Walk onto any average joe gym floor, and you’ll probably notice guys using cringeworthy exercise form or doing moves that don't really accomplish anything.
But these obvious errors are just two of the many possible ways you can screw yourself in the gym. With so many pieces of equipment to choose from and permanent crowding around the squat rack, it’s hard to set up a proper routine—let alone get in a good warmup and all of the other components.
And while some of these mishaps may be minor, they can actually lead to huge setbacks in terms of gains.
To save yourself time, get faster results, and make your workouts more effective, make sure you avoid these following mistakes.
Gym lines are bound to form during peak hours. The best fix? Head to the gym early in the morning or after 7 p.m., once the pre-work and post-work crowds have finished.
But no matter how busy the gym is, you shouldn’t have to stall your routine in order to wait for equipment. To get around this obstacle, always have alternative options in the back of your mind in case your preferred equipment is taken. Say the squat rack is taken? Swap your back squats with a set of dumbbell goblet squats, which can be just as challenging and add an element of core strength. Come prepared with a Plan B and you’ll stay moving rather than wasting your time waiting for the bench to open up.
Although it may save time, dodging the pre-workout warmup is a surefire way to get injured during a tough workout. Have a dedicated warmup that involves bodyweight exercises like lunges, squats, pushups, and jumping jacks to elevate your heart rate before you attack the weights head on. No matter how short of a time you have, always include a quick warmup in your workout.
Furthermore, before a big compound lift—like a squat or a deadlift—start with a warmup set with more reps at a lighter weight. It'll further increase blood flow to your muscles, and help you cue up good form before you start going heavy. If you simply don’t have a ton of time to get in your lifting session, shorten rest periods and cut out a set of each exercise rather than ditching the warmup.
Walking into the gym without a plan in mind is a bit like heading to the grocery store without a shopping list. You’ll end up wandering aimlessly back and forth, spending way more time than necessary. Your plan of attack should be well thought out in advance. Include the exercises, sets, and reps as well as the order you want to do them in so you can plan your route around the weight room floor. Write them down (and it's okay to use a regular old notebook, since a smartphone can just be distracting).
If you’re working out with a buddy, take time to discuss the routine ahead of time so you’re both on the same page. This cuts down on talking and ensures that you both get down to business.
Cardio is crucial to any man’s workout plan, but it can be detrimental when done at the wrong time. Completing a 30-minute jog before a set of heavy squats may increase your heart rate and act as a warmup, but by the time you get under the bar, you’ll be fatigued, which can lead to poor form—or, worse yet, potential injury. Instead, get your form-intensive lifting session done first, and then hit the cardio area.
Going through the same repetitive routine every single time is a quick way to get bored and stall any and all results. Your workout routine should change every few weeks either by alternating the exercises or the acute variables like sets, reps, and rest times.
For optimal benefits, you should stay with a workout routine for about three to four weeks before changing it up. Use a workout log to track trends in your training and see what works best for your body.
"Most guys should be in and out of the gym in 60 minutes, including warmup, cool-down, and a good lifting session," says Jason Ferruggia, head strength coach at Renegade Strength and Conditioning. To make that possible, avoid wasting precious moments between sets of an exercise.
Wear a stopwatch or a smartwatch, or use an app on your phone to limit yourself to under a minute. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll finish your workout.
Leave your dedicated abdominal work till the end of your workout, and you’re likely to cut it short or do it sloppily. When you’re tired and nearing the end of a lifting session, the last thing you will want to do is multiple sets of planks, side planks, and leg raises. Instead, get the core training out of the way early by incorporating the same moves in between exercises.
Although it may seem trivial in terms of your overall routine, leaving the thirst quencher at home forces many guys to head to the water fountain in between sets. The result? Wasted time between exercises. To keep your workout going strong, bring your own bottle and fill it up beforehand.
Avoid putting together a circuit that takes over the entire gym. This bad habit not only inconveniences other gym-goers, who are forced to sit and watch as you hog equipment all over the gym, but also wastes your precious workout time. Group your exercises so you can utilize equipment in the same area—most gyms already do this with the placement of their machines and weights anyway. This cuts down on transit time between sets and gets you out of the gym faster.
If your goal is to build big rock strength, leave the BOSU balls and other balance accessories out of the equation. Sure, they can certainly build all-around proprioception (body awareness) and balance, helping to eliminate muscle imbalances. But if you're lifting heavy, they'll just waste your time, since imbalance tools can potentially make heavy-duty lifts unsafe. It's better to use them at the end of your workout to improve coordination.