10 Biggest Gym Mistakes You’re Making

It’s easy to look around the gym and know right away who the “newbies” are…or do you? Some of us have perfected the correct methods of weight training, and yet some of us (who have been doing it for years) still aren’t doing it right!

Personal trainers are the best people to ask when it comes to mistakes at the gym. They see it every single day. In this post, hear from several top trainers from around the country on how to correct your mistakes and train like a pro.

Here are the 10 Biggest Mistakes:

1. Squats and Lunges That Make Granny Look Twice:

granny squat

According to Caitlin Ritt, private trainer at Sports Club/LA, “The biggest mistake I see people do over and over in the gym is squats and lunges with the weight in their toes and their heels coming off the ground,” she says. “I have clients come to me all the time complaining about knee pain, and as soon as I get them to keep the weight through their heels, almost always the knee pain goes away.” Correctly doing squats and lunges will not only prevent injuries, but will also engage your glute muscles. And that is the way to a firmer and tighter butt…which you better know the girls hardcore dig.

2. Doing the Same Routine Over and Over and Over:


Don’t just go to the gym on autopilot. “You need to mix it up in order to avoid boredom and plateauing,” says Liam Fairbanks, a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness/Seattle. Dedicate different days to focusing on a different aspect of your fitness routine and don’t be shy about trying new exercises, it helps rest overused muscles. There are plenty of apps on the market that can show you exercises you’ve never seen before. I use Fitness Buddy and that app seriously helped my body move to the next level.


3. Staying in the Sad World of the Machines:


Gyms are filled with rows of machines and often people think that’s all they should be using at the gym. “Machines are horrible,” says Tim Rich, a personal training manager at Crunch/NYC. “They push you through a guided plane of motion which could cause pain and injury.” Instead, “make your body a machine” by doing strengthening exercises that use your own body weight (like push-up and lunges) or entering the mighty world of free weights, or, if your gym has it, a TRX suspension system.


4. Lifting Too Much or Too Little Weight, Son:

dynamite legs


Lift too much and you risk injuring your body. Lift too little and you’re not going to see results. “By putting more weight on than you can control, you end up breaking form to complete the reps. This can lead to countless compensations and injuries within the body,” Caitlin says. “On the other end of the spectrum, I often see people sit on machines with too little weight. You want to maintain good form first and foremost, but it should also be a challenge to the body.” Challenge yourself with a weight where the last couple of reps are difficult to complete, while still maintaining correct form. If, however, you’re worried about doing an exercise incorrectly, then start at a lower weight on your first set in order to focus on your form and correct movement prior to adding more weight.

5. Getting All Mr. Speedy Gonzales Up In Here:

bad form everywhere

You’ve already committed to spending time at the gym, so why slack with a hurried routine? “People rush through exercises and don’t go through a full range of motion; therefore, they don’t fully benefit from the exercise they are doing,” Liam says. Instead of trying to get to the next part in your circuit, focus on the exercise you are doing to make sure you have proper form and are making it effective.


6. Looking Like Bieber:

justin beiber

Walking around like a humpback isn’t the best training method. “I often see shrugged shoulders and rounded back,” Liam says. Since it may be hard to remember to keep your shoulders down and back while you’re moving from exercise to exercise, trainers often use this tip explained by Caitlin: “Imagine a yardstick behind your back and at the base of your tailbone. If you maintain correct form, your tailbone, between your shoulder blades, and the back of your head should be touching the yardstick at all times. Roll your shoulders back, open your chest, think about growing tall and drawing your belly button toward your spine.” Or, try Tim’s trick: visualize keeping your shoulders “tucked in your back pocket,” he says.


7. Only Doing One Set And Expecting Results:


If you’re only doing one set per exercise, you’re wasting your time. “I often see people do one set of a bunch of different random exercises,” Liam says. To make the most of your workout, repeat, repeat, repeat. “It is important to do at least two to four sets of each exercise to fatigue the muscles to get better overall results,” he says. Personally, I always do three sets of each. I definitely feel it by the third set and at the end up my session my body lets me know I killed it.


8. Hitting the Gym Brutally Hard:

great workout

New Year’s resolutions, beach vacations, weddings, first dates – there’s always a new reason for wanting to get in shape. Just don’t be overzealous about how much your body can handle. “The all-or-nothing attitude can be very dangerous,” Tim says. “Hitting the gym so hard and obsessively that your body can’t cope with the added stresses can lead to injury.” Start slowly and safely if you took a break from the gym and are just getting back into it. The last thing you want is to injure yourself and be out of the gym for several months or more.


9. Only Focusing On the Muscles You Can See:

bicep day is every day

Strength training isn’t just about having six-pack abs. It’s important to work on the muscles you don’t see, especially if they are little used in real life. “Our society is very much about the ‘show me’ muscles [like abs, chest and biceps],” Tim says. “You need to provide your body with balance by hitting the “Go Me” muscles [like hamstrings, upper back, and inner glute muscles] equally” to develop power and to make sure you aren’t creating imbalances. There’s not much worse than a gym body that isn’t symmetrical.


10. Having Poor Body Awareness:


Not everyone has the time or the resources to hire a personal trainer to watch them exercise, but trainers see many people performing exercises incorrectly because they don’t know any better. “Books, magazines, and video exercise products are great, but most people have very poor joint awareness and coordination,” Tim says. Add that to the fact that most people sit at their desks all day and it makes for “deviations and imbalances that make it nearly impossible to safely execute the movement.” Even if you don’t want to hire a personal trainer, ask one for help if you’ve never used a machine or don’t know if your form is correct. “Trainers are there to help and should passionately do so,”Tim says.


Tristan "Lucky"

Written by: Tristan “Lucky”