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Healthy Women's World

The 7 most common mistakes made when exercising

  • Copyright 2007 Greg Brookes

  • As a North London Personal Trainer I spend around 1000 hours a year training my clients and have discovered that 7 reoccurring mistakes are made on a frequent basis. Just by taking note and correcting these 7 issues will dramatically improve your results and prevent injury.

    1. Learn to breathe

    Breathing correctly is vital when exercising. Deep breaths provide more oxygen to the body and in turn provide you with the ability to work harder; they also prevent you from becoming dizzy or light headed. Breaths should be taken deeply and from the pit of the stomach or diaphragm. Get into a good habit of breathing out during the hardest part of the exercise and in during the easiest. For example, when performing a push up breathe in on the way down and out on the way up. Never hold your breath, even when stretching!

    2. Take your time

    This is one of the most common mistakes I see and the harder the exercise becomes the more tempted you are to rush through it. Muscles need time to work and be stimulated, unless you are training for speed. A good test is to ask yourself whether you would be able to pause at any part during the exercise movement, if not then you are moving too fast. Chances are no matter how slow you think you are moving, you are probably moving too fast. A squat should take around 5 seconds, 2 seconds down, pause for a second and 2 seconds up.

    3. Think technique

    Concentrating on your technique and good form will ensure that you target the correct muscles and don't develop bad habits. Bad technique is a sure fire way to get injured, if your technique starts to fail then stop the exercise. The last thing you want to do is develop a motor pattern for an incorrect movement. Start off with the correct movement and concentrate on that movement the whole time, think about what muscles are working and how it feels.

    4. Tighten your core

    If you want to develop 6 pack abs, a strong core and prevent injury then you must switch on your core. By switch on I mean brace your stomach as if you were about to take a punch ' pull your navel in towards your spine and squeeze. Performing this action not only protects your spine but also gives your stomach muscles a thorough workout. If you switch on your core during every exercise the chances are you won't need to do many individual core exercises to develop your stomach. The fact is that your core is working hard during most exercises (providing you are not lazy and using machines) and so the need for targeted stomach muscle exercises should be at a minimum.

    5. Reduce your rest periods

    I don't believe in long cardio sessions, in fact research has shown that they don't work anyway. If you want to get a good cardio workout then reduce the rest periods between your exercises. I see too many people at gyms idly standing around talking or reading magazines. To get the most out of your workouts reduce your resting times and increase the intensity. I like to put 2 or 3 exercises back to back with no rest periods to really get the heart rate up and lungs working.

    6. Warm up the correct movement patterns

    Starting your exercise programme without a warm is just asking for trouble. Not only do warm ups prepare your body physically but also prepare you mentally. The warm up should replicate the movements that you will be performing in the actual workout. If you are going to be pressing things over your head then make sure you push your arms up and down overhead a few times first. If you are going to be doing heavy squats then some body weight squats first will prepare you for this.

    7. Stretch only the tight muscles

    Everybody is designed differently and we all have some muscles that are tight and others that are more flexible. It is pointless performing a stretching routine that focuses on your most flexible areas; you should leave these alone and work on you most inflexible muscles. In order to neutralise your posture and improve your range of movement you should only stretch the areas that really need it.


    Greg is a health and fitness professional based in Hampstead, North London. He achieves fantastic results for his clients by using his indepth knowledge and the most up to date techniques.

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