So you’ve actually stuck to your New Year’s resolutions and you’ve been working out on the regular. Hell, you even started dieting and giving up those cookies were one of the hardest things you’ve done. At this point, we should be saying “congratulations” but you might not be completely satisfied with the results you’re getting from your workout… And you’re not alone.
Tons of Americans invest a lot of time in their workouts only to feel as if they’re not getting as toned or lean as they’d like. So what gives? You’re putting in the hours and work but you’re not getting anything in return. It’s definitely frustrating but you shouldn’t give up on your workout plan just yet. The reason(s) you might not be getting the body you want is that you might be making some key training mistakes, which can definitely hamper your progress.
We’re sure that you know the obvious mistakes that you need to avoid. For example, you wouldn’t leave the settings the same on the machines you’re working on (obviously you’ll stay on t hem longer, but you’re not dong your body any favors). So what’s causing the hang up on getting your summer bod? Well, we’ve put together 10 of the most common (and probably unknown) reasons that your workout simply isn’t working out.
If you skimmed the reasons below and are thinking, “well I’ve done a few of those once or twice, but that shouldn’t be affecting my workout so much,” then you’re not alone. Many people, including us, feel the same way. However, indulging on a brownie on your non cheat day may not feel like a big deal, but these little things add up and the odds of getting fit begin to stack against you. According to Los Angeles fitness trainer Ken Alan, “just one single change in your routine can severely impact your workout results.”
1. Playing favorites with your strength routine
If you’re repeating the same workout activities over and over every day, your muscles are going to get used to it and adapt. This means you’ll peak quickly because the exercise is only engaging a small amount of muscle fibers. So while you might not feel as sore after your exercise or you’re able to lift for longer, this isn’t necessarily going to benefit you weight loss or shape wise.
However, if you challenge yourself and your muscles by alternating and adding moves regularly, you’ll engage more of the fibers in your muscles. Obviously, this means you’ll develop strength and more tone.
You’ll want to learn an additional 2 or 3 exercises for every muscle group. Trying new equipment and angles will also significantly help. We highly recommend a personal trainer to up your exercise but there are definitely resources available online that can help you organize a routine. YouTube is a great starting point.
For example, if you’re a fan of dumbbell chest presses on a flat bench, shift to an incline. This will engage new muscles and improve your workout. Like use the chest-press machine? Switch it up by doing dumbbell chest presses or bench presses with a barbell. You’ll also want to expand your workout routine knowledge and change it up every 6 to 8 weeks.
2. The fast and the furious
Okay we get it: you’re short on time or you’re bored so you decide to do your reps as quickly as possible to get them over with so you can go on about your day. However, this is definitely a workout faux pas. Not only does this leave room for injury (think torn muscles and connective tissues), but also like being married to your strength routine, it’s not really going to improve anything.
Instead of building muscle power, you’ll be building momentum. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you’re not optimizing your workout. You also won’t burn as many calories since your muscles aren’t being engaged as much.
For each repetition, you should spend at least 6 seconds: 2 seconds should be spent lifting the weight and 4 seconds spent lowering it. And since you’re using gravity to assist you with lowering the weight, you’ll want to slow down even more in the lowering phase in order to give your muscles a challenge.
Experts all agree that slowing down in the lowering part of the exercise is going to help you achieve much better results from your strength training routine.
3. Go big or go home
This is one that we’re all guilty of: pushing ourselves too hard too often. You might think that that constantly pushing yourself will give you results faster, but you’re actually putting unnecessary strain on your body. This means you’ll be at greater risk for injuries.
If you don’t get enough rest in between strength and hard cardio workouts, you won’t make any progress. In fact, you might even lose of the fitness that you’ve worked so hard to gain and of course, you’re highly likely to get burned out on the routine. This can lead to quitting altogether.
To get the most out of your workouts and stay motivated, you’ll want to alternate shorter, high cardio workouts (around 20 minutes) with easier, longer days (40-60 minutes). Don’t overextend yourself or push yourself more than twice a week and make sure to rest! The harder and more often you train, the more time your body needs to recover from the workout. After especially tough workouts, we recommend taking a full day off to rest.
4. Slacking on the cardio
By now you should know that sticking with the same workout of any kind can lead to less than desirable results. However, the same applies to your aerobic workouts as well. Just because your heart is pumping and your blood is flowing doesn’t mean that you’re getting a good workout. Just like your other muscles, doing the same thing over and over again can lead to plateaus.
In order to maximize your results, you’ll need to push yourself outside of your comfort zone at least a few times a week. Ideally, you’ll want to feel somewhat winded and hear your heart thumping in your chest.
It’s easy to zone out or take it easy during your cardio workout, but you’ll want to add in some high-intensity sessions at least a few times a week (think twice.) After warming up for 10 minutes on the treadmill, we recommend increasing the incline or speed of the treadmill for anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Afterwards, you’ll want to recover with 1-3 minutes of moderate to easy exercise. Ideally you’ll want to alternate for around 10 to 20 minutes before cooling down.
5. Your whole workout routine is cardio
Cardio is great for your workouts and is a necessary evil (most people hate it so if you’re one of those who enjoy it and focus your entire workout around cardio, we’re jealous) but too much of a good thing can be bad.
A good solid workout plan includes a mixture of flexibility, cardio, and strength training. Your body and muscles need a little of each in order to help you achieve your fitness goals. If you’re just focusing on cardio, then you’re going to be burning calories and building up your cardiovascular system, but you’re not really altering your body’s composition or adding muscle.
