It’s like brushing your teeth, or cleaning the kitchen countertops. When you do something over and over again, you get comfortable with the routine. The job gets done. But are you really doing it right? The same applies to regular workouts. You may be going through the motions, plowing through the hour so you can check exercise off your to-do list. But if you’re not taking care to perform the motions properly, you won’t see the full benefits of your hard work. Even worse, you may run into physical problems.
Here are some of the most common bad workout habits, and ways you can easily fix them:
1. Improper form. Using correct form is the most important part of strength training. Compromise on form and not only will you not benefit from the exercise, you may actually get hurt. First, make sure you take the time to really learn the exercise. If you’re not sure you’re using a machine properly, don’t be afraid to ask a gym employee for a quick demo. Also look at how much weight you’re lifting. If you’re struggling with form, you may be lifting too much.
2. Too little weight. Been using the same five-pound dumbbells for bicep curls for the past six months? If an exercise feels easy-peasy, it’s time to move up to a heavier weight. When you continuously use the same weight, your muscles aren’t challenged and you won’t see growth. For added muscle recovery support, try a post-workout protein drink such as Vitacost ARO Whey Protein Complex Plus in natural chocolate or vanilla flavor.
3. Working abs with heavy weights. I often see women holding 25 lb. plates while doing side bends, or using extremely heavy weight with the oblique twist machine. It’s not the way to go! For trimming (rather than thickening) effects and to strengthen ab muscles, use lower weights and higher reps. Remember, you’ll never be able to see your ab muscles if you’re not eating a clean, healthy diet. Even if you have strong abs, they’ll be hidden under a layer of fat if you’re not careful with your diet. Take a conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) supplement to help support healthy weight management.*
4. Too much cardio. Yes, there is such a thing. Before I knew any better, I’d strength train several days a week, then take a one-hour spin class or aerobics class afterward. On non-lifting days, I’d also do cardio. The problem is that too much cardio will eat up the lean muscle you’re trying to gain rather than burning fat (as you might envision). Adding lean muscle to your body will help you burn fat all day every day, so you don’t need to spend an extra hour on the treadmill. A good 20 to 30 minutes of interval cardio (with bursts of fast pace followed by slower pace) will get your heart rate up and burn calories while maintaining your muscle.
5. No rest days. Working out seven days a week may seem like a noble plan, and you may even be able to keep up with it for awhile. But down the road, you’re bound to crash””physically and mentally. How do you know if you’re overtraining? If you start dreading the gym, feel more tired than usual, feel emotional or notice a change in your eating patterns, it may be time for a rest. I suggest that my clients take at least one day off a week. Two or three days of exercise followed by one day of rest is also ideal. What’s best for you will depend on your schedule and what your body is telling you.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
IFBB figure professional Melissa Transou, a fitness expert, wife and mother, blogs about the unique sports and nutrition needs of women and female athletes exclusively for Vitacost.com. Learn more about Melissa in this recent RXMuscle.com spotlight article, connect with her on Facebook or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.