As the number of Americans with gym memberships skyrockets, gyms across the country are literally flooded with people all trying to get in great shape and improve their physical appearance. This should come as no surprise though since we are a nation that is obsessed with our physical abilities. After all, there’s a reason why we only pay teachers about 1% of what professional athletes make in this country.
Sure, everyone wants to be in great shape but very few of us devote the necessary time and energy to researching techniques to make our time in the gym productive and worth the effort. The mistakes many people make in the gym often prevent them from realizing their fitness goals and can also lead to severe injury in some cases. Although there are thousands of mistakes that we all make in the gym, the following 10 muscle building mistakes are the most common according to most physical trainers.
1. Failing to track your progress
You might have seen some people in the gym carrying around small notebooks or using their phones to record information during their workouts in the gym. No, they are probably not writing down the next great idea for an infomercial, they are actually tracking their workout so they can determine if they are making any progress. Although this might sound like a lot of work to most people, it is absolutely essential to realizing fitness goals and tweaking your muscle building routine over time. Plus, this is a great way to keep motivated.
2. Relying on workout supplements to build muscle
Many of my friends order hundreds of dollars worth of expensive protein powders and supplements each month believing that these products somehow hold the keys to successful muscle building. While some supplements can, in small doses, be beneficial to building muscle, many others are complete rip offs. Don’t rely on pills and powders to build muscle. Instead, eat a well-balanced diet and take a multivitamin.
3. Maintaining a poor diet
As you work your muscles to exhaustion in the gym, it is essential that you give your body the proper nutrients it needs to replenish the energy you are burning. This will not only help you feel better but will also help your muscles get stronger over time. Pumping out an awesome upper body lifting routine only to follow it up with a lunch consisting of a candy bar and a soda is probably not going to help you pack on lean muscle mass. Unfortunately, I see this happen all the time in the gym.
4. Setting unrealistic goals
Many beginning weightlifters, especially high school and college kids, mistakenly believe that they can get “shredded” by lifting weights for just a few weeks and then stopping. After spending some time in the gym and not realizing these unrealistic results, they often immediately throw in the towel and move on. As a beginner, it is important to set realistic goals that are specific and achievable. I recommend your goals be set in terms of number of sets and reps and not in muscle size or how many dates you can get.
5. Not having a plan of attack
As I drive to the gym, I always take a couple of minutes to lay out my game plan for my lifting session. Sometimes I go so far as to visualize my routine. If you plan on just showing up at the gym and jumping on any machine or bench that is open, you will be making a huge mistake and will waste your time. Eventually, with experience, you can plan your weightlifting sessions out a week in advance to ensure you hit the maximum number of muscle groups most efficiently.
6. Using poor form for lifting
This muscle building mistake happens too often in the gym and has the potential to cause serious injury. Unfortunately, many first time weight lifters sit on the sidelines and watch the technique of others and try to emulate them with little success. More often than not, these beginners end up doing the routine completely wrong or causing long term damage to their bodies. As a beginner, you should always sign up for a couple of sessions with a physical trainer in order to get an introduction to the correct form for the exercises you want to focus on.
7. Not getting enough sleep
Lifting weights can be strenuous on your body and requires that you devote a great deal of time to giving your muscles the necessary opportunity to heal and grow. Just as it is vital to maintain proper nutrition when lifting, it is equally important to devote at least a full six to eight hours a night to uninterrupted sleep.
8. Only training your “glory muscles”
I’m sure you’ve seen these guys in the gym. They have massive biceps and pectoral muscles but they have the stereotypical “chicken legs” and big guts. If you think that women are only attracted by the size of a man’s biceps, you are living on another planet. Being fit and looking good requires that you train your entire body, not just your glory muscles.
9. Going to the gym to socialize
These people are extremely annoying, aren’t they? They go to the gym and hang out for hours taking up precious space as they hold loud conversations and talk or text on their cell phone. Some call them gym rats; others stand around waiting for them to finish their hour-long sets so they can get their workout in. Don’t be one of these people.
10. Neglecting your cardiovascular system
Sure, weightlifting is extremely important to building muscle and maintaining a healthy body. However, many lifters overlook the importance of their cardiovascular health. A huge myth is that doing cardio will decrease the size of your muscles. This is completely false as a routine that incorporates cardio can help keep you lean and in top shape.