Avoiding the 5 Most Common Mistakes Newcomers Make in the Gym

With a New Year comes New Year’s Resolutions, and for most guys getting into shape is on the top of the list. Yet, it seems by the beginning of March, gyms are deserted and New Year’s resolutions are forgotten. Why?

“I’d say 80% of people that sign up don’t use the facility after 8 weeks,” says Michael Koprich, certified fitness trainer and owner of FitnessExperts.

Newcomers either get injured, don’t get results, or give up. Koprich believes most of their problems stem from five simple mistakes that can be easily corrected.

Mistake #1: An Imbalanced Approach to Fitness

Koprich says there are four major components to fitness: cardio, flexibility, weight training, and nutrition. He says problems arise when newcomers focus in on one or two and forget the others, especially nutrition and flexibility.

“Nutrition is probably the biggest component to get the best results in the gym. If you’re not eating correctly, it’s an impossible feat to get results,” says Koprich.

Along with being the most important, Koprich says nutrition is also the hardest for beginners to fully comprehend.

“When I ask them if they eat well, they always say ‘I do better than the next person.’ I say ‘Stop comparing yourself to the next person, because most people don’t eat properly. Compare yourself to a healthy meal plan.”

Koprich also says people completely forget flexibility when they get to the gym.

“Flexibility is something, time and time again, I witness people not spending enough time on. If the muscle is inflexible, you’re going to be incapable of doing efficient movements, putting your body in the correct position, and doing a full range of movement to get the full benefit of the weights.”

Koprich’s Solution: A healthy diet full of good carbs, fats (the kind found in nuts and seeds), protein, vegetables, and plenty of water. Focus on flexibility at the beginning as, “There isn’t another component of fitness you can improve quicker over a four week period.”

Mistake #2: Working Wrong Areas

“Guys think of working the chest and arms because that’s what they see in the mirror. They don’t think of how the body mechanically works,” says Koprich who stresses getting strong in the core and gluteal muscles first. This avoids injuring the shoulders and lower back while making you stronger overall.

“No matter the individual’s objective: to run faster, to jump higher, or to get stronger in the gym, it’s not about strength in the limbs, its about strengthening the core and hips,” says Koprich. Unfortunately, results in these areas are harder to see in a short period of time and so fewer guys pay attention to them.

Koprich’s Solution: Avoid injury and boost strength by starting with stabilizer movements that use your own body weight, like hip bridges, ab planks and wall sits before racking up the weight on more complex movements like the bench press.  “If you’re not strong in the correct areas, you’re going to feel it in the ankles, knees and lower back,” says Koprich, “and injuries will follow.”

Mistake #3: Not Having Proper Form

All it takes is common sense to realize if your cheating on a machine or using it incorrectly, you’re not going to get the best results. At the same time, poor form can lead to injuries.

“The problem is when you’re not engaging your shoulder blades correctly and you’re lifting weights, you’re not putting the load over your hips and core, which are the strongest parts of the body. You’re putting it on the weak limbs, which will start loading those joints improperly and aggravating them.”

Koprich advises to use your whole body as one system when working out. Not matter the exercise, have correct posture and use your abs, hips, and shoulders instead of just your arms and legs. It will pay dividends.

“If you’re able to do that, you know you’re actually contracting those muscles correctly and you’re making a much stronger body.”

Koprich’s Solution: Set your shoulder blades, core, and gluts before every exercise. Always know the full and correct range of movement for that muscle and exercise and pay attention to your tempo. “Tempo is very crucial. People move way too fast.”

Mistake #4: The Shotgun Approach

So you’ve made your resolution, are determined to eat healthy and think you have perfect form. In fact, you’re so pumped up you spend every moment possible at the gym. This enthusiasm may come back to haunt you, in the form of burnout.

“Most people come in all gung-ho, thinking they need to spend two hours in the gym everyday, and make it a second job. When you’re just starting out, three days of thirty minutes of cardio is enough,” says Koprich.

He advises a slow and steady approach, gradually adding exercise as you get stronger. This cuts down injuries and keeps your mind fresh and focused.

“If you’re on a machine, counting the amount of time you’re on it, you’re not enjoying it. You’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s not about how much time you spend in the gym, it’s about the quality of work you do.”

Koprich’s Solution: When you’re just starting out, a couple of days of light strength training and cardio are enough. It won’t feel like a second job and you’ll be able to enjoy it. You can’t get in shape if you’re unable to get out of bed after a few weeks of training like a Navy Seal.

Mistake #5: Not Having a Plan

No, planning which days of the week you’re going to the gym doesn’t count as having a plan. Instead, set specific goals, plan how to achieve them within the year and don’t be afraid of change.

“Every four weeks, you need to change the energy system you’re working with, you want to change the exercises, change the amount of reps and you want to change the length of rest you have in between sets so that you’re providing your body with different stresses every four weeks.”

This method is called periodization and sticking to it prevents injury and heightens results, says Koprich.

Koprich’s Solution: Always keep your plan and goals in mind and try to increase your work by 5% each week. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, pursue a good trainer, but Koprich advises to look for credentials and experience before making a big financial decision.

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