If you’re new to the workout scene or have simply stopped seeing results from your workouts, you absolutely need to read this.
Whether you spend 30 minutes in the gym or 2 hours, no one wants to see time wasted – and it may just start feeling that way if you don’t see your health improve, your weight decrease or your body tone up.
While there may be a whole host of problems that may be affecting your workout’s effectiveness, I’ve found these to be some of the most common factors – but they’re totally up to you to change!
Take a look below so you can get the most out of each sweat session.
1. Poor Form
For many newbies first starting out in the gym, while the motivation is there, proper knowledge is not. I remember being a beginner in the weights room and trying out all these standard moves like squats, deadlifts or rows and it not feeling “right”. Moreover, sometimes I would wake up with an achey lower back – another tell-tale sign that you were not using proper form or using your core to exert force, but instead using your spine.
When using weights especially, you should always use a mirror or, better yet, schedule a personal training session! A lot of gyms offer one free personal training “demo” when you join, so if money is a factor, it shouldn’t cost you anything more than an hour of your time. If it’s not an issue, schedule 6 to 12 training sessions, distributed 2 to 3 times a week to get you well on your way on your fitness journey – the right way.
As mentioned earlier, poor form not only halts or delays progress, but also make you ache in places you’re not supposed to!
2. Your Weights Are Too Heavy Or Too Light
They key here is confidence. If your weights are too heavy, you are probably overly confident or letting your ego dictate your weights. If you’re picking up 5 pounders, chances are that you don’t believe in your power enough.
A great way to tell if your weights are too heavy is if your form is compromised. This typically is most prominent or visible in the lower back region. For example, if you are doing overhead presses with weights that are too heavy, your back will begin arching. If your weights are too light, you will be able to perform them all quickly and without feeling any contraction.
3. Your Rests Are Too Long
We know that when you’re pushing yourself, you may get especially exhausted. Workouts are hard if you’re doing them correctly. That being said, sometimes – and I have seen this all too often – people will pause, sit and start texting on their phone in the middle of the set. Of course, the energy you exerted was not all for naught even if you take long breaks, but you’re seriously decreasing your workout’s effectiveness if you keep sitting down and relaxing between sets.
Get your heart rate up, build muscle and actually burn some fat. Depending on what body part you’re working on, if that area is getting fatigued, you may want to incorporate bodyweight cardio movements in between. For example, if you’re working on your arms, try a set of overhead presses followed by burpees, upright rows, then jumping jacks and so on and so forth… This will push you to your max, keep your heart rate up and be twice as effective.
4. You Depend On Machines Too Much
Leg presses, smith machines, leg abductors/adductors, etc… The list goes on and on. While these machines are perfectly effective at building muscle, it’s important to incorporate functional exercises in your routine as well to build actual strength or power. Things like weighted squats with overhead lifts, lunges, deadlifts and using free weights in general will help you build more strength that can be translated in everyday life.
For example, weighted squats with overhead lifts? These can be practiced by using a heavy dumbbell, getting into a low squat position, tapping the dumbbell on the ground and then standing up straight to lift the dumbbell overhead. This can also be done using a medicine ball. You can probably picture how this can be directly translated to everyday life. Haven’t you ever wanted to pick up something heavy without hurting yourself and then prop it onto a shelf? Functional exercises like these are key in remaining “youthful” – or at least feeling like it!
5. You Don’t Focus, Just Go Through The Motions
I get it. Sometimes you just say to yourself. “I just need to get through this workout and I will have done my ‘good deed’ for the day.” While this is sometimes true, you have to make sure you’re focused on making the most of your exercises, or else you’ll be wasting your time.
Focus on proper form, feeling the contraction, getting ahold of your breath. All of these will help you reap the rewards of actually showing up to the gym.
6. You Don’t Stick To Something…
When you’re first starting out in the gym, it’s perfectly normal to want to try a variety of different workouts to see what you like best and what you can see yourself sticking to – at least for a period of time. But if you are haphazardly trying out different things a few times a week and not sticking to anything for long enough to actually improve or reap the results, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
It’s only natural you won’t love everything you try the first or even the second time around, but things become more enjoyable as time progresses. You just have to realize that working out won’t feel like a walk in the park, but it will get easier soon.
7. …Or You Never Try New Workouts / Methods
Perhaps you’re a big runner or maybe yoga is your calling. Then again, you could be chained to your weights. While that’s all well and good, you absolutely need to vary your workouts to some degree.
Your body will get used to the workout your perform more consistently, and while one remedy is to start performing more reps, varying moves, or go heavier if you’re using weights, your body also needs several different forms of exercise to keep it performing optimally.
If you love the weight room, make sure you are getting enough cardio in – shooting for running, spinning, steps, etc. for at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week. If you’re a big runner, try incorporating at least 3 strength circuits into your routine, or maybe working on a stair master to work on your muscles that help you move vertically. For example, have you noticed how you may be able to run for miles, but feel winded walking up steps? It’s because you are not cross training or training effectively.
8. You Have Yet To Clean Up Your Diet Or Don’t Fuel Yourself Properly
When they say abs are made in the kitchen, it’s really no joke. However, not only will it help you achieve your #goalbody but a good diet will also fuel your workouts and help you perform your best in the gym. Noticed how after a night of binging on high fat or greasy foods your workouts feel tired or sluggish?
It’s no coincidence as your body starts working harder to process the excess calories and excess junk. No one says you can’t indulge, but make sure you’re being mindful and eating whole, nutritious foods at least 80 percent of the time. Enjoy a meal out or a few glasses of wine, but moderation is the key with everything. This will also help you get back on track and keep your progress moving forward not back.
The converse can also be true. If you’re eating too little or focusing too much on dieting instead of fueling your body, you will soon run out of steam. This can only lead to a few things: A) Missing more and more workouts and/or B) The endless cycle of binging and dieting, and what did we say about binging? It makes you feel sluggish, bloated and makes you not want to hit the gym! Stop the vicious cycle!
9. You Don’t Warm Up Or Do A Proper Warm-Up
Think no warm up is no problem? Wrong! Not warming up may mean a higher risk of injury! Whether you’re running or lifting weights, make sure your joints and muscles are prepared to take on whatever you throw at it – within reason – by performing the proper warm-up.
For example, if you’re running you should avoid static stretches practice moves like leg swings, brisk walking or alternating lunges. For strength training, try jump roping, jumping jacks, push ups, walkouts and other functional exercises.
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Are you making one of these exercise mistakes?