Baffling Blunders at the Gym

It can be painful for fitness trainers to go into a gym and watch others exercise. They can easily spot many training mistakes. Some of them can be quite harmful. Here, are some of the biggest training problems they see and how they can be fixed.

Crunch Time

Abdominal exercises are often done incorrectly. Some of the blame for this lies with the fitness industry. In group fitness classes, some instructors have people do more crunches than needed without paying much attention to making them effective.

The first thing to watch with ab work is form. Slowly squeeze your ab muscles, while keeping your lower back in contact with the floor or mat and your heels on the floor. One trick is to imagine you have a grapefruit between your chin and your chest. Your goal is to lift your shoulders off the floor, look up at the ceiling, and keep your ab muscles tight during the lifting and lowering stages.

Do your crunches slowly and keep your elbows parallel to your ears. This will keep you from pulling on your head and neck. Placing your hands behind your ears instead of lacing your fingers together can also help keep you from pulling.

When you are able to do 10 to 25 correct crunches with ease, then you can add weight, declines, and stability balls for a greater challenge.

The Funky Chicken

Some people do biceps curls so quickly that they look like a chicken flapping its wings. Part of the problem with this is that you do not move through a full range of motion. This means you are not working the muscle to its peak.

Another problem is that when you move the weights and your arms this quickly, the momentum is doing the work and not your muscles.

The quick and easy cure for this problem is to slow down. If you are seated on a weight bench, exhale slowly as you bring the dumbbells toward your shoulders. Hold your position by keeping your back, shoulders, and feet in place. Then inhale and slowly lower the dumbbells by bringing the weights back to their starting positions.

The Hercules Syndrome

Trying to lift too much weight is a common mistake, especially among men. It can also be very unsafe. Three things can happen:

  • You jerk the weight up and place a lot of strain on the joints.
  • You do not move through a full range of motion.
  • You are using momentum, not muscle.

All of these problems can raise the risk of injury. If you do not know the weight you should be lifting, ask a trainer for help.

The Big Y (for Yawn, That Is)

If you begin to get bored with your exercise routine, it is time to mix things up before you give up. Boredom can set in when you go to the gym and workout the same way every time. You can ward off boredom with interval training. You can also vary the machines you use and the exercises you do. Think about making an appointment with a personal trainer to get advice on your program and how to add variety.

The Herky-Jerky

Many people make the mistake of not warming up. Others may stretch too quickly. The best warm up for an aerobic activity is to start off slow and then pick up speed for about 15 to 20 minutes. This can be done on a treadmill or exercise bike before you do any strength training. After you do your strength training, you can cool down by stretching your warm muscles.

Spot Not!

Be sure to take a whole body approach to exercising. Do not focus on working a particular area that you would like to improve, such as your love handles. You will want a program that has cardio and strength training for all major muscle groups.

Learn the Right Methods

Take the time to learn correct exercise form before you do it. Read trusted fitness magazines, books, and websites. Set up an appointment with a personal trainer. Many clubs offer or even require new fitness members to have instruction on the equipment before using it on their own. Use this time to ask questions and really try out the equipment. Take notes and schedule a second, third, or fourth appointment if needed. Before you know it, you will be on your way to a safer, more effective workout and better health.


American Council on Exercise
President's Council on Physical Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition


Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine


ACSM guidelines for strength training. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: Accessed June 22, 2021.
Battling boredom. ACE website. Available at: Accessed June 22, 2021.
How to do crunches. ACE website. Available at: Accessed June 22, 2021.
Seated bicep curl. ACE website. Available at: Accessed June 22, 2021.
Should I train my abdominals every day? Also, what ab exercises are best? ACE website. Available at: Accessed June 22, 2021.
So, you want to spot reduce? Here's how. ACE website. Available at: Accessed June 22, 2021.
Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 6/22/2021

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