05 January 2014

Bad Habits And Mistakes I See In The Gym Pt.1

By A.F. James MacArthur Ph.A.L.

Every January a ritualistic pilgrimage takes place at fitness centers. Fueled with high ambition and burdened by the guilt gotten from overindulging during the holidays, millions of Americans join a gym.

For many it will be their first time ever attending a fitness facility. Others are attempting to turn around a long backward slide of inactivity.

Besides the crowding and sometimes long waits to get onto to equipment, the thing that annoys me most during this time, is seeing such a wide variety of ineffective, unproductive, or even dangerous behavior on display.

1. Vague undefined goals.
"If you don't really know where you're going, how will you know when you get there?" 
Too many people walk into a gym expecting miracles to happen, without a plan or even a picture of what exactly they want. Would you go into a restaurant and tell the waiter I'm hungry, just give me anything?
Research has proven the more specific a goal is, the greater likelihood of sticking to it and achieving ultimate success. Goals should have an action plan of how you plan to get it and a realistic timetable for completion. Be clear on WHY you've chosen a particular goal as well. Yes ladies, wanting to look great in a bikini is indeed a suitable motivator. Just saying.
Solution: (example) By March 5, it is my intention to lose 30 pounds so that I may be more within a healthy weight range for my body type. I will commit to working out at least 5 hours per week. With 168 hours in every week, I see this as a small price to pay for a better, stronger, more healthier me.
Dumbbell deadlift. Photo courtesy of SheKnows.com
2. Using incorrect form. -- As a lifelong contrarian, I'm big on individualism. Be authentic, be yourself is what I say. But when dealing with weights, your individual expression should come from the results they can give you, not lifting the wrong way and exposing yourself to serious or permanent injury. Some observers believe the number of weight-training injuries seen every year has gone up by 63%! 
Many common injuries are largely preventable.

 Solution: Seek proper instruction. Trainers and instructors at any quality gym are usually more than willing to take a moment to show you proper form on a particular given exercise. Doing exercises correctly not only helps you prevent injury, but will usually bring better results.
Avoid asking random people how to perform a particular move. Many people practice poor form that's been handed down by someone who didn't know better. The error is then passed on to all they come in contact with like a bad cold or flu. A gift that keeps on giving, pain and misery.

3. Being a cardio bunny. -- Way too many people, particularly women, are afraid to lift a little weight. There is no better way to get a toned, lean, strong body than to incorporate resistance training with cardio. 
Sure, you'll burn plenty calories with endless hours spent slaving away on devices that have their origins in tools of torture. But losing fat without building muscles can leave many people looking like a deflated basketball or even a stick figure.
I'm not suggesting you go out there and try to imitate Arnold Schwarzenegger. Besides, unless you plan on using steroids and other performance enhancing drugs, you have zero chance of ever coming close.
Jack Lalanne built a classic, 


physique with
 and cardio.
There is an unrealistic, unfounded myth still held by many, that lifting weights will make them "musclebound" and reduce their flexibility. This just isn't true. Whole entire articles have been written as to why this is false. The meatheads you see with large, bulging muscles didn't get there lifting a little weight here and there. Trust me, the average gym goer, even if he tried, will never look that way.
In the meantime, if you're not lifting weight, you're missing out on benefits such as countering bone density loss, reversing age related muscle loss and declining strength, and reducing incidence of chronic back pain and strain just to name a few.
In well over 25 years of being a fitness enthusiast, I've seen a lot habits and beliefs with little foundation, that make no sense at all. These are just a few of the common pitfalls novices regularly fall victim to.

In a future post I'll list more observations of common mistakes, as well as maybe expand on some of the ones listed above.

What questionable or annoying habits have you seen in the gym? Respond via the comments section.

Former multisport athlete, James MacArthur, has trained for, competed in, practiced and even failed at more sports and physical endeavours than a crossfitter on crack! And has the x-rays to prove it. Currently no longer involved in competition, a lifelong fan of being fit, MacArthur guides, instructs and motivates select few individuals seeking to make the most of their natural talent and abilities.

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