August 1, 2014
Top 10 Mistakes Men Make at the Gym

Hello to all you male readers out there (and hopefully some females read this post as well, as we will tackle the 10 mistakes women make in the next week.) I hope that you are getting after it while you are in the gym, especially if you happen to be sitting all day. To stay healthy you have to move and do physical work. But you may not be working out as efficiently as possible. Below are ten common mistakes (or faux pas) that men make at the gym.

1. Disregarding Cardio
Ok…. We spoke about this in a previous post. You can read it here ( Strength training should be your focus, but how you lift weights greatly changes your results. You can do traditional cardio or you can do it with weights via circuit training. I like to have a flexible definition of cardio: any exercise that is done to deliberately keep your heart rate up. Traditional strength training is awesome, but if you are not getting your heart rate up, you are missing out on burning a ton of calories. Cardio is perfect for teaching your muscles how to burn fat efficiently. Also, your muscles can become more efficient at storing glucose and triglycerides. This is good for you, because an efficient storage system decreases your risk of type 2 diabetes. Unless you are a power lifter or Olympic lifter, you need to do some kind of cardio. Lastly, as mentioned in the article linked above, do your cardio with a purpose. Long slow cardio has its place, but you can be more efficient with your time by getting your heart rate up and keeping it up. We can count intervals as cardiovascular training… if you keep your rest short enough.


2. Using the gym to scout for dates
Don’t be that guy. Staring at a woman doing her exercise is just rude. Your mammalian brain may influence where you glance, but control yourself and don’t do the awkward staring. Also, hitting on women at the gym should be avoided. By all means be civil, be nice, make friends, but do not be “that guy.” If she is focused on crushing her own workout and is not paying attention to you, it is not an invitation to try to get her attention. You should be busy crushing your own workout.



3. Socializing instead of lifting
This is similar to number 2, but it goes for chatting with your buddies as well. When you are at the gym, you should be able to talk with your friends, say hi, interact with your acquaintances, and enjoy the social atmosphere. But while you are lifting, LIFT. Unless you are doing some powerlifting or Olympic lifting, your rest should be kept to a minimum. The more you talk, the more your rest, the more inefficient your workout. When I am at the gym, I love to interact with my friends and gym-family. However, when I get to the weight room, the only time I’ll say hi is in the 60 seconds of “rest” between a set. I advise you to do the same. Focusing on your workout can keep you mentally ready to push yourself, and you can accomplish more reps, more work, and reach your goals a little bit faster. Even if you are working out with a friend, help each other stay on track, and chat during your rest periods.

4. Ignoring Leg Day
This could possibly be one of the worst mistakes you could make. More so than skipping high intensity cardio work. Not only are the legs a huge engine of fuel burning potential, but they are also the key to building real strength and even make gains in your upper body strength. First off, if you want to be strong… and I mean real strength, not that how-mush-weight-can-you-curl type strength… do some deadlifts and squats. Not only will your lower body strength improve, but your upper body strength will also increase. When you lift weights, you challenge and damage muscle tissue. When this happens your body releases testosterone and growth hormone. Given that your legs are a larger mass of muscles, when you lift them, they will result in a larger release of GH and testosterone. These circulating hormones influence all of your muscles. Skip leg day and you are skipping a powerful and beneficial hormonal response. I have heard quite a few men tell me that leg day isn’t needed because the ladies like strong arms and chests. Well, go ask 10 ladies what they think about that and I am willing to bet they all like strong legs on a man. Also…. If your prime focus is the leg press, change your focus to deadlifts and squats. Use the leg press as an accessory. You will have more range of motion with both the deadlift and squat and both are more functional. Leg-pressing 1000lbs is not impressive. Deadlifting twice your body weight is much more impressive.

