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6 Biggest Exercise Mistakes Nearly Everyone Makes

girl doing a hamstring stretchThroughout my own life I have made nearly every exercise mistake in the book. Making these failures and learning from them makes you a better athlete. However, learning from other people’s mistakes makes you smarter. Here are the 6 biggest mistakes I’ve made before, and nearly everyone will make in their lifetime.

Doing Exercise You Don’t Enjoy

I used to think that to be fit or to look a certain way I had to do this or that particular exercise. I was wrong, and my motivation suffered as a result. Working out should make you happy. You should get excited abut the thought of your workout. If you’re always dreading tomorrow’s workout, how do you expect this healthy habit to last a lifetime? Find physical activity you enjoy and love and you will never exercise a day in your life.

Find out how to make exercise your playtime.

Doing Too Much Exercise

Exercise is great, so more is better – right? Wrong. I’ve tried to out-exercise a bad diet in the past and have failed miserably every time. The amount of exercise needed to “cancel” out a bad meal is enormous. In addition, it has always lead to an injury. It certainly is possible to do hours of intense exercise a day, but it’s something that has to be worked up to. For most people that want to be fit and health and look good doing it, a few intense workouts a week combined with staying active is plenty to get the job done.

Read more about whether your exercise routine is sustainable long term.

Exercising Through Injuries

Even to this day I have a tough time with this one. I always seem to get an injury at the peek of my motivation. I don’t want to stop exercising – and I don’t. Dumb! As a result, I push through the pain and the injury never gets better. I go through the 5 stages of grief before I do the right thing – rest the injury. I know you don’t want to stop, but trust me, the longer you put off recovery of the injury, the longer you’re going to have to wait before you can go at full intensity. Nagging injuries are a pain in the butt.

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Not Warming Up Correctly

Throughout school I was taught to warm up properly by doing static stretches. Static stretches are stretches you hold for a period of time. For example, bending over and touching your toes and holding for 10 seconds. Later in life I found out that this did little for improving muscular performance or reducing injuries. Instead, dynamic stretching is where it’s at. Dynamic stretching produces significantly greater performance when compared to static stretching protocols [1].

Read more about how to warm up properly for a workout.

Thinking You Need to Separate Strength and Cardio Training

More and more people are discovering the benefits of high-intensity interval training. I used to come from a bodybuilding background where strength training and cardio were two separate workouts. This training became so popularized that people started to forget that cardio is simply cardiovascular training. Cardiovascular training can also be accomplished at the same time as strength training. You just need to push the intensity of your workouts. HIIT is a great way to do this.

Read more about HIIT and see why it’s so great for burning fat and building muscle.

Working Out Your Ego Instead of Your Muscles

In my younger lifting career, I wouldn’t be caught dead doing an exercise that didn’t have a significant amount of weight on the bar. I was the king of the quarter squat. But boy did my ego feel good. Unfortunately, this came at the expense of muscle growth. Today, this is still one of the biggest exercise mistakes I see in the gym. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Work out with a weight that allows you to use proper form and move through the full range of motion. If you need an ego stroking, there are better ways.

Are you or have you been guilty of making these same mistakes? What mistakes have you made that aren’t on the list?

  • Catia Silvestre

    Something that I see a lot and drives me crazy is the conception that the ladies area in a gym is where the cardio training machines are, strength training is beneficial to women as well as men and can provide better and more lasting results. Why is this so stereotyped?

    • Coach Calorie

      I think there’s a lot of reasons for that. Fears that lifting weights will make women look bulky. Intimidation of the weight room. But you’re right, women should be strength training.

      • Sharon Thompson

        I love kettlebells brilliant mix of cardio and strength training

    • Jen Denver Broncos Neargardner

      Catia I deal with the perception that I must be a lesbian because I workout with only free weights and dumbbells. I lift heavy and hard. The stereotype that strong women must be of the dyke/lesbian persuasion is incredibly frustrating, however, it motivates me to put the “stupid” men in their place. I’m proud of my muscle, strength, and bulk.

      • Cindy Loomis Clark

        I would have thought by this time that misconception had been wiped out to oblivion. Keep up the good work Jen. I’m now in my 3rd month of going back to weights, again. It’s the fastest way to ‘transform’ the look of your body when combined with cardio and eating right.

      • 1096

        Once you figure out that you don’t need to put anyone in their place, you might just find happiness.

      • sandy

        thats casue men are intimidated by strong women and its easier to just call you a name or assume you are gay

  • planetshark

    Great post Tony! I particularly can relate to “Thinking You Need to Separate Strength and Cardio Training” since most of my new fitness clients can’t believe high-intensity strength training is where it’s at until their results prove otherwise.

    • Coach Calorie

      Seeing is believing :)

      For many people, HIIT will provide them with the exact physique they want.

  • stacy D

    i worked on my ego today…tried hard to forget about everyone else in boot camp and do MY best…stayed grounded, but got my knees up to where they should be…form before speed/weights…one day at a time

    • Coach Calorie

      Congrats Stacy. No need to worry about anyone else. That’s comparing apples to oranges.

