Let’s be honest here. Pretty much any man’s appearance can be improved by shredded abs, bulging biceps and powerful pecs. But while it may be the physical confections that leave the ladies (and other men) agape that send us to the gym week after week, there are a great many health benefits of regular exercise. All that time spent on the treadmill, in high-intensity interval training or enjoying team sports is vital to our ongoing heart health. We all know that cardiovascular health is of paramount importance for a long and healthy life. Moreover, all that time lifting weights not only gives us all that aesthetically pleasing lean muscle mass, it also increases our bone density, meaning that we face fewer mobility issues in old age. There’s also substantial evidence to prove that exercising regularly gives our mental health a boost and helps to combat anxiety and depression while also helping to prevent a buildup of plaque in the brain that can lead to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Yup, the benefits of regular exercise speak for themselves. But while many of us are already aware of this, some of us are inadvertently hindering our own progress in a number of ways. Not only will this prevent you from looking your best as a result of your efforts, it may mean that you don’t reap all the physical benefits you deserve. Let’s bust some bad habits…
Sacrificing technique for weight
We’ve all been there. We’ll be working out on one bench and someone will start lifting at the bench next to us. We see what they’re lifting and something primal flares to life in our brains. We feel the compelling urge to up our weight to match or even exceed what the guy next to us is lifting. While this may look impressive to passers-by, the only person who loses out here is you. An incorrect technique will prevent you from properly activating your muscles, meaning that your progress is hindered.
Don’t rush through your sets either. Push for your full extension on your techniques before slowly bringing the weight back down in a slow and controlled motion.
Sacrificing mobility for strength
Flexibility and mobility are two severely under-appreciated aspects of fitness. But the more we do our best to improve the flexibility of our muscles and joints now, the fewer mobility issues we’ll have in later years. Getting a regular sports massage, stretching every day and warming up and cooling down are all easy and proven ways to ensure that you don’t lose your mobility in the pursuit of stronger, leaner muscles. Your mobility is too steep a price to pay for a buff bod.
Even if your primary goal at the gym is to bulk up, you should still engage in regular cardiovascular fitness training on the cross trainer, exercise bike or elliptical machine for the good of your ticker. But this doesn’t mean that you should join the legions of people who seem to come to the gym for a relaxed session of “cardio” exercise. You know the ones. The ones who have a magazine or iPad balanced on their machine and jog, pedal or stride at such a relaxed pace they don’t even look like they’re breaking a sweat. Even if we log hours at the gym doing this, we’re not putting our hearts under enough strain to get any real benefit in either fat loss or cardiovascular function.
No matter what your goals at the gym, there’s no excuse not to nip these bad habits in the bud.