At this time of year it’s not only the ‘summer body’ being made in the gym, but injuries, as the sometimes desperate bid to be beach-ready sees people over-exercising, using equipment incorrectly, or failing to fuel workouts in the best possible way. More than having a negative impact on our fitness, some common mistakes can impact our health, says Dr Christian Allard DC, clinic director at the UK’s leading back pain specialist ProBack. Here he explains some of the most common gym mistakes and how to avoid them to help prevent injury.


Overtraining, especially at first

“The most common mistake is trying to do too much too soon. People don’t always realise that their body needs time to adapt when they start any form of new training. Starting slow is essential and can help to avoid injuries, especially if you have a sedentary lifestyle and exercise is pushing your body outside of its comfort zone. If you are overexerting your muscles too soon, either with weights or cardio, then you are likely to damage your muscles and connective tissues and could also put unnecessary strain on different areas of your body.”


Missing rest days

“Even if you aren’t new to exercise, remember to take breaks as rest and recovery is an essential part of training. Exercising puts strain on various muscles and joints across your body, and as such you should ensure that you are allowing your body the time to heal, so that each and every time you work out your body is on top form. Putting too much strain on your joints without allowing this recovery can lead to excessive stress and in turn, injury.”


Lack of knowledge

“People often start to train but they don’t actually know how to do it effectively and most importantly, safely. I would always recommend having an induction at the gym so that trained professionals can show you how to use the equipment. It might also be worth considering a personal trainer – getting professional support can help to reduce the likelihood of injuries and maximise results.”




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The wrong technique

“Likewise, using the incorrect technique can lead to injury and will not be as effective in terms of improving overall fitness or losing weight. I’ve noticed in the gym that a lot of people ‘cheat’ when squatting but the correct form will train the targeted muscle to the optimum. Many people are also often too focused on lifting as much as possible. However, even if you are able to lift a heavier weight, if your technique is wrong you might be working the wrong muscles, or potentially could be causing damage.”


Following the crowd

“A common result of not knowing where to start in the gym is following what others are doing, however everybody there has different goals and therefore, imitating their workout may not yield the results that you are after. In addition, we all have different body types and abilities and as such, certain workouts may not be right for you and not exercising to match your goals could cause injury. Copying the workouts of others could be detrimental, especially if the person that you are imitating does not have a good technique. This can lead to injury, and prevent any actual development in your strength and ability.”


Doing the same old thing

“When you first start out at the gym, you will generally see progress, as you are introducing something new to your exercise plan. However, if you continue doing the same number of reps and sets using the same weight for months on end you will eventually experience a plateau in your results as your body becomes accustomed to the exercise. Injury can also occur as you may be continually using the wrong technique, as by repeating the same exercises you will put constant strain on your muscles and joints.”



Only working the ‘glamour’ muscles

“When most people step into the gym, they often ignore working out the smaller muscle groups and spend far too much time working solely on their ‘glamour’ muscles such as biceps, chest and glutes. This leaves some of the smaller muscle groups, including shoulders, knees and hips, ignored. As you may expect, ignoring these muscles can have a negative effect on your overall workout as they could become less able to support the other muscle groups as they get stronger. If these smaller muscles become overloaded by your workouts, they may not be able to perform optimally, resulting in injury and potentially leading to you needing some time away from the gym to recover.”


Skipping the warm-up

“Warming up should be part of a training session. It prepares the joints, the muscles and the tendons and reduces the risks of injuries. A few minutes cardio should be sufficient to allow the body to be ready to exercise but I would also recommend stretching out your muscles before doing anything. There are lots of helpful YouTube tutorials which will take you through a detailed warm-up routine if you don’t know where to start. Similarly, you should ensure that you are cooling down following a workout. This will prevent the build-up of lactic acid which can cause cramping and discomfort.”


Not eating right for recovery

“Another common mistake is not eating right. Muscles are made mainly of proteins, so they need proteins to regenerate and rebuild, meaning that your diet should be rich in these, as well as vegetables. Whenever people try to lose fat quickly, they often opt to eat less but by not eating, this adds an extra stressor to the body and could actually result in gaining fat. It is also recommended to eat within two hours of your workout, as this is the time where most of the muscle and joint damage during a workout is repaired. Ensuring you are doing this will encourage faster muscle regeneration post-workout and prevent injury. It is, however, important to ensure you are eating the right food categories – in addition to the above, also include calcium which will help to aid any bone strains that are caused by exercise.”


Failure to properly hydrate

“It is important to hydrate during and after any form of training session. Failure to do so could dehydrate the tissues and slow down the healing process. We have to remember that our bodies are made up of 75-80% water and with any form of exercise, you’re bound to lose some of that. It is also important to not drink alcohol directly following a work out, alcohol is a diuretic meaning it removes water from your body. If you drink alcohol straight after a workout you run the risk of dehydrating yourself.”



Forgetting to stretch before, during AND after

“Stretching is also an essential part of exercising in order to keep a good flexibility. Whenever someone does not stretch properly before, after or even during exercise, this could reduce the joints range of motion and set in place premature joints degeneration. You could work yoga and Pilates into your weekly training plan – not only will they relax you, but they will ensure that you get a good stretch on a weekly basis.”


Wearing the wrong gear

“The right gym wear is essential – proper trainers can make or break your workout as they are essential in helping to absorb the shock and increase your range of movement. You should also ensure what you are wearing is right for the workout you are doing, as certain trainers are designed differently to prevent injury. For example, running trainers are designed to have more cushioning and support, meaning when you are running on the hard pavement, the impact is softer on your joints preventing injury, whereas gym trainers allow for a wider range of movement in all directions so you can comfortably and safely have a wider range of movement. Similarly, there are also different wearable supports available so that your workout is more comfortable and safe. For instance, back supports allow for squats and deadlift exercises to put far less strain on your back and there are a whole range of support products available to prevent injury in different areas of your body and aid weaker joints and muscles.”