Gymservations of a Fitness Snobb: Are You Committing These 5 Fitness Fouls at The Gym?
Updated: Jul 7
There are two things I am a HUGE snob about. I'm talking Godzilla standing on King Kong's shoulders whilst they ride an AT-AT huge.
The first one is coffee and the other one is what I see people do at the gym. If you follow me on social media, you know the former very well.
The other one is 21 years of fitness industry experience in the making. Basically, I'm telling you I've learned from people a hell of a lot smarter than I am and I've taken what they've taught me and put my two cents on it. When it comes to helping the human body get stronger, move better and prevent injuries, I know what I'm talking about.
Which is why a trip to the gym is a PE patience adventure waiting to happen. I try to take into account that not everyone has learned, or more importantly, cares to, what I have let alone put it into practice. I get that.
However, that's not an excuse to practice silliness in a workout. So, without further ado, here are the five most common fitness fouls I see at the gym.
1) The Kettelbell Swing Is NOT A Front Delt Raise. Or An Overhead Raise For That Matter.
For all of the fitness awesome a kettlebell swing can bring, it is one of the most butchered movements in a gym. Yay for people trying to up their game.
Not so yay for taking a SIMPLE HIP HINGE and trying to completely change what it actually is:
An explosive hip hinge driven by the glutes and core. THAT'S IT!
The HIPS create the movement of the bell. NOT the shoulders. Doing that completely ruins the point of the movement: to get the back half of the body stronger.
And while we're at it, stop taking the bell overhead. The thoracic spine and shoulder mobility required to do this right is something most people can't put together. They inevitably arch their low back to get the bell "vertical" from the floor and then wonder why their low back is killing them the next day.
If you want to put loads over head, do the suspension version of this movement. That is easier to control where your hands are making it a lot easier to progress as you build both the proper stability and strength to do it right. You can also do half kneeling presses starting with a LIGHT weight and work your way up.
2) The Kettlebell Swing is NOT a Squat (1)
There are fewer ways to hammer your lumbar spine than the squatting swing. If you bend the knees too much, the load of the bell goes into the low back. "Load" and "goes into the low back" are two things you should never combine.
If you want to squat with a bell, do the goblet squat. If you want to swing, SWING by doing a proper hip hinge.
The swing is a GLUTE exercise. You push the hips back, load the glutes and hams and POW! You come back up. Then you do it again, drive your heart rate through the roof and eventually be able to smash a dime with your sitting muscles. Ok, I don't know if that's possible, probably not, butt (yep, pun intended) you get the point.
Your forearms should be just above the knees at the bottom of the movement, the bell should almost touch the tookus and you should feel one hell of a stretch sensation in the hamstrings and glutes. This preloads the explosive release of muscular tension to move the bell back to where you'll stop it no higher than the collarbone.
If the bell is anywhere near the calves or ankles, your mechanics need changing.
3) STOP Using the Treadmill for a "Warmup."
Look, here's the deal, your warmup is meant to prime the nervous system for the workout ahead. If you are going to squat, push, pull, carry loads and resist lateral forces (AKA a proper workout), then a treadmill won't do squat to get your body ready to do any of that.
If there's someone next to you holding a clip board as you do this, go to my contact page and let's get you a proper warm up and a better workout. This is filler at best.
If you want a great warm up that will get the entire body ready to go in a very short amount of time, get up and down from the floor. You'd be surprised at how this blasts the heart rate.
Dan John calls this the "Get Back Up" and it looks like this:
Go down to the floor to your stomach, get back up.
Go down to the floor on your right side, get back up.
Go down to the floor on your left side, get back up.
Go down to the floor on your back, get back up.
When you do this piece, roll over to one side or the other to get back up. DO NOT throw yourself forward in some butchered crunch motion.
4) STOP Pulling Down Behind the Neck (2)
There almost too many reasons to list as to why you shouldn't do this. The biggest are the words shoulder and impingement. Most people don't have the range of motion to get the elbows in the right spot and end up internally rotating the shoulder heads as they put a load into them pulling down.
Plus, you'll be putting loads of stress into the rotator cuff, and that's never a good idea.
This movement is no prize for the neck either. Pulling a load down behind the neck as the head goes forward is a recipe to buy your chiropractor a nice 10-day vacation from the amount of visits you'll need to be put back together.
5) Doing Too Many Things in the Same Workout: AKA CardioOgaPlyoLatesCycle-X (3)
Look, I get wanting to burn as many calories as possible working out. But there's the right way, and there's the "HEY FITFAM!! LOOK AT HOW I CRUSHED MY WORKOUT!! I won't be moving for a few days because every joint in my body hurts, but look how much sweat I left on the floor. Where's the ibuprofen!!"
Here's a revelation for you that a lot of people won't like: BASICS. WORK. BEST. Meaning? You'll accomplish more in your workouts by doing less.
Here's an idea: pick a variation of a squat, push and pull master the 2-arm + 2-leg version of those. Then, progress to:
Split stance, single leg, multiplanar lunges
2-legs + alternate arm movement
2-legs + single arm movement
Split stance + 2-arms
Split stance + single arm
Single leg + 2-arms
Single leg + alternate arms
Single leg + single arm
This progression is PLENTY to keep your workouts moving forward for a very long time, not too mention a great way to build total body functional strength. It is really easy to make simple movements a lot harder with a SLIGHT variation over time.
Don't overcomplicate simplicity my friends. You'll get stronger, you'll stay safer and your joints will thank you over the long haul.
So there you have it people, five things IN MY OPINION, very often being done incorrectly at the gym. Again, you just read what's called an op-ed (opinion editorial) piece. It is my OP ED'd (yep, totally a word here) based on 21 years of fitness experience and learning basics work best and seeing what works worst.
If you'd like a review of your workouts and tips on how to improve them while most likely saving you a ton of time, contact me and let's set up a coaching call to get your fitness program dialed in!