10 Big Workout Mistakes and How to Fix Them

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Two guys walk into the gym and they both head straight over to the free weight area. They are both of similar builds and strength levels but fast forward a year and they will differ immensely.

Why?

Because one approaches his training and nutrition wisely, staying flexible, focused and consistent while the other is constantly shifting gears, stressed out over the latest trend and “wings it” most of the time.

Which type are you?

Better yet, which type do you want to be? Oftentimes you become blind to the smaller but more important mistakes made in and out of the gym. Missed workouts, poor nutrition and lack of intensity are a few of the more obvious things, but what about the details? Giving the day-to-day the blind eye can quickly add up sabotaging your progress and ultimately stalling your efforts.

Related: 6 Biggest Workout Mistakes Holding You Back

Below are 10 hidden but also glaringly obvious gym faux pas that need your immediate attention. Remember, the little things sometimes make all the difference. It’s now time to choose who you want to be in a year from now.
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10 Big Workout Mistakes

Mistake #1 – You don’t have a plan

It’s a sunny afternoon and you step into the gym. You may know what you are training but do you really know how you will train? Do you have a plan or do you simply make it up as you go? Being spontaneous and creating a workout on the fly is great for those days when you want a change but not having at least a basic plan in place won’t get you far no matter what your ultimate goal is.

Fix it: Be a planner. Have certain basic principles you abide by in each and every workout without fail. This isn’t to say that you need to follow some detailed, stringent plan to the T – life doesn’t usually allow that some days.

If you want to add lean muscle then you need to have a loose plan in place on how to achieve that. Reps, sets, rest times and basic, multi-joint lifts need to be figured out ahead of time so you can more effectively attack each workout without wasting time and energy on things that don’t matter.

Mistake #2 – You overplan

As I briefly mentioned above, over planning is another practice to be weary of. Planning out every detail is admirable and all but what happens when those plans get derailed? Frustration, stress and panic set in. You become anxious that your perfect plan doesn’t execute exactly as expected.

I have an idea that I always keep in my head when I’m at the gym: We are all paying rent and are roommates so let’s respect each other and not blow a gasket when we don’t get our way. Planning is a necessity but taking it to the nth degree isn’t always practical.

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Fix it: Have a workout plan on deck for the day and week but also have a set of basic principles in place in case you experience the proverbial wrench thrown in your gears. How do you do this?

Simple.

Just have a set of tried and true exercises to act as alternates in case someone is monopolizing equipment or you find a slight injury nagging you that day, for example. It’s also a great quality to have when you want to shift a gear or two and try new exercises, rep schemes or change the pace.

Mistake #3 – You overprepare

I once saw a guy walk over to the free weight area where I was and drop his gym bag right by a bench. He proceeded to pull every workout “essential” you could think of: Wrist wraps, wrist straps, weight belt, elbow sleeves, pre-workout powder, shaker bottle, ear buds, amino acid pills, a gallon jug of water among other aids, devices and potions.

I stood there in awe of the amount of preparation this guy had. I thought I was in for something special. Long story short, he performed a few sets of chest exercises and was out the door in 15 minutes.

Fix it: Personally, I’m a bit of a minimalist when it comes to training and nutrition. I like to see what my body can handle without too many aids and pills. Do you see a little of yourself in the example above? Do you walk into the gym each day with a bag full of tricks? Try going “naked” one day and see how you do.

No, that doesn’t mean getting arrested for indecent exposure. What I mean is, try squatting without a belt, save all the supplements for home use and handle weights properly so you don’t have to rely on wraps, straps and other lifting aids. See what your body is truly capable of and leave all the loot at home.

Mistake #4 – You are inflexible

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As I eluded to above, being inflexible in the gym is a bad road to travel. Being so rigid with your plan of action is stressful when you can’t get your way in a crowded gym. Do you have to do squats first?

Do you really need that one bench press station in the corner and can’t use the other one next to it? Is it absolutely imperative that you drag the preacher bench over to the pulley machine to do preacher cable curls? These are all fixable and flexible situations that can easily and effectively rectified with a certain mindset.

Fix it: Let’s first sit down, take a dep breath and figure this out together. I’ve seen too many angry meat heads curse under their breath regarding the poor sap curling in the squat rack. It’s wrong, I know, but what are you going to do really? Get physical?

If you pride yourself on being the crafty trainer that you are then it should be a piece of cake to alter your plans and start on some one-legged squats, leg extensions or lunges. Go to the gym with a specific plan but be prepared to change those plans and practice patience.

Mistake #5 – You’ve become a rock star

Are you the big man on campus? When you walk in the gym does everyone know your name? Do you walk around to meet and greet everyone with a handshake, bro hug or fist bump? Being friendly is important especially in the gym these days. Your local workout hole is actually a community of like-minded people after similar goals.

