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5 Common Strength Training Mistakes

Thinking about starting a strength training routine or already have one? Discover the five most common mistakes people make when working their muscles—along with tips on how you can avoid them! These mistakes can increase your risk of getting hurt, and make your workout less effective.

Mistake #1

Not having a plan.
A lot of people head to the gym to work their muscles, but aren’t sure what to do when they arrive. Often, they simply end up asking other gym members for advice.

Solution #1

Set goals.
Talk with a certified fitness professional who can help develop a program that’s right for you. Keep in mind that strength training isn’t just lifting weights. It also includes using resistance bands, doing exercises that use our own body weight (like squats and push-ups), and yoga. If you belong to a gym, ask if there are free sessions to show you how to use the equipment or even create an exercise routine.

Mistake #2

Not warming up or cooling down.
Many people jump right into (and out of) their workout. That’s how pulled muscles, strained ligaments, and sore joints happen. But it doesn’t have to happen to you.

Solution #2

Take the time to do it right.
Before your workout, spend about five to 10 minutes to warm up the muscles you’ll be using, and to raise your body temperature. Static stretching—holding a stretch for 15 to 30 seconds without moving—is no longer recommended during a warm up. But you can walk, jog, or do jumping jacks or squats. Also, cooling down after your workout helps improve flexibility and prepares your body for the next workout. A cooldown can include walking and static stretching.

Mistake #3

Not having good form.
Pulling on your head while doing crunches. Lifting your hips in the air when doing push-ups. Slouching while squatting. These are just a few examples of mistakes people make all the time. Using bad form means you aren’t getting the most from your workout. More importantly, bad form can lead to injury.

Solution #3

Ask a licensed trainer to watch you while you perform the exercise.
If you belong to a gym, don’t be afraid to ask for help from the fitness professionals who work there. Be sure to make any adjustments necessary. Also, don’t hesitate to modify an exercise or find another one if you have difficulty mastering the proper form.

Mistake #4

Not knowing your limits.
It’s important not to lift more weight than you safely can. Choose a weight where you can do about 8 to 12 repetitions. Also, stop if you have any pain or muscle cramps while exercising.

Solution #4

Gradually increase the amount of weight you’re using.
Start with a weight that is moderately intense (a “5” on a scale of 1-10). As that weight gets easier and you have mastered the proper form, increase the weight slowly.

Mistake #5

Not drinking enough water.
If you wait until you’re thirsty to drink water, you’re already on the road to dehydration. This can lead to lightheadedness and tiredness, which means you’ll get less from your workout. You’re also at higher risk for getting hurt.

Solution #5

Drink water throughout your workout.
Take your water bottle with you to the gym and drink frequently before, during, and after your workout. It’s best to drink water rather than sports drinks, juice, or other beverages.