The 9 Biggest Mistakes You're Making At The Gym

And more importantly, how to fix them

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Whether you're lifting too heavy, eating at the wrong times or not limbering up for your workout, the gym is an error-strewn minefield for men, littered with bad backs and beer bellies.

Luckily we have Esquire fitness expert Harry Jameson on hand to talk you through the most common errors that men make in the gym, the kitchen and beyond.

1 | You're Not Warming Up

A good warm up leads to a good workout. Start every session with a five minute jog on the treadmill at a medium intensity, before at least 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretching to loosen up your muscles for exercise.

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Harry says to compare muscles to cold plasticine: "If you try to stretch - or lift - without warming up, you're essentially ripping your muscles, not stretching them. But warm them properly and everything becomes more malleable and flexible, meaning less injuries and better performance."

But maybe keep your awkward hammie stretch until after you've finished your session...

Esquire PT Harry Jameson doing some dynamic stretching
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2 | You Don't Have A Plan

It's a tale as old as time: man walks into a gym, sees a benchpress; crushes a few reps; does a press-up; wanders around a bit; checks his phone; does a few more reps on the bench press and then leaves.

It might sound obvious, but having a fitness plan is the first step to actually getting fit; even if it's one session with a personal trainer where you outline your goals and have a plan written up. 

You're also cutting out a huge risk of injury, which typically comes from overwhelming yourself too soon.

3 | You're Being Reckless With Your Deadlift

The deadlift is a fantastic exercise for building full-body strength, but it comes with a downside. As Harry explains:

"The thing with a deadlift is that you don't actually need to be fit to initially perform the exercise, so a lot of guys who are out of shape but want to lift heavy injure their backs by going too big, too soon."

Harry recommends starting your deadlift career by lifting 50% of your bodyweight for two sets of 10 reps, twice a week. Soon enough you'll be able to match your bodyweight and avoid that dreaded bad back that so many men suffer from.

4 | You're Not Asking For A Spot

It can be easy to feel intimidated by the muscle heads crowding round the bench press at your local gym, but without someone watching out for you, it'll be impossible to improve that elusive personal best.

As Harry says, "To improve your bench, you're going to need to push yourself close to failure. Don't feel like asking for a spot is a sign of weakness. Having to ask someone to lift the bar off your chest because you didn't ask for a spot is much worse."

5 | You're Swinging Too Much

Another classic male gym affliction is the weight swing; a fitness crime of pride and vanity. Most commonly seen with the bicep curl: rather than lifting with your arm, you start to swing with your back to heave the weight up, meaning you've lost control and are at risk of injury.

As soon as you feel like you can't lift with 100% control, stop. Pushing yourself is fine, but once you start swinging your whole body into it, you know you've bitten off more than you can chew.

6 | You're Not Timing Your Carbs

Carbs don't have to be the devil, but you need to time when you eat them. If you're racking up four pieces of toast at 9pm before bed, then those carbs are useless and will end up being stored as fat. 

Harry suggests trying to eat the majority of your carbs in the morning or directly after exercise, that way they'll be used as positive fuel as opposed to avoidable extra weight. And stick to whole grains.

7| You're Not Tracking Your Progress

This is one that a lot of beginners and more experienced gym-goers fail to do - track everything!

How much weight are you lifting? How many reps? How many sets? What exercises? Keep a journal and write down every piece of information, taking time to revise each week. This way you can adjust and increase your workout with ease, and avoid the frustrating plateau that is so common with weight lifting. 

Finally, as cringe-worthy as it sounds, take a shirtless picture of yourself as another indicator of progress. If your body is still unchanged after a month of training, you'll know you're doing something wrong.

Just no selfies in the changing room mirror...please.

8 | You're Not Getting Enough Protein

Make sure you're not underestimating how much protein your body needs to get stronger and recover effectively. 

Harry recommends consuming 2 grams of it for every kilogram that you weigh. So a 75kg man should ideally be consuming 150g of protein every day.

To put this in perspective, a whole tin of tuna contains 27g of protein. Time to get the steaks in then? 

9 | You're Not Resting Enough

All of your muscular growth happens in your sleep, so you need to be getting at least six hours of it a night (eight is ideal, though).

Harry adds, "If you want to see any of your gym and kitchen progress come to fruition you're going to also need 48 hours between each time you exercise a particular muscle group." 

You can still train 6 days a week if you like, just lay-off the three consequitive days of biceps, even if you do have a holiday coming up.

Follow these tips and pretty soon, this will be you

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