A while back, I wrote about six terrible mistakes you could make in the gym. Well, that was just the tip of the iceberg. See, people commit a ton of fitness sins, and as a personal trainer for athletes, entertainers and execs for more than 10 years, I have probably seen them all. (Except working out with heels. Which I wouldn’t advise. Especially for guys.) So here are six more egregious errors I notice time and time again. Steer clear or, trust me, your body will pay the price.
1. Working only the front of your body
Whether you’re trying to build strength or a better-looking physique—or both—you should focus more on your backside. Think of NFL running backs. Those guys are in phenomenal shape because they’re constantly working their backs, their glutes, their hamstrings and their calves. That’s how you increase your speed and power, and let’s be honest: that’s how you develop a butt that will be appreciated by the fairer sex. So give the biceps curls a rest and do more posterior-related exercises—things like glute kickbacks, squats, lunges and deadlifts.
2. Faulty spotting
When someone’s doing a bench press with dumbbells, most workout partners spot at the elbows. That’s just wrong. You should spot at the wrists. I’ve seen too many people do this incorrectly, and the weight comes right down on the chest. Also, if your partner is doing a barbell bench press, one palm should be under the bar and one palm should be over it, as if you were doing a deadlift. If you have both palms under or both palms over and your partner slips, that barbell’s going to come right down on the chest. Not good.
3. Asking the biggest guy in the gym for tips
Look, don’t ask the beefiest meathead in the gym for advice. Especially supplement and nutritional advice. (And if you do ask him, definitely don’t listen to what he says and follow his instructions.) Everybody’s body is different. What works for him won’t necessarily work for you. So don’t ask him how many calories you should eat per day. Think of it this way: You don’t want to look like him, do you? So don’t use his fitness plan.
4. Asking a trainer for nutrition help
Along the same lines, don’t turn to trainers in the gym for diet pointers. Trainers are meant to motivate, correct form and implement training workouts. But most are not qualified to diagnose problems or give supplement and nutrition advice. They’re not doctors, and they’re not dietitians. Always keep that in mind. Doctors and dietitians (and certified sports nutritionists like yours truly) are the only ones who should be giving you that info.
5. Not working through the full range of motion
Look around the average gym. Most people are going through about half the range of motion they should be. For example, a guy will “bench” 300 pounds, but he won’t bring the weight all the down to his chest and press it all the way up. (Same with the guy who does “20” pull-ups or “50” push-ups.) Not only is this halfway technique incorrect, it can lead to injuries. To build the most strength—and the most functional strength—you have to go through a full range of motion. It’s better to do that with lighter weight or fewer reps than to half-ass it and brag/lie about how much you “lifted.”
6. Spending the whole time on one machine
Too many people train one-dimensionally. They come in, spend 45 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical and leave. This is a poor use of your time, and it’s not going to lead to the results you want. Instead, try shorter, more intense bursts of exercise. Do jumping jacks. Jump rope (fact: 11 minutes of jumping rope is equal to 30 minutes of jogging on the treadmill). Pound a tire with a sledgehammer. Do cable exercises. Do planks. Do lunges. You can save yourself a lot of time and get fitter if you’re willing to up the focus and intensity. That’s true for a lot of things in life, and it’s definitely true in the gym.
Jay Cardiello is Made Man’s fitness and nutrition expert. As a top certified strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer and sports nutritionist, Cardiello has worked with Hollywood A-Listers, Fortune 500 CEOs and NFL stars. His accelerated body transformation program, JCore, is available here, and his new book, Cardio Core 4×4, is available here. Got a question for Jay? Leave a note in the comment section, and he’ll do his best to address it in a future column.