Seven Common Mistakes People Make at the Gym

There are many mistakes people make at the gym that affect their progress. Today's article will tell you about the seven most common ones, along with their respective solutions.
Seven Common Mistakes People Make at the Gym

Last update: 15 September, 2021

Nearly everyone makes mistakes at the gym. It’s also common to go through periods of stagnation where you may not seem to be making progress. That said, everyone expects some short, medium, and long-term fulfillment regardless of the goals.

So, are you not accomplishing what you want?

Take a look at what might be holding you back, then.

You probably think your routine is flawless and that you’re on the right eating regimen and that you’re including enough protein and other supplements to it. However, you might be doing something wrong if you’re not meeting your goals.

Mistakes to avoid in your workout routine

People have all sorts of goals (losing weight, increasing their strength, building endurance, etc). What they must know is that training in the gym involves a complex system that goes far beyond the exercises they choose during their routine. As you can imagine, their progress is temporarily or permanently conditioned if they disrupt one part of this system.

Let’s take a look.

1. Overtraining

People believed that overtraining was a myth until a couple of decades ago. But first, let’s be clear on the difference between overloading and overtraining. According to researchers:

  • Overload happens after a day, weeks, or months of intense training and it’s common in elite athletes.
  • Overtraining is a physiological response of the body when training without considering rest times. It occurs regardless of the level of intensity and, according to the evidence, leads to neurological, immune, and endocrine disturbances.

Overtraining syndrome is a real problem that affects two out of three athletes on average (regardless of their level) so people must respect their rest times.

What’s the solution? Well, it’s quite simple, just rest one day every week. Two, if possible. In fact, take seven to 10 full rest days once in a while.

A woman rolling her yoga mat.
Not resting between routines is detrimental as the muscles need time to heal.

2. Mistakes people make at the gym: stretching and warming up

Not stretching is another one of the mistakes people make at the gym. This is because we don’t think it important. However, not doing so or doing it wrong increases the chances of injury.

Harvard Health Publishing points out that’s important to stretch and warm up to increase joint range of motion, improve flexibility and prepare muscles for workouts. Skipping this part tightens and deteriorates the tissues.

What’s the solution? Well, just stretch and warm-up for at least ten minutes before training. Use a timer and stick to the time. Focus on both active and passive muscles.

3. Lifting more weight than you should

This is common in people who seek to produce muscle hypertrophy or those who practice strength training. A heavier weight than you can control can make you neglect your technique, injure yourself, not complete your reps and prematurely fatigue your muscles. This mistake is common in both novice and experienced athletes.

What’s the solution? Well, choose a weight that’s challenging but with which you can complete the set and repetitions without compromising your technique to increase your muscle mass and strength. Go up a level according to your capabilities.

4. Mistakes people make at the gym: not following an established plan

This is one of the mistakes you make at the gym that keeps you from progressing. Starting your routine without knowing what muscle group you’ll work on; how many sets or repetitions you’ll do; how long you’ll rest between them; what type of exercises you’ll include, and other basics will only be a waste of your time.

The emotional preparation that precedes going to the gym is very important. This is because it’s better to start the routine when you’re mentally prepared for it than to improvise.

What’s the solution? Well, plan the exercises you’ll do every day in advance. Make divisions based on muscle groups, estimated time, and other variables. Like any plan, leave some room for changes.

5. Using your cell phone and other distractions

Nowadays, it’s impossible to think of going anywhere without a cell phone in your pocket. This device can be useful at the gym to track progress, watch motivational videos, review the planned routine and communicate in case of an emergency. There’s a problem, however, when you pay more attention to the device than to the workout.

You know you shouldn’t approach rest times between sets lightly, especially if you’re serious about training. This is because it’ll throw your routine out of sync and hinder performance.

What’s the solution?

Well, just don’t use your cell phone in the gym unless it’s strictly necessary. Surely you can survive 45 minutes without it.

6. Overestimating compound exercises

Isolation exercises have become the sole mantra of many gym fanatics for several years now. You must definitely include them in your routine if you really want to make progress. However, you must also do some compound exercises.

Studies indicate there’s practically no difference between the two when it comes to obtaining strength and hypertrophy — two qualities many athletes desire. In some contexts, they can even be useful to reduce your training day. Especially when you don’t have time to work out several muscle groups.

What’s the solution? Well, include all types of exercises in your routine, even if you’re just looking to define or work isolated areas of your body. There are parts of your muscles that you can only activate with the help of compound movements.

A woman doing a twist.
Compound exercises are a combination of movements to simultaneously work on various muscle groups.

7. Mistakes people make at the gym: Quantity vs. quality

Mistaking quantity for quality might just be one of the mistakes people make at the gym and trainers often emphasize it. Quantity applies to the time you spend training, the reps and sets you do and the weight you lift. Just because these values are higher doesn’t mean it’s better for your progress.

It’s common for newbies and experienced athletes to spend hours at the gym and include routines with a disproportionate number of sets and reps. This isn’t good for your muscles or overall health at all. Excess never leads to a positive outcome.

What’s the solution? Well, consult a gym trainer for a professional opinion if you have doubts about how much you should dedicate to reach your goals. They can tell you how many sets to do and what weight range fits your level. Thus, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Reaching your goals requires a plan

As a complement to these common mistakes you make in the gym, we’d like to remind you that fluid intake, nutrition according to your energy demands, and hours of sleep also work in your favor. This is why you shouldn’t neglect them if you want to reach your goals.

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  • Gentil, P., Soares, S., & Bottaro, M. Single vs. multi-joint resistance exercises: effects on muscle strength and hypertrophy. Asian journal of sports medicine. 2015; 6(2).
  • Halson, S. L., & Jeukendrup, A. E. Does overtraining exist?. Sports medicine. 2004; 34(14), 967-981.
  • Kreher, J. B., & Schwartz, J. B. Overtraining syndrome: a practical guide. Sports health. 2012; 4(2): 128-138.