We have all been beginners at something and felt lost. But in this day and age, where everyone carries a cellphone with a camera, and is waiting to pounce on the latest and greatest "fail", mistakes or lack of knowledge rarely go undocumented in the gym. Some mistakes will get you on someone's fail compilation, while other's will just inhibit your ability to get the results you want. To follow are 4 of the most common traps that beginners and even more experienced exercisers fall in to that will stunt your growth and limit your results.
Isolation exercises Beginners often take their programs from magazines, ads, and media content. There are 2 major problems with this: 1) Most workouts in magazines are from interviews with body builders, not real people with jobs, kids and responsibilities 2) The media doesn't know squat about real fitness. Chances are, they are trying to sell you something. Remember, sex sells. A fitness model in booty shorts doing a single leg glute extension is sexy, and it sells magazines, supplements, clothes, etc, but if your goal is to lose 20 pounds, the only thing this exercise is making an ass out of, is you. Don't waste your time on isolation exercises. Because they don't involve compound movements (ie. activate multiple muscles) they don't burn many calories and don't give you much value for your time. For instance, instead of doing a bicep curl, do a reverse pushup; not only are you working our your biceps, but you are getting back, shoulder, and core engagement, to boot.
Following fads rather than mastering the basics Functional movements are good, but beginners on the fail list seem to have mastered a new category of fitness: Dysfunctional Movements. Not every exercise needs a twist, a roll, or 12 pieces of equipment. Before you do anything else at the gym, master these movement patterns: squat, deadlift, lunge, chest press, row, shoulder press. All other movement patterns stem from these foundational lifts. Once you master these, then you can add a standing back tuck. There is a reason that there are "classic" lifts, it is because they have withstood the test of time and are shown to bring results. Period.
Mixing up workouts too much (routine is not overrated) I get it. You don't want to be bored at the gym. You want new and exciting exercises that will stimulate your muscles and challenge your brain. But if you don't repeat some of the same exercises, you are missing the basic foundation of resistance training, progressive overload. Progressive overload is the act of gradually increasing the amount of weight you lift in your exercises to continually challenge your body to become stronger. If you do an exercise twice a month, you are not allowing your body the repetitions it needs to adapt and overcome. In addition, it is rare that a newbie comes in to the gym and has perfect form in all exercises (like rainbow unicorn rare), if you don't repeat exercises (essentially practicing them), you will struggle with making the minor adjustments to form that produces optimal results.
Lifting with your eyes instead of your muscles Picking up a lot of weight off the floor is sweet, I agree. Having your lumbar spine rip out of your lower back as you deadlift is less sweet. Perhaps the biggest epidemic among young male lifters is lifting eye heavy, rather than muscle heavy. Too many times have I seen exercisers squirm and twist and bend under weight that is simply too much for them. I always say form and function over fashion. Lifting heavy weight LOOKS cool, but if you have to cheat to lift it, chances are it isn't doing what you think it is for your fitness. A perfectly formed squat through a maximal range of motion at 100lbs is infinitely better than a sketchy half squat at 200lbs any day of the week.
The gym is not a place I take satisfaction in seeing people fail. In fact, as a personal trainer, there are few things more painful and gut-wrenching than seeing an exerciser doing something that is un-beneficial and even dangerous. If you are new to the gym or wonder whether you are doing exercises properly, I recommend enlisting the help of a trainer for 2 or 3 sessions. This can save you a world of grief, will get you faster results, and will keep you off of the 2015 Youtube Gym Fail Compilation.