The 7 most common gym fails (and how to avoid them!)

Here’s a list of the most common “gym fails” New Body Plan co-founder Jon Lipsey witnesses – and how you can avoid them to build your best-ever body

Every time I walk into the gym I see people making mistakes. And, more often than not, I see the same mistakes over and over again.

If you’re making one of the mistakes in the list below, don’t beat yourself up. In fact, you should be patting yourself on the back because you’re working out – and that’s the hard part. It’s easy to make a few simple adjustments to what you’re doing during your sessions to get the results you deserve.

The fail: It’s Groundhog Day
Sometimes when I walk into the gym I wonder whether I’ve also become an extra in the Bill Murray film, Groundhog Day. Because I can guarantee that some people will be doing the same exercises, with the same weights, with the same sets and reps as they did last week. And you know what? They look the same as they did last week. And the same as they did six months ago. And the reason they’re not making progress is because they’re no longer challenging themselves.

The fix: Be progressive
A smart training plan is a progressive training plan, which means it gets more challenging as you get fitter and stronger. That could be as simple as increasing the weight slightly or adding a rep or two. Over time you’ll also need to cycle variations of exercises, such as adding an incline, narrow-grip and dumbbell bench press to your routine so you’re not just doing endless reps of flat bench presses. The adjustments don’t have to be radical, but they do need to be there.

The fail: Poor exercise selection
One thing you should always be looking to do is to get the biggest bang for your training buck. What I mean by that is you should always be looking to maximise the return on your training time and effort. If you’re carrying a fair bit of body fat and not much muscle, doing lots of isolation work, such as triceps extensions or, worse, wrist curls, won’t give you the progress you’re looking for.

The fix: Get compound gains
If you want to make a big difference to how you look and feel in a short space of time then you need to prioritise compound exercises (moves that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously), such as squats, bench presses and shoulder presses. They’ll burn more calories than isolation work, which is great for fat loss and they’ll damage more muscle fibres, which has a positive muscle-building effect. Isolation work should play a part in your plan, but it comes after you’ve done the compound lifts in a session and they’re there to ensure that you properly fatigue a muscle to make it grow back bigger and stronger.

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The fail: Lack of muscle tension
I often see guys performing the right exercises and using roughly the right movement patterns yet they’re getting hardly any benefit out of what they’re doing. That happens when they fail to apply tension to the target muscle during a rep. Take a biceps curl, for example. If you’re using momentum to swing the weight, rather than lifting it by properly isolating the biceps muscles, then you won’t get the full benefit of the move. Same goes for rushed reps.

The fix: Take your time
You want results, right? Then stop worrying about the weight you’re lifting and start concerning yourself with how you’re lifting. When you perform a biceps curl your upper arm shouldn’t come forwards. The only movement should be at the elbow to lift and lower your forearm and hand. I also want you to really squeeze the biceps at the top of the move. And when you’ve done that, I want you to lower the weight slowly. If you let it drop, you’re cheating yourself out of the results you deserve. And after all, when you’re striding around with T-shirt filling arms, it’s unlikely that anyone will stop you and ask whether you developed your biceps by doing curls with 8kg or 10kg.

The fail: No focus
Earlier this week I saw a guy getting ready to do some preacher curls when he took a phone call. He then started to gossip with the person on the other end of the line and did about three sets in the time it took me to do the majority of my workout. He wasn’t in great shape and, if that’s the way he uses his gym time, I’m not that surprised.

The fix: Get in the zone
As soon as you walk onto the gym floor or start your home workout, you should aim to think about nothing other than the weight you’re lifting. So, no social scrolling, no email checking. Just you, the weights and a path towards your goal. It really is that simple.

The fail: Lifting the wrong weight
I wrote about this in a recent email. I do not care how much weight you lift. I have no interest in whether you can bench press 20kg or 200kg. All I care about is how you lift. But what I see every time I set foot in a gym is guys trying to massage their egos by lifting a weight that’s too heavy for them. They use terrible form and their joints take a pounding.

The fix: Less weight, more muscle
If you really want to give your ego a boost, do it by getting results. Do it by being proud of the body you’ve built. And you can do that by selecting a weight that allows you to lift with proper form. Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an excuse to take it easy. I want you to work as hard as possible.  I just want to see you to it with the right weight. If you’re unsure about how to select the right weight, read this story from my New Body Plan co-founder, Joe Warner.

The fail: Poor form
We bang on about form all the time. Not because we’re joyless gym bores but because it really does matter. I’d also say that the less experienced you are, the more it matters. An elite bodybuilder can probably get away with bending the form rules a bit because they have spent years learning how to apply tension to their muscles. But unless you’re planning to step on stage any time soon, I’d like you to lift with perfect technique.

The fix: Do it right
This is similar to the weight selection one. Just ask yourself what you want more: the short term buzz of lifting a heavier weight with terrible form and getting nowhere or the lasting satisfaction of lifting with good form and getting results. I know which one I’d go for.

The fail: No plan
I almost never see a guy in the gym following a plan. And I also almost never see a guy in the gym who is really making progress.

The fix: Plan of action
Sometimes the ‘secrets’ of fitness are staring you in the face. And here’s one of them. If you don’t follow a plan, you’ll fail to make progress. If you follow a smart and progressive plan (and you use our advice), you’ll make progress. Magic, huh?

If you want a tried-and-tested workout programme to help you get there then take the New Body Quiz which will reveal your perfect plan!

To find your perfect transformation plan, take the New Body quiz!
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