The 3 Most Common Gym Mistakes

Don't make these gym mistakes.

mens-healthby mens-health
You’re not in your 20s anymore-important to remember when you hit the gym. As early as 30, your muscles change-which means your training should, too. After all, more likely than not, something hurts.

Lou Schuler, coauthor of New Rules of Lifting for Life, which hits bookstores today, has been hearing this from readers for years. “We all have a checklist of what hurts today, but after all these years-after how banged up we may be-we’re doing something right: We’re still working out,” Schuler says. “The question is, are you doing the best workout for the problems you have?”

Mistake #1: Pushing through Pain
When women get injured, they’re more likely to back off a workout that hurts. You, on the other hand, want to barrel through it. The problem: When you’re in pain, you end up relying on the wrong muscles to do a move-altering your movement pattern and messing up the workout. Even more, you put more strain on the injured body part(s) that could make it worse, sidelining you for months. But be sure not to push through The 7 Pains You Should Never Ignore.

Your fix: Don’t power through a workout that’s making you wince. “If you have a jacked-up shoulder, the last thing you should do is lie down on a bench and crank out bench presses, which will almost certainly make it worse,” says Schuler. Focus on pushups instead. “You can always find a challenging variation and give your upper body a good workout without punishing your shoulder joints.” But that doesn’t mean you need to always take it easy-if you have a strong lower body with no history of back problems, you can use the heaviest weights you can handle on squats and deadlifts, he says.

Mistake #2: Neglecting Power Training
At a certain point in your life, you stop putting on muscle, and start losing strength and muscle mass, says Schuler. Here’s what you may not know: Your power-your ability to generate force as fast as possible-declines twice as fast as your muscle mass and your strength, says Schuler. “You don’t think about how important power is until you try to jump over a puddle and you can’t,” he adds.

Your fix: Add power exercises, including jump squats and kettlebell swings, early in the workout, when your focus and coordination are highest. “Two sets of five reps is plenty for jumping exercises, although you may want to do 8 to 10 reps per set of swings,” says Schuler. (Ready to give them a try? Watch trainer David Jack demonstrate how to master the kettlebell swing.)

Mistake #3: Working Only Small Muscles
“I see a lot of people spending way too much time on small muscles,” says Schuler. If you want bigger arms, you need to make your entire body stronger, so you have a bigger base of support for your extremities, says Schuler. Stronger muscles and connective tissues from your neck and shoulders down to your hips and thighs allow you to lift heavier weights on all exercises, in all movement patterns.

Your fix: Focus on basic, multijoint exercises like squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, and chinups. Your arms will get bigger along with your chest, shoulders, back, glutes, and leg muscles. To find out how to incorporate these exercises into your own routines, visit The Men’s Health Workout Center.

by Cassie Shortsleeve