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- Ten Gym Mistakes Beginners MakeAnd How To Avoid Them
Originally featured in: Men's Fitness
Being new at the gym is awkward enough, but starting a workout program without knowing what you're doing is far worse. In our attempt to impart enlightenment for the weight-room initiate, we present 10 common mistakes you should know about -- immediately.
Using incorrect form while bench pressing (dumbbell or barbell):
Regardless of whom you see doing it at the gym, don't pick your feet up from the floor when you bench. Some people tell you to keep your feet up so you don't arch your back during the movement. But if you have to arch your back, you're benching way beyond your abilities. Switch to a lighter weight to ensure that your feet are always solidly planted. This will keep you from toppling off the bench and injuring yourself or others.
Holding your breath:
This may seem ridiculously obvious, but remember to breathe when you lift. Sometimes, when an activity is new, you concentrate so much on doing it correctly that you forget to let your body do its natural things, like breathing. The breathing pattern for lifting is to exhale on the positive phase (pushing or pulling the weight) and inhale on the negative (lowering the weight). Holding your breath can raise your blood pressure and, if you hold it long enough, cause fainting.
Not using collars:
Always use collars on the bars when you're working without a spotter. Everybody has a weaker side of the body, and this weakness is exaggerated in the initial phases of weight training. During a lift, the bar may begin to lean imperceptibly toward the weaker side of the body. As it tilts, the plates slide downward until they suddenly spill off the bar and the opposite side drops in a quick seesaw action-- accompanied by a loud clanging of iron. You're left standing or lying red-faced, not physically hurt, perhaps, but definitely diminished in the pectoral pecking order. Use collars.
Fearing that you'll get too big:
Don't ever say this in the gym, or you'll instantly be branded a gymbecile. The reality is that few people put on as much muscle as they want; most settle for a physique better than the one they started with, but hardly the one they idealize. Remember: A pound of muscle is approximately the size of a baseball, while a pound of fat is about the size of a softball. In other words, you can add plenty of lean muscle before your biceps burst through your shirt sleeves.
Hang around a gym long enough and, sooner or later, you'll either be asked to spot or need one yourself. If you suspect you're going to need a spot, ask for it. Gym rats are always more than willing, and it's much better to ask quietly for a spot than to scream loudly for help once you're in trouble. If you're asked to spot a guy who's benching 500 pounds and you know you couldn't roll that, much less lift it, be honest and say so. To fail as a spotter and endanger someone is unforgivable.
Trying to spot reduce:
There's no such thing. If you have a belly, wearing a plastic suit or some sort of gizmo around your stomach as you exercise won't transform your legendary flab into equally fabulous abs. Neither will doing 20,000 crunches a day. The only way to develop and see your abs is to exercise and watch your diet. You can have the strongest abs in the world, but if they're swathed in fat, no one will ever see them.
Starting too heavy:
Resist the temptation to lift as much as you can the first few times in the gym, even if the smaller guy next to you is lifting more. While your muscles may be able to lift the weight, your connective tissues probably aren't ready for it. Go for high reps the first few times and gradually work your way heavier, especially in pushing exercises such as the bench press and any of the shoulder exercises.
There's no sense in building stronger muscles without corresponding strength in the connective tissue to avoid injury. And there's no sense in trying to outlift that smaller guy if you shorten your limbs in the process.
Playing a personal stereo too loudly:
Wearing a personal stereo is a good idea if you don't like the music in the gym. We all know music picks up spirit and energy, but remember to keep it low. Headphones regularly emit more than 100 dBA. Sustained exposure to sounds over 85 dBA can cause temporary damage or permanent hearing loss. If you can't hear somebody speaking to you in a normal voice, turn it down. No sense becoming buff and deaf.
Not drinking enough water:
Your blood is 85 percent water, your brain 75 percent and your muscles 70 percent. Drink lots of it. If a muscle is dehydrated by 3 percent, it loses 10 percent of its contractile strength. Drink before you're thirsty. By the time you're conscious of thirst, you're already partially dehydrated, which can adversely affect stamina and concentration. To keep from becoming a stumbling, mumbling gym zombie, drink water. It's even calorie-free.
Wearing a weight belt:
Don't wear a weight belt when you're just starting out. The weight you use shouldn't be so heavy that you need a belt to lift it (if you have back problems, see a doctor before starting). Wearing a belt can cause you to develop poor lifting habits, such as not consciously tightening your abs as you lift. If you have to wear a belt, remember to loosen it between sets. A tight belt can raise blood pressure and cause ulcer-like symptoms, such as heartburn or abdominal pain. Remember, the belt is designed to help support the lower back, not act as a girdle.
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