Whatever your reason for going to the gym – whether you joined to lose fat, build muscle or train for an event or sport – you either made or are still making at least a few of these mistakes…

1. Never upping the intensity

If you’re sat on a leg press machine doing 10 comfortable reps every couple of minutes whilst scrolling through Instagram, your heart rate isn’t really going to increase and you’re not going to burn many calories.

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Upping the intensity is beneficial whether you want to burn fat or build muscle. By increasing blood flow with highly intense workouts, you’re increasing the rate at which oxygen can be transferred to and absorbed by your muscles, and you’re also increasing lipolysis in the used muscles (the breakdown of fats to release fatty acids), resulting in a more lean physique.

Fix it: Whilst weight training is beneficial for almost everyone and should be included in your routine, you should also consider a more intense approach to your workouts. A 20 minute fast-pace bodyweight circuit is going to do a lot more good than an hour of low-intensity bicep curls and hip abductions.

2. Copying other gym-goers

When we first join a gym, we assume that everyone else in there has a good idea of what they’re doing and what they’re talking about. After a while, of course, we realise that half of the people in there are just as clueless as we were and that in fact we never should’ve considered taking their advice.

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You’re going to see and hear people talking about ‘destroying the muscle’ with as many sets as possible to get a bigger chest, and you’re going to be misled to believe that jogging on the treadmill for an hour is the best way to burn fat. Of course, neither of these are true.

Fix it: Do your own research. Watching informative videos on YouTube (and reading fascinating articles, of course) will not only give you the information you need to reach your goals, it’ll also keep you motivated and keen to try new things.

3. Neglecting our least favourite body parts

Usually it takes an injury or two for us to force ourselves out of this habit. We all tend to prioritise the body parts we enjoy working on the most, and neglect the body parts that we either can’t see in the mirror or just straight up don’t really care about. And if we don’t neglect them completely, we just throw in a few light sets at the end of a ‘fun’ session so that we can tick it off our list.

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This can actually be pretty detrimental to our gym career. Muscle imbalances are the cause of the majority of gym injuries so it’s important to keep our bodies in good balance in terms of pushing, pulling, extending and curling.

Fix it: Consider including a ‘weakness day’ into your weekly routine. On a day that your favourite body parts are too sore to be worked, spend some time in the gym focusing on the areas you know you should be improving.

4. Following the infamous “bro-split”

Until recently, the standard “bro-split” was considered by many to be the best way to build muscle fast. If you haven’t heard of it before, the bro split consists of training specific muscle groups on their own day. For example, chest on Monday, back on Tuesday, legs on Wednesday and so on.

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More studies are now showing that taking the same volume (10 sets of 10 for example) and splitting it into two or three workouts per week instead of one large one, results in more muscle growth. It’s for this reason that the majority of people in the gym looking to build muscle – noobs or not – will benefit more from doing an upper/lower body split or full body workouts, allowing for shorter recovery times and more workouts per week.

Even professional bodybuilders are starting to switch to the upper/lower split, due to more and more recent studies indicating that even trained athletes and experienced lifters benefit more from the frequent, smaller workouts than they do larger, more spaced out workouts.

Fix it: If you’re trying to build size, consider switching to an upper/lower split or even full body workouts 3-4 times per week. Bring the total number of sets on each muscle group down per training session. This will reduce the number of days the muscles will need to recover, allowing you to train them more frequently.

5. Counting effortless reps

One of the first things we learn about as a gym noob is rep range. We find a weight we can lift and we go through the motions. The problem with this is that we get to our target rep count and put the weight down, regardless of how much we’re struggling.

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Fix it: Considering the majority of the results we get in the gym are from the last few reps before failure, it’s important that we push our body out of its comfort zone and actually make the conscious decision to work hard instead of just getting the workout done.

6. Assuming your nutrition is ‘fine’

This one can go either way. A lot of guys go way overboard with their protein and calorie intake when trying to build muscle, resulting in increased body fat more than that of muscle. Then there are those who tend to linger too far below their recommended calorie intake or avoid carbs entirely, resulting in a fatigued central nervous system, poor recovery and an unhealthy looking physique.

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Fix it: Spend 5 minutes working out your daily macros and track your intake with an app like MyFitnessPal for a week or so. This will give you a good idea of the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats you should be eating to achieve your personal goals. Even tracking for just a few days will give you more insight into what you should be consuming.

7. Avoiding compound exercises

Compound exercises such as the squat, deadlift and overhead press should be included in your workout routine. It’s not just about building muscle. It’s about being functionally fit, maintaining good core strength, improving your posture and keeping your body’s major joints in good condition.

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On top of that, it’s compound exercises that burn the most calories due to how many muscles are required to perform the movements. So if you’re trying to lose weight, you should definitely consider compound exercises, even if you want to complete them with a small amount of weight.

Fix it: Try to include at least 1 compound exercise in each of your workouts. And no, not just the bench press. And no, not just the squat.

8. Not working on form

Another biggie. If you’re not maintaining good form whilst performing an exercise, not only are you risking a long term injury – you’re also missing out on a lot of potential progress. By maintaining a strict, stable core for your body to work from when performing an exercise, you encourage the target muscles to work efficiently.

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Shaking and flaring and throwing yourself around in order to complete a rep is going to slowly damage your joints and take the stress off of the muscles you’re trying to work.

Fix it: Leave your ego at the door, drop the weight and keep an eye on your form. If your form begins to break down toward the end of your set, you should stop. Remember, it’s not about the amount of weight you can lift for the targeted amount of reps. It’s about the quality of the contraction and engagement of the muscle throughout the range of motion. So stop wasting your own time and energy.

9. Stopping when it burns

Our natural reaction when we feel a form of pain is to remove ourselves from the cause, but in the gym, it’s different.

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“The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack. having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

Fix it: Don’t stop when you start to feel the burn. That’s just lactic acid building up in the muscle. This lactic acid is actually one of the key factors to muscle growth, so try and do at least a few more sets once you start to feel the burn.

10. Assuming we’ll be fine if we don’t warm up (or down).

One thing we see in every gym is guys marching straight from the door to the bench. This really isn’t good for the joints.

Imagine you’re holding one of those Refresher chews/sweets for a second (LaffyTaffy candy if you’re American): If you quickly bend it, it’ll snap because it’s cold. But, if you slowly bend it in each direction, it slowly warms up and becomes extremely flexible.

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Our joints work in a similar way. Throw a load of weight onto a cold joint and it might just crumble a little bit. But warm it up with a few light sets, stretches and rotations and you’re good to go.

Fix it: Consider doing a 10 minute run or incline walk on the treadmill before heading over to the weights. And always do at least a couple of low-weight warm up sets if you intend to lift heavy. Your joints will thank you sooner than you think.

11. Always going to failure

A few years ago, going to failure was considered to be the key to hypertrophy, but we now know that it actually does more damage than good. Repeatedly going to failure is extremely taxing on the central nervous system.

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On top of that, you’re forcing yourself into a state of fatigue earlier on in your workout than you would be if you were to stop a few reps short of failure, resulting in a less efficient session.

Fix it: Going to failure now and again is fine, but for optimal long term results, spend more of your time working towards failure and stopping 2 or 3 reps short.