There are some topics that just sweep the American nation and suddenly become all anyone talks about. Kylie’s pregnancy. Game of Thrones. The new La Croix flavors. And of course, the trendiest workout classes. If you’re not part of the convo, it’s awkward. Fitness classes are becoming more popular by the second, and betches are flocking towards them like the birds flying south for winter. With so many newbies in all these classes, you’re probably doing a lot of shit wrong. I mean, the trainers at most of these studios are usually legit, but they aren’t watching your every move, so you could be screwing up without realizing. Here are 6 mistakes you’re making in your workout class.
1. Using The Lightest Weights Available
We know most spin classes only offer one- and two-pound weights, but right now we’re talking about classes that have a strength training component, not only cardio. If you’re taking any sort of HIIT training class with weights or a circuit-based class, you need to be challenging yourself with the weights you use, or else you’re wasting your time and money. It makes sense to grab the lightest weights if you’re a total newbie, but if you’ve come a handful of times and haven’t changed your weights yet, your body will plateau and you’ll stop seeing results. Grab a weight that’s hard enough but not too heavy that you’ll literally injure yourself after one squat. Like, the goal is to be sore tomorrow. Not crippled.
2. Doing The Moves Too Fast
This is a huge problem in basically every single class, whether you’re doing pilates, barre, yoga, HIIT, or boxing. Even if the class is supposed to be high-intensity, a lot of the exercises are actually more effective if you do them slower and really control the movement. We’re talking about exercises like bicycle crunches, pulsing squats, dumbbell rows, and plank dips. If you’re not feeling the muscle you’re supposed to be working, you’re going too fast and you need to chill. Not every part of class has to be your fastest sprint, so try to actually think about the muscle you’re working, and SLOW DOWN to really feel the burn. By rushing through the movements, you’re totally defeating the purpose of the workout.
3. Putting Pressure On Your Knees
A lot of classes do lower-body leg work, and that’s when your form actually matters. A lot. Whether you’re looking to strengthen, tone, burn, grow—or whatever the hell they’re selling you on—you need to stop putting pressure on your knees. Doing exercises like squats and lunges can be super tough on your joints if your form is wrong, so make sure your knees are completely behind your feet during these movements, or else you’ll end up pressing down on the joint and hurting yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re using your heaviest weight or no weight at all. Your body weighs enough to strain your knee, so just take your time and fix your form before you do any damage. No one wants to tell people they got injured in a Tracy Anderson class.
4. Leaning Forward On The Treadmill
Treadmill classes have been huge lately, and it’s probably because everyone realized how boring the treadmill is when you don’t have someone yelling at you to speed up every 30 seconds. Classes like Barry’s Bootcamp and Mile High Run Club are effective and hard AF, but they don’t always correct your form when you’re running, so you need to take matters into our own hands. When you’re running on the treadmill, stop leaning forward and stop looking down. You’ll end up over striding, which means you’ll put unnecessary pressure on your hips and knees. Remember, your foot should be landing beneath you, not in front of you. Keep your core engaged and your posture straight and try to look forward. Oh, and please stop holding onto the sides. You’re literally cheating.
5. Giving Up When You Feel The Burn
This refers to any sort of endurance training, whether you’re burning your muscles in barre or doing a 60-minute spin class. Basically, when you put your body through an endurance workout, it’s tempting to give up when you get tired or your muscles start burning. What you don’t realize, however, is that the burn just means your body is being challenged in a way it’s not used to. It doesn’t mean you should stop squatting when your legs start shaking and you’re a little uncomfortable. Don’t be that girl who stands up in barre before the teacher says, “10 more seconds.” I mean, you’ve already paid $38 for this class, and an extra $12 for the special socks. Don’t ruin it for yourself.
6. Not Warming Up & Not Stretching
People tend to think warming up before a workout and stretching afterwards is a friendly suggestion. Kind of like getting edamame with your sushi order—not necessary, but recommended to just round out the experience. Well, it’s not. If you don’t warm up before your workout, you could end up majorly injuring yourself and shocking your system. Your blood needs to start moving before the workout, whether that means doing some jumping jacks before class, jogging to the studio, or doing some arm circles in the locker room when no one’s looking. The stretch after class is even more important, considering the fact that you’ll be sore AF tomorrow. I know the shower line is long, but it’s literally like three more minutes of your time to stay through the stretching portion. You’ll thank yourself when you can get out of bed tomorrow.
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.