower arm strength will improve your grip, which means you will be able to perform better when doing pull exercises like deadlifts, rows, and pull-ups. However, strengthening your forearms will also give you an upper body that looks more balanced.
You can use a special forearm strengthening tool or do wrist curls with light dumbbells to target the lower arms.
Do not skip leg day, and definitely do not neglect your calves. Strong calves balance out the lower body and help increase the amount of volume you can take during squats, deadlifts, and leg presses. Strong calves also improve stability and help you avoid injuries while running or playing sports.
Standing calf raises are probably the best calf-strengthening exercise you can do. Do them while holding dumbbells or just use your bodyweight. Either way, you will see results.
Men are particularly guilty of neglecting their adductors (inner thigh muscles). However, these muscles play a big part in stabilizing and protecting the knees during squats and while running or climbing stairs.
If you are having trouble increasing the weight on your squat, or if your knees are constantly caving in, weak adductors might be to blame.
To strengthen the adductors, try doing lateral lunges on your lower body training days.
You Waste Time Between Sets
What do you do in between sets? Are you texting, talking to your friends, or scrolling through Instagram?
It is important to rest in between exercises. But, if you are spending several minutes resting after each set, you are going to have a hard time growing muscle. Shoot for 60-90 seconds between sets.
The only exception to this rule is if your focus is purely on strength, rather than hypertrophy. If this is the case, you typically do need to take up to five minutes between sets before you can lift super heavy again.
You Lift Too Heavy
In their haste to make gains, lots of people end up sacrificing form for added weight.
Lifting heavy is fine, as long as you are able to maintain good form at the same time.
If you have to throw your weight around to lift the weight, you are lifting too heavy, and you are not going to see the kind of results you are after. You are better off nailing the technique with lighter weight than sacrificing form to lift the weight you think you should be.
If you do not know if you are lifting with correct form, do not be afraid to ask a trainer or a more experienced gym-goer for help.
You Overtrain and Sacrifice Sleep
Finally, over-training could be stalling your progress.
Your body needs rest days to recover. That is when you actually build muscle.
Not sure if you are overtraining? In addition to a lack of progress, you should be on the lookout for these other signs:
Make sure you are not neglecting your sleep, either. It is essential for recovery. You are also more likely to injure yourself when you are training while sleep deprived.
If you want to really see progress in the gym, make sure you are not making any of these common mistakes. Just a few simple fixes can help you take your training to the next level.
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About the Author
Nurse Susan has always been passionate about helping people heal. After she retired from a lifelong career as a nurse, that passion did not go away. She loves to use her expertise to write about the best ways to keep you and your family healthy, active, and happy.
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