As a bodybuilder, personal trainer, and gym manager I witness plenty of mistakes every day in the gym that are slowing down or stopping people’s progress towards their fitness goals. By far the biggest issue for most people is a lack of consistency. It takes consistent effort and TIME to make changes. Studies show that it only takes 8 visits to the gym per month to make positive progress towards your goals and I have proven this with many of my clients. If your biggest struggle is just making it in the door, you’re certainly not alone. However, getting to the gym needs to be your primary focus before attempting to change any of my top 3 mistakes.
1. Emphasis on cardio instead of weights/strength training
The majority of people that come to the gym typically go straight for the cardio section, do 30-60min of low to medium intensity cardio, and leave. While cardio is necessary for weight loss, it is certainly not the most effective way to get there. Lifting weights will force your body to burn more calories for multiple days after your workout. Once you get off the treadmill or elliptical your calorie burn is basically done. I tell all my clients to focus on getting stronger in the gym. All the changes that you want to make to your body will happen. Just remember weights for dinner, cardio for dessert!
2. Lack of intensity/focus – same routine every day, slow workouts, socializing too long
When I watch people working out, rarely do I see any intensity coming from them. Whether they are lifting weights or doing cardio, they look like they are just going through the motions with no real focus. If you want results, don't spend 10 minutes between each set socializing or texting on your phone. I see so many people doing the exact same routine, same weights, same exercises every day. This will get you nowhere. Intensity is the key to change! Without pushing your body past what it is already capable of, it has no reason to adapt and change.
Your average gym-goer only needs an hour per day. Spend the first 35-45 minutes lifting and the rest of your time doing some cardio. On your non-lifting days, really kick of the intensity of your cardio by doing a HIIT workout so you can continue that calorie burn AFTER you leave the gym again. No one wants to spend hours every day in the gym to get the body they want. Get in, push hard for your whole workout, and get out!
3. Incorrect form on lifts: Men-too much weight; women- too little weight (or never lifting)
I cringe every time I watch someone (typically a male) load up a bar with a ton of weight and proceed to lift with either super incorrect form or fail to move through a full range of motion. Doing this is going to severely limit your growth in the gym or, even worse and more likely, lead to an injury. Once the form starts to fail, your set is over. If you didn’t reach your goal reps for that set, lower the weight. On the other side, I can’t count how many times I watch a female member walk over and pick up the little 3lb dumbbell and proceed to do an exercise with basically no effort. Everyone should be training with a weight they consider heavy regardless of gender. Women don't produce enough testosterone to get “bulky” as I so often hear. Have you ever tried to get bulky? It’s not easy and definitely won’t happen from picking up a weight. If you’ve made the commitment to improve yourself in the gym, make the commitment to do things correctly.
Bottom line: Focus on weights before cardio, keep your intensity up for the duration of your workout, and make sure you are lifting as heavy as you can while still keeping perfect form. If you think you don't have the time to come to the gym, make the time. Taking care of yourself should always be a top priority.