Get The Most Out of Your Time at the Gym

The gym can be a frustrating and intimidating place for many people. With dozens of machines, all sorts of crazy looking gym accessories, giant people grunting and sweating, and endless other gym anomalies, it can be easy to stop showing up. However, the gym is also a place where many awesome things can happen. People learn a lot about themselves at the gym. Unhealthy people can change their lives and become healthy at the gym. You can get those washboard abs you’ve always wanted at the gym. All of these things have to start somewhere though.
A lot goes into creating an effective workout and diet regimen, and there are some common mistakes that TONS of people make which can really hinder your progress. The following points are three of the biggest mistakes you can make at the gym.

1. Only Doing Cardio

I see this ALL the time. Every day, people tell me they want more muscle definition, yet they spend all their time doing cardio. Cardio is very important when it comes to burning fat, however, without resistance training, you’re never going to see the results you want. In order to have good muscle definition, you have to have muscle! Every summer, people put their gym memberships on hold because they can run outside. Then they come back in the fall, disappointed about the results they got over the summer. This is not a coincidence. One of the biggest BENEFITS of the gym is that it is full of different types of equipment for resistance training, which helps you get the toned, defined look you see on TV and in the magazines.

Resistance training has numerous health benefits as well, including improving body composition by increasing fat-free mass, improving cardiovascular capacity, improving bone density and many others. Resistance training also has the added benefit of increasing your metabolism for a period of time after your workout is complete. In other words, you can burn more calories while you’re doing nothing if you incorporate resistance training into your exercise program.

The American Heart Association found that Moderate-to-high-intensity resistance training performed 2 to 3 days per week for 3 to 6 months improves muscular strength and endurance in men and women of ALL  ages by 25% to 100%, depending on the training stimulus and initial level of strength. So, it doesn’t matter how old you are. Everyone will see benefits by including resistance training into their workout regimen.  Here is a link comparing the beneficial effects of resistance training and cardiovascular exercise.

To sum things up, if you want to see significant changes in your body composition and overall health, you MUST incorporate resistance training in conjunction with your cardiovascular exercise. If you’re unsure about how to safely perform certain exercises or how to create an effective workout program, consult a fitness professional such as a Certified Personal Trainer.

2. Doing The Same Workout Over and Over

Plateaus can be a frustrating thing when it comes to exercise. You feel like you’re doing everything right. You’re eating healthy. You’re lifting weights on a regular basis, but for some reason, you’re not seeing the results you were in the past. This if often attributed to something known as periodization (or a lack thereof). Periodization is a fancy word for changing things up. A study done by S.J. Fleck in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared two groups and showed that while both groups saw improvements in strength and body composition, the group who performed periodized workouts saw significantly more gains than the group who didn’t use a periodized workout program. This has been replicated time and time again.

Our bodies are very smart. It often finds the easiest way to do anything, including exercise. If you keep doing the same workout over and over again, you’re going to see less and less progress. When you incorporate periodization into your workout regimen, it keeps your body off balance. In other words, if you keep “surprising” your body with different workout variations, it can’t easily adapt, resulting in more progress.

With that said, periodization doesn’t mean randomness. You’re trying to make your body think it is random, however, there has to be an underlying plan. This is known as a macrocycle. In order to properly track your progress and stay on course, you have to have a plan, which means one day, you’ll have to sit down and think about what you’re going to do, and then stick to it. Again, if you’re unsure of how to create this plan properly, this is part of a Certified Personal Trainer’s job.

3. Incorporating Mostly or Only Single Joint Exercises

First off, a single joint exercise is an exercise where you only work around one joint. Some classic examples of single joint exercises are bicep curls, leg extensions, tricep pulldowns, and lateral raises. Single joint exercises can also be referred to as isolation exercises. These exercises focus primarily on one muscle, example: bicep curls work mostly the bicep. I’m not saying these exercises are bad or shouldn’t ever be done, but they should be performed in connection with their more effective counterpart, the multi-joint exercise.  Single joint exercises aren’t as efficient. If you’re trying to get as much out of your workout as possible, why work out one muscle when you could workout that muscle plus a few others? Multi-joint exercises also burn more calories and stimulate more positive hormonal effects. All of these things lead to fat loss, improved muscle definition and increased cardiovascular benefits.

So, what is a multi-joint exercise? As you might guess, a multi-joint exercise operates around more than one joint. Some great examples of these are pull-ups, push ups, and squats. Like I said, these exercises are much more efficient, however, they’re also much more challenging. This is often why people resort to single joint exercises. It may take some time to learn how to do them properly, but in the long run, it is well worth it. You’ll see much better results in a lot less time by incorporating a lot of multi-joint exercises.

These are three of the biggest mistakes I see as a Certified Personal Trainer at the gym. They can all be fixed relatively easily with the right workout program and a little bit of knowledge. If you’re in a position where you’ve been exercising for a while and are disappointed with your results, there’s a good chance you’re committing at least one of these mistakes. If that is the case, you should strongly consider hiring a personal trainer to help you work passed these problems. You could be the person who gets frustrated and quits, or you could take the time to learn the right way to exercise, and make the gym a place of progress. You choose!