Like we mentioned above, add some variety into your workout. You can definitely stick with cardio as the bulk of your workout, but you’ll want to add some other exercises in as well.
Lifting weights and doing body weight exercises like push-ups and lunges are a great way to add variety to your exercise routine. Doing this at least twice a week will give you some great results. You’ll decrease your body fat, increase muscle definition, and stronger bone density.
6. Lifting the wrong amount of weight
Obviously if you’re lifting weights that are too light, you won’t see any improvements in the strength area of things as well as muscle definition. However, lifting weights that are too heavy for your current state won’t benefit you either.
Lifting weights that way too heavy will also alter your form, giving you poor posture and putting you at risk for serious injuries. Too heavy weights will also mean that you’re forced to engage additional muscles. This might not sound like a bad thing, but when you’re using your entire body to do a biceps curl, you’re cheating the muscles you’re meant to working out.
In order to get the most out of your weight lifting and strength building, you’ll want to do around 4-6 reps per set. For a lower, more moderate strength building, do around 8-12 reps per set, using weights that are heavy enough to struggle with on your final few reps, but not so heavy that your form is compromised. Should you get to your final rep and feel as if you can go a little further, increase the weight by around 5-10 percent.
If the additional weight means that you’re dropping to few reps, don’t fret; it’s fine as long as the final rep tires the muscle group you’re targeting. And no, lifting until you’re exhausted will not make you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
7. Your squat is off
We can’t even begin to tell you how many times our trainers have yelled at us over our squat form. While it probably doesn’t feel like that big of a deal if your posture is a little off, it’s actually one of those things that can severely affect your workout in a negative manner.
So what’s the bad form? Arching your heels off the ground, and allowing your knees to dip forward over your toes. This form places a lot of unnecessary pressure on your knee’s ligaments as well as tendons, which can lead to bad form and injury. In the very least, you won’t get anything out of the squat by having bad form.
Begin with a dumbbell in your hand and place your feet around hip width apart. Your legs should be straight; however, don’t lock them. Lift your chest and contract your abs to engage them. Body weight should be toward the heels as you squat so as not to put any unnecessary pressure on your knees. During the squat, you’ll want bend your knees as if you’re going to sit in a chair while your thighs are as parallel to the ground as possible. Keep your torso straight and your knees over your ankles. In order to stand back up, simply straighten your legs.
8. Skipping your warm up routine
No judgments here; skipping the warm-up is something we’ve all been guilty of doing at some point or another. You’re in a rush, you’re pressed for time, or maybe you’re bored with your routine and it’s begun to feel like a job so you’re just trying to put in your time and be down. However, skipping your warm-up is one of the worst things you can do for your workout routine.
Not only will this lead to you getting fatigued faster during the workout, but you’re also putting yourself in the way of serious injury. Your body isn’t like a car engine; you can’t just start it up and expect it to go. Your muscles need to “wake up” and be engaged before they can be expected to perform.
Obviously don’t skip your warm-up! If you find that you’re getting bored with your workout routine, try switching up your warm-up routine. Try some yoga poses and light stretches for a few workout sessions then maybe some very light cardio or treadmill walking the next time. Mix it up!
9. You haven’t changed your diet
So you’re putting in the hours, you’re sweating, and you’re following the rest of our rules to the T but you’re still not seeing the results you want. So what gives? Well, the answer might be your diet.
Even if you’re burning a massive amount of calories during your workout, you might still not get the fitness results you want. Fatty foods and those high in calories have a tendency to hang around and negate our workouts regardless of how hard we’re pushing ourselves. This doesn’t mean you have to give up all of your tasty foods, but you will need to find a diet that works for you.
There are a lot of diet plans out there to pick from but make sure you do your research and slowly dip yourself in. If you’re a junk food lover (no judgments, we are too) then you’ll want to slowly cut out the junk and supplement your less healthy meals with healthier alternatives. Quitting your favorite foods cold turkey won’t work and a lot of people relapse. Also, it’s okay to have cheat days so be gentle on yourself!
10. You spend most of the day on your ass
Unfortunately for the bulk of us, sitting on our butts all day is just part of the routine. We’re in front of a computer for work for an average of 8 hours a day and afterwards, we’re guilty of sitting some more. Think lounging on the couch watching Netflix or sitting down for dinner.
Even if you’re working out regularly, sitting for so long can hinder your results. Regardless of how intense your workout is, you’re undoing a lot of that hard work by parking yourself in a chair. And we should also let you in on a secret: experts have conducted studies that show too much sitting is not only bad for our waistlines, but also for our health in general.
Add some more activity into your day. If you’re sitting in front of the computer for work, get up periodically and stretch. Do a short lap around your office, or take a brisk stroll to the bathroom and back. You can also opt to take the stairs instead of the elevator and walk to a local restaurant for lunch rather than drive if it’s a short distance.
There a number of simple things you can add to your day that will get you up and active without requiring a lot of work.
How’s your workout going?
Now that you’ve read the faux pas of workout routines, we want to check in and see how your workout is currently going! Are you seeing the results you want, or are you like us and have been stuck for a while and feeling frustrated? Are any of these on the list surprising to you and are you guilty of doing any of them? Let us know in the comments! And if you have any exercise tips that you think we’d benefit from, make sure to let us know. We’d love to improve our workouts!