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Last Updated on October 10, 2022 by Jeff


As a personal trainer, you tend to take a more engaged view of what other people are doing in the gym. You can’t help but assess what is going on around you when it’s your field of expertise.

There are many things that make personal trainers cringe, but these are 10 of the most common things that you might be unwittingly doing.

  1. Ego lifting
    Having too much weight on the bar doesn’t impress anyone. Problem is, many people don’t even realize that they’re doing it. For example, if you’re squatting to quarter depth or doing bicep curls that use more back and shoulders than biceps, you’re moving the weight in (mostly) the correct motion, and you feel the muscles working, so you must be on the right track, right?
    Unfortunately, that might not be the case. Yes, you might be moving the weight, but if you’re not using full range of motion and the right muscles, it’s not benefiting you as much as it could be. Train better and you will progress quicker—it’s not all about the weight on the bar.
  2. Training lazy
    So many people spend more time texting on their phone than actually training at the gym. It’s not even funny. In fact, it’s kind of sad.
    You need to work to see the changes in your body that I assume you are looking for when you go to the gym. You don’t need to take 5-minute rest periods between sets. Just turning up and doing a bit of something isn’t going to take you far. You need to be engaged and pushing yourself, day after day, week after week.
  3. Following inappropriate programs for you
    I often see beginner and intermediate level lifters trying to follow the programming of an elite bodybuilder or athlete. They see how big/strong/ripped this guy in the magazine is and assume that to get like that, they need to replicate their training.
    The reality is what someone is doing at the elite level is built on the foundation of 10+ years worth of consistent, purposeful training that you probably don’t have. Plus they’re probably working out twice a day, and then spending the rest of it eating, napping and getting massages to recover. Great if you’re an athlete, but not realistic for the typical office worker who has little things like a job and family to juggle.There are plenty of time-tested, proven programs out there that are suitable for every level of trainee. Look for those, rather than whatever the latest Instagram star is doing.
  4. Program hopping
    This kind of follows on from number 3. Many people will follow the programs in Men’s Fitness or the body building magazines. Now, I’m sure that they’re good programs, but they have to publish every month, or, if it’s online, every day.
    You shouldn’t be changing programs every month, let alone every day. You have to commit to something and stick with it for a period of months to really see the accumulated benefit. New things feel like they’re working, because they’re interesting, exciting and challenging, but you’re missing out on the consistency that actually leads to progress.
  5. ‘Functional training’
    Doing an exercise standing on a wobble board, a Swiss ball or using the TRX doesn’t make it ‘more functional’. They are just tools and what is ‘functional’ for you depends entirely on your goals.
    If you want to gain muscle, instability is about the least functional thing you can do, because it limits the weights you can use and challenges the small stabilizing muscles more than the muscles you are actually trying to grow.Stick with the time-tested basic barbell, dumbbell and bodyweight exercises, unless you have very good reason for doing something different.
  6. Utterly pointless exercises
    Honestly, some things are just stupid and pointless. I’m not going to make an exhaustive list—we would run out of page.
    Instead, just ask yourself if you can see the clear point of doing this exercise and if it’s the best exercise for the job.If the answer to either is no, drop it for something more appropriate.
  7. Having less intensity than a lettuce leaf
    Intensity is essentially how hard you are working. It means pushing yourself to do more than is comfortable.
    If you are comfortable doing 8 reps with a given weight, you should be doing 12 to induce a training effect. When you first start training, everything is new, so you respond to just doing anything.Once you have a bit of time under your belt, you have to actually start working harder than you have done previously, in order for your body to be forced to adapt and grow.Pushing yourself as hard as you can is much more important than the perfect program or routine.
  8. All the gear, no idea
    The basics are what get results. No magical supplement or incredible new exercise is going to work as well as the staple exercises, good nutrition and a great work ethic.
  9. Focusing on the minor things
    So often I see and hear people obsessing about inconsequential things, when they’re not even getting the basics right.
    Your new pre-workout isn’t going to give you the GAINZ if you haven’t been to the gym for 3 weeks. Going to the gym consistently will!Likewise, no supplement is going to replace proper food and no fancy new piece of equipment is going to replace quality free weight exercises.
  10. Having an allergy to sweating
    I swear some people will work right up until the point that it starts to get hard and then stop. Going through the motions of working out is not what results are made of.
    I know I’ve covered this in previous points, but it is worth repeating. Intensity is the most important thing to bring to your training and you must keep pushing yourself harder if you hope to make progress.It makes me chuckle when people do actually make the effort of going to workout, but then half-ass it once there. If you’re going to spend the time in the gym instead of doing whatever you would rather be doing, at least make it worth your while.

If you’re making some of these mistakes, think about whether you might benefit from changing a few things up in your gym routine.