Working out, whether you’re building muscle mass or shedding those excess pounds, is designed to benefit your body. However, in their eagerness to get themselves back in shape, exercisers often fall into counterproductive workout habits that do them more harm than good. These habits can over-stress your body, and even worse, lead to dangerous health consequences.
Here are 10 workout mistakes that we’ve often observed among exercisers:
1. Over-Reliance on Machines
Following fitness regimens that only involve sessions on exercise bikes or Stairmasters is a common mistake. Machines do help in building muscle, but only up to a certain degree. These machines lock your movement into a particular plane of motion; this means they are ideal for isolating and building your mover muscles. However, they do nothing for the stabilizing muscles, which are responsible for supporting your body and keeping it upright, and are smaller than mover muscles. By ignoring these muscles, you could end up with serious issues such as intense pain, muscle and tendon inflammations, altered movements and posture issues.
Instead, favor free-weight training, which works at strengthening total-body movement and improves co-ordination between both muscle groups – movers and stabilizers – in your body.
2. Poor Exercise Recovery and Rest
To make the most of your exercise regimen, your workout and recovery sessions need to be balanced. Doing a few stretching exercises after an intense workout won’t cut it, and could result in serious issues down the line if your body is not given an adequate amount of time to recover.
There are two types of recovery: short-term and long-term. Short-term recovery involves low-intensity exercises like foam rolling or stretches, and replenishing lost nutrients and energy through adequate nutrition and supplements. Long-term recovery, which is usually built into fixed or annual training programs, involves taking days or weeks off exercise to allow your body to recover.
3. Forgetting to Rest altogether
Overtraining – training intensely without giving your body any time to rest adequately – is just as bad, if not worse, than poor recovery. It can lead to chronic injuries, mood problems, insomnia, poor metabolism and burnout. In fact, too much exercise can even result in weight gain: a result of increased cortisol levels which, in turn, causes your body to start storing fat.
4. Focusing on Running and Cardio
If your aim is to gain muscle, running and cardio exercises on a treadmill will fall short, Running and low-impact cardio exercise tax your energy reserves and cause you to lose your muscle mass, instead of building it. Instead, focus on strength-training or resistance training which builds muscle strength and tone. Likewise, don’t follow an intense cardio session with a strength session: you’ll be out of energy to do any lifting. Move cardio to a different day on your exercise schedule. Don’t do both on the same day.
5. Jarring your Joints with a Poor Exercise Surface
Even if you own the best exercise sneakers with excellent shock-absorption, there’s only so much they can do if the surface you’re exercising on is inappropriate. Hard surfaces can tax your joints since they cannot absorb impact of the movement, while springy or slippery surfaces can absorb the shock and provide extra momentum to your movements. Avoid hard surfaces like asphalt or concrete, and opt for natural trails or environment-friendly flooring surfaces like cork or real linoleum.
6. Working out on an Empty Stomach
Now, it should be said that, in most cases, starting on an empty stomach makes sense, since your body will draw energy from its fat reserves. However, this may not work out this way for everyone. Depending on your metabolic levels and exercise aims, you may need to try some pre-workout snacks and nutrition to avoid overtiring yourself.
7. Treating Exercise as a Chore
Having the right mental attitude to working out is just as important as the exercise itself. If you find yourself coming up with excuses to skip your workout session or going half-heartedly at your exercise routine, it’s time to change and kick yourself back into gear. There are a number of ways to beat gym-fatigue such as finding a workout partner or switching up your exercise routines.
8. Changing up Your Exercise too often
Switching up your exercise schedule every four to six weeks is fine, but drastic and frequent changes to your programs can affect your workout objectives. This is not to say that you should stick rigidly to the same routine for a month; you can switch up exercises within your routine, but keep the overall program going for a good while until you decide to change it. Strength-training and conditioning specialist, Mike Donavanik recommends the F.I.T.T principle which stands for Frequency, Intensity, Type and Time: where you change two of those four determinants every four to six weeks.
9. Stretching Wrongly
Stretching enhances flexibility and reduces muscle tension before a workout. However, stretching wrongly can strain muscles, damage cartilage and exert an incorrect force or torque on your joints. The US Navy recently published a list of stretches that sportsmen have long been doing, that are actually dangerous, and proposes alternative stretches for them.
10. Forgetting Corrective Exercise
Corrective exercise is used to fix muscle imbalances, often caused due to poor and incorrect posture during exercise. They can also be caused due to daily activities or inadequate rest and recovery after injuries. These imbalances need to be corrected to prevent further injuries and hampering your workout progress. To know what corrective exercises you’ll need, you should consult with a certified physical trainer. They’ll help you identify muscle groups which need stretching, rolling or strengthening, issues with your posture and running gait.
In conclusion, working out is important and necessary, but you need to make the most of your workout schedule by doing it right. Making any of the mistakes above will only render your workout useless, and land you in a world of pain and misery.