You've done your research and designed a program that'll get you just the results you want. You have a powerful exercise lineup, you've perfected your reps and sets, and you understand your optimum rest periods. Now all you have to do is put in your gym time, follow your program, and wait for the results.
But even after all your careful planning, you might be making mistakes that'll reduce the effectiveness of your workouts and keep you from getting the results you want.
We asked a group of ultra-fit Cellucor athletes to discuss some of the workout mistakes they see people making. You may be aware of one or two, but some of them might surprise you.
1. Not Understanding Your Goal
You've found the workout your favorite celebs swear by. You're convinced that if it works for them, it'll work for you, right? Not so much. "Sometimes, when I see people doing specific movements in the gym, I'll ask them what they're training for," explains fitness model Craig Capurso. "A lot of them don't have any goal at all. But even if they do, I can see that they aren't performing the right exercises, reps, sets, or combinations to get the results they're looking for."
Capurso recommends making sure you have a plan that will help you reach your goals—not someone else's. Follow another person's program and, yes, you'll see results. They just might not be the results you want.
2. Neglecting Your Warm-Up
When asked to name the biggest mistakes she sees people making in the gym, trainer and fitness model Alex Silver-Fagan says without hesitation that starting cold is right up there. "It may seem like a nuisance, but taking time to properly warm up, mobilize your body, and activate your muscles will lead to a workout that's productive, efficient, and safe," she says.
Silver-Fagan recommends spending 5-10 minutes on the foam roller, doing dynamic stretching, and using bands to help activate the muscle fibers. Don't view it as wasted time, she says. Think of it instead as time that will help you achieve maximum performance.
3. Always Sticking to The Same Rep Scheme
Lots of people get into a rut, says CrossFit athlete Eric Botsford, never doing any less or any more that they did at the last workout. It's understandable, because experts talk all the time about shooting for a specific rep range. But Botsford says it might be time for a change.
"So often in programming, athletes tend to get stuck on the same number and the same movements," says Botsford. "But if you can keep your muscles guessing by switching up your moves and reps, you'll really start to see maximum progress."
Next time you hit the gym, try adding some movements and pushing up those reps a little more. You have to lighten the weight or take some time to learn a new exercise. But by introducing your body to a whole new type of training stimulus it hasn't had a chance to adapt to, you can get more results in the same amount of time.
4. Allowing Rest Periods to Drag On
After you finish a set, do you walk over to the water fountain and grab a drink while chatting up a fellow gym-goer? If so, you could be sabotaging your results. "The number one mistake I see people making is resting too long between sets," says fitness model Jordan Edwards. "You have to keep your heart rate elevated if you want to burn far more calories."
Edwards suggests setting a timer to help you keep those rest periods short. Adjust your rests based on your goal, but make sure they are never so long that you lose focus, drop your heartbeat way down, or cool off too much.
5. Going Through the Motions
When you hit the gym, it's important to stay constantly focused on what you're doing. "One thing I see a lot is someone just going through the motions of their workout," says personal trainer Jen Jewell. "Yes, you're at the gym, and that's great. But are you really working it, or are you completing each set without energy and attention—just hitting the rep number because it's part of your plan?"
Jewell recalls how, years ago, she'd walk into the gym, climb on "her" elliptical, and put her mind on autopilot. She'd pass the next 40-60 minutes reading a magazine or watching TV, hardly aware that she was even training. "Do you think I was challenging myself? Definitely not!"
If you feel like your results and motivation have stalled, Jewell recommends doing a self-check and asking yourself if you're paying full attention to your workouts. "You should be challenging yourself and working it with each exercise you do," she says.
If you mentally check out during your workouts, that's a sure sign you aren't on track to maximum success.
6. Using Poor Form
Too often, in their quest to lift as heavy as possible, people let their form slip. "I see this mistake all the time," Edwards says. "People worry too much about getting those 10 big reps however they have to do it. You need to focus on using perfect form to rep until failure."
Remember that an exercise performed without good form is an exercise that's wasted. You have to hit the muscles properly to see positive results.
7. Neglecting Your Lower Body
If you ask trainer Ron "Boss" Everline about training mistakes, he'll point to the legs. "Too many people avoid leg work," he says. "It can be hard and uncomfortable, or they just don't understand which exercises to do or how to perform them correctly."
Take the time to figure out a good leg-training routine, and it'll pay off in the end. Your legs are the foundation upon which you build the rest of your body. With a strong foundation, there's no limit to the results you can achieve.
8. Losing Sight of the Big Picture
All too often, people forget to look at the big picture. "You need to set goals for yourself outside of the gym," says Botsford. "I mean, it's nice to look great, get sweaty, and lift weight. But what are you doing it all for? What's your greater goal?"
Botsford recommends signing up for a race, playing a sport, or finding some kind of goal that will help keep you stay focused in the gym. If you seem to constantly struggle with motivation, this strategy will help you out.
9. Stopping to Check Your Social Media Pages
Chances are you've seen it before and perhaps you're even guilty of it: Checking your social media feeds between sets. "I understand that rest time can be boring, but the moment you connect to what's going on outside the gym, it's incredibly difficult to get back into your workout," Silver-Fagan says.
Leave your smartphone in your locker, Silver-Fagan says, adding that if you need music for your workout, consider investing in a simple mp3 player that doesn't have internet access.
10. Failing to Show Up
Sometimes the biggest mistake people make is inconsistency. "In the military, we talk about how half the battle is just showing up," says Cellucor athlete Nate Boyer. "It's all about being in the right place at the right time with the right attitude."
Boyer says that his troops may not always know exactly what their mission will be. But they do know one thing: They need to commit to being there and being prepared. You need to bring the same attitude to your workouts. "If you start making excuses for not working out, then you can end up developing bad habits that not only limit your results, but extend into other parts of your life and affect your ability to reach other goals," he adds.
Weights and reps aside, maybe the best way to avoid workout mistakes is just to show up and give it your all. If you can make a commitment like that, then you're on your way to great results—inside the gym or out.