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Which mistakes do I most regularly see in the gym?

Training without a decent level of knowledge or guidance in the gym is tough. Below are a few common mistakes which I usually see whenever I train in a commercial gym.

At the gym

1) Training with incorrect form and technique

I drum it into my clients all the time that we need to execute every exercise with proper form and technique. Resistance training with perfect form is our base and we build from there. Without having the foundation of excellent technique in place, all of the other factors we can alter to get great results become secondary.

It is all too common to see people executing movements in an incorrect or sometimes unsafe manner. If you want to be safe and make progress then this isn’t the way to go.

Sometimes poor form can be simply due to a lack of experience, which is totally understandable. Naturally we get better at movements the more we practice them.

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If you’re a beginner, really focus on your technique before upping the weight you use. You could also think about hiring an in-person PT to show you the correct way to execute some staple movements.

Sadly, a lot of the poor form I see in gyms seems to be men (usually) with a decent amount of experience who are simply ego lifting – lifting more weight than they are able to properly handle. If your ego lifting and that’s why your technique is off then consider the fact that Brett Contreras lists improved technique and improved mind muscle connection as two of the ways that progressive overload can be achieved.

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You could also argue that improved technique usually leads to a greater range of motion too. Essentially it is clear that, improving your technique will actually lead to progressive overload and therefore better gains!

2) Poor exercise selection

Often I see people performing exercises which are either needlessly complicated, aren’t actually exercises or not optimal to help them to reach their goals. For example, yesterday when I was in the gym I saw someone performing a mixture of a face pull and a cable curl which likely wasn’t going to help the bloke much.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging anyone – I made loads of mistakes when I first started in the gym as well but my point here is that exercise selection is a big piece of the puzzle and it’s important to get it right. As a side point I hate those “Gym fail” videos you sometimes see – those videos are horrible and just take the piss out of inexperienced gym users which isn’t nice.

As a general rule of thumb when it comes to exercise selection, we should aim for the following movements to be incorporated into our sessions through a given week:

  • Squat

  • Hip hinge

  • Horizontal push

  • Horizontal pull

  • Vertical push

  • Vertical pull

Gym chart

If you cover each of the areas above throughout a week (maybe with a lunge movement and some core exercises thrown in too) then you’re on to a winner. Exercise selection doesn’t need to be complicated but we need to get the basics right.

Not tracking session performance

If people are wandering about the gym jumping from one piece of equipment to another without righting anything down I really feel for them. To be honest, I feel for anyone who I see in the gym who I don’t think is doing things correctly, the coach in me wants to help everyone.

The reason I feel for people who don’t track their sessions is because without a record of training performance, it’s so difficult to measure improvement over time. Improvement over time leads to a concept I’ve already touched on above – Progressive Overload.

Man lifting weights

Whenever we go to the gym we get a bit stronger and fitter – which over time is brilliant. However, we also need to ensure that the sessions we perform in the gym get progressively harder over time, to compensate for the fact that we are consistently getting stronger. Only by making sessions more intense do we send the body a really clear signal that it needs to continue to adapt and grow muscle/get stronger.

You’ve guessed it, in order to know that we’re making sessions tougher – we need to track performance!


There are a lot of mistakes you can make when you’re training in the gym on your own! My advice is to get yourself a decent training programme, execute it with perfect form (if you can’t do this – find a good in-person PT to coach you on technique) and finally, track your sessions so you can measure performance over time!



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