Common Gym Mistakes

(BTW, that is not me…I wish) So yesterday was a breakthrough for me in my quest to be able to do 5 bodyweight chin-ups by my 50th birthday at the end of July.  I train once a week at Cressey Performance in Hudson (trainers need trainers too).  My coach Tony writes two programs for me a month ~ I do one at Cressey and one on my own.  Last month I was doing 3 sets of 5 chin-ups with a skinny superband (think a giant rubber band) that gives you some assistance.  Last month I did my first two chin-ups without assistance ever and I was really excited.  I would then finish up my set of 5 with the band.  In week 3 of my program I got in a 3rd chin-up on one set, but the next week I could only do two again, so I was a bit bummed out.   This week I started a new program and I am supposed to do 4 sets of 3 chin-ups.  My first set was messed up because the grips on the chin-up station moved as I applied my weight to them, so I resorted to using the band.  Then I found a better chin-up station, where I proceeded to do my 3 reps with no assistance…and repeated it for my 3rd and 4th set.  So psyched!  I love having goals, and I love seeing progress.  By the way, my chin-ups do not look like this. 

But I wish I could do this (BTW, this girl, Jen Grasso, rocks!):

So on another more personal note, I am doing a ridiculous race on May 7th called Tough Mudder.  One of my teammates obviously used some weird mind control tricks and got all of us excited about doing a 7 mile race…that was later changed to 10 miles (AFTER we had already signed up)…on a mountain in Vermont…with 20 obstacles along the way (holy crap, I have been telling people there are 14 obstacles ~ just looked at the course map and counted 20).  Obstacles involve climbing over walls, crawling on your belly, carrying logs, running through a field of live wires (not joking), and lots and lots of mud.  Check it out: Tough Mudder New England.    So last week some of the people participating did a little “Tough Mudder training” workout…they ran 5 miles on the road, did some push ups,  sit ups  and walking lunges at the playground, then ran another 4 miles on some trails.  These are triathletes, all very fit…and you cannot believe how sore they all seemed to be…I heard about arms they couldn’t raise, abs that were screaming, hamstrings that days later were still crying…pathetic!  I couldn’t be there last weekend, but I am taking over this Sunday’s repeat performance.  I plan to set up a circuit that will incorporate a TRX, battling ropes, medicine balls, a heavy jump rope, maybe even my sled.  Should be fun…hopefully they will all be begging for mercy (and maybe next fall they will think about incorporating strength training into their workouts). 

Okay, on to the real topic, common gym mistakes.  This could be a really long post, but today I’m going to keep it kind of simple.  One of the basic mistakes a lot of people make is to gravitate towards the machines…you know what they are, the leg press, hip adduction and adduction (you know, inner and outer thigh machines that are ONLY used by the women), etc., etc.  I guess a lot of people think since the machines dominate the floor space in a gym, that’s what they should be using.  The truth is quite the opposite.  Machines often train movement patterns that we don’t even use, they can put inappropriate strain on certain body parts, and they do a lot of the work for you.  How often are you going to use your quads while seated?  The machines take stabilization (core) out of the picture and work a muscle in isolation, none of which translates to real everyday movement.  The only “machine” I will use is the cable column, which actually is a wonderfully versatile piece of equipment that forces your body to stabilize itself during the course of the exercise.  Anyway, here is a great piece called 6 Exercise Machines You Must Avoid…take a look ~ probably some of the most popular pieces of equipment in the gym.  The guys who were consulted for this piece are really smart, very well-respected in the industry.  You should listen to them. 

Another very common mistake in the gym is to do the same thing all the time.  People go in and do the same workout day after day, week after week, month after month.  Not only will you be bored silly, but your body will be bored silly too.  You get the most from your body when you periodically switch things up.  As I mentioned above, I do one workout at Cressey, another workout on my own.  I do each of them for 4 weeks, then I get new workouts.  Trust me, the week that I get new workouts I am sore.   I do the same basic movements ~ pushing, pulling, knee dominant, hip dominant and core work, but the exercises themselves change (except that my coach always includes push ups, and up until this month I have always done single leg bench hip thrusts, which just shows you how good those things are). 

My final recommendation for what not to do in the gym ~ stupid stuff.  For awhile there was a big push for “functional training.”  Functional training makes sense, but unfortunately the parameters of what was “functional” got a little out of control.  The idea of training in unstable environments ~ with stability balls, on a bosu, half foam rolls, etc went off the deep end (admittedly, I did some of those stupid things too).  While there are uses for these tools that makes sense, in reality stuff like this isn’t slick or impressive, it’s just stupid.

There are a million exercises out there, and a lot of them are just pointless.  Stick with the basics (there are still a lot of variations of the basics) and you will get a lot more out of your workout. 

I hope you all have a great weekend.  I will be back with more good stuff on Monday!  Thanks for reading.

About Lisa Van Dore

I have lived in Sherborn, Dover and most recently North Walpole, for a total of 15 years (and counting). Having recently been through the process of selling a home and buying (and renovating) a new one, I understand the conflicting emotions of excitement and anxiety inherent in the process, whether you are a seller or buyer, whether this is your first home purchase or your tenth. I have a BA from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Indiana University. My early career found me working as a CPA, and later as the controller of Crate & Barrel. More recently I spent seven years running my own personal training business. I understand the hard work and dedication necessary to build a business and a reputation...most of my personal training clients came to me by referral and my first client was still with me when I decided to leave personal training. This speaks to the level of effort I put forth for my clients, week after week. On a more personal note, I raced triathlon for seven years and more recently completed my first half marathon. In my free time I enjoy cooking, reading, Maine, hiking and, in the fall, following college teams are the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and Texas Christian University (Go Frogs!).
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