Five common exercise mistakes to avoid
Thinking of hitting the gym in search of a healthier body in January? If your workouts include strength training, and they should, don't make these common mistakes that many times cause unnecessary injury and hinder results.
Inadequate warm-up: To maximize strength and prevent injury, efficient mobility is key. The goal for a good warm-up is to increase circulation while ensuring full range of motion of the major joints. Five to 10 minutes of a cardiovascular exercise followed by five to 10 minutes of a dynamic stretching routine is a great place to start. Focus on opening up the hips, trunk, knees, and shoulders with targeted movement of the surrounding muscles. If certain muscles seem extremely tight, using the foam roller will help release specific areas of muscle tension and allow proper muscle tone.
Disregarding proper form: As the exercise gets tough, it's easy to lose focus and do whatever it takes to get those last few reps. Sometimes you can get away with questionable form, but other times it can lead to injury. One common mistake many people make is not engaging their core during exercise. For example, if you're squatting and you lose tension of your abdominal wall, your spine could round and become compromised. The low back may strain as it gets forced into less than ideal biomechanics. Always learn and be aware of proper form during exercise.
Not factoring in progression: If you're new to working out again, any exercise program will challenge the body. But, after a few weeks, your body will adapt to your new routine and stop progressing if you don't find new ways to challenge it. There are numerous ways to progress -- more weight, higher reps, less recovery time, more challenging exercises, but to progress with these methods, you must be familiar with your previous workout. This is where journaling has its advantages. Knowing where you're at now will help you get to where you want to go.
Avoiding the exercises you don't like: If an exercise causes pain, it makes sense to avoid it and find an alternative. But, if you avoid an exercise because you just don't like it, chances are you need to practice it more. If you use the leg extension machine because it works your legs and gives an intense burn, that's great, but don't do the leg extension machine to avoid doing squats -- a much tougher exercise with many more benefits. Start doing the exercises that you've avoided in the past.
Not maximizing your recovery: Don't make the mistake of working hard in the gym but neglecting the recovery phase. No matter how perfect your workout may be, you'll need to give your body the nutrients and rest needed to rebuild and progress. The one-hour window immediately following the workout is a critical time to replenish with nutrients and fluids. Increase your sleep on workout days to aid in the physical recovery phase as well.
Keep moving forward by avoiding the common mistakes that stop most people before they ever really get started.
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• Joshua Steckler is the owner of Push Fitness, a personal training studio located in Schaumburg specializing in weight loss, muscle toning, and nutrition. Contact him at PushFitnessTraining.com.