Are You Making These Mistakes With Your Workouts?

by Darin L. Steen

Ok, so you are fed up and you are on a mission. You are going to lose the weight, even if it kills you. You are working out with weights, you are jogging, and you are even cutting out the desserts. You are drinking less soda and more water. You have drawn that proverbial “line in the sand” and you are going to do it this time.

You have totally dedicated yourself to a more fit, better “you”. You get on the scale three weeks into your new “lifestyle” and the scale has barely budged. You get discouraged and stop exercising consistently. Sound familiar? This is an all too common story that many of us have experienced.

What I have witnessed from selling and servicing over 18,000 personal training sessions in the last 8 years, is that most people are wasting their time working out. Now don’t get me wrong; there are many benefits that can come from working out besides losing fat and gaining muscle. But let’s face it, these are the main two reasons why most people start an exercise program.

The three most common mistakes I see people make are:

  1. Too much cardio and not enough resistance training
  2. Doing too many sets per exercise
  3. Lifting the weight too fast

Mistake #1 -- Too much cardio and not enough resistance training

Go to any gym and you will see that 70 percent of the members are on cardio machines and 30 percent (or less) are lifting weights. This is understandable considering that it is easier to walk on a treadmill than picking up dumbbells and barbells, and do the exercises correctly.

Many people are intimidated by lifting weights, so they stick to what is familiar: cardio.

It’s important to realize that cardio can help you lose weight, but cannot change your body shape. For example, if you start out with a pear shaped body, you will still be pear shaped after losing weight through cardio.

On the other hand, when your fitness / fat loss program is well-rounded with resistance training, cardio training, and a sound nutrition program, you have the ability to actually sculpt your physique. You can increase the size of smaller body parts, and decrease bigger body parts.

Plus, when you build muscle with weight lifting, you become stronger, burn more calories 24 hours per day, build bone density, and give yourself a much better chance at aging gracefully.

Mistake #2 -- Too many sets per exercise

Most people believe that they need to do 4 or 5 sets of weight lifting per exercise. This is simply not true. All that is needed is 2 or 3 sets at most. One of the main keys to stimulating your body to lose fat and gain muscle through lifting is “Intensity”.

It is very important that the last three repetitions of most sets are very intense. The last three reps should be ones that you never thought you could get. These last few intense reps, done safely, are the only ones that will cause enough micro tears in your muscle to force your body to repair them, now slightly bigger and stronger.

When you know that you only are going to do two sets, it is easier to gear up and pick up the intensity to a higher level. Make workouts short, but intense. Sixty minutes is plenty long enough, as long as you have a specific plan, and only rest 1-2 minutes between sets.

Mistake #3 -- Lifting the weight too fast

Many people think that the more weight they lift and the more repetitions they perform the better. We call it the “how much do you bench” mentality. When you have this mindset, you tend to just throw the weight around with reckless abandon. Worse, with this mindset a lot of the tension of the weights goes to your bones, ligaments, joints, and tendons. This is not good and can lead to an injury.

Your goal should be to make a light weight feel heavy by making slow, controlled movements. This way you can have the ability to squeeze the target muscle during the contraction. Try using a 3-1-3 tempo on your lifts. That is a 3 second positive, a 1 second isometric squeeze in the contracted position, and then a 3 second negative. You may have to lessen your weights, but I promise you that you will increase your ability to focus on the intended muscle groups.

In general, perform two sets of three different exercises per body part.

If you work out with the proper intensity, you only need to exercise each body part once per week. Two to three one-hour work-outs of resistance training per week is all that is needed to entice your body to gain muscle and lose fat. Working out longer or more often per week will not make you reach your goals faster.

Remember, your body does not increase muscle mass while you work out. You are actually tearing the muscles down during exercise. Your body mass increases while your body is at rest.

To improve your body and energy, you need to focus on the three pillars of a sound fitness routine:

  1. Your thoughts
  2. Your exercise routine (resistance and cardio vascular)
  3. Your diet

You do have the power to change; at any age. Now go do it.