7 Mistakes to Avoid when Lifting Weights

No one is born knowing how to workout.  Everyone has to start somewhere.  When I was in high school and early college, before I got my first personal training certification, I had very little idea what I was doing.  Luckily, I was young so my body could weather most of my youthful ignorance.

But what happens when we aren’t in our teens?  If you are over the age of 40, you know how vital strength training is for your daily energy and long term health.  You know it’s important but you don’t want to get hurt.  One of my favorite parts of training my 40+ clients is helping them to get superior results simply by avoiding common pitfalls.  In so many words, my job is to save you time and effort.

Here are some common mistakes when lifting weights:


  1. Neglecting workout preparation.  Dehydrated, rushing in at the last minute, and skipping the warm up.  These are great ways to ruin the quality of your lifting session.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather you get it done like that than not at all.

But here are some tips to help you physically and mentally prepare for your workout.  It will make it more enjoyable and more effective.  Hydration starts first thing in the morning with 8oz of water as soon as you wake up.  From there, keep a water bottle with you all day.

Get to the gym 5 minutes early and don’t skip the warm up.  If you’re working out on your own, a warm up should be more than a slow walk on a treadmill.  Do a mobility drill for your hip joints and for your thoracic spine (google bretzel 2.0 and side lying windmill for two examples).  Then do some activation drills for your core and for your glutes.  Some glute bridges and a front plank will work.  Then do some dynamic movements that mimic your workout and get some blood flowing like some front lunges and jumping jacks.

  1. Doing someone else’s workout.  This is going to sound obvious but…your workout should make sense for YOU.  There are a lot of knock off bodybuilding programs that make no sense for the people trying them.  Also, if you’re trying to do a generic workout in a big room with 30 other people who are mostly in their 20’s, that workout was not written for you.  At On Target Fitness, we make sure that your program is aligned with your goals and then adjusted to your abilities.  We do it this way so you avoid injury, get faster results, and have more fun along the way.

  2. Lifting too light.  Strength training should make you progressively stronger over time.  If you are grabbing the same weight for the same lifts over and over again, at some point you will plateau.  Here is a common example of how to go too easy: you previously had sets of 10 repetitions of an exercise, but now your program has sets of 6 and you grab the same weight.  If the rep range goes down, you have to grab heavier weight otherwise it will be way too easy.  A great rule of thumb is, the last 3 reps of your set should be really challenging.  Having your personal trainer with you to help you with weight selection is a game changer.

  3. Lifting too heavy.  This is often the result of ego lifting.  It looks like tacking on more and more weight with your squats, while you squat shallower and shallower.  It’s fake progress.  Slow the weight progression, focus on the form, and you’ll get better results.  Progressing the weight too quickly compromises the form.  For many common exercises, this will directly result in an injury.

  4. Wrong exercise selection.  This can get really nuanced, which is why a personal trainer can really help make all this easy.  I will give one clear example of what I am talking about.  Most of us sit too much.  As a result we have immobile hips, immobile thoracic spines, and upper cross syndrome.  A symptom of this common posture pattern is that our head is too far forward, causing strain into our neck and back.  So why in the world would we do crunches and crank our heads even further forward with high repetition?  It’s also a great way to aggravate an already touchy low back.  In this example, crunches are a poor exercise selection and you’d be better off with a variety of other core exercises instead.  The strength exercises we do in the gym should strengthen us through fundamental movement patterns.  They should correct mobility deficiencies.  They shouldn’t reinforce poor posture, poor movement, and injury.

  5. Bad form.  Even great exercise selection can’t survive bad form.  Sometimes, bad form just means you aren’t going through the full range of motion and therefore won’t get the full benefit of the exercise.  Oftentimes, bad form leads directly to predictable injury.  If you deadlift with a rounded back, you’ll throw out your back.  If you do a lot of overhead presses with poor T spine mobility, you will injure your rotator cuff.  One of the most important functions of a personal trainer is to check form.  Mirrors or a workout buddy can only do so much.

  6. Poor recovery.  Let’s be pragmatic.  If you have a lot of chaos and stress in your life right now, go get your workout in, even if recovery won’t be perfect.  You’ll still be better off.  That said, recovery is where results come from.  Make sure you are getting enough protein post workout with a shake.  Make sure your nutrition nourishes you.  This probably means more fruits, vegetables, and lean meats; less processed foods.  Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.  This probably means more tidying and reading in the evening to wind down; less streaming and wine.

There you have it!  All of this is made WAY easier when you have a personal trainer.  With our help, you don’t need to worry about much of this.  You just show up and we take care of it for you.  When you’re ready to talk with a personal trainer about your goals, fill out the form at the top and bottom of this page and I will take care of the rest : )

Serving Portsmouth, Kittery, and the broader Seacoast community, we help people finally get in shape, feel confident, and have all day energy, even if getting everything done is a constant struggle.


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