Okay, I’m starting off by saying beginners in the gym but being a Personal Trainer working in a gym, I’m going to put this out there, this blog post is not just aimed at the beginners, it’s aimed at every single person who uses a gym. On a daily basis I see these mistakes happening all the time, number 3 is a major bug bare for a lot of the staff in every gym, in every country. We all like a tidy gym, so why would you not want to keep the gym tidy for the other users and for yourself?
I’m going to put this down to education, a lack of knowledge regarding gym etiquette and also a disrespect for the other gym members. Anyways, I can feel a rant coming on and we haven’t got time for that. So lets get down down to it and hopefully educate along the way.
MISTAKE 1: EGO LIFTING
This one is mostly aimed at the guys in the gym, you know the ones who fill up the free weights area and make the gym a daunting space. By far the biggest mistake anyone can perform when they are at any level of training. Lifting with your ego is the act of lifting or pushing too much weight without the conscience effort of keeping form in the hopes to impress your friends, the opposite sex or a more experienced lifter.
I can tell you from personal experience, nothing makes me laugh more than when I see a guy using improper form to try to impress someone or even loading up the leg press with every single weight plate available and then not even doing a single rep ten times and calling it a workout. Your friends might think it is cool but you are usually putting yourself in a dangerous position and injury is at high risk.
Secondly, the majority of all ladies the ladies you are trying to impress don’t care how much weight you can move. Finally, the experienced guy and the personal trainers are laughing and not impressed, as they are well aware that lifting using perfect form is more beneficial and a lot more difficult than tossing weights around like a maniac.
MISTAKE 2: LACK OF HYGIENE
The gym is a place where hundreds of people a day are all sweating and sharing the same facility. This makes the gym a perfect place for the spread of bacteria.
It is critical to make sure that you are as hygienic as possible. This means, when you use a machine and or bench take the time to wipe it down when you are done. When you use the bathroom wash your hands. Have a little common sense.
Would you like to lay on a bench that was dripping with sweat? No, so why should someone else have to. Do your part and help stop of the spread of germs by being health conscious and wiping equipment down. Last thing you want to do is become sick and miss workouts. Remember that the best form of teaching is through example.
MISTAKE 3: NOT PUTTING WEIGHTS AWAY
ARRRRGH!! This one does my head in. It’s something that I know annoys a lot of members, it most likely annoys you when you are trying to find that weight, the second dumbbell or the the piece of equipment to complete your workout. So what do people do? they just follow the ground ‘well he doesn’t put weights back so why should I?’ The weird thing is that I’ve seen grown men, take two 40kg dumbells off the rack, walk them down to the bench they are working on, then when done, either leave them on the floor and walk off, roll them under the rack directly in front of them and walk off or just put them on a random space directly in front of them (normally where the 8kg go) and walk off. This leads the next guy or women, using the 8kg to try and put their weights back but them can’t so they walk up to where the 40’s go and leave the 8’s there…
Every time I come into the gym, this makes me sad. Especially when I’ve spent the time putting them all back into place and in order, for your ease, and then find this issue 15 minutes later, it’s even worse when there are only two people in the free weights area. Arrrrrgh!!
Ive had members tell me that it’s a losing battle (as they put some 10’s where the 16’s go), but I’m not giving up and I’m not joining the herd but I would like your help and consideration. Have a little respect for the gym, the other members and yourself.
Not putting plates and dumbbells away in the right places is lazy and if you struggle putting the weights back after your final set, well may be try a lighter weight next time.
It is bad gym etiquette to leave weights around but it also can be dangerous. People can trip, fall and easily hurt themselves. Don’t leave your weights around. I view them as my toys. When I was a kid I was told to put my toys away, so it is second nature to put my weights away as they are my new toys.
MISTAKE 4: SOCIALISING
Your number one goal when going to the gym should be to get a great workout. I understand that the gym is a place where people commonly go, not only to workout but also to socialise. Make sure the socialising doesn’t take over and your workouts come second.
I see way too many beginners in the gym taking way too long in between sets because they are socializing and having full length conversations while someone else is waiting for a piece of equipment. This is really common in large groups and especially with teenagers. I never workout with more than one other person a) the rest between sets is massive b) too many distractions c) it becomes a brofest and remember mistake number 1, leave your ego outside the gym. Also remember that other people are there to workout and if you disturb them mid-workout you might be taking them out of their zone.
There is no way to focus on the workout if your mind is somewhere else.
When you are at the gym small talk is fine but never to the point where you stop the flow of your workout. Friendly banter is fine but too much socialising will lead to no results.
