5 Common Gym Mistakes: Which Are You Guilty Of?

5 Common Gym Mistakes: Which Are You Guilty Of?

1. The Sports Drink Crutch

Unless you’re running a marathon, training in 100-degree heat, or are trying to hang onto as much body fat as possible – you don’t need a Gatorade to get through a workout.



First, it’s extremely unlikely you’re losing anywhere near enough electrolytes for a sports drink to matter.

More importantly, Gatorade, Powerade, and even almighty coconut water all contain far more sugar than most athletes should ingest while training.

Consider: A Snickers bar contains 27 grams of sugar. While it tries to keep it low-key, coconut water has a surprisingly Snickers-like 20 to 30 grams of sugar per drink (depending on the brand). A regular Gatorade weighs in at a staggering 56 grams of sugar.

Let that sink in. If you were crushing a Snickers (or two) during every workout, would you ever wonder why you weren’t getting shredded?



In fact, natural sugar drinks (i.e., juices, coconut water, etc.) are a major stumbling block for many an athlete. These drinks are marketed as healthy alternatives, when they’re mostly just sugar water.

We’re not bashing fruit. There are tons of vital micronutrients, polyphenols, and other goodness to be had from fruit – so eat the fruit itself. Not the juice from the fruit. The juice is just sugar water with a tiny bit of the actual fruit leftover; it’s the least useful part of an otherwise good thing.

Look at it this way: would you eat just the grease from a steak and think you got the same muscle-building aminos and protein as somebody who ate the steak itself?

Back to sports drinks in general:

Consuming these types of drinks intra-workout signals the body to store fat and use the simple sugars they contain for fuel instead. They completely shut down any fat utilization that would have occurred during training and reduce the benefits to your overall health and metabolism.

Our ancestors walked ten miles a day, survived an ice age, and killed sabretooth tigers with pointed sticks. We can get through our training sessions without special beverage. 


2. Not Using Straps



“But what about grip strength!?” If you’re a competitive grappler, MMA fighter, or climber, we would agree. But if you’re trying to be as strong, big, or shredded as possible: Use lifting straps. The best in the world do.



While the hands are brilliantly designed machines, the fact remains that the muscles of the hands are relatively tiny. No matter how strong you are, and no matter how much you train your grip, your hands will almost always be the first point of failure in sets of heavy rows or deadlifts.

Don’t let the tiny muscles of your hands prevent the massive muscles of your legs and back from growing. If you’re lifting regularly, odds are your grip is already getting plenty of training anyway.



Also, just because you have the added security of straps does not mean you can’t still try your best to crush the bar in your hands and strengthen your grip (which you should).     

The next time someone tells you straps are for wussies, remember: Eddie Hall deadlifts with straps. Eddie Hall deadlifts 1,100 pounds. Eddie Hall is literally the World’s Strongest Man. Strap up.


3. Bosu Balls and "Stability Training"



Anyone who tells you to squat, deadlift, or otherwise lift weights while standing on an unstable surface is not your friend, does not know what they’re talking about, and should probably be forced to hold a grownup’s hand when crossing the street. It’s just that bad.

Try it, they say. See how hard it is, they say.

And performing lifts while teetering on a Bosu ball/deathtrap is hard. But so is performing lifts wearing rollerblades. Or after spinning in circles. Or while balancing a cup of Hanta virus-infected mice on your head.



Live a little. After all, it’s harder, right?

The point is, it doesn’t matter what’s hard – it’s about what’s effective. If simply doing things the harder way was always superior, this guy below should be the swolest bro on Earth.



Come on. He’s not just Bosu Ball Badass, he’s DOUBLE Bosu Ball Badass.

It’s also worth noting: The rate of injury when performing lifts on unstable surfaces is catastrophically high. Worse, they tend to be knee injuries that are extremely difficult (and expensive) to come back from, like ACL tears.



Meanwhile, because the inherent instability dramatically reduces the weight you can lift, your muscles are not stimulated sufficiently to grow or get stronger. There’s literally no point.

To recap: Massive risk, minimal reward. Just say no.


4. Rigidly Sticking to "3 Sets of 10"

It’s the most common bit of guidance in all Liftingdom: Do three sets of ten reps, then move on to the next lift. Everyone’s heard of good old “3 x 10”. Everyone starts with it. It’s what “they” said to do.



Sure, the greenest of rookies might get some results from it. But for anyone who’s been lifting longer than a month, “3 x 10” just isn’t enough volume or intensity to get the best results – and it’s far too one-size-fits-all. 



Different athletes have different goals. Strength athletes might prefer smaller sets (3-5 reps, even single reps) using heavier weight. Bodybuilders focusing primarily on adding mass might train in the 8-15 rep range, or vary that range depending on the lift or specific muscles involved.

Athletes of all stripes can benefit from rest-pause sets, drop sets, super sets, pyramid sets, assisted reps, negatives – the sky’s the limit. If you’ve only been training 3x10, do a bit of Googling on those terms we just rattled off and see what fits your goals.

Try some new methods, consider your specific goals, and outgrow 3 x 10. 


5. Letting the Warmup Become the Workout

We’re talking about the people you always see stretching, playing with wooden sticks and obsessing over “mobility” until they barely have time for any actual training. If you’ve ever foam rolled until somebody asked if you were going to buy the thing dinner – we’re talking to you.


Insta-gurus of all shapes and sizes have prescribed so many different methods of warmup and recovery that some lifters are overwhelmed, and an effort to apply them all simply ruins workouts.

There’s more than one right way to warmup. But if it lasts longer than five minutes, it’s probably wrong. Or if it looks like this:



A personal favorite is simply running through the precise movements that are going to be trained that day with minimal or no weight until you feel everything is firing right and technique is dialed in. But to each their own.  

Whatever your warm-up, make sure it’s brief and make sure it’s genuinely preparing you for the specific training you’re about to do.

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