Mistakes that people make in their workouts can make their workouts less effective, or worse it can lead to injury. Although there are many other mistakes that people commonly make when they workout, I restricted this post to rep performance mistakes that I commonly see. Pay attention to the mistakes that I have outlined as you may be doing them without even realizing it. Here are the workout mistakes that I see most commonly in the gym:
Swinging the weight
Putting momentum into your rep is not the best way to perform an exercise. By swinging the weight you are using less of the muscle group you are intending to work. The uncontrolled manner of the rep is less effective as it doesn’t directly target one area of the body like a controlled rep does. This reduces the isolated stress that should be put on the muscle you are trying to work. The worst part about swinging the weight is that it could result in injury. Most of the time the extra help that is generated to lift the weight comes from your back. Commonly I will see people end up arching their back to help get the weight up. An arched back is a very easy way to get injured as you are putting stress on your back when it is in a vulnerable position. The swing is most commonly done because the weight that the person is using is too heavy. This results in you having to use other parts of their body to help lift the weight up. I commonly see this done on curls, single arm dumbbell rows, and bent over barbell rows.
There are many exercises that are supposed to be performed with your elbows flared out (IE bench press, and shoulder press). However there are also a lot of exercises that are most effectively performed when you keep your elbows in (IE skull crushers, overhead triceps extension and curls). By allowing your elbows to flare out you are putting more stress on your shoulders and less on the muscle that you are intending to work. By keeping your elbows in you are making the rep more difficult. Flared elbows are caused by either negligence to your form, or the weight being too heavy.
Bouncing the Weight
Allowing a weight to bounce off of your body cannot be good for you. Even if it helps you to lift a heavier weight I never advise anyone to do that. This is why I am skeptical of the bench press at the NFL combine. How can you judge someone’s strength if they are using their chest as a springboard. By bouncing the weight the rep that you are performing is uncontrolled. When you perform a rep in an uncontrolled manner you are reducing the amount of isolated stress that you are putting on the muscle in order to increase your number of reps you are performing or the amount of weight you are lifting. Thus a bounce rep is less effective than a proper full rep. Reducing the weight that you are using or get a spotter if you want to hit a certain rep count is more effective than potentially injuring yourself with a bounce.
Not Performing the Rep with a Full Range of Motion
When you do not perform the full range of motion on a rep you are neglecting certain parts of the muscle that are intended to be worked for that exercise. Most people are in denial about whether or not they are doing a full rep because the weight they are using is too heavy. They are unable to perform a full rep at that weight so they only do a partial. Partials are a good way to build muscle but only doing partials means that you are not working certain parts of the muscle. You do not want to take the rep so far that you have no leverage to lift it back up. So here is a rule of thumb: Squats are to be performed to 90 degrees or lower (depending how flexible you are), triceps pushdowns are to be performed to 90 degrees, and curls are a full extension exercise. Bench press should be performed to at least 1 inch away from your chest. I like to touch my chest with the bar for bench press as I feel it is the most effective rep. Some people may have bad shoulders, or a tendency to bounce the bar off of their chest, which is why they would disagree with me. If you have bad shoulders and cannot perform a full bench press rep try this alteration. Grab dumbbells and perform a dumbbell bench press with your palms facing each other so that the weights are parallel to each other. Doing this will take stress off of your rotator cuff and put it more on your triceps.
The common theme in each of these mistakes is that all of them tend to be committed when the weight is too heavy. If you cannot perform a rep with proper form then it means that the weight you are using is too heavy. Even if you are doing a heavy weight lifting program, reducing the weight is your best bet. You will be able to stress your muscles out more effectively and you will significantly decrease your chances of injury when you do so. Next time you workout be conscious of these common mistakes as you may be doing them without even noticing it. Remember it is better to train smarter than it is to train harder!