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Fitness Friday | 5 common gym mistakes and how to avoid them

Make any mistakes in the gym?


If you’re going to do something, then you should do it right.  I’m sure most of us go to the gym and feel great after it but do you ever wonder if you could do with some expert knowledge to tweak your routines for optimal workout rewards?

Strength and Conditioning master (literally) George Stevens, based in Cardiff, has given us the low down on the most common mistakes we make in the gym and how to rectify them! It makes for an awesome read and you’ll feel inspired to hit the weights and add a few more kg’s to really get you working next time you hit the gym. 

My name is George Stevens I have tried it all, I’ve done body building, powerlifting, CrossFit, played multi sports and now have the pleasure of using my experience to train others. I’ve seen people make great success over just 10 weeks, and I’ve seen people make no progress over years. Now regardless of your experience and whether you fall into one of the above categories here are a few things to avoid.

  1. Not Lifting Weights

If I had a pound for every time I have seen someone come into the gym, male or female, old or young, and walk straight over to the treadmill jog for a while, do some poor rowing for 5 minutes, or worse jack the treadmill up to its highest incline and then lean back while holding onto the handles and walk (which FYI does absolutely nothing more than walking flat you have just rotated the plane in which you move) before taking a selfie and then heading for the shower I would be a very rich man. Now don’t get me wrong cardio has its place, after weights actually is better than before, but let’s just focus on doing weights.

Now I know the big guy with tattoo screaming at some dumbbells can be daunting at first, but I promise he’s a nice guy and maybe worth talking to for advice. But using weights for anyone who is looking to improve in their sport, gain strength, muscle, fitness, lose weight or generally feel better about them selves is a must.

Start with body weight exercises, nail the technique then add load. Machines are an effective way to safely lift, however free weights (dumbbells and barbells) will give you improved whole body control, injury prevention, core strength, and recruit more muscles during each exercise. Start basic and focus on technique and quality of movement over weight used.


  1. Find a Plan, a good one!

If you ever find yourself walking into the gym and feeling lost without a idea of what you need to do, GET A PLAN. Or are those biceps feeling exhausted having been trained 3 times this week, if so GET A PLAN. Or finally got the upper body of the hulk and the lower body or a starved chicken, guess what GET A PLAN.

A plan should be written by a qualified professional, with proven expertise in the area you want to improve in. Should have structured progression including de-loading weeks. They should have injury prevention built in, be tailored to you and your goals.

Once you get a plan from a professional stick to it, perfectly. Try follow it to the T all the way through it’s duration, if you do this I promise you will see improvements. A famous man once said there are no bad fitness plans, just fitness plans done badly.

[Note: we’ve already covered some SMART targets so click here to learn a bit more about target setting to get you to your goal!]

  1. Not Eating for Performance

If you find yourself on a crash diet, low on energy, eating half an avocado and a pepper for dinner, please stop. It won’t be working and it’s not ideal for your health or your goal. So your now lifting weights and your following a plan, next you got to eat. Not everyone can track calories, but eating 3 meals and 2 snacks is a good start. Eat plenty of protein, about a gram per lb of body weight will do, enough carbs to sustain your activity, especially pre and post workout. And get healthy fats through fish, oils, nuts and seeds.!

Keep processed food low and try to cook everything from scratch. Curry jars, pasta sauces and cereals  maybe the difference between you and your 6 pack of your dreams! Finally watch out for hidden calories. We all know a donut isn’t good for us, but watch out for those cereal bars, yogurts, fruit juices, processed meats, and diet foods, full of sugar, salt and overall calories.

Remember losing weight or gaining weights is simple science. Try starting with a 500 calorie deficit a or surplus a day to lose or gain weight towards your goal.

Stay full!

No one should ever feel hungry, in my time I have weighed as much as 115kg and as little as 80kg and I promise at no time was I hungry. Lean protein, lots of veg, little fruit, nuts and seeds will keep you full. Low GI (glycemic index) carbs like sweet potato, quinoa, brown rice and whole meal wraps are great energetic sources to keep you full for hours!

  1. Only training the mirror muscles

This is an oldie but a goodie, we all like to look good and often we train what we can see. Biceps, big chest, abs, quads, job done, but let’s not forget most of what we do in life and in fact on the sports field comes from a strong core including your lower back, strong legs, including powerful and fast hamstrings and the ability to propel objects away from us, using our shoulders and triceps. The ability to hip hinge for example is key in so many areas of sport, never heard of it… well exactly, ask yourself how long have I been training, have I ever properly hip hinged, possibly not… worth considering or at least know what it is.


  1. Finally, Not Lifting Heavy Enough

Now you have either seen it or done, you have all the right intentions, you have a plan, you want to lift weights, you put the right fuel into your body and it’s leg day. You go in jump on the leg press and bang pump out 10 reps of easy 20kg repetitions, you feel great. Have a 10second rest and repeat two more times. Boom legs done, now where is that treadmill that I can walk on while holding onto at 10 degrees incline!

No this is not going to gain muscle, no your not going to get stronger and no your not burning calories. Next time warm up, use proper form and then load up that leg press to the most you can.

Take a deep breath and push, great 10reps later, your dripping with sweat, quickly out of breath with your quads feeling like there about to explode. You look to the door wanting to run home to mummy, but you don’t. You sit there, rest for a minute and go again. By set 3 you want to die into a hole, but don’t worry you push through, keeping good form, you reach 10 reps, just, with the weight perfectly selected so that rep 11 would have been impossible. Good stuff you have just created an environment within the muscle to both stimulate muscle hypertrophy and strength adaptations, oh and you have burnt a few more calories than before.

Get Social

Instagram: Stevens Performance Coach

Author: George Stevens (BSc sport science, MSc strength and Conditioning (in completion), personal trainer, instagram: stevens_performance_coach message for questions, coaching or plans)


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