If you’re engaging in some type of physical activity, congratulations! You’re on your way to better health and fitness. However, to get the most out of your workouts and ensure you stay safe, it’s important to understand that not all approaches to exercise are created equal. Here are four common workout mistakes that might be holding you back from reaching your fitness potential.
Mistake #1: Making changes too soon or too often
There are so many exercise options out there so it can be tempting to add a variety of creative new moves and equipment to your workout routine. However, to make the most of your workouts and keep you safe in the process, mastering your movements before you change things around. Take the time to learn all the movements with each exercise you are performing. Execute a full, pain free range of motion, without compensations, to get the most out of each exercise. Master the fundamentals first, before you reach for some new fancy fitness equipment or try an advanced move. It’s important to add variety, but changes in a program and/or movement in a workout should have a specific reason.
Mistake #2: Forgetting about function
So why do we exercise? While it may be true that some of us envision ripped abs and sculpted arms, at the end of the day, physical activity is designed to enhance our activities of daily life, so we can do more, feel better and experience less pain. If this is the case, shouldn’t the exercises that we choose mimic the movements that we do outside of the gym? We live in a multi-dimensional world. We don’t have machines that hold our bodies in place or guide our movements. If we regularly train the body in only one plane—such as when using machines like the leg press, leg extension and bench press—we open up the possibility of muscle imbalance and can even pre-dispose the body to injury since we aren’t utilizing whole body movements. To achieve better results, take a more balanced approach by adding in exercises that train the body in various planes of motion. For instance, try including side-to-side movements like side lunges and lateral dumbbell raises, along with rotational movements such as stability ball Russian twists and medicine ball wood chops.
Mistake #3: Sitting even more
From long hours sitting in front of the computer, to driving in our cars and lounging on the couch at the end of a long day, the last thing most of us need is more time spent sitting—especially during our workouts. Instead of sitting down while working out your shoulders or biceps, for instance, train in a standing position to allow the legs and the core to play a role. The less time we spend sitting—no matter where we are—the better it is for our health as there is a strong association between extensive time spent sitting and increased mortality risk, according to research from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
Mistake #4: Assuming the More Complicated the Workout, the Better
HIIT, or high-intensity interval training (alternating periods of short intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods), has gained a lot of recognition since recent research suggests that intense workouts can produce great results in less time. However, “training harder” doesn’t mean your workout or movement needs to be more complicated or impactful to achieve better results. You can kick up the intensity of exercise with range of motion, speed or integrity of execution. You don’t always have to jump or do the most complicated exercise to get the intensity needed to receive the benefits high-intensity workouts are known for.