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Workout Mistakes!

Comfort Suites Denver Tech Center CO Fitness Centerphoto © 2009 General Manager | more info (via: Wylio)You may think that you have got your exercise routine down and pat yourself on the back for hitting the gym weekly. And you should be proud that you are taking the time to exercise. However, if you feel like you have reached a plateau or are not achieving the goals that you wish to, these may be some of the mistakes you are making.

Mistake #1 : Getting married to your strength routine

The facts:
If you do the same routine over and over, your muscles will simply adapt; you’re likely to hit a plateau because each exercise stimulates only a limited number of muscle fibers. However, if you challenge your muscles from a variety of angles by adding or alternating moves periodically, you’ll get significantly more fibers into the act and develop more tone and strength.

The fix:
For each muscle group, learn an additional 2 or 3 exercises, trying new angles and equipment. For instance, if you usually do the dumbbell chest press on a flat bench, try it at an incline. If you normally use the chest-press machine, try the dumbbell chest press or the bench press with a barbell. Expand your repertoire enough so that you can change your entire routine every 6-8 weeks.

Mistake #2:  Performing your reps too quickly

The facts:
If you zoom through your repetitions when strength training, you’ll be using momentum instead of muscle power. You won’t get the same stimulus for muscle building, and you won’t burn as many calories. You’ll also be more susceptible to training injuries such as torn muscles or connective tissue. Form is critical.

The fix:
Take 6 seconds to perform each repetition: 2 seconds to lift the weight and 4 seconds to lower it. (Since you have gravity to help you lower the weight, you need to slow down even more on this phase in order to give your muscles a sufficient challenge.)  Slowing down is the single most significant change you can make to get better results from strength training.

Mistake #3:  Exercising too hard, too often

The facts:
If you don’t rest enough between hard cardio or strength workouts, you’ll stop making progress and may even lose some of the fitness you’ve gained. You’re also likely to burn out on exercise.

The fix:
To keep your muscles fresh and your motivation high, alternate shorter, tougher cardio workouts (for instance, 20 minutes) with longer, easier days (40-60 minutes). Don’t go all-out more than twice a week. Keep in mind that the more intensely you train, the more time your body needs to recover. It’s a good idea to do a couple of tough workouts and take 1 day completely off each week. On the strength-training front, take at least 1 day off between sessions that work the same muscle group.

Mistake #4:  Coasting on your cardio

The facts:
Sticking with the same aerobic workout can sabotage your results as much as pushing too hard. To truly boost your fitness (which enables you to burn more calories with less effort), you need to venture outside your comfort zone a couple of times a week, to the point where you’re somewhat winded and can feel your heart pounding.

The fix:
Instead of zoning out or doing moderate-intensity cardio all the time, mix in some high-intensity intervals twice a week. For instance, after warming up for 10 minutes on the treadmill, increase the speed or incline for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then recover with 1-3 minutes of easy-to-moderate exercise. Keep alternating for 10-20 minutes, then cool down. You also may want to do longer high-intensity intervals–say, 5 minutes–where you don’t push quite as hard as you do on the shorter ones.

Mistake # 5:  Lifting the wrong amount of weight

The facts:
If you lift weights that are too light, you won’t see improvements in strength, tone or bone density. If you lift weights that are too heavy, you’ll compromise proper form, increasing your injury risk. You’ll also be forced to recruit additional muscles, for instance, using your entire body to complete a biceps curl, thus cheating the targeted muscles of a good workout.

The fix:
For the most significant strength building, perform 4-6 repetitions per set; for more moderate strength building, perform 8-12 repetitions per set, choosing weights heavy enough that you struggle through your final few reps, but not so heavy that your form falls apart. If you get to your final rep and feel that you could perform another one, increase the weight by 5-10 percent. You may find that when you’ve considerably increased the amount of weight you’re using, you’ll drop to fewer reps, which is fine, as long as your targeted muscles are fatigued by the final rep. Don’t worry: Lifting to fatigue will not leave you with monstrous muscles.

Faux pas #6:  Neglecting to mistake-proof your mind

Your attitude may be the one final adjustment you need to maximize your results.  Avoid:

Focusing on the numbers:
Instead of worrying over how many calories you burn or steps you climb, focus on the energy and the strength you feel and how wonderfully you’re treating your body. While monitoring your intensity and applying the numbers to ensure you’re mixing things up enough is critical for optimum progress, you should simply be aware, not fixating.

Obsessing over one body part:

Focusing too much on your “problem area” can backfire, causing you to neglect other muscle groups that are as important for your appearance as they are for your fitness. For instance, if your midsection is your main concern, doing hundreds of crunches isn’t the answer; sure, do ab exercises for tone, but don’t forget that developing your chest, back and shoulders can take the focus off your middle. Always strive for a balanced workout.

Sources: Shape Magazine

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