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8 Weight Training Mistakes To Avoid (And What To Do Instead)

by Alexandra Parren

weight lifting crossfit workout fitness strength gym

Are you a keen gym-goer? Feel like you know the difference between an RDL and an SLDL but still not seeing results? Make sure you're not making any of these mistakes.

1. Copying what other people are doing

This includes copying what you see on Instagram/YouTube. People at the gym can be known to perform all sorts of crazy and dangerous exercises, or just perform exercises with terrible form. Don't develop bad habits by copying others as they could be making a lot of mistakes and you'll end up making them too.

Do your research properly and speak to a professional if you're not sure. Always get a second opinion and make sure you separate fact from fiction. 

2. Going too fast

Seeing results at the gym is all about time under tension. If you perform your reps too fast, you won't achieve maximum return on your efforts and you could exhaust yourself. Not only this, if you go too fast you are more likely to be doing the exercise with bad form. 

Take your time and always control the movement as much as possible. Special reps such as pause reps and timed reps can be excellent for getting more out of the exercise. Slow it down and focus on technique. 

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3. Doing cardio first

There is an ever-lasting debate surrounding the order in which you should do cardio and weight training. Some people argue that doing cardio first will kick-start your body's fat-burning system and that you'll burn more fat during your session. However, the bottom line is that if you spend half an hour sprinting on a treadmill at the start of your session, it will tire you out. As a result, your form and technique on the free weights will suffer hugely and you could end up getting injured.

Never do cardio before lifting weights. Do the big compound lifts such as squat, deadlift, and bench press at the beginning of your session when you are at your freshest and then move on to the accessory exercises. This is the best order in which to train. If you do want to do cardio, save it until the end of the session. 

4. Texting between sets 

Your rest periods are just as important as the time you spend actually lifting the weights. Time your rest so that you're not resting too long, and don't get distracted in between sets by texting! 

The amount of rest you need between sets depends on how many reps you're doing and how heavy you're lifting. If you're lifting heavy and performing low reps (1-3), you need up to 5 minutes of rest between each set. However, if you're doing hypertrophy and therefore doing fairly light weights at 8-12 reps, you only need 30-60 seconds rest between each set. This time will go quickly! Make sure to time your rest and don't rest too long.

5. Spending half your session chatting

For some people, going to the gym is one of the only times they get to socialise outside of work and as such can be a great stress-reliever and social activity. However, if you are serious about seeing results and are getting frustrated about why you're not progressing, it could be because you're spending so long chatting.

Try to avoid getting distracted during your session by planning it out in advance and knowing exactly what exercises you should be doing, how many reps, what weight etc. If people do want to chat to you, keep it brief and remind them that you need to do your next set. 

6. Increasing the weight before you're ready

It may seem like the girl in the corner is watching you and judging how heavy you can lift, but she's really not. You will get a lot more respect for doing the exercises with perfect form than you will for lifting too heavy and not being able to do it properly.

If you can't squat below parallel, you need to go back to a lighter weight and work on your form before you increase the weight. No one likes a half rep! Have patience and remember that this is about you, not what anyone else thinks of you.

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7. Not making the most of the gym staff's knowledge

Every gym will have fitness instructors and personal trainers that are brimming with knowledge and just waiting for someone who they can inspire. Most PTs will offer a free taster session so make the most of this and ask them lots of questions. The gym can seem like a daunting place at times, but don't be afraid to speak to the staff, they are there to help. 

8. Making excuses

If you can't squat deep because you have 'bad knees', don't squat at all. There are lots of other leg exercises out there that you can do safely and will get you better results. If you find yourself making excuses, you are doing something wrong. 

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