5. Only lifting for the beach muscles
I don’t have a funny picture for this, but I sure wish I did. I know that you can only see the front of your body in the mirror (the beach muscles) but you have a back side as well. Monday’s might be international chest day, but please make sure you have a back day as well. In training we categorize the back muscle exercises as “pulling” exercises. There are vertical pulls and horizontal pulls. You should be doing at least one exercise that falls into either category every time you work out. Yes… every time. If you relax your arms to the side of your body, your hands should look like the GI Joe Kung Fu grip; you should be able to see your thumbs and index finger. If your hands are rotated so that you can see all 4 knuckles in the mirror, then you may be suffering from weak-back syndrome. Seriously though, you could be at risk for a shoulder impingement. Also, given that most of us sit and work on computers all day, it is important to strength the back muscles, and open the chest and posture back up to where it is supposed to be. So dedicate some time to doing pullups and rows.

6. Not using a spotter on the bench
Using a spotter on the bench is the right choice. By not using a spotter (when lifting heavy… and you should be lifting heavy) you put both yourself and others at risk. It does not look cool when you don’t use the safety clips. And it really doesn’t look cool when you have to dump the weights off the bar because you can’t complete your rep. This trait is part of being “that guy.” Please don’t be that guy. I was that guy once and thought I could lift up some heavy weight on the bench press. Boy was I wrong. I let 275lbs sit on my chest for about 10 seconds (it felt like an hour) before a buddy lifted the weight off me. I hurt my ribs and pride and could not even do pushups for the next month. Also, if you are not using the clips and you have to dump the weight off, you could seriously hurt the person lifting next to you. Don’t be that guy.

7. Training with moderate loads… forever
If you train with the same weights you will not make progress.  You must vary your weights, reps, sets, intensity, and exercises if you are to keep your body on the course of progressing. Also, variation makes it way more fun. More on this later…

8. Not re-racking your weights
This is another part of being “that guy.” When you are done, put your weights away. It lets the people waiting for those weights know that you are done and they can use them. Not putting them away is lazy and disrespectful. Even if you forget, and it is not your intent to be lazy or disrespectful, that is how everyone else sees it. Don’t be that guy. And if you are leg-pressing a gazillion pounds… well, you get the idea.


9. Doing the same workouts every week
Doing the same workout every week will give you the same result: Maintenance. If you want to progress in your results, you have to progress your training. If you make it your goal to do 50 pushups in a row and you train hard, then you surely can achieve that goal. Let’s say you achieve that goal and from then on out you only ever do 50 pushups at a time. Your body will not want to develop the strength and endurance to handle 75 pushups in a row, because that would be metabolically expensive. You are only placing the demand of 50 pushups on the body, so that’s what it will adapt to. If you want to progress get stronger, leaner, faster, or fitter, then you have to make a change from what you are currently doing. If you are not getting the results you want, maybe you have been doing the same thing for too long. A general rule of thumb is to focus on a particular workout method or approach for 4-6 weeks and then make a change. Progress your weight, change your rest, increase your tempo, or do something to change your workout!

10. Doing different workouts every week
This is the opposite problem of number 9. If you never focus on a particular style of exercise, your body will not adapt to it as optimally as possible. This may or may not be a bad thing. If you are looking to lose weight and get fit, then varying your training on a daily or weekly basis is ok. The entire training platform of Crossfit is to not specialize in any one thing, so they have a variety of workouts to do. However, if it is your goal to add muscle mass, gain strength, get faster, or lose weight, then it pays off to focus on one type of training. Let’s look at an example. If you are trying to get stronger then you should lift heavy weights. To get stronger you must tell your body (through your training routine) to get stronger. This message should be unambiguous and consistent. I mean consistent for weeks. If you are getting stronger and getting stronger and all of a sudden you go run 8 miles, you just switched the message from “hey body, get strong,” to, “hey body, gain endurance.” On the other hand if you want to gain endurance and you aren’t doing any running at all, you will be sending your body a confusing message. Just like number 9, a general rule of thumb is to focus on a workout approach for 4-6 weeks and then change it up. If you are not sure how to change it up, I highly recommend you speak with your trainer. Exactly how you change it up is largely dependent on your goals.

So there we are: 10 things to avoid when training at the gym. Ladies, we will discuss your top 10 in the next post.

Get after it! 

Written by Clark Masterson

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