Joining a gym and learning how to take advantage of all the equipment can be tricky at first. After a while, you might feel like an expert. We checked with real experts, trainers, and found the 7 most common mistakes we make at the gym.
We all want to have great abs. You work hard to keep them in shape, but they have their risks. The main problem with crunches is how they affect your spine. To put it simply: it is easy to do crunches wrong. This leads you to overwork other muscles and underworks your abs.
It can also be a risk for your spine. If you overcompensate or do too many crunches without also strengthening your back, you will start to wear it out.
Make sure you check with a trainer on how to do crunches properly. It might be better to strengthen your abs with another type of exercises altogether. Especially if you have a bad back.
THE SEATED-HIP ABDUCTOR (ADDUCTOR) MACHINE
When exercising, it is always important to focus and concentrate on what you are doing. According to our experts, many people don’t pay much attention when using the seated-hip abductor machine. It’s easy to see why: you are sitting down chatting to your friend next to you.
This machine only targets a small group of muscles. Your time could be better spent doing lunges: walking lunges, cross-behind lunges or even step-ups. This way you will tone and strengthen your inner and outer muscles.
BEHIND-THE-NECK LAT PULLDOWN
Certain machines at the gym are for everybody. Others are not. The behind-the-neck lat pulldown is one of the latter. Because you lower your arms behind your neck, your shoulders need to be very flexible. If they are not, you risk damaging them.
Luckily, there is a simple way to avoid this: turn the behind-the-neck lat pulldown to an in-front-of-head lat pulldown. That’s right, simply lower your arms in front of you, not behind. This way, you still work out all the right muscles, but avoid the risk of injury.
AMERICAN KETTLEBELL SWINGS
The American kettlebell swing is actually a new version of the Russian kettlebell swing. In the Russian variant, the kettlebell is held just below the groin and lifted until your arms form a 90-degree angle with the rest of your body. It is a very effective exercise because it used most muscles in the body. It builds up strength but is also dynamic.
The American way, however, the kettlebell is raised all the way above your head, until you are completely stretched out. If this isn’t done properly, it is easy to injure your back and shoulders because you overcompensate due to the weight and overextend your back.
If you are not sure whether you are doing it correctly, check with an expert. If you cannot or don’t feel comfortable with this exercise, avoid it.
CURLS IN THE SQUAT RACK
Stop. Don’t curl in the squat rack. It is unnecessary. To put it simply, you can curl anywhere because curl weights are light. The squat rack needs to be used if you are squatting because the weight is higher. It is a safety precaution in case something goes wrong.
If you are doing curls in the squat rack, you are probably irritating everybody else at your gym. Especially the experts. In fact, many trainers have an inside joke about new gym users curling in the squat rack.
THE LEG EXTENSION MACHINE
To really take advantage of the gym, it is as important to know what not to do, as it is to know what to do. The leg extension machine, our experts say, is one of those examples. It is vital to have your workout routine be as effective and efficient as possible. Including exercises that work on a small group of muscles is never the best choice.
Even worse, if there is a risk of injury, as there is with the leg extension machine, you might be better off just forgetting about it.
The leg extension machine places stress on the back of the kneecap and only works on a few muscles in a very unfamiliar sort of movement. If you have any predisposition to knee problems, it is better to exercise your quads in other, more adequate ways.
THE SMITH MACHINE
The Smith machine can be very dangerous if it is not understood and used properly. This machine specifically makes it easy by balancing and stabilizing you. This means that you do not work on your small, stabilizing muscles. It could lead you to believe that you are stronger than you think and hurt yourself when lifting a much lighter object.
Exercising should be about using as many muscles in as many planes of motion as possible. Keep your body guessing. The Smith machine will not do that and could even cause injuries due to the overuse of certain muscles.
The alternative is easy: free weights. Take your time, start small and stay motivated.