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8 Weight-Lifting Mistakes Everyone Makes

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    Not Having a Workout Plan

    Do your research first. Do you just walk into the weight room, take a look around, and ask yourself, "What do I want to do today?" You aren't going to get the results you want, says strength coach Holly Perkins, CSCS. After all, your exercises need to match your goal, whether that's becoming a better runner or sculpting the most glorious backside known to man. And, even more importantly, if you don't think about how all of your exercises fit together, you can end up with muscle imbalances that raise your risk of injury.

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    Only Doing the Exercises You Love

    The better you are at something, the more you do it. Fair enough. But when you only focus on your fave exercises (the ones you can knock out without a struggle), you're likely reinforcing the muscles that are already strong—and flat-out ignoring the ones that aren't so strong, Perkins says. "If you abhor walking lunges, I guarantee they are the exercises you need most," she says. "Get better at them, and the rest of your workout will improve."

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    Resting Too Long Between Sets

    Taking too-long breaks between sets not only wastes valuable gym time—it actually rewinds your results, Perkins says. When you give your muscles more rest than they need, they treat every set like a warm-up rather than a legit workout. If you're performing a lot of reps (say 10 or more) with low amount of weight, you shouldn't need more than 30 to 45 seconds of rest before you hit your next set, she says. Now, when you start approaching your one-rep max weight (you can barely eke out four to six reps of an exercise with proper form), you should give yourself three to four minutes of rest. Your body will need it, she says. But still, don't sit down. You do enough of that outside of the gym.

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    Lifting Too Little Weight

    "You need to challenge your body beyond where it is, otherwise it's never going to change," Perkins says. Put another way, your 2.5-pound dumbbells aren't going to do much in the way of helping you build muscle, burn fat, or get stronger. How much weight should you be lifting? Well, if you're performing sets of 12 reps, the weight should be heavy enough that the last two reps feel nearly impossible, she says.

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    Wearing Running Shoes

    No, this isn't a plot to send you shopping. Think of it this way: If you squat in a pair of high heels, you quads are going to be sent into overdrive and your glutes and hamstrings will pretty much just chill out. While the heel height is far less exaggerated in running shoes, the same principles apply, Perkins says. Most running shoes have about a 12-millimeter drop, meaning the heels are that much higher than the toes. Ideally, the shoes you wear when weightlifting should keep your feet flat—have zero drop. But Perkins recommends adjusting to a 4- to 6-mm drop before going flatter. If that's your running shoe, it may work just fine. Just remember that running shoes don't provide a ton of side-to-side support, which is helpful when performing exercises like side lunges, she says. Your best bet: Wearing a running shoe while running and a lifting shoe while lifting. (Makes sense, right?) Check out our tester-approved cross-training shoes.

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    Letting Your Shoulders Move

    When your shoulders are left to roam free—whether you're perfecting biceps curls or bench presses—you allow your traps to contribute to your effort, Perkins says. So when your chest starts burning, your traps pick up the slack and you don't train the muscle you were aiming to sculpt in the first place. To keep your shoulders stable, pull your shoulder blades back and push them down toward you hips. Focus on maintaining that position with every rep. When they start to slip, it's a sign your muscles are fading and you need to stop your set.

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    Performing Only Isolated Movements

    Don't get us wrong, isolated exercises like triceps extensions and calf raises can help you focus on muscle groups that need some special attention. But you still need to perform big functional movements like squats and even burpees that work multiple muscles and joints at the same time, Perkins says. "You want to train your various muscles to work together, because that's how we work through our lives." Bonus: The more muscles you work during a single exercise, the more strength you'll build and the more calories you'll burn.

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    Not Bracing Your Core

    In an ideal workout, you wouldn't just work your core when you're doing crunches and planks. You'd work it during every single exercise, Perkins says. The core helps you anchor your pelvis and shoulders so you maintain proper form, while also transferring power between your upper and lower extremities. Brace your core during every move, and your weight-lifting performance will shoot through the roof. Plus, your core will look ah-mazing.