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The Six Most Common Fitness Mistakes

Updated on April 16, 2015
Avoiding these common exercise mistakes can help significantly speed your progress.
Avoiding these common exercise mistakes can help significantly speed your progress. | Source

Simply starting a fitness routine is a huge victory on its own. Deciding to make a positive change in your life is harder than many people ever realize, whether that decision is to improve your physical health or any other area. For that reason, do not be too hard on yourself if you do not feel like an expert when you first begin exercising; just as with any other skill, it takes time to learn how to work out properly. Fortunately, you can shorten your learning curve substantially by avoiding these common fitness mistakes.

# 1: Not Thoroughly Warming Up

Everyone has a busy schedule, and fitting in a workout can sometimes be a challenge. However, that does not mean that you should allow time pressure to interfere with a thorough warm-up before each workout. One easy warm-up strategy is to break a light sweat with a dynamic total body exercise like jumping jacks, skips and the like, then use an extremely light weight to perform at least several dozen reps of the day’s exercises. Breaking a light sweat from your total-body warm-up before you start the challenging part of your warm-up will substantially decrease your risk of injuring yourself.

Taking the time to warm up carefully before you exercise significantly lowers your risk of hurting yourself during your workout.
Taking the time to warm up carefully before you exercise significantly lowers your risk of hurting yourself during your workout. | Source

# 2: Not Lifting Weights

More research seems to come out every day about the health benefits of resistance training, such as lifting weights. Whether you want to tone up, lose excess weight or add muscle, lifting weights can be a remarkably effective means of reaching your goals. Unfortunately, too many beginning exercisers seem to believe that slow, steady cardio like jogging on a treadmill is the be-all and end-all of becoming physically fit. Even if you are not yet able to lift much weight, even a little resistance training will boost your metabolism and help you burn far more calories in the long run, even during the hours you are not actually exercising. In addition, it will help strengthen your bones and joints, reducing your risk of injury.

This is a mistake made by both genders, but it is somewhat more common with women because some female exercisers worry that lifting weights will give them a bulky, masculine appearance. Actually, though, nothing could be further from the truth. The terrifyingly muscular female bodybuilders you have likely seen online did not start looking as they do without significant “chemical assistance.” Lifting weights is actually a great option for women who wish to achieve a toned, slender look.

Resistance training can include the use of cable machines, free weights, resistance bands and the like.
Resistance training can include the use of cable machines, free weights, resistance bands and the like. | Source

# 3: Lifting Too Much Weight

The other said of the same coin is lifting too much weight, which is no better for you than lifting too little weight. Once you understand the benefits of resistance training, you might well think that more is always better. Unfortunately, after a certain point, adding more weight will simply prevent you from performing your exercise with perfect form, which is a fast track to injuring yourself.

This is another mistake made by both genders, but this one tends to be particularly common with men, who tend to be particularly over-competitive. Competitiveness is certainly not a bad thing if it helps motivate you to keep working; just make sure that you do not take that competitiveness so far that you hurt yourself. Remember that perfect form with less weight will produce better results than more weight with poor form. Once the weight you are using no longer feels challenging at the end of the set while you maintain good form, it is time to move up in weight.

A personal trainer or fitness coach can help monitor your form to ensure you do not accidentally lift more weight than you can handle safely.
A personal trainer or fitness coach can help monitor your form to ensure you do not accidentally lift more weight than you can handle safely. | Source

# 4: Rewarding Yourself With Food

After a tough workout, many people allow themselves to overindulge in junk food, beer and similar unhealthy options, telling themselves they have “earned it.” Of course, there is nothing wrong with an occasional treat, but those treats can quickly add up to far more unhealthy calories than you realize if you are not careful. Experiment with healthier substitutions to satisfy your cravings, and plan your treats ahead of time – then stick to that plan. After all, animals get food as treats, not people. If you want to reward yourself for a job well done at the gym, treat yourself to a spa outing, a shopping trip, a gadget you have been wanting or a similar reward that will not sabotage your hard work.

The right healthy snack can often help you deal with junk food cravings.
The right healthy snack can often help you deal with junk food cravings. | Source

# 5: Trying to Target Specific Body Parts

Many beginners in the world of fitness spend much of their time and effort on specific body parts they want to improve; the abs and stomach is a particularly common such region. Unfortunately, there is no truly effective way to “spot-target” a single part of your body when you work out. Yes, you should work out that body part, but not at the expense of the rest of your body. A challenging total-body workout that includes plenty of compound exercises that involve more than one motion at a time will produce far better results in the long run, especially when combined with a healthy, nutritious diet.

Even the most challenging ab exercises will not reach their potential effectiveness without a solid total-body workout and a healthy diet included in your routine.
Even the most challenging ab exercises will not reach their potential effectiveness without a solid total-body workout and a healthy diet included in your routine. | Source

# 6: Measuring Results Solely on the Scale

Lowering the number on the bathroom scale is often the sole goal for beginning exercisers. It is true, of course, that many people will weigh less after losing a significant amount of fat, but exercising is often not quite that simple. For one thing, exercising means that you will begin to replace part of your body’s fat with muscle. Since muscle is substantially more dense than fat, in some cases a person can get into significantly better shape and not see the impact in their body weight that they expected. Body composition (lean vs. fat body weight) is a far better gauge of physical fitness than weight or BMI (Body Mass Index) score alone. If you do not have access to a body composition test, you should pay far more attention to factors like how your clothes fit and how you feel climbing a flight of stairs to gauge your progress.

What do you think is the most important reason for being physically fit?

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References

Men’s Fitness: “The Most Common Fitness Mistakes”

More Magazine: “31 Classic Fitness Mistakes Smart Women Make”

Huffington Post: “6 Exercise Mistakes You're Probably Making”

PersonalBest: “The 10 Most Common Fitness Mistakes”

WebMD: “The Top 20 Fitness Mistakes Beginners Make”

Ask Men: “Top 10 Common Workout Mistakes”

Muscle & Fitness: “The 12 Most Common Fitness Mistakes Guys Make”

What other fitness mistakes would you recommend avoiding?

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    • profile image

      Valerie Morse 

      3 years ago from University Place, Washington

      I am not an expert, but from the 'outside looking in' I see a couple, people, especially women, think they can get the body they want just by taking a pill or eating a calorie restricted diet. Or if they try one regimen and don't get the result they want they give up.

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