The gym is like an unsupervised adult playground. It’s easy to walk in and toss a few weights around. But if you don’t follow the right routine or skip necessary steps, you may buy yourself a one-way ticket to injury town.
Before you strap on your kicks for your next gym session, check out the five most common weight-lifting mistakes below. Also, learn the best ways to avoid them so you can build a healthier, more resilient body for years to come.
Weight-Lifting Mistakes to Avoid
Ready to upgrade your approach to lifting weights? Check your routine for these common mishaps.
Mistake #1: Doing the wrong warmup
People often make these common mistakes.
- Skipping the warmup
- Doing too many light-weight reps
- Focusing on a general full-body warmup
- Only doing cardio
Instead, think about the work you’re about to do and warm up using the same movement patterns. For example, before a leg workout, warm up by doing the same types of movements you’ll do during strength training, such as:
- Bodyweight lunges
- Bodyweight squats
- Hip mobility movements
- Dead bugs
The goal of your warmup is to let your body know what work you’re about to perform and increase blood flow to the right muscles.
Mistake #2: Choosing the wrong weight
You’ll progress fastest in your workout if you choose the right amount of weight. You want a weight heavy enough to force your muscles to adapt to bigger challenges. But you don’t want weights so heavy that you compromise your form or use the wrong muscle group to bear the brunt of the work.
Think like Goldilocks, and choose a weight in the middle. Make sure it challenges you on the last few reps in your set, but you can do all the reps with the correct form. The amount of weight will depend on the muscle group you’re working, the type of exercise, and your comfort level with different kinds of resistance. Mix things up by using dumbbells, bands, kettlebells, barbells, and machines. Above all else, listen to your body, which will tell you whether weight is right for you.
Mistake #3: Training for looks instead of your life
Workouts are an opportunity to make your body more resilient for the everyday stress it will encounter. When structuring your workout routine, think about the movement patterns you do during the day. These could include:
- Climbing stairs
- Lifting heavy objects from the floor
- Running after a toddler
- Carrying children
- Pulling weeds
- Recreational activities
- Playing fetch with your dog
Often, injuries occur when people are doing daily tasks. Strength training is an opportunity to build strength to help prevent these types of injuries. Rather than solely focusing on building nice arms or a chiseled core, add exercises that mimic your everyday activities.
Mistake #4: Getting in a rut
Humans are comfort creatures, which is why it’s easier to do the same thing in the gym all the time. But your body is smart, and it adapts to exercises quickly. Progress happens when you challenge your body in new ways by changing your workout routine often. One caveat: Make sure you still perform the same movement patterns so you continue to strengthen and build muscle that supports your daily life.
But make changes such as adding weight, switching the number of reps you do, or swapping out an exercise for another one in the same category. Try these changes:
• Swap lunges for squats
• Switch from doing a high number of reps to a low number of reps
• Use kettlebells instead of barbells
• Go from a double dumbbell press to a single dumbbell press
Your options are limitless, and the more you switch up your routine, the more likely you’ll stick to the gym. Change your workouts every four to eight weeks to challenge your body in new ways.
Mistake #5: Skipping steps
You may be tempted to omit the small stuff and go directly to the big lifts. Your body is good at faking strength. But if you don’t correctly strengthen the small, supportive, stabilizing muscles in the body, you may end up with big problems down the road such as aches, pains, tightness, and injury.
As you structure your workout routine, add accessory exercises that help bolster larger muscles. For instance, if you work on squats, add band hip bridges. If bench pressing is your goal, do a set of pushups before you load the bar. Fake it until you make it doesn’t work in weight lifting because you’re only as strong as your weakest muscle group.
Wrapping It All Up
It’s better to learn proper lifting techniques than to train haphazardly. Take your time to warm up. Choose a weight that suits your workouts and your goals. Do exercises that help you prepare for everyday life, and mix up your routine. Avoid the five common mistakes above, and you’ll be on your way to building your strongest body yet.
About the writer:
Kellie Davis ran before she crawled and is constantly feeding her insatiable appetite for competition. In 2009, she competed in her first figure bodybuilding show and subsequently started a fitness blog titled MotherFitness.com to help other moms and career women make positive fitness and lifestyle habits. Her blog spring-boarded her fitness writing career, and shortly after she was in the gym coaching clients. Davis discovered the perfect marriage of fitness and writing and has since co-authored the popular women’s strength training book Strong Curves, launched a handful of online fitness programs, and is also the co-founder of GetGlutes.com, a comprehensive intermediate resistance training system. As a fitness writer and personal trainer, she is known for helping hundreds of women achieve optimal health through her innovative fitness programs designed for those with a busy lifestyle. In her spare time, Davis dotes on her amazing husband and two children, attends The George Washington University as a graduate student, competes in powerlifting, takes the field in co-ed softball, and spends time with her two adoring dogs and brood of backyard hens.