  • Alan Smith 

    Exercising through an injury has been my biggest hurdle to overcome. And yes, the injury seems to come and my highest motivational peak!

    I have only been exercising regularly for the past 2 and a half years, of being overweight (115kg, 166cm). I started with gym work and swimming and once I broke the 100kg weight barrier, I started running.
    I then fell for the ‘more is better’ myth and injured my ankle during a training run. I was told to not run by my physio, but there was little improvement with my injury.So after 6 weeks of no running I went ahead and completed my first half-marathon last June which put me back further.
    At around the 93kg (and slowly dropping) weight mark, I now have an ankle, that seems to be tender after every run, along with a number of other ‘niggly’ joints/muscles.
    I’m torn between stopping the running altogether (which drove me crazy last time) until all the niggles disappear (what if they don’t?), doing lighter sessions and just giving myself longer recovery periods after a longer run.
    I’m still swimming and have recently got back into some strength training in the gym, but I do love running!

    • Coach Calorie

      Yes, it’s hard! I have a shoulder and foot injury, which means I can’t do any of the things I love doing – upper body pressing movements, and sprints/agility training. I walked for 2 straight months. Finally decided to buy a bike, and I plan on doing sprints on them.

      If you don’t rest it, it will never get better. Better to take 6 months off from running to get better and then run the rest of your life, than to be in pain for the rest of your life. In the meantime, try to find something else you still enjoy.

  • Gail

    Gosh, I’m living proof of most of this.Exercising through injuries, I did high intensity training with injured calf muscles, ended up really badly hurt.

    Exercising far too much, I used to be morbidly obese, eating 26 bars of chocolate a day; went onto lose 1/2 my body weight, got really addicted to exercise, I exercised 15-20 hours a week. In the end I finally had to do nothing for months, had to have extensive physio, now a strength and conditioning coach is helping me get back to exerise slowly. If only I had stuck to sensible levels of exercise and not exercised through injured calf muscles I wouldn’t have ended up in excruiating pain.

  • Coach Calorie

    I’m sorry to hear that Gail. At least you’ll be able to learn from your mistake. Hope you’re able to heal and get active again :)

  • Allison

    Oh my goodness I love this article! I couldn’t agree more on choosing an exercise that you really enjoy. I love, love, love to run and so I do. And I really look forward to it. I have to force myself to do weight training but I know I should. I love HIIT work outs and I need to find some that incorporate weights so I can get that in. Great article.

  • diane

    Love your ‘hate scales’. My hubby and I have this battle all the time. He loves, I hate. My question is coach,,I love to exercise but haven’t tried kettlebells yet. Is there a proper way to use them without hurting your lower back? Being a nurse for years, my back is always at that tipsy place of how far too push. Are they worth trying for the benefit you get from them? Thanks…Diane..

  • Coach Calorie

    Hi Diane, there is a proper way to do them. My advice would be to actually see it performed. Go to YouTube and search for kettlebell exercises and study their form.

  • Cindy Scott

    Ego issues is where and when I get into trouble and get injured. Great article. Thanks!!

  • Denise

    Tony, you make perfect sense! Thanks for the tips…

  • Liesl

    Hi, I’m 25 years old, 159lbs, 5ft5 and 22% body fat, I’ve already lost 3% in the last 3months, and gained some muscle, obviously not fast enough, but I’m trying to be patient, because I only recently got my metabolism out of starvation mode, I ate less than 1200cal a day, now I eat 1200cal. I know I should be eating more for my bodyweight, but I’m so scared I’ll gain more weight if I up my calories to 1600cal. I do an hour cardio (spinning) every morning, and 30min weight training in the evening, I track all my calories on calorieking, but still not loosing weight. Is my body still in starvation mode, is that why I’m not loosing 2lbs a week and how can I safely get to my correct calorie intake without gaining too much? Thanks

  • Coach Calorie

    Don’t worry about losing 2lbs/week. Aim for .5% body fat per week. Up your calories by 50-100 each week. Increasing your calories slowly is the key to fixing your metabolism. Read this article –

  • Pamela

    I have a question…I started a program called STS by Cathe Friedrich which uses mesocycles of muscle endurance for a month at 65% of your 1RM, hypertrophy for a month at 70% of your 1RM, and then strength for a month at 80% of your IRM. I was doing fine until I hit the third month where I started the strength at 80% and I noticed that my left arm was significantly weaker than the right. I had to lower the weight for exercises on the left arm or do fewer reps than my right arm because the left just does not have the strength. I have had no injuries to the left arm, but it seems like my forearm is what is preventing me from lifting heavier on the left. I have been a medical transcriptionist for 20 years and have used my forearms a lot in typing, so that may be a contributing factor. Is this unusual and is there a method to even out the strength in both arms so that they are equal in strength?

    • Coach Calorie

      It’s not unusual if you’re a beginner. It usually doesn’t take long to correct the imbalance. Make sure you’re doing a combination of dumbbell and barbell exercises.

  • Jelka Zivkovic McConachie

    Great post!