6 Big Workout Mistakes

“How much you bench press?”

If this question alone is how you determine how fit anyone is, you’ve got it all wrong—and you may be guilty of many of the workout mistakes men make. Here are six biggies—find out if you’re committing any, and adjust your regimen before you injure yourself.

Training mostly for appearance

“Guys often only train muscles you see right away—chest, biceps and shoulders, while neglecting supporting muscles, legs in general,” says personal trainer Gidon Gabbay, owner of G Force Training in Toronto. Don’t focus only on what you want to show off at the beach or you’ll end up imbalanced; make sure to include your core, especially, the lumbar muscles, and train not just your chest but the upper back as well, he says.

Copying someone else’s workout

Ever hit the gym and noticed someone fit doing an exercise move and immediately added it to your own circuit? “Men often will do an exercise and train according to someone else’s program, but you might be doing it improperly, or it may be wrong for your body structure,” warns Gabbay.

Training heavy

Many men train heavy because they think it’s the best way to get bigger and stronger. “But the body responds best to moderately heavy exercise,” says Gabbay. “To increase mass, you have to adjust your diet and keep your heart rate low, rather than going with low reps at a heavy weight,” he explains. “I see a lot of posts and tweets about training heavy being the way to go, but this is hard on the joints and ligaments and in the long run can cause pain.”

Sticking only to machines

You a machine-only kind of guy? “Often guys, not knowing what to do, will do a circuit and move from machine to machine, and neglecting other types of exercise, this can create instability and imbalance,” says Gabbay. He recommends figuring out what your goals are and building your program around that. For a healthy, well-balanced routine, he stresses that you need to train your body’s muscles equally, while also incorporating some cardio.

Skipping warming up and stretching

Many men skip stretching after a workout. “Or if they do stretch, it’s 10 seconds and then they’re out,” says Gabbay. “But stretching your muscles after a workout helps them repair faster, and this will give you the ability to go hard again sooner, so it’ll help you build strength and mass sooner,” he adds. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat it for a total of two times per muscle group.

As for warming up, you should break a sweat with some aerobic activity before your workout. “This will prevent injury and help get your blood flowing and providing oxygen to your muscles,” says Gabbay. Try starting your workout by skipping rope or getting on the treadmill for five minutes.

Focusing on the bench press

“Guys tend to do a lot of bench press—I call this ego training,” says Gabbay, noting that the exercise is not functional, in that it doesn’t offer a particular health benefit. “’How much do you bench?’ is a common question, and everyone when I was a teenage was always try go heavier on the bench press,” he adds, saying he still sees guys focusing on it. But with much research noting how the bench press is unhealthy (rotator cuff injuries being one such danger), it’s not something you need to focus on, he says. Once in awhile in moderation is okay, says Gabbay, but doing it often as part of your workout is not something he advises.

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