Personal trainers see it all in the gym. The good, bad and ugly.
Tom Myers, a NASM Certified Personal Trainer at New York Health & Racquet Club & Running Coach told StrongPath some of the most common mistakes he sees people making and how to avoid them.
One of the biggest mistakes Myers sees is people believing that any program or exercise will be the perfect one for them. “If you are 60 and just had your hip replaced, you are going to have a very different exercise plan and diet versus someone who is 20. There are some exercises that won’t work with different people,” he said.
For example, people think they should be doing squats, deadlifts, and bench presses because they hear about it or see others doing it. Often, they don’t know the proper technique or whether there’s a better movement for them based on their ability. “I see people trying to do squats, deadlifts, and bench presses and they are struggling through it. They are trying to lift too heavy or they don’t have the basic movement mastered,” said Myers.
“We call it ‘ego lifting’. Regardless of form, people are lifting weights way beyond their capabilities, which is dangerous and ineffective,” he continued. “Especially with the bigger movements, lifting in the correct order is critical to preventing injury.”
Myers explained there are more effective, smaller and better strength training exercises a person can do like lunges, front-loaded squats, step-ups, assisted pushups, or by using resistance bands. Form should always be prioritized over the amount of weight you’re lifting.
Get a trainer for a quick lesson, even if just once to get you started or check our videos online for guidance.
Core Doesn’t Mean Just Abs
Core is key. It helps keep the body stable and helps with balance. There is a big misconception that a person’s core muscles are abdominals only. In fact, core muscles span the entire trunk of the body, from the base of the head to the pelvis, which include four muscle groups:
- Traverse abdominis (the muscles on either side of the naval)
- Internal and external obliques (these muscles extend diagonally from ribs to pelvis)
- Rectus abdominis (the “six-pack”)
- Multifidus and erector spinae (these muscles run the length of the spine from head to pelvis)
To strengthen the core, Myers advises clients forego traditional crunches and focus on other exercises that work all the core muscles instead. “If someone asks how I want to see them sit, I say, ‘I want you to sit like a G.I. Joe doll.’ People who are sitting all day are usually hunched forward and their spine is not stacked. They need to work all their core muscles, not just abs, to get stronger and improve their posture. It also helps your hip joints.”
Some recommended exercises include:
- Plank (traditional or banana plank): Planks work all the core muscles groups at once. For people who sit behind a desk all day, banana planks (on your back, arms and legs extended, then slowly raised) are especially effective because they engage the muscles in the hips that have been in a closed or tightened position.
- Paloff Press: This full body exercise stabilizes the core by providing resistance against a rotational force and increases strength, power and functional fitness. Beginner’s can start with lighter resistance bands and work their way up to a weighted cable tower.
- Farmer’s Walk: An incredibly efficient exercise, Farmer’s Walk targets the muscles in the upper body while strengthening the lower body as well. Using kettle bells or weights, work your way up to carrying your body weight. If possible, perform the exercise in front of mirrors to ensure proper form (level shoulders and a tall line). To make it a little harder and target your core, do an Offset Weighted Farmer’s Walk with weight in only one hand.
Rome Wasn’t Built in A Day
In a world of instant gratification, people expect quick results. Myers sees people changing up weightlifting exercises too often because they believe what they are doing isn’t working. “Especially if you are starting from zero, you have to give your body time to develop muscle patterns and create the neurological pathways to get muscles to work in conjunction with one another. Every program is a cycle and it takes time to see results,” he said.
A person should change their workout routine every four to eight weeks, making it a little harder with each cycle and he warns against doing the same workout day after day. “You will not progress, but you will overload and break down your body,” Myers concluded.
Staying physically active is paramount to living a healthy and independent life, aging gracefully, and staving off chronic disease. As we get older and our bodies change, it’s beneficial to seek the guidance of a licensed professional to maximize strength training results and prevent injury.