MISTAKE 5: NOT USING COLLARS
Free weight training is the most effective form of training, period, but it also is the most dangerous. The reason for both are the weight is not on a fixed plain. The weight is free to move as it likes, so balance comes into play.
When you are new to exercise the balancing of a barbell while squatting or bench pressing could be tough as many beginner lifters favour their dominate side. This could lead to one side coming up faster than the other and there goes the weight sliding off the weaker side. That would not have happened if you used collars.
I have seen some crazy things in the gym but nothing frightens me more than when I see trainer lifting a weight all lop sided that is not using collar. I know that one side is going to dump but can’t do anything about it. The last thing you want to do is put yourself in a dangerous position. Collar up the weight and press away.
MISTAKE 6: THINKING THAT MORE IS BETTER
The old rule of “more is not always better” is also true in weight lifting. More weight, more sets, more reps. I am a big believer in quality over quantity. I do like my fair share of volume when hitting the weights but there is always a limit.
All beginners should start out employing a full body workout split and use a maximum of 5 sets for larger muscle groups. At this point your rep range should be between 8-12. Rest periods should never exceed 90 seconds.
It would be beneficial to rest only 60 seconds between sets but you will have to work up to that. Finally the amount of weight you lift should not always increase from one workout to the next.
You should be able to easily perform a set using proper form with a certain weight for a couple of weeks before moving up. Never just add weight for the sake of trying more. Quality is the name of the game.
MISTAKE 7: NOT USING PROPER EXERCISE FORM
As a personal trainer it is always interesting to watch out for the people who look like they ‘think they know what they are doing’. These are the people who rarely attend the gym but commonly use improper form and will normally just search the internet for the latest workout or what’s popular on YouTube or Instagram.
Using improper form will likely lead to injury or nothing at all. One common example is watching people do what I call “partial pull-ups“. Instead of going all the way back down, many people just go down till their arms are at a 90 degree angle and back up. You are pretty much not doing anything.
It is extremely dangerous to perform exercises such as squats or lunges with improper form as the chance of major knee injury is quite high. If you can afford it, employ a personal trainer at least for a little while until you get the hang of it. As I mentioned above, quality is key. Use the quality form and get quality results.
MISTAKE 8: NOT BALANCING WEIGHT TRAINING AND CARDIO
Here is where the ladies and the gentlemen differ. When young girls come into the gym they usually go right to the cardio machines. They are commonly known as the cardio bunnies.
When young guys come into the gym they go straight for the weights they are known as ‘meatheads’. Guys hit the weights and the ladies do the cardio in the hope of achieving their goals. I am here to tell you that each sex is missing out when they don’t balance the weight lifting and cardio.
Ladies you can’t get that toned, lean muscle that you are after by just doing cardio.
Guys you can’t get lean and ripped by just hitting the weight. You need to do cardio to help melt away some of that body fat so you can see your six pack.
Understandable, but you should know the most important muscle of all is your heart and lungs and if they are not conditioned, you will have to stop on sets shorter than you would otherwise had to if your cardiovascular system was in good condition. I would perform 3 full body weight workouts a week with 3-4 30 minute cardio sessions a week.
MISTAKE 9: NOT HAVING A PLAN
When you step foot in the gym you should always have a plan of what you are going to do. I tell all beginners to keep a journal and write everything down in it. They should have a workout split. Which tells you what muscle groups you will be hitting on each day, a cardio schedule and also a detailed log of training results including sets, reps and weight.
Beginners fall in the trap of not planning ahead, they wait till they get to the gym and just do whatever they want and whatever they enjoy and good at. This normally means that girls will do their legs, bum, abs and some cardio.
Guys will do their show muscles, Chest, Biceps, Triceps, Shoulders and Back. This leads to a lack of direction and results will fall short. Also guys… DO NOT FORGET LEG DAY!!
MISTAKE 10: FORGETTING ABOUT NUTRITION
Now I know this article was supposed to be about the gym but I always have to bring up nutrition when I give advice to a beginner. Nutrition is simply 90% of the puzzle. You can work your butt off performing the perfect workout plan, using the best form and the most intensity but unless your nutrition is sound then you will not get anywhere.
Training and nutrition go hand and hand. One can not succeed without the other.
Put together a plan, email it to me and I will look it over and tell you what you need. Don’t make the mistake of working hard in the gym only to waste all that hard work because you didn’t want to eat a necessary healthy diet. Take the time to eat healthy and the results will be two fold.
There you have it, 10 things you should look out for as a beginner. Not only will this advice help you reach your goals quicker and without injury but it will also help you become a positive part of the gym community.
If you ever have any questions regard training, nutrition or supplementation drop me an email and I will do my best to answer your questions or point you in the right direction.
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