Avoid mistakes at the gym

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Dodge a fitness faux-pas and maximise your workout with these handy expert tips

When it comes to the treadmill, how long should people be on it, should they do sprints, should they increase incline?

“Using the Treadmill is a great way to train, especially as it can be used for so many types of training. As most Treadmills have a range of programmes on them, it is a good idea to vary your programme choice to keep you motivated and interested in your training. These programmes will incorporate sprints and / or incline increases. It’s worth taking the time to explore the programmes available and not just pressing ‘Quick Start’!”

“Assuming that you are using the treadmill for an aerobic workout then you really don’t need to be on there any longer than 20 – 30 minutes, if you are using it to help you train for an event then that’s a different story and you should be following a planned programme to ensure you are ‘event ready’!”

“The best way to get the most out of your treadmill workout is to think about the effort you are putting in rather than being concerned on time… you want to get off at the end of your session hot, sweaty and breathing hard, but still be able to talk. That’s a much better rule of thumb as that way you will know you will have made the most of your time on the treadmill.”

Weights – should we go for low weight higher reps or vice versa – how many reps would you need to be doing if using lower weights?

“If you are looking to ’Tone and Shape’ your muscles then you want to go for low weights, high reps. Aim for 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 16 reps per exercise. That way you tire the muscles out so that encourages them to change shape but not build muscle.”

“If you are looking to build muscle (look bigger) then you want to use heavier weights and lower reps, Aiming for 2 to 3 sets of 6 – 8 reps per exercise.”

“It is worth noting that its quite hard for women to ‘bulk up’ as we don’t have a lot of natural Testosterone in our bodies, and it this hormone that helps to bulk muscles as well as a planned high protein diet.”

What about speed? Do fast reps count or should people be slowing down?

“Don’t be tempted to go too fast, or the muscles don’t have time to react to the exercise in the correct way. Every time you use your muscles your brain sends the signal to allow the movement, if this happens before your brain has a chance to acknowledge the weight that is being lifted, pushed or pulled, it follows that it doesn’t have time to acknowledge that it needs to  tell the muscle to be stronger to cope with that weight.”

“By the end of your last set of exercises the last 3 to 4 reps should be hard work, if you reach that point you then know that you have exhausted the muscles and that then encourages all the correct body changes to develop the muscles.”

Is there a point at which you should just stop – does your body stop building/burning?

“Yes! Assuming you are following a programme that includes aerobic ( CV – Cardiovascular) and Resistance (Weights) then by the end of that programme you should be hot, sweaty and tired. At this point if you carry on you will be putting yourself at risk of injury.”

Are there people wasting their time doing two hours cardio when they could be doing 45 minutes resistance?

“Yes. As above, again assuming you are following an inclusive programme, there is no need to be in the gym for hours and hours. You will work a lot more efficiently if you follow a programme and ensure you are giving everything your full effort and attention, 45 minutes to an hour is plenty, ideally at least 3 times a week. Think of your effort levels on a scale of 1 – 1. 1 you are not doing anything to 10 you simply couldn’t work any harder. Each workout you want to finish between an 8 to 9.”

Are there mistakes people make, focusing on fat burn rather than muscle build?

“This all depends on what you want to achieve with your workouts. I would always recommend that you have a plan on what you are trying to achieve and set yourself some goals, however, small, so that you know what you are working for and towards. This will also help you to focus on what exercises you need to do during your workouts and which equipment or classes to use.”

What about protein shakes – are people over using them? How much do you have to do to really need them?

“Protein shakes are expensive, can be full of unnecessary added sugars and for the majority of us don’t really enhance our workouts. Unless you are specifically strength training then you can get all the protein you need to help repair and build muscles from a balanced diet and a good night’s sleep.”

Any other mistakes?

“Lot of people think that they don’t need to warm up or cool down and stretch after a workout, but you do. A warm up, which need to be no more than 3-6 minutes, allows your brain and body to prepare for the workout to come. By warming your body up slowly your brain releases extra hormones into your muscles and joints to help prevent injury.”

“A cool down and stretch at the end of your workout enables your body temperature and heart rate to return to normal as well as reducing the rate at which blood is pumped round your body steadily as well as encouraging any lactic acid (It’s lactic acid that gives that ‘burning’ feeling in your muscles) that has developed to be flushed out of the system. If you simply just stop, you risk the blood that is moving very fast round your body to go drain away from your heart towards your legs and this can make you feel unwell to say the least and your muscles to feel sore the next day.”