Skipping Your Warm-Up
It's foolish to jump right into your workout—you'll put yourself at risk for injuries or cramps. Aim to complete a five-minute warm-up that's specific to the routine that follows (a light jog if you plan to tackle sprint intervals later, for instance) to increase blood flow to areas that will be challenged.
Holding Static Stretches Before Lifting
Skip the touch-your-toes strategy even if you have deadlifts on the docket. Static stretches can limit your performance, reports the Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. Instead, do a handful of dynamic stretches like high-knee marches and butt kicks to get your heart pumping and your muscles limber.
Logging Hours of Slow Cardio
While aerobic exercise is an important part of a complete fitness program, you can't rely solely on hours of the elliptical if you want to lose weight. Strength training helps build and maintain muscle mass and stimulates the production of beneficial hormones. Plus it's crucial for speeding up your resting metabolism. Here's why every woman should lift weights.
Sticking to the Same Old Same Old
Gains, gains, gains is the aim, right? To reach your goals (lose fat, sculpt muscles, score a stronger core—whatever they may be), you must change things up. Whether you're a beginner or veteran, aim to incorporate intervals at least every other workout. Bonus: Time will fly faster when you're not on auto-pilot.
Doing Only Ab Exercises for Your Abs
All of the "feel the burn!" core work in the world will not make ab muscles appear if they're hidden under a layer of fat. A good workout is a well-rounded workout.
Not Drinking Water
Think of water as nature's energy drink. Dehydration can hamper athletic performance, says a study in Nutrition Reviews. Skip the sports drink and stick with plain H2O unless your workout is 90 minutes or longer.
Performing High-Intensity Moves with Poor Form
Box jumps and burpees are super-effective...if you do them correctly. Advanced exercises, performed too quickly or with poor form (watch for knees caving in or lower back arching), can lead to injuries and extreme soreness. Target the core with Pilates, build strength with sprints and floor jumping, then progress to a small box.
Showing Up Without a Plan
We get it: You're short on time. Make the most of it by plotting a master plan! Randomly bounce from one machine to another and you'll likely focus on your favorite muscle groups while neglecting important ones. Plus, you'll be guessing how heavy to lift and how many reps you need to beat your last strength session. Before you step foot in the gym or home workout space, write down your agenda (exercises, sets, reps, weight), aiming to reach failure (you just cannot do anymore) by your last rep. Unsure of where to start? Meet with a certified personal trainer to team up for a routine that targets your weak spots.
Every body is different. If John and Jenny each do The Best Exercises of All Time routine three times a week for a month, their body changes and weight progressions will vary greatly. People move uniquely, have different stress levels, eat a diet that's just their own, and sleep in a pattern that can't be matched. All this means that you can't expect the same results as the bodybuilder on the weight rig next to you. Consider your goals, past injuries, and current fitness level when developing your exercise routine and setting goals. And most important, leave your ego at the door when you step foot in the box, gym, or yoga studio.
OD'ing on protein.
Follow the gospel of CrossFit, and pretty soon, you'll be preaching the good word of the book of Paleo while abstaining from all flour (even whole-wheat) and sugar. While protein is crucial for muscle development, bodies can only process 30 grams at one sitting, so the rest will just be stored as extra calories (3,500 of which will be added to your body as a pound of fat). Carbohydrates are necessary for muscle contraction and fuel, so aim for a balanced diet of 30 percent protein, 45 percent carbohydrate, and 25 percent fat, and focus on portion control if you're on a slim-down mission.
Taking Too Much R&R Between Sets
Wait until after your shower to check how many Facebook likes your profile pic has raked in. The intensity of your workout and length of your rest periods should be tailored to your fitness goals. If you want to lose weight, maximize calorie burn by exercising at an intensity that requires the body to supply oxygen continuously (such as with an interval program). This increases the amount of time you can exercise—that equals more calories burned! If you want to increase muscle power, lift a weight that's near your 1-rep max (the heaviest weigh you can lift at full range of motion without breaking proper form) to turn on the neuromotor connections that instantly crank up strength. A sizable break, say, one to three minutes, is required to restore muscle fibers for the next set.
- Larysa DiDio, celebrity personal trainer and co-author of Sneaky Fitness
- Mike Fantigrassi, NASM Master Instructor in Chandler, Arizona
- Michele Olson, professor of exercise science and lead researcher at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama
- Kyle Stull, NASM personal trainer and faculty instructor in Dallas