The mistakes we’re all making in the gym
The prevalence of back pain in the UK holds some shocking statistics. With 80% of people suffering back pain at some point in their life, and studies from the Office for National Statistics showing 31 million working days were lost in 2013 as a result of back, neck or muscle pain – in comparison to the common cold with 27 million work days lost – looking after your spine should be an important, albeit overlooked, priority. Working out in the gym can be an effective preventative measure to avoid back complaints when done correctly, but failing to do certain things in the gym can lead to you experiencing more pain than usual or lose the motivation to go in the first place.
Based on guidance from Proback Clinics director Dr Christian Allard, advised in publications such as Harpers Bazaar, Healthy and BestFit magazine, we’ve put together our top tips for mistakes to avoid at the gym.
1. Skipping the warm-up
It’s likely one you’ve heard before, but warming up should be a staple to every workout you start at the gym. It prepares your muscles, joints and tendons for the training session to reduce the risk of injury. A few minutes of cardio should be sufficient, but if you’re weight-training you should be stretching your muscles before and after. Stretching after exercise can reduce cramping and help with post-workout soreness.
When you decide to join a gym or begin training with a certain goal in mind – it’s easy to throw yourself into a new routine. But new routines bring on new challenges – for example you may feel more tired or hungry than usual, or more sore than normal as well. These new challenges can make it more difficult to motivate yourself to continue working towards your goal but it can also increase your risk of injury by doing too much, too soon. Especially in the beginning, it’s important to start slow.
3. The wrong technique
As much as over-training can contribute to injury, having the wrong technique during exercises can significantly increase the likelihood of an injury. Quality over quantity is definitely a rule to follow here – many people become fixated on lifting heavier weights but if you’re not doing it with the correct form you may end up working the wrong muscles or compensating in lifting the weight by placing pressure on other areas of the body, which may lead to injury.
4. Solely working out the ‘glamour muscles’
Most people going to the gym want to work on toning the areas of the body that are most likely to be on show – for example the biceps, chest or glutes. But solely working out these areas of the body and making those muscles strong, can leave you susceptible to injury as smaller, but equally important, muscle groups are neglected.
5. Repeating the same workout every time
When you find a series of exercises that work for you, it’s easy to become complacent when it comes to switching it up in the gym. Make sure that when you’re able to comfortably complete an exercise that you increase the weight accordingly. Making exercises more challenging for yourself will help you to continually improve, instead of eventually plateauing in your success.
6. Eating to recover
Many people when they throw themselves into a new gym routine will also adjust their eating habits to manage their success. Whether that’s increasing your protein intake, or decreasing your carbohydrate intake, make sure that you’re still eating a balanced diet and not restricting your calorie intake drastically. Dropping your intake of food could inhibit progress by triggering your body’s survival instincts, you may start to notice you’re still not losing any weight or fat because your body is holding onto its reserves. Eat within two hours of a workout and make sure you’re consuming enough protein and vegetables to help your muscles recover effectively.
7. Wearing the wrong gear
Wearing the right trainers depending on the workout you’re doing can help you to avoid injury and make the most out of your training. Trainers for cardio activities such as running tend to have more cushioning in them to properly absorb the shock from a high intensity exercise. They will also typically have a curved toe to them so that you’re able to get your foot off the ground quicker. Gym trainers tend to allow for wider range of movement so you can comfortable, safely and effectively perform exercises that require wide range of movements.
8. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Making sure to hydrate yourself during the day as well as before and after workouts can have a positive impact on your body’s healing processes. As the body is made up of between 75-80% water, it’s only natural you’re going to lose some of this during exercise, but failing to hydrate can mean that your body’s tissues become dehydrated and function less effectively.