Last Updated 11th August 2016: The final article in our expert round-up series – The most common weight lifting mistakes / gym errors. If you’ve been in the gym for longer than a few months, you’ve probably seen some strange things. I reached out to a number of fitness experts and asked what they believed to be the most common gym mistake. Here is what they said:
- 1 Russ Howe: “Being scared of big lifts.”
- 2 Sockdoc – “Poor Form”
- 3 Renegade Strength Club – “Going Too Heavy”
- 4 Ray Buckton – “Mind-Muscle Connection”
- 5 Tony Schober – “Too Much too Soon”
- 6 Tom Buckland – “Poor form on Heavy Lifts”
- 7 Dai Manuel – “Not Understanding Intensity.”
- 8 Henry Croft – “Too much isolation work.”
- 9 Shannon Clark – “Overdoing Cardio”
- 10 Michael Blevins – “Doing the Same Exercises”
- 11 Conclusion TL;DR
Russ Howe: “Being scared of big lifts.”
If your goal is to lose some fat in the New Year, men and women tend to go down one of the following routes:
Men – we lift weights, but we focus on bodybuilding routines. We isolate tiny muscle groups like forearms, calves, upper pecs, etc. Because that’s what all the other bro’s at the gym are doing, i.e. “It’s arm day.”
Women – women tend to go the direct opposite route and stick to aerobics, i.e. “I’ll just do cardio until I lose the weight, then I’ll start lifting weights to tone up.”
The truth is we should be lifting weights from the get-go, they’re great for fat loss, but we should also be focusing our energy on compound lifts. These exercises will fire up more muscle fibers (and our metabolism) allowing us to get more done in less time. Plus, your session will be far more challenging. This will see you burn fat more body fat.
There’ll always be a guy sitting in the corner, wearing a weights belt, performing wrist curls. I encourage you not to become him.
Sockdoc – “Poor Form”
I think the most common gym mistake is simply poor form and/or trying to lift more weight and having form compromised. Many people don’t move well as it is and when you add weight to that poor movement, it’s an accident waiting to happen.
Renegade Strength Club – “Going Too Heavy”
Going too heavy. Most guys use the gym to stroke their ego and they use weights that are 20-40lbs too heavy.
If you can’t feel a movement in the belly of the muscle you’re training, and instead, feel all the stress in your joints, use lighter weight and focus on picture perfect technique. [This is similar to the Mind-Muscle Connection that Ray mentions next up.]
Control the descent, contract the muscle you’re training as hard as can on the way up, and really focus solid, strong reps. No grinders.
You’ll feel a huge difference.
Ray Buckton – “Mind-Muscle Connection”
The most common mistake I see people making when they train is underusing the notion of tempo when they lift. A lot of people lack quality mind to muscle connection and so when they lift quickly they never really train the muscle to its full potential and therefore are not really reaping the full benefit of the exercise. Aside from this, trying to lift to heavy is another very common mistake. Many ego’s get trained a lot harder than muscles in most gyms.
Tony Schober – “Too Much too Soon”
The most common gym mistake I see is when people do too much exercise too soon. Many people go from a sedentary lifestyle to doing a combination of cardio and weight training 5-7 days/week. Their body doesn’t get a chance to adapt to the extra exercise volume and soon shows signs of excess fatigue – motivation dwindling, stress, and injury. Layer in exercise slowly after your body has the chance to adapt to the new stimulus.
Tom Buckland – “Poor form on Heavy Lifts”
Poor form on heavy lifts. Going too heavy too early, most people walk into the gym and think they can hit 225 on the bench, 315 deads or squat 2 plates on day 1, put the ego away and your body will be thankful for it in the long run. Another common weight lifting mistake I see is people doing too much, being in the gym for 3 hours a day doing 50 sets… Reduce the number of sets and work at a higher intensity during those sets, also focus more on your nutrition if you can’t see progress from 15-20 sets per session.
Dai Manuel – “Not Understanding Intensity.”
Intensity and “time in the gym” are not the same thing. HIIT training or High Intensity Interval Training offers many benefits and allows you to train at 100% of your personal efforts for a set period of time, before moving back down to 50% for another set period. 20 minutes of HIIT can be the same as 60 minutes of your steady cardio routine at 60% of your max.
Henry Croft – “Too much isolation work.”
If you have a day dedicated to arms, a day dedicated to shoulders, etc, you’re doing it all wrong.
The most effective way to build muscle, bar none, is to perform strenuous full-body routines full of heavy-duty compound exercises (squat, deadlift, bench, overhead press, chin-ups, dips, rows).
This is how the old-school bodybuilders (guys like Peary Rader, John Grimek, Steve Reeves, Reg Park) built their physiques before the advent of steroids, and, as a consequence, high-volume (high-bullsh*t) split routines.
I would recommend the 5×5 protocol as the best place to start.
Shannon Clark – “Overdoing Cardio”
Overdoing cardio training without sufficient weight lifting. Some people still think cardio is for fat loss when really, weight lifting is just as effective if not more effective as cardio is.
Not warming up – lack of a good warm-up can dramatically increase the risk of injury, while not causing you to be as ‘in the zone mentally’.
Letting your ego get in the way. Some lifters, especially men tend to lift a heavier weight than they should just to say they lift that weight. But in reality, they are not using proper form, so are not deriving the benefits they should be from those exercises.
Michael Blevins – “Doing the Same Exercises”
One mistake I see in the gym often is thinking that you shouldn’t learn new movements, that once you know how to squat, bench, and deadlift that you are set, and that fitness is just an expression of how good you are at certain movements. Learning new ways to train and new ways to express fitness should be a corner stone in anyone’s program, at least some point in the training cycle. It doesn’t mean you have to look like an idiot on a Bosu ball, but it should mean you find out why so many people are attracted to training in Martial Arts, or in endurance sports. Its actually ok to be a jack go all trades when it comes to gym training, as opposed to the guy that has a circus level trick with one movement or one rep scheme, but never discovers how fun it is to walk on his hands.
- Poor Form.
- Repetitive exercises.
- Poor Workout Splits.
- Ego Lifting.
- Overdoing Cardio.
- Insufficient Warm-Ups.
- Overuse of Isolation Work.
- Under-utilising compound movements.
- Not Understanding Intensity.
- Going too heavy.
- Doing too much, too early.
- Avoiding scary lifts.
- Poor Mind-Muscle Connection.
Let me know what you think the most common weight lifting mistake or gym error is in the comments below.