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I see them all the time.

The cell phone users scrolling through Instagram while using whatever leg machine they’re on.

The ego lifter guy pushing way too much weight for a few inches, thinking he’s accomplishing something.

And, of course, the whole row of treadmills occupied because everyone on them believes they’re a staple in any regimen, not just weight loss (I see a lot of people who don’t need to drop any pounds on them, for God knows why.)

It might be time to re-evaluate what it is you’re there for. It’s one thing if you decide to be in the gym for an hour or so a few days of the week just for the heck of it, but if you’re in there to make changes to your body and life, then what you’re doing matters a lot more. This is the difference between exercise and training. One is just another way to spend your time while the other is the pursuit of a concrete goal.

So what is it you’re doing wrong, and how do you fix it?

Rise of the Machines (Terminate ’em)

For starters, if you’re going to be performing resistance training, how about you actually do it rather than use nothing but a machine that does half the work for you? Machines put you in a forced range of motion, rather than allowing you to move freely, which also makes you skip out on training certain stabilizer muscles.  If you ever see me in the gym, which if you’re there at sometimes unreasonably early hours you might, you’ll almost never see me on a machine. I tend to stick to the racks in the free weight room doing all the stuff someone probably told you was dangerous. It’s only dangerous if you do it wrong, which is still possible on a machine. Don’t believe me? Just Google “woman’s leg breaks on leg press” and have a bucket ready.

Ego Isn’t a Muscle

Hey, I’m all for loading up a bar with some heavy weight, but that doesn’t mean I or you should sacrifice everything else for it. Yesterday, I saw a guy pushing about 150 pounds on a standing overhead press. He pushed the bar as far up as he could, locking out at the top, yet never brought it down past his forehead.

That wasn’t the worst of it. I then watched as his lower back bent the wrong way with each repetition, a disaster in waiting.

While that’s just one example, I see it plenty of times with people doing squats. A guy loads up two, almost three plates (which equals 315 pounds) bends at the knees ever so slightly, repeats for reps and calls it a day. Hey, I could lift a lot more weight too if I skipped the majority of the movement. Lifting heavy weight is great, but “lifting” implies moving the bar a bit more than a few inches. If that’s happening with you, this is your wake up call to drop the weight and start doing it right.

I Know I’m Running, But I Feel Like I’m Not Getting Anywhere       

Walk into any gym and notice how many people are on the treadmill in an attempt to lose weight. Maybe you could dangle something they want in front of them and watch as they, to no avail, try to close the distance to get it. If running on the treadmill for long amounts of time is your go to calorie burning method, that’s what it’s gonna feel like. I sound quite critical and I’m not saying this isn’t a viable option, but to me there are definitely better options when your goal is fat loss (which should be your REAL goal, not just weight loss as you could lose weight through a combination of fat AND muscle, a no no). So what’s a better option?

They’re called barbell complexes.

That’s right. It’s back to the free weight. Maybe you’re seeing now how simple this all could have been. A barbell complex is any series of movements performed back-to-back with a barbell in rapid succession, like doing a deadlift, bent-over row, clean, push press and squat one after the other. These burn tons of calories without you having to spend a long time doing the same thing, because who would want to do that when these can give you the same, if not better, results?

These are just a few options to upgrade your gym routine, but the bottom line is that when in the gym, it’s best to invest your time in the most effective and efficient methods to see the best results possible.  

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