You can spot them as soon as you walk in the gym: the people who lift significantly more weight than they should, grunting like animals and spending too much time admiring their bulging biceps. They’re the uneducated, overconfident gym-goers who don’t know which routine is best for a healthy body.
You don’t have to be a badass at the gym to get an effective workout. Doing the same routine over and over again and overtraining your muscles are dangerous habits that can result in injury and less-than-optimal results. Knowledge and a varied routine get the job done more safely than an intense, out-of-control workout.
Here are four common and dangerous habits that can land you on the bench:
In reality, some of the most familiar and popular exercises can be harmful if executed incorrectly. Doing squats with poor form puts your knees at risk and makes your back round, and lateral pull-downs can strain the neck and put pressure on the spine. Being brave and trying new things at the gym can be great for your routine, but putting safety first is always most important.
1) Taking Stimulants
Taking muscle stimulants to improve performance is popular with competitive athletes and bodybuilders, but supplements containing the stimulant dimethylamylamine elevate blood pressure and can lead to cardiovascular problems. Serious side effects can include heart attack, shortness of breath, and tightening of the chest.
2) Powerlifting Without a Trainer
Power reps and heavy weights are getting a lot of buzz lately with help from CrossFit programs and an emphasis on short, intense workouts. People think that these are surefire ways to quickly get big and strong, and to some degree, they’re right. But poor form while powerlifting is one guaranteed path to injury. Improper coaching and overtraining coincide with this. If you choose to do extreme workouts, you need an educated coach and a knowledgeable trainer.
3) Poorly Executing Plyometrics
Plyometric exercises can lead to similar results due to landing improperly. Plyometrics involve jumping, which is a great way to get in shape and burn calories, but landing poorly and without warming up can strain your muscles. Your ankles, knees, hips and joints can all suffer from one poorly executed plyo routine.
4) Lifting Without a Spotter
You might want to prove that you can squat 150 pounds without help, but a spotter decreases your chances of hurting yourself. In 2009, University of South Carolina running back Stafon Johnson crushed his neck and larynx with a 275-pound barbell. His injury might have been avoided if he had used a spotter.
There’s nothing wrong with ambition and motivation at the gym; that’s how you get things done. But going at it alone, especially if you’re doing difficult exercises or increasing weight, can only set your fitness back.
‘Safe’ Shouldn’t Mean the Same Old Workout
Going to the gym with a plan in mind is good, but planning to do the same workout you did yesterday, the day before, and the day before is not beneficial. You might still be working your muscles, but it’s more likely you’re overworking them. Not only is this boring, making the trip to the gym less pleasant, but it also leaves you prone to injury and can make existing injuries worse.
Changing your routine can help you win the battle of staying consistent with a workout schedule. Incorporate active rest into your routine to stay loose and avoid injury while staying active and having fun. If you run every day, try swimming or biking, instead. Fun activities such as rock climbing, paddle boarding, or even basketball can add excitement to a tired routine, while still giving you a great workout.
Part of switching up your routine means getting out of the gym, too. Spend time at a park or explore a trail nearby to get your fix when the weather allows.
Battling the Inner Badass
One of the most important steps to take before exercising is simply warming up. Preparing your body for the workout means it will feel better afterward, and cooling down is important, too.
Using a foam roller after exercise is a simple but extremely effective way to protect your muscles and start the healing process. Massages are good for this, too, and you should work a complete day of rest into your week to allow for muscle recovery. Using a recovery supplement that aids in regulating inflammation and boosting the immune system is also a great strategy.
If you attack your workout plan with enthusiasm, you’ll undoubtedly see improvements in your fitness and health. But attacking it without preparation, education, or proper form will guarantee you a wrecked and tired body. Avoid becoming like those overconfident gym rats and make sure the only habits you pick up are ones that will lead to success.