Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The greatest mistakes you’re making in the gym

Even the most hardened pumper of iron makes mistakes in the gym from time to time. Are you staying in the gym too long, neglecting to train your legs or doing too much cardio? These are just a few of the common mistakes personal trainers say they see in the gym all the time. But errors like these don’t just earn you a few disapproving looks from the experts hanging around the gym – they could also lead to long-term injury and slow down any progress you might be making towards getting in shape. We asked personal trainers for the most common pitfalls, and how to avoid them to stay injury-free and on the road to hit your fitness goals. Read more: Dieting Mistakes That Can Make You Fat Again 20 Minute Workout on the Move Yoga Moves for Improved Proprioception Too much faffing around Done two hours in the gym – good for you! But how much of this time did you actually spend working out, and how much was given over to blethering, fiddling and generally having a good old faff? Personal trainer Gavin Walsh, says: “Some people spend too much time chatting to other people who are also having a faff. Get yourself a stopwatch and set a timer for one minute. Each time you finish a set, start the timer.” No structure to your workouts When it comes to getting in shape – planning is everything. A carefully thought through session helps you keep your focus and allows you to stick to your pre-determined training targets. Walsh says: “Before you hit the gym, have a plan on paper or at least in your head for the session you are about to carry out. You’ll be more effective and save time walking around aimlessly pondering what your next exercise is.” Not training your legs Train your gaze on to the weights area of your gym and you’ll see lots of chaps working their ‘mirror muscles’ – the arms, chest, shoulders, abs and other fashionable parts of the body. But the other thing that unites many of them is their skinny legs, which are often overlooked. “Everyone wants big arms,” says Walsh, “but you’re missing a trick if you don’t train your legs. Hit the legs once a week and you’ll be targeting the biggest muscles in the body, which will release a nice big spike in testosterone, which will help your overall gains.” Doing too much slow boring cardio Getting stuck in the ‘cardio trap’ is a classic pitfall, and one you will do well to avoid. Running, cycling and other forms of cardiovascular exercise have their place, but shouldn’t take up all your time in the gym. Walsh says: “If you like running on a treadmill or moving your arms back and forwards on a cross trainer, then good for you, stick with it. But you should know, it’s not going to help you lose the lard anytime soon. Instead, once you’ve warmed up, start your routine with some resistance training and then bring in cardio to finish off. This is a more effective way of using your time and losing fat.” dietingmistakes2 Bad kettlebell swings The growing popularity of kettlebell workouts has given gym-goers a sure-fire way of adding strength and power – if you know how to use them properly. “Poor technique is a problem for many exercisers,” says Walsh, “but the kettlebell swing is one I see performed wrong very often. Too many people, including personal trainers, do this exercise as if it were a squat movement. Instead, think deadlift. Legs should be slightly flexed as the kettlebell passes through the legs and then you should fire the hips forward, so that the kettlebell shoots back up to shoulder height. It’s not a squat!” dietingmistakes3 Staying in the gym too long The old adage, ‘it’s quality, not quantity’, should be applied to every gym workout you do. Thrashing yourself for two hours has counterproductive side-effects, says trainer Baz Moffat. “Aim to get in and out of the gym in 60 minutes,” says Baz. “Your body starts to produce the stress hormone cortisol after about 60 minutes of training, which is not great if you’re trying to get stronger and fitter. Keep testosterone levels high by keeping sessions short.” Lifting a heavy weight… not very far There is little point lifting a gigantic dumbbell if you’re not able to lift it properly. Moffat says: “Your joints have what is called a range of motion – you want your body to do that full range, but all too often you see guys upping the weight on the bicep curl only to lift a very small distance or having to recruit the whole of their body – which means it is no longer a bicep curl! The range you lift the weight through is critical to increasing strength and functional fitness, so only increase the weight if you can maintain your form.” dietingmistakes4 Not stretching properly Sure, it’s tempting to take the easy option and skip the stretches before you start your workout, but this leaves you exposed to injury while making it harder for you to get going. Trainer Jacob Nadav says too many people focus on passive stretching (using your bodyweight, a strap or another person to perform your stretch), and should instead be doing active stretches (relaxing the muscles you are trying to stretch and using another muscle to initiate the stretch). For example, an active calf stretch requires sitting down with your feet in front of you and arms at your sides, slowly flexing and pointing the foot. “Fitness is not just about muscles, it also includes your nervous system,” says Nadav. “Passive stretching will not hold tension and will not protect a joint if you hit the pavement. A much better approach is to focus on active stretching.” Using poor technique Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. And if you are not lifting with good form or trying to take on too much, then you’re setting yourself up for a mischief, while your progress will also be seriously hampered. Nadav says: “Everything we do is based on fundamental movement patterns. I’ve seen people squatting in excess of 100kg even though they cannot squat with proper form or alignment using their own body weight. You can build fitness and get stronger but don’t do it on stiffness and dysfunction, this is just a recipe for disaster.”

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