Not seeing results after months of working out? Four top personal trainers tell us what the main mistakes they see people making are, and how you can set them straight. How many of these are you guilty of?
Natasha Marcusfield (Personal Trainer and Nutritional Adviser)
1. Sticking to the same routine
Doing the same workout time and time again causes you to become bored and may stop you pushing yourself to your maximum, and therefore you won’t see the results you want. Find a range of workouts and classes – this will keep your mind and body challenged and will stop the gym session feeling like a slog.
2. Not using your time effectively
Finding time to workout is often an issue for people. Instead of a low intensity 45 minute run on the treadmill, why not try a 20-minute High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout instead? Not only do they require a shorter amount of time, but HIIT workouts are also an effective way to burn fat and tone muscles quickly.
Charley Crivari (Personal Trainer and Fitness Manager, Virgin Active)
3. Running at the same intensity
Your body will soon get used to a routine. Instead, keep it guessing. Give this HIIT routine a go next time you are on the treadmill:
- Start with a steady pace that you are comfortable with on a slight incline
- Put the speed up to a sprint, hold for 10 seconds and then bring back down to your normal pace.
- Repeat this every minute for 20 minutes
This exercise will increase your fitness, power and pace, and also burn lots more calories and fat due to your body going in and out of the anaerobic and aerobic zones. You will feel like you have worked a lot harder than you would after a 20 minute run at one pace, and you’ll sweat a lot more too.
4. Doing an hour long weights session
Rather than spending an hour in the free weights section or on the machines, give yourself 30-45 minutes to complete the same workout. Create a circuit for yourself and complete as many rounds as you can in your allotted time. Choose from 3-4 different exercises from below and aim to complete 3-4 sets:
Upper Body Circuit
Lower Body Circuit
Core Body Circuit
Not only will you be burning calories in your weight workout, but by doing repeated sets in a short time frame, you’ll be getting a cardio workout at the same time and building toned, lean muscle.
Garry Kerr (Head of Training and Operations at British Military Fitness)
5. The tummy sagging/hips dropping during the plank phase of a burpee
If your tummy is sagging during a plank, you could potentially strain your lower back. To make sure you’re doing it right, imagine pulling your belly button up towards your spine – this will help to control your core. Also remember to control your breathing – holding your breath lowers the oxygen entering your body, damaging your form in the process.
6. Doing a ‘mini’ push up i.e not getting the chest close to the ground
There are a few issues that can cause this problem. The first is poor technique – where your head reaches the floor first and doesn’t enable you to gain full range of movement. To prevent this from happening, keep the spine and neck aligned so that when you lower yourself down, your face is at the same height as your chest.
The second cause of the ‘mini’ push up can be a lack of strength. If you’re struggling, drop to your knees and start the push up by lying flat on the ground. Remember to fully extend the arms, and, once you feel comfortable doing it on your knees, progress to the full push up.
7. Pulling on your neck and head when crunching with hands behind ears
Clasping your hands behind your head actually makes the exercise less effective. Not only will it create a jerking movement, but it will also put some of your posterior muscles under strain, taking away the abdominal region’s exercise as a result. Instead of pulling on your head, place your fingers on the side instead. Also, if you want something a little tougher, extend your arms above your head.
Tom Atkinson (Head Trainer and Master Coach, Virgin Active)
8. Not having a plan
Countless times I see people wandering around the gym aimlessly trying to decide what they might do next or what they fancy doing next, which funnily enough usually turns out to be the same exercises they enjoy the most. The problem here is they then wonder why they are not seeing any progress and stagnate. Training should be treated like work and everyday life – you always want to progress and do better so start by deciding on your goal and then create a plan that will help you achieve this. This can include balanced full body weight training sessions, effective classes, such as like Virgin Active’s GRID and twentyfour, or even a split full body programme throughout the week to make sure you hit every muscle group. The main aim is to make the days you are in the gym structured and use your time wisely making sure you don’t just stick to your favourite exercises and machines as this will halt your progress and potentially be detrimental.
9. Getting distracted
Technology is a blessing and a curse, but, in the gym, it’s generally the latter. There isn’t any reason why you should use social media while at the gym – flicking through your news feed distracts you from sticking to your rest time and focusing on doing better in your next set. Texting and phone calls also have no place at the gym as your training session is your time and can be used as an excellent stress relief so keep it that way. Either leave your phone in the locker, or, if needed for music or as a timer, switch it onto aeroplane mode as soon as you step in the gym.
Chit chat is another distraction and too many people get into this habit. Remember this is your time and you can catch up with people after your training in the locker room or in the sauna and steam rooms. To avoid small talk put headphones in, even if you’re not listening to music. You will be surprised at the difference it makes to others distracting you.
10. Focusing on specific body parts
So many people either focus on a particular area – be they arms, chest, legs, glutes – for too long, or try to cover too much in one session. If you fall into either of these categories, you’re missing some beneficial and time effective exercises.
If you’re only training 2-3 times a week, don’t get caught up doing half a session of bicep curls and crunches. Instead choose exercises that incorporate the use of these muscle groups whilst also demanding more energy and promoting the increase of beneficial hormones, such as squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, lunges, cleans and presses. These can all be modified, depending on your ability, using kettle bells, Dumbbells or Bulgarian bags, so don’t get caught up thinking you have to lift with a bar – it doesn’t suit lots of people so use these alternatives to create the same movement and demand without the level of risk.
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