The most common things people are doing wrong in the gym, according to 12 top personal trainers

From eating at the wrong times to not working out hard enough...

Olivia Blair
Friday 24 February 2017 12:56 GMT
(Getty istock)

While we all have that moment where we realise we need to get back in the gym, what exactly we do when we get there can be more of a struggle to figure out.

We are constantly bombarded with dos, don’ts and conflicting information. This then leads to people harming their workout progress by following the wrong advice or coming up with their own ideas because of the lack of a general consensus. Consequently, a lot of us are making the same mistakes when it comes to exercise.

Flatline - The hardcore gym class that needs a professional cardiologist present for each session

We asked some of London’s top fitness and personal trainers on what the most common mistakes are:

Not varying your workout

Sandy Macaskill, personal trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp says: “The change most people need to make to their workout routine is change itself. Lots of people do the same workout, same exercises, same order, same weight, etc, day in, day out and wonder why they don't get any results. Your body gets used to what you are asking it to do and stops being forced to respond sufficiently.

Change things up: throw in different exercises, change your weights – one session go heavier, another lighter but with more reps, another time focus more on time under tension. Anything to keep your body guessing.”

Focusing too much on results

Christina Howells, a personal trainer at That Girl London says: “When we start an exercise programme it is natural to have goals, these drive your behaviour, but it is also really important to not become obsessed with results. Instead learn to love the process rather than keeping score, be consistent and you will exceed all of your expectations and gain more satisfaction than any amount of goal achieving. “

Not stretching before exercising

George Ashwell, performance coach at Twenty Two Training, says: “The one change people need to make is their ‘prehab’ routine, this is absolutely fundamental to an effective and injury-free workout. Dynamic stretching prepares muscles for activity and prevents injury. Hip flexors are the most important area to stretch because we sit down all the time and glute activation is also important because it protects your knees from injury. “

Not training hard enough

Nick Mitchell, CEO of Ultimate Performance Fitness says: “People need to train hard. Most commercial gym goers are not training nearly hard enough to get results – their sessions often lack passion and intensity. Workouts are living, dynamic things that need life breathing into them, you make your best progress and have the most fun when you attack your sessions with a burning, yet controlled, rage. There should be fire and brimstone tempered with a sense of fun and fulfilment.

”Take yourself out of your comfort zone when you work out. Push yourself to a place that you've never been before (which can be as prosaic as one more rep or one more kilo on the bar). You should keep your workouts short and intense; after 60 minutes your intensity and drive will drop.“

Following the crowd

Pilates teacher Hollie Grant is no fan of exercise fads
Pilates teacher Hollie Grant is no fan of exercise fads (Dominique Bader)

Hollie Grant, owner of the Pilates PT studio, says: “All too often I see people jumping from one fitness trend to the next in search of the 'best' workout. The problem with this is twofold. Firstly if we jump from one trend to the next we never truly improve at that technique and we are forever a beginner – a fitness jack of all trades. Secondly, we are completely ignoring our bodies important feedback mechanisms that tell us what we really need. For example, if your body is telling you that you are inflexible and uncomfortable – do yoga not HIIT (high-intensity interval training). If you are getting back ache and feel weak in your core, do pilates not boxing. Listen to your body, not the newest, craziest fitness gossip.

Eating at the wrong time before and after working out

Pro boxer Marianne Marston, a strong proponent of post-workout nourishment
Pro boxer Marianne Marston, a strong proponent of post-workout nourishment (Marianne Marston)

Marianne Marston, professional boxer and coach, says: “Good nutrition is always key, make sure you eat right and not too long after exercising. The prime time to eat after exercising is between 20 minutes and one hour, while this is essential for pro athletes, it is still extremely important for the general exerciser to achieve the best results.

Measuring progress by sweat

‘Make sessions specific to personal goals,’ says personal trainer Leo Savage
‘Make sessions specific to personal goals,’ says personal trainer Leo Savage (Third Space)

Leo Savage, personal trainer at Third Space gyms says: “The most common mistake in gyms is people aimlessly approaching each session as a stand-alone workout. Making sure they exercise as hard as they can, working up a sweat, expecting to see instead results. Sweat is not an indication of working hard and most importantly working smart. Making your sessions specific to your own personal goals will be the best thing you can do to kick start your progress. Targeting certain weaknesses you have, or working specific parts of the body to bring about change in the right way.”

Losing track of your progress

‘Set incremental targets to hit each week,’ advises trainer David Jones
‘Set incremental targets to hit each week,’ advises trainer David Jones (David Jones)

David Jones, head personal trainer at Sculpt Core Health and Fitness Consultancy, says: “Whether your goal is improved health, fitness, body composition or sports performance, you should always be striving to improve on something every time you work out. Practically speaking, write down what your main goal is, set a realistic time frame and then break it down into smaller incremental goals to try to hit each week. Don't forget to track your results: if you are not assessing you're just guessing.”

Neglecting the smaller muscles

Aaron Deere, fitness education and development manager at KX Life, says: “When entering the gym, a lot of people head straight for the squat rack, bench press or treadmill. Little thought is often given to those smaller muscle groups that allow us to carry out our training and other sporting activities. These smaller groups of muscles include the shoulders (Shoulder rotators – supra spinatus, infra spinatus, teres major), knees (vastus medialus oblique) and hips (glutes medius, periformus).

"When overloaded, either by training volume or a postural deviation, it can result in these smaller muscles no longer performing optimally, resulting in injury and time away from the gym. By investing the first 10-15 minutes of your workout into addressing these issues it can help prevent injury and facilitate improved function and movement."

Not asking for help

Matt Roberts, CEO of Matt Roberts Personal Training, says: “I think that the one thing that will always increase the likelihood of getting the results you want is using the help and advice of a professional. Outsourcing some guidance from a well-qualified coach means you will be much more successful and efficient in reaching your goals.”

Not having a purpose to your workout

Ruben Tabares, strength and conditioning coach, says: “Find a purpose in order to train, whether it is for longevity (being able to do the things you do now at 100 years old) or a revenge body, purpose needs to be applied. Also training mindfully, not just doing a squat because you’ve heard they are good for you, but doing it while feeling which muscles you’re working on, bracing your core and breathing in on the down and out on the way up. This makes you burn more calories and produces greater results at a faster rate.”

Tension is good

Frankie Holah demonstrates a static hold in training for chin ups
Frankie Holah demonstrates a static hold in training for chin ups (Frankie Holah)

Frankie Holah, fitness blogger, says: “I train a lot of people on the quest for that much-desired pull up and chin up. My advice is to include static holds in your training. Time under tension builds some real strength and will help you to control your own bodyweight and progress. A static hold: use a step or get a friend to help you into the top position of the chin up and pull up – hold yourself there for as long as you can before jumping or stepping down. Repeat five times and if you're consistent, watch that hold time go up and up."

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