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Biggest mistakes you’re making at the gym

Proper equipment usage and even social etiquette at the gym can affect how productive you are during a workout. To maximize your time and effort, and to achieve maximum results, Hahns Petty, an exercise physiologist at Piedmont, says it is important to avoid making the following six mistakes:

1. Being overzealous. Doing too much too quickly does not lead to faster results. If you try to progress too fast, you are more likely to burn out and drop your exercise routine all together. More importantly, overdoing it can lead to injuries.

2. Having bad form. Beginners often do not know how to target muscle groups. “Swinging weights, hyperextending the back, and going too deep on squats are all common mistakes people make when they are new to working out at a gym,” says Petty. “It’s not uncommon to see people swinging weights thinking the momentum will help. This is not how weights are designed to be used.”

3. Skimping on weight training. Women are especially quick to forego weight training as a part of their exercise routine. Petty points out three reasons why women especially need weight training: women naturally have less lean muscle mass than men, childbearing can alter the shape and tone of a woman’s body, and after age 55 women are especially prone to losing bone density. Weight training helps reduce the effects of each of these areas.

4. Not stretching. Post-exercise stretching is just as important as the workout itself. Stretching helps prevent injuries, lessen cramping, and reduce heart rate after a workout. It is important to stretch the muscles you exercised for at least 10 minutes. All stretches should be held for 10 to 30 seconds.

5. Getting weighed down. Men are especially guilty of packing on the weights. Going too heavy too soon increases your chances of injury and forces other body parts to kick in to help overcompensate, which leads to bad form. Petty says if you can only do about six or less reps, it is a sign that you need to reduce your weights.

6. Practicing poor gym etiquette. While it may seem trivial, gym etiquette is actually a key to a good workout – both for you and fellow gym-goers. The most common “don’ts” include:

  • Use your cell phone to talk or text in the workout area.
  • Linger on a machine beyond your allotted time limit.
  • Forget to wipe down a piece of equipment with sanitizing solution and a paper towel after you use it.

“It is very important to establish good habits at the gym, including being respectful of others. When you go into it with bad habits, you are setting yourself up for failure,” says Petty. “In order to reach your full potential and experience the rewarding benefits of an exercise routine, it’s important to know how to target muscle groups, balance cardio with weight training, stretch, and recognize fitness is a journey. Results are not achieved overnight, but they can lead to a healthier life and are well worth the effort.”

If you want help establishing an exercise routine where you can track your progress and methodically plan out muscle groups to strengthen, Petty recommends consulting a personal fitness trainer at least for your first session.

For more fitness tips, click here

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