As a fitness professional, it can be downright painful to see the kinds of inadequate workouts and fitness myths that run rampant across the internet and through gyms all over the world. It seems everywhere I look, I see people making the same workout mistakes.
It’s truly frustrating because I know how desperate people are to get in shape.
To know that so many of them are punishing themselves with useless exercise habits day after day saddens me deeply because I know that once they fail, they’re likely to give up on getting in shape altogether.
What’s worse, they may even hurt themselves by using these bad techniques and habits.
Come to think of it, you could say that my mission to give you the most powerful eating and exercise strategies is a result of the common workout mistakes so many people make. I want to fix things!
This is precisely why I share such effective fitness tips with you every week. That said, it’s important to know where you’re going wrong, so with this article, I want to point out the shortcomings of your exercise routine.
Workout Mistakes 101: What Not to Do
1. Don’t Do Isolated Movements
This all comes down to one principle I repeat time and again: train movements, not muscles.
Let’s think about a biceps curl for a second. Just the name “biceps curl” means you’re curling or flexing your elbow to solely focus on working your biceps.
This may help you get huge bicep muscles, but how will this help you burn fat? If you’re trying to shed some pounds, this particular exercise isn’t going to help you much.
How about you try replacing that move with a lunge walk with bicep curls? By adding this movement to your exercise, you’re giving yourself an opportunity to burn fat and build muscle in your legs and core in addition to your biceps.
This is one of the biggest workout mistakes there is, and if you can avoid it, you will soon be vaulting to the head of the fitness pack.
2. Stay Away from the Machines
Herein lies my problem with most gyms: You step through the front door and all you see are rows and rows of machines dedicated to isolated movements, the first of our workout mistakes.
These really don’t build good workout practices, and they’re even worse for newcomers.
Exercise machines don’t engage any muscles in your core. Instead, they only engage the individual set of muscles they’ve been built to focus on.
When it comes down to it, they make it harder to get a comprehensive full-body workout. Remember: train movements, not muscles!
I also don’t like the fact that these machines are built in a one-size-fits-all fashion. If you’re like me and you have a long torso, some of these machines make for a clumsy and even risky workout.
The same thing goes for if you’re a little overweight or too short.
Take my advice and skip them all together, opting instead for bodyweight exercises or routines with free weights.
3. Stop Doing So Much Cardio
I don’t know how many times I have to talk about this. Although we’ve acclimated to the idea that a workout routine must involve hours spent on a treadmill or running for miles around your city, excessive cardio just isn’t good for you.
That’s right, too much cardio is bad for you.
Let me explain: too much cardio elevates cortisol, decreases thyroid hormone—T3 specifically—and decreases testosterone and growth hormone.
It basically works against you and wears your body down.
Yes, you’ll burn calories while you’re doing your cardio, but you’re not building your metabolism at the same time. That’s the most important thing to focus on when you’re trying to lose weight, and by running or working on the elliptical machine for hours, you’re doing the exact opposite.
What you’re looking for is a long-term investment in your metabolism. To make this happen, do interval training instead. This involves short bouts of high intensity training alternated with low intensity bouts.
That might look like sprinting for 20 seconds followed by jogging slowly for 10, and repeating this pattern over and over again for 10 minutes or so.
The great thing about intervals is that you get all of the calorie burning intensity of a long cardio session, while giving your metabolism the boost it needs.
Best of all, you’ll probably finish your workout in half the time!
4. Try Not to Repeat Your Workouts
Doing anything over and over again can lead to boredom, so why should it be any different for working out?
Chances are you’ve struggled to establish a consistent exercise program. If you have, choosing and sticking to only one or two exercise routines will quickly make working out more bothersome than it’s ever been before.
What’s worse, training the same movements repeatedly doesn’t challenge your muscles enough. They become used to the same patterns of movement, and eventually plateau. You eventually begin wasting your time if you don’t try new workouts.
Make no mistake, this is one of the most insidious workout mistakes there is.
Switch up your routines from time to time to keep things fresh, and to keep both your muscles AND your mind engaged. It will eventually become fun!
5. Avoid Long Workouts
This is one of those workout routine mistakes that people make with the very best intentions.
In trying to burn as much fat as possible, it’s common to see people working out for two or even three hours at a time. The effort is commendable, but unless you’re a professional athlete, the results are negligible and sometimes even harmful.
If you’re working out for such a long time, it means you’re not working at your full intensity, which is a peak you want to hit during your workouts to get maximum results.
It makes more sense to run faster for shorter periods of time than it is to go on a long, mid-paced run. Similarly, it’s better to do fewer rounds of lifting heavier weights than to do dozens of reps of lighter, more manageable weights.
You have to push past your limits to reach new results. Charge up your workouts and save time in the gym. Trust me, you’ll feel better about it.
6. Please Stop Doing Sit-Ups!
There are few exercises I detest more than the sit-up.
High school gym class has led to most people thinking the sit-up is a foundational exercise in a good workout regimen.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Remember what I said earlier about isolated movements? This is a perfect example, but it’s so widespread that it’s worth pointing out as a workout mistake all on its own.
If you think you’re going to get a six-pack with sit-ups, let me save you some time: you won’t.
Sure, sit-ups train your rectus abdominus muscle group—the muscle group responsible for those rippling washboard stomachs you envy—but that’s all they train. They don’t generate any type of metabolic heat, and as such, don’t make you burn any fat.
By focusing on sit-ups, your six-pack-to-be will forever lie hidden behind a thick layer of belly fat that won’t melt away because you’re wasting time doing the wrong exercises.
I hope this short list illuminates your thinking about exercising. Avoiding these common workout mistakes will allow you to become focused on the type of movement that will completely refashion your body and your fitness levels.
Don’t waste anymore time. Revolutionize your workouts starting today.
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Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.