Navigating the gym can be more complicated than navigating an H&M on Black Friday (but like, minus all the 12-year-olds in crop tops). We don’t blame you for being confused and frustrated when working out. You’re probably already exhausted just by pulling on your leggings and convincing yourself to leave the house, and by the time you show up ready to work out, no one’s there to tell you what to do or show you what you’re doing wrong. If you’re scared you’re doing every exercise wrong, that’s because you probably are. Luckily for you, we’ve already made those mistakes and learned from them, so we’re here to help you out. Here are the areas where you’re screwing up at the gym:
1. Your Warm-Up
If you think the best way to warm up before a workout is to stretch out your muscles as much as you can, you’re literally sabotaging your body and setting yourself up for an injury. Static stretches, referring to stretches that are held for a long period of time, are meant to be done after your workout, and if you do them before, you’re actually making your muscles weaker and making yourself more likely to get injured. Instead of holding stretches for long periods of time, do quick, dynamic stretches before you work out, like walking lunges and arm circles. By replacing long-held stretches with quick dynamic ones, you’re increasing your flexibility and getting your body ready in the right way, so you’re less likely to twist an ankle mid-treadmill sprint.
2. Your Planks
Planking is a v popular exercise in the gym, because everyone loves a good ab burn, and it seems easy enough to do. You basically just lie there on your forearms for like, 30-60 seconds while trying not to die. Here’s the thing you’re missing, though. If you’re activating the correct muscles, planking shouldn’t be that easy, and if it is, you’re doing it wrong. When you’re in a forearm plank, your shoulders are supposed to be directly over your wrists, and you should be squeezing basically every muscle in your body, including your butt and legs. Your butt should be slightly higher than you’d think, and you should be pulling your lat muscles downward (those are the muscles in your upper back). Once you fix your form, your planks will be harder and you’ll feel the burn in your abs much faster. Stop wasting your time on bullshit planks that aren’t doing anything for your body.
3. Your Elliptical & StairMaster Form
If you’re choosing to use a cardio machine at the gym, at least make sure you’re not cheating your way through the workout. So many girls spend hours on the elliptical or StairMaster, and they’re just wasting everyone’s time because they’re taking the pressure off their leg muscles. When you’re on these machines, stop holding onto the sides, and keep good posture the whole time. The machine is just there to support you, so you don’t have to death grip the handles like you’re gonna fall over. Plus, when you’re hunched over, you’re taking the exercise away from your legs, so you just end up burning less calories than you could have if your form was right.
4. Your Squats
Squats are obv the go-to butt exercise at the moment, and butts are like, so hot right now. Why do you think Khloé Kardashian has 70 million Instagram followers? It’s not because of her denim brand. Squats are one of those exercises that could be super effective if they’re done right, but if they’re not, you could seriously hurt yourself. And embarrass yourself. Whether you’re doing bodyweight squats or holding a kettlebell or dumbbells, make sure you keep your gaze forward the entire time and go as low as possible at the bottom. So many people look down at the ground or just sit halfway down, and it’s just so stupid. You’re setting yourself up for a neck or lower back injury and you’re not getting the full range of motion. Half-ass your squats and end up with half an ass. It’s as simple as that.
5. Your Lunges
Lunges are another move that are amazing for your butt and legs, but so many people screw up their form on these, and it’s pretty tragic to watch. Make sure that when you lunge forward, you’re not over-extending your knee so that it’s past your foot. Otherwise, you’re literally asking for an injury. You want your legs to be at a 90 degree angle, with your back knee basically hitting the ground. Again—it’s about FULL range of motion. You can do a million lunges that are basically big steps, but that won’t do anything for your body. Fix your form and the difference will show. You’ll also be sore AF tomorrow, but let’s move past that already. It’s getting old.
6. Your Rep Count
A lot of people come to the gym and pick up the lightest weights just to do 10 million reps and put them away without even breaking a sweat. News flash: if you’ve been doing bicep curls using 5 pound weights for the past year, it’s time to graduate. Not every gym session has to look like the SoulCycle arm series, so let’s start using some heavier weights every now and then. We promise you won’t bulk up, so shut up about that. Doing a lot of reps of light weights for a long time will just lead you to plateau, and you’ll end up wasting your time at the gym if you don’t up your weights. Try picking up heavier weights and doing less reps. It might feel weird at first if it’s not what you’re used to, but your body needs to change things up sometimes to see changes. Trust us.
7. Your Treadmill Run
If you’re one of those girls who can spend hours on the treadmill without wanting to die, congratulations on being an actual psychopath. Treadmills are more boring than a 90-minute restorative yoga class, and it’s not even like we have anything better to do. With that being said, if you’re doing a treadmill workout, you might as well be doing it right. So many people look down when they’re on the treadmill, and it’s literally a recipe for disaster. Not only can you lose your balance and eat shit on the Equinox floor, but you can also strain the back of your neck and misalign the rest of your body. To run on the treadmill properly, keep your gaze straight and your chest open. You’ll be able to run for a longer amount of time and you’ll probably be less sore the next day.
8. Your Ab Routine
Everyone loves working their abs. It’s like, you know you won’t be able to laugh tomorrow, but it’s worth it because you’re literally gonna have a six-pack by Halloween. Here’s the thing you’re missing: Anyone can make their abs sore by doing half-ass bicycle crunches and a bunch of side planks, but unless you’re slowing down the movements and making sure your form is right, you won’t see any changes on your stomach. When doing exercises like crunches, planks, and sit-ups, make sure you’re going as slow as possible, totally engaging your core and doing complete reps. If you’re doing super fast bicycle crunches for two minutes and barely even engaging your core, you’re wasting your time and you’re not gonna get abs anytime soon. Sorry. You can try Sears.