Ego-lifting, chicken and rice and 5 other mistakes to avoid with your gym programme
Every gym goer will have fallen foul of these.
If you're a newbie to the gym, knowing where to start can be a tough task. For most people, finding a training plan that works involves a lot of trial and error. With that, many gym mistakes are made. These are seven embarrassing gym mistakes to avoid. But firstly, take some solace from the fact most of us have made them at one point.
1. Ego lifting
There's a very clear temptation, when you're training, to try and shift as much weight as possible. But more often than not, this is done with the wrong intentions - to try and impress others and boost your ego, rather than get you closer to your goal.
We've all done it.
If you haven't, you're lying.
The problem with ego lifting is your form is almost always poor. Not only does this risk injury, but it means your lift probably doesn't count. The emergency services are overworked enough as it is with COVID. Don't make their lives any harder by snapping yourself in two in the gym.
It might be humbling, but just strip the weight back, work on technique, and you'll eventually get to that desired weight - but you'll now be able to lift it with proper form.
2. Investing in shoddy supplements
BCAAs, fat burners, raspberry ketones... we've all parted with our hard-earned cash for supplements that aren't worth buying.
The inclusion of BCAAs in this list might come as a shock to some of you who see them as a legit supplement. But do you really need them?
BCAAs were invented to give professional bodybuilders amino acids (protein, basically) without the calories from food, so they can maintain muscle mass on a diet. Bodybuilders go on extremely strict diets before stepping on stage.
Unless you are a bodybuilder, you don't need to be this strict. Even if you're training to lose weight for a holiday, a wedding or just to look better naked, you can eat solid food. Just work that food into a calorie deficit and you'll achieve your goal.
The supplement industry has fooled a lot of people into thinking they need to focus on the 0.1% difference that the above supplements make. Everyone would be far better off if they considered the bigger picture first - training, diet and sleep.
3. Believing in the anabolic window
The anabolic window is the belief that, after training, you must consume protein immediately, or within 30 minutes, else you've missed the boat and all your gains will dry up.
It's not too dissimilar to the way 'Arry Redknapp used to panic and think QPR would only score goals if they acted quickly and signed 67 players on deadline day.
It just doesn't work.
Numerous studies show this to be the case.
One of the largest reviews into the topic found that, unless you're training fasted or have gone without a pre-workout meal, you don't need to rush to sink a protein shake immediately after exercise.
You can get away with a shake or meal beforehand, and your muscles will still be in an 'anabolic' state for one or two hours after leaving the gym.
4. Skipping leg day
If the fitness world had cardinal sins, this would be among the worst.
At one time or another, we've all skipped leg day for a number of reasons. But it's one of the worst gym mistakes.
Firstly, most people only want to train the mirror muscles - chest, abs and biceps. Last time I checked, these weren't found on the legs.
But these are the areas most people prioritise, to the point they are squeezed into every social media selfie.
Secondly, because your legs take up so much of your body's overall mass, it takes a lot of effort to train them. And we all try and make our lives as easy as possible, if we can get away with it.
However, if you want to get bigger and stronger overall, you need to train legs.
When you've hit such a big muscle group in the gym, there will be a lot of damaged muscle fibres that need repairing, and your body helps out by releasing growth hormones and boosting testosterone.
The knock on effect of this is that your whole body will benefit.
5. Bench pressing without a spotter
Unless you are super confident in your pressing strength, do not bench press alone. It is one of the most dangerous gym mistakes you can make.
If you're performing a set of bicep curls and you drop a dumbbell, nothing will happen. If you hit failure on the bench and there's no one there to help, you're in a bit of bother.
At best, you'll have to roll the bar down your body until you can drop it off the bench. Your ego will have taken a battering. That girl you were making eye contact with at the water machine will think you're an absolute tit.
At worst, it risks serious, potentially even fatal injury.
A 15-year-old aspiring rugby league player in Australia was killed when he dropped a 98 kilogram barbell on his neck. That might not happen to you, but why take the risk?
Ask another gym goer for a spot, or use pins and press in the squat rack.
6. Followed the workout routine of a top bodybuilder
A top professional bodybuilder's workout plan may work for him (or her), but who is to say it will do the same job for you?
At the very elite level of bodybuilding, competitors are genetically gifted - in the 2-3% of the population. We are talking about the kind of guys who would build muscle brushing their teeth or answering the house phone.
They can get away with training chest once a week, because they are genetically gifted. Another reason they can get away with it? They're taking some super strong multi-vitamins on the side.
Unless you also tick those two boxes, copying a pro bodybuilder's training plan is one of the worst gym mistakes you can make.
For the vast majority of people who aren't taking steroids, or aren't in the top 2% of muscle bound genetic freaks, your muscles will need to be hit with a greater frequency, every 48 to 72 hours.
Instead of following the same old 'chest on Monday, back on Tuesday...' workout plan, try a three or four day full-body workout routine. If that's not enough time in the gym for you, opt instead for a PPL (push-pull-legs) split. That'll have you training six days a week, like this:
- Monday: Push (chest, shoulders, triceps)
- Tuesday: Pull (back, biceps, traps, rear delts)
- Wednesday: Legs (and possibly abs)
- Thursday: Push (chest, shoulders, triceps)
- Friday: Pull (back, biceps, traps, rear delts)
- Saturday: Legs (and possibly abs)
- Sunday: REST
7. Eating chicken, broccoli and brown rice every day
Historically popular with bodybuilders, this kind of diet is yet another example of a monkey-see-monkey-do gym mistake that might not work best for you.
Clean eating in general is a bit misleading. It's difficult to define. A clean eating diet outlaws foods that are processed, but it's too simplistic.
Whey protein, peanut butter and oatmeal are all good for you - but highly processed. Eating 'clean' foods alone won't get you lean - it's still possible to overeat on chicken and broccoli.
If you know roughly how many calories you're consuming, you can eat quite flexibly and still enjoy meals and drinks out with your family and friends.
How many of these seven gym mistakes have you made?
Feel free to get in touch with your most embarrassing gym stories. We won't tell, honest.