Going it alone
Almost 40 percent of men prefer to work out alone, according to a study published in the Sport & Exercise Psychology Review, but training with a buddy offers huge advantages. You won’t be able to duck out of a session, you’ll have a friendly rival to keep you motivated and – most importantly – you’ll have someone to help prise the bar off your chest after one too many bench presses.
Not listening to music
If you’ve left your MP3 player in your locker, go back and get it right away. Listening to music while working out not only drowns out inane chatter from the more annoying gym-goers, it also improves performance and lowers your perceived rate of exertion. Research from the University of Wisconsin found that songs with around 135 beats per minute – similar to your heart rate during a session of aerobic exercise – were the most effective in making subjects feel positive while working out.
Going too heavy
Ego is an ugly thing, especially in the gym. It’s always tempting to pick up a heavier weight, but if you get only halfway through a set of squats before ending up squashed flat on the floor then it’s time to accept the weight is just too heavy and drop it down. Doing each set to completion is the best way to work your muscles hard and going too heavy can be dangerous if your form isn’t perfect.
Doing the same thing week in, week out
The human body is remarkable in its ability to adapt quickly. That’s why even if you make rapid gains in the first two weeks of a training program, your progression may stall after a month: your muscles have adapted to the stimulus and can cope with this workout easily. Shaking up your training program – whether it’s the exercises you do, the number of reps and sets, the speed of each rep or the length of each rest period – is the only surefire way to keep making gains.
Training for too long
Testosterone levels peak about 40 minutes into a session, after which the stress hormone Cortisol rises, something which prevents muscle growth. Limit weights sessions to an hour, including warm-up and warm-down. And keep cardio sessions high in intensity for greater fat loss and an increase in V02 max, according to a study in the Journal Of Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise.
Not going all the way
You see it all the time – the guy on a bench bouncing the weight off his chest and up just a few centimeters before repeating the process. But moving your muscles through their full range of motion is more effective at promoting muscle growth because it means they have to work harder with every rep. And keep each one smooth and controlled.
Only working the ‘mirror muscles’
Shoulders, pecs, biceps, abs and quads. These muscles are the ones we see most in the mirror, and that’s why they’re the ones many men focus on. But dedicating the majority of sessions to these vanity muscle groups at the expense of your upper and lower back, glutes and hamstrings results in muscular imbalances and injury, including lower-back pain.
Believing sit-ups will build a six-pack
Sit-ups are among the best exercises for building strong… hip flexors. What they won’t do is carve a solid six-pack. For that, you need to do high-intensity cardio to maximize fat burn combined with compound lifts, such as squats and overhead presses, and abs-specific moves, such as planks, reverse crunches and hanging leg raises.