You don’t want to be a grump or one of those super serious types where every workout is life or death but if all you do in the gym is stand around and shoot the bull with your “fans” then you really aren’t getting in a great workout.

Fix it: Fostering community is important. It breeds friendships, motivation and a sense of belonging but practicing too much talk and not enough walk will seem like you are just paying gym dues to socialize. Walk in, say your hellos and get to work.

It’s okay to shake a hand or two, crack a joke between sets and ask how someone’s day is going but holding all out meetings of in-depth conversations is another thing all together. Make nice and smile but always remember your goals and why you’re there in the first place.

Mistake #6 – You fail to see the big picture

You may have your daily goals in place. Sets, reps and exercises are nicely planned out and executed but you may have one important ingredient missing: The big picture perspective. In other words, what is your overall goal?

Gain strength, pack on muscle, get leaner? Whatever it may be does your training reflect that goal? Are all aspects of your workouts geared toward that specific goal?

Fix it: If you want to be bigger train for hypertrophy (muscle size), if you want more strength train to get stronger or if you want to be leaner perform circuit style training. Those are just examples of relating your actual training practices directly to your goal.

If you want more muscle size why would you train with heavier weight and low reps like a power lifter? Why would you rest five minutes between each set to savor strength if you wanted to reshape your physique? Match your actions with your goal.
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Mistake #7 – Your pre-workout meal is wrong

I can’t tell you how many times I see individuals rushing through the front door to the gym and instantly purchase some sort of gelatin-based “protein” bar which they will scarf down in the locker room while they change clothes. They must be starving and in need of some fast fuel.

On the other end of the spectrum you have the guy who eats at the buffet before the gym and simply can’t get a pump or any energy to crush his workout.

Fix it: It takes the body time to digest food. Cramming a protein bar down your gullet five minutes prior to training isn’t ideal. Conversely, smashing the local buffet full of empty calories will pool blood to your digestive system making you feel sluggish.

Be prepared. Have a fast-digesting protein and a small amount of a complex carb around an hour before your workout. Go with something like an apple with whey protein.

Mistake #8 – You like to go clubbing

There’s an epidemic in every gym across the country. Patrons are confusing clubs with gyms. Do you go to the gym in hopes to find your soulmate or to simply hook up?

Is staring at the hottie on the elliptical your main goal for showing up? Socializing with the females is healthy as being single is sometimes tough, but is the gym really the place for this?

Fix it: I’ve got some bad news. Most, if not all women go to the gym to (wait for it) workout. They may feel insecure entering into a male dominated area as it is and your gawking doesn’t help either. Save the meet and greets for the club, bar or other favorite watering hole.

Instead focus on your workouts, cultivate intensity and progress with every session. Over time you’ll build an impressive physique that is lean and muscular and you may just garner attention from the opposite sex without even trying.

Mistake #9 – You bring your best friend (your ego)

Picture this: It’s Monday, you know International Chest Day, and you belly up to the nearest bench press station. You start your warm-ups and then progress on to your work sets. Out of the corner of your eye you notice the guy next to you piling on plate after plate to the bar.

You then proceed to add on a plate or two to your bar – heavier than you’d normally do for reps. The weight is so heavy it only allows you to get only one or two reps before your training partner has to lift it off your chest with a grunt.

Fix it: Don’t be that guy. The type that let’s their ego make decisions for you. Who cares what the beast next to you is benching, lifting or what they even look like. We are instinctual animals that sometimes let our egos take over and dictate our actions.

Resist the urge to overshoot your capabilities and risk injury. Instead do what you need to do for your specific goals. Progress in a slow and deliberate manner. Throwing too much weight on the bar will only make you look like a poser and won’t do you any good.

Mistake #10 – You have too much fear

Do you cringe at the thought of squatting all the way down butt to ankle? Do you fear putting just a little more weight on the bar to challenge yourself or perform a high volume, high rep leg workout that could bury you? You, my friend, have fear of the unknown. This may be a limiting factor regarding your progress.

Fix it: I am not advocating you load the bar up with twice the weight – that would make me a hypocrite. What I am suggesting is that you step outside of your comfort zone every now and then and do some things that are hard, challenging and instill some bravery on your part.

Throw out the playbook one day and perform an all pull-up back day or 10 sets of 10 on squats. Whatever you do make sure you do it because it scares you a little and takes you outside of your comfort zone. Remember, bravery isn’t the lack of fear; it’s the act of doing something in spite of your fear.

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Name: Brad Borland

Bio: Starting out as a scrawny 125 pound kid at 6’ 2” I took up weight training at the tender age of 14 and ended up a 220 pound competitive drug-free, natural bodybuilder several years later. Now armed with both knowledge and muscle I have helped countless individuals domestically and abroad.