You may go to a gym to work out, or you may have designed a home program with a treadmill, perhaps a lat pull down device and a few weights. But wherever you train, there are five common mistakes you definitely want to avoid.
The first – and biggest – mistake is starting your workout without a warmup. Yes, it's true that getting your muscles, tendons and ligaments freshly accustomed to being moved helps the tissues to be more pliant and elastic, thus extending your range of motion and helping to protect against injury. But those are not the only reasons to do a minimum of 10 minutes of rhythmic movement. Your real goal in any warmup is to start your synovial fluid flowing.
Synovial fluid is a substance that lubricates the larger joints. It's slightly thick, a bit like egg white. It begins flowing between the joints in response to repeated movement such as a warmup, and helps prevent the rubbing and friction of bone on bone. When you're lifting weights, a good flow of synovial fluid helps protect your joints and keeps them healthy for a longer time. When a joint isn't being moved, synovial fluid retreats into the cartilage. Movement causes it to begin to flow again to lubricate the joint. When working out, you want the joints of your shoulders, elbows, hips and knees to be well lubricated.
Now comes the two big treadmill mistakes: First, do you hold on with your hands while walking or jogging on the treadmill? If so, you are losing more than half of its benefit. One of the big gains that comes from using this machine is improved balance. When you hold on, your hands and arms are holding you in a balanced position. There's no improvement in your sense of balance. Let go and walk or jog hands free. You'll notice the difference immediately.
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Next for the treadmill: Do you only walk forward while using it? That's a bad technique, because both life and sport requires many different ranges of motion. You also use different parts of your foot and ankle. So turn around and walk backwards on the machine, thus getting a more well-rounded workout for your lower body and feet.
Now for the fourth big mistake: Do you do all your sets of the same exercise one after another, tiring out the targeted muscles? If so, how will these exhausted muscles perform when doing other exercises which require their involvement, even if they are not targeted? Instead of doing set after set of the same thing, do a 'superset' routine. Go through every movement you intend to do, then come back and start the cycle all over again. Always keep moving, using your muscles in different positions, not allowing toxins to build up from repeating the same movement over and over again.
Finally, how long do you rest between sets? Do you just sit, or stand idly, talking to someone instead of keeping your body in action? Why would you want to waste the time you spent getting your blood flowing, benefiting from the nutrients your bloodstream is delivering to your tissues, and also benefiting from the toxins that the bloodstream carries away? Why would you ever want to let the oxygen pump-up that your workout is now delivering to your muscles, fade away? Rest between one and three minutes between sets, but no longer. In fact, doing a superset routine means your 'rest' becomes little more than walking to the next machine or set of weights that you intend to use.
Wina Sturgeon is the editor of the online magazine Adventure Sports Weekly , which offers the latest training, diet and athletic information.