5 Common Workout Mistakes That Make Philly Fitness Trainers Cringe

Because who has time to get injured?

Nothing kills an exercise high quite like injury — especially when it’s an injury you could have prevented. Here, at Be Well, we want you all to be as healthy as can be. So, to learn about common workout mistakes that can cause injury (and how to avoid that mess), we went to the professionals, asking Philly fitness trainers and running coaches what the top injury-inducing mistakes they see their clients making are. Because no one wants to be benched after just getting into the groove. Follow this wisdom and you’ll be movin’ and groovin’ through your workouts — safely.

Mistake #1: You do too much too soon.
Gina Mancuso of CoreFitness suggests that when you’re starting out a new workout regime or getting back into the game after an exercise hiatus, you should start with a realistic structure. “Go in with a plan so that you’re not tempted to overdo it,” she says. “Work your way up slowly and steadily and you’ll get there, injury free.”

Brian Maher, owner of Philly Personal Training, agrees. “It’s important not to jump into high-intensity workouts right away. If your body, or more specifically, your joints, muscles, etc., aren’t ready for that, it could very well result in injury.” Instead, he says, start out slow. Begin your journey with workouts that fit the level you are at now — not the level you eventually want to reach.

When it comes to doing too much with running, John Goldthorp of Fix Your Run, says, “With runners this is a common problem because the cardiovascular system adapts more quickly than the musculoskeletal system. Running starts feeling easier, so you add miles to your regimen but your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones are lagging behind in terms of adaptation.” He suggests ignoring the “no pain, no gain” mentality that has inundated our culture and to instead, strive for patience and moderation in your workouts. That’s when the real gains will kick in.

As Goldthorp says, instead of diving in head first, “Play the long game. Forget about quick fixes and 30-day challenges, especially if you’re just starting out. Instead, focus on learning skills, like how to deadlift properly, shop for and prep food, or simply breathe the right way.” Goldthorp is a firm believer that consistency is key. “It’s better to coax the body to fitness rather than to smash the body to fitness,” he says.

Mistake #2: You over use everything: muscles, machines, workout moves.
“The way traditional machines are set up is robotic and not the way we should be moving throughout our day,” Pat Kempsey of Pat Kempsey Golf Fitness and Personal Training, says. “Think about it: When was the last time you had to lay on your back and push several hundred pounds off of you using your legs? I hope never. Now, how often do you have to pick something heavy off the floor (deadlift), rotate to grab something from the back seat of your car (wood chop), or get up from a kneeling position (Turkish Get Up)? Stick to exercises that let you move freely, without the use of machines,” he says. In case you couldn’t already tell, you won’t find any machines in his Center City studio.

When it comes to overusing the same ol’ workout moves, Gina Mancuso notes, “If you keep doing the same thing over and over, you’ll keep getting the same results. Not only that, you will be at risk for overuse injuries that can put you out of commission for weeks.” To keep your mind and body interested, Mancuso suggests mixing up your workout every day. “To prevent muscle imbalances and deficiencies in any one area — balance, strength, agility, speed, flexibility — participate in a variety of activities,” she says. “One of the best things about the Philadelphia fitness community is our diversity! From swimming to salsa and jiu jitsu to the jitterbug, you can find a different way to challenge your body and brain on a weekly basis.”

Brian Maher echoes this, saying, “Whether it’s out of vanity or just not knowing anatomy, a common mistake that leads to injury is working the same muscle groups over and over again. For men, it’s usually the anterior muscles that get hit hard — chest, abs, biceps, etc.” Maher suggests brushing up on some basic anatomy so you can understand which muscle groups you’ve been ignoring and the motions they perform. “For example, if you work the quadriceps, which perform knee extension, make sure you work the hamstrings, which perform knee flexion,” he explains.

Mistake #3: You have bad form, plain and simple.
“Correct form means doing two things,” Maher says. “Learning how to do the exercise correctly, and having the body awareness and visuals necessary to see that you’re doing it the way you’re supposed to be.” As Maher warns, most people don’t even realize that they are performing an exercise incorrectly.

“A lot of folks train based on information they’ve picked up from friends, an old high school coach, the internet, or worse, by mimicking someone else’s [bad form],” Goldthorp says. “They think they know what they’re doing and don’t need help. Unfortunately, what usually accompanies this mindset is poor technique, poor training strategy, and often, poor results.” He calls this workout mistake the “I know syndrome.” To avoid bad form, Goldthorp suggests that people seek help from a pro so they can bring you up to speed — safely. He also suggests shopping around and meeting with a few trainers to come to the best conclusion for you and your body.

Mistake #4: You don’t warm up or recover properly.
Kempsey describes the pre-workout protocol at his studio like this: “Grab a roller/stick/lacrosse ball and get to work. Mobilizing joints before a workout is important to ensure they are going through the full range of motion.” He acknowledges that warming up is not high on everyone’s priority list, but says, “Yes, you will probably get through your run with no issues — even without a warm-up —  but might you feel better the next day if all your joints are moving properly during that run? Probably. Could you be getting more out of your runs if your were moving better? Absolutely.”

Mistake #5: Exercise is your sole form of therapy.
Goldthorp hears it all the time: “Running is my form of stress relief.” But the major problem he find with this motivation is that, if your motivation is to de-stress, you may end up doing too much. “While the training may be reasonable on paper, in the context of their life, it’s just too much. How can you expect to absorb and adapt to training stress if you’re also absorbing stress from relationships, work or school, alcohol, lack of sleep, a big project like planning a wedding?” So, not to say that exercise can’t be one form of stress relief for you — it just shouldn’t be the only form of stress relief for you.

Like what you’re reading? Stay in touch with Be Well Philly—here’s how: