Gold Member Badge


  • You're all caught up!

12 Weight-Training Mistakes You Don't Want to Make

author image Jon Goodman
Jon Goodman, CSCS is the Head Coach and Creator of the Personal Trainer Development Center. He also acts as the Senior Trainer at Body + Soul Fitness in Toronto.

Slide 1 of 14

12 Weight-Training Mistakes You Don't Want to Make
Photo Credit: WavebreakMediaMicro/AdobeStock

With so much conflicting information out there, it’s hard to know what you should and shouldn’t be doing in your workout. While almost every type of activity is positive, wasting time isn’t. So that you can make the most of your time in the gym, on the next slides we reveal the 12 biggest mistakes to avoid in your weight-training workouts.

MISTAKE #1: Skipping Your Training Log
Photo Credit: Jacob Ammentorp Lund/iStock/Getty Images


It’s hard to remember all of the specifics of your workout: weight, tempo, repetitions. As you start a new workout session, having a training log will help you immediately identify what you did last time so you can attempt to do it better. It’s also motivational to look back over a long period and see how far you’ve come. If you do decide to hire an experienced coach at some point, showing him a log will help him develop an effective program. Start a log in either a notebook or on your smartphone. Some things to include: date, body weight, exercise, weight, tempo, rest and how you felt before and after your workout.

MISTAKE #2: Working Out Without a Goal
Photo Credit: Jacob Ammentorp Lund/iStock/Getty Images


What do you want to accomplish? It might be a quantifiable goal like running a 10K, or maybe a more emotional one like wanting to look good naked. The goal is the starting point, and without it your training will be haphazard. There are no best exercises, but there are a lot of great exercises specific to a goal. Without a goal there’s also no way of measuring progress. Write down your specific goals and ways to quantify them. For example: “I want to be at 7 percent body fat by August 7, 2017.” Now you have a way to measure your progress and make sure that your training is moving you closer to your goal.

Related: 16 Gym Etiquette Mistakes to AVOID

MISTAKE #3: Program Hopping
Photo Credit: IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Getty Images


There are a lot of people who will make fantastical promises about the results you’ll see from their programs. You’ll likely feel a desire to change your current program because you think that another one is better. Don’t. Stay the course. Consistency is the key. Find a program you enjoy, put on your tunnel-vision glasses and stick to it for a minimum of four weeks before considering another plan.

MISTAKE #4: Following the Pack
Photo Credit: Tyler Olson/AdobeStock


There’s always a fad workout or exercise that everyone in the gym seems to be doing. It’s possible that this exercise is a good one, but more often than not it’s just another exercise -- no better and no worse. If you’re already on a program, resist the urge to try out a new exercise and stick to the awesome plan that you’ve been working through. If you are curious to try a new variation, understand what the movement is intended to do and whether or not it will bring you closer to your goals. If it will help, then consider plugging it into your next program.

Related: 12 Workout Mistakes That Sabotage Results

MISTAKE #5: Not Pushing Toward Progressive Overload
Photo Credit: theartofphoto/AdobeStock


Simply put, progressive overload refers to making everything a little harder each workout. Ideally, you will get a little bit better every time that you step into the gym. Progressive overload doesn’t just refer to weight. Common ways to incorporate progressive overload include using a heavier load, using the same load for more repetitions, doing the same amount of work in less time, performing more sets with the same load and using the same load through an increased range of motion. Mix it up to ensure continued progress.

MISTAKE #6: Resting Too Much (or Too Little)
Photo Credit: lukafunduck/AdobeStock


Ignoring rest periods can limit your progress. Not only is it important to efficiently use your time, but also to maximize a desired training response. If your main goal is training for hypertrophy (muscle gain) and you are resting three to four minutes in between every single set in your workout, you are going to be spending a lot of the time in the gym and never get an optimal training effect. Research rest times that will result the greatest training effect for your goals, and keep an eye on them during your workout. You don’t have to sit there with a stopwatch or worry that your session will completely go to waste if you deviate a little from the plan, but just be mindful of your recovery periods.

Related: 13 Ways to Vary any Exercise

MISTAKE #7: Spending Too Much Time in the Gym
Photo Credit: Hlib Shabashnyi/iStock/Getty Images


This is one of the most common training mistakes that plagues the fitness industry. In America we have been force-fed “more is better,” so when you’re told you should be training for an hour, you may think, “If 60 minutes is good, then 120 minutes is even better. Double the time, double the results, right?” Wrong. This type of thinking is what leaves lifters injured, weak and discouraged. Quit wasting your time in the gym. Get in and get out quick! At most, aim to spend 45 to 60 minutes (after you are properly warmed up) weight training -- and make it count.

Related: 12 Workout Mistakes That Sabotage Results

MISTAKE #8: Always Going for a Record
Photo Credit: Pavel Losevsky/AdobeStock


We all know people who have been working out for years yet never seem to show any major improvements in body composition or strength. Often the reason is that these people are always going for a record. Training in the gym should be viewed as practice -- a place where you continually work to improve. Showing up to the gym and putting more weight on the bar than you can lift properly and struggling through one sloppy rep is a surefire way to stagnate in your strength goals. Dial in your technique and control the weight, concentrating on feeling your muscle contract through each rep.

MISTAKE #9: Avoiding a Spotter
Photo Credit: dolgachov/iStock/Getty Images


Some lifters feel like using a spotter demonstrates a lack of confidence. This could not be further from the truth. A spot can help build confidence and also allow you to push yourself further on certain sets, even if it comes from nothing but verbal encouragement. Some movements, such as the bench press, require a spotter to help lift the bar off of the pins in order to keep the lifter safe. Don’t be afraid to ask for a spot.

Related: 12 Running Mistakes You Could Be Making

MISTAKE #10: Sacrificing Technique for Weight
Photo Credit: Fuse/Fuse/Getty Images


Sacrificing proper technique for more weight will hinder your progress. It’s also a great way to get hurt. Consistency is arguably the most important aspect of any training program, and if you injure yourself you are going to have to put on the emergency brake. Common thinking is that you need to add more weight to the bar if you want to get stronger or look better. This isn’t the only way. Performing the rep slower, for example, will lead to higher levels of muscle activation and more muscle gain in many cases. Proper technique often recruits more muscle and is easier on the joints, ensuring that you don’t get hurt.

MISTAKE #11: Focusing on Your Strengths
Photo Credit: Mat Hayward/AdobeStock


There’s a trap in which we are all at some point ensnared: We tend to do things that we’re good at and avoid things we aren’t. It’s a vicious circle. It’s important to embrace weak muscles and movements if for no other reason than because they will experience gains faster than an already well-trained body part. If something is difficult, it’s probably because you aren’t very good at it. This could mean scaling back your other training and increasing the volume and frequency on the weak body part.

Related: 11 Mistakes You’re Making in Yoga Class & How to Fix Them

MISTAKE #12: Not Respecting the Tempo
Photo Credit: Peter Atkins/AdobeStock


Tempo refers to the speed of movement of a lift. In my opinion, it’s both the most important and most ignored variable of training. A change in tempo with the same exercise can elicit a completely different effect. Using a slower tempo (specifically on the eccentric phase of the movement in which you bring the weight back to resting position) will have a vastly different feel and training effect than if you were to perform the movement as fast as possible while still maintaining control. Be sure to monitor the tempo of your repetitions, and, depending on your training goals, it may be wise to implement a tempo different than what you normally perform.

What Do YOU Think?
Photo Credit: Ron Chapple Stock/Getty Images


Have you been training with weights? Are you seeing the results you’re looking for? Do you make – or see others at your gym making -- any of these weight-training mistakes? Were these tips helpful? Are there any mistakes we missed on our list? How often do you lift? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear about it.

Related: 16 Foods Dietitians Won’t Touch

LiveStrong Calorie Tracker
Lose Weight. Feel Great! Change your life with MyPlate by LIVESTRONG.COM
  • Gain 2 pounds per week
  • Gain 1.5 pounds per week
  • Gain 1 pound per week
  • Gain 0.5 pound per week
  • Maintain my current weight
  • Lose 0.5 pound per week
  • Lose 1 pound per week
  • Lose 1.5 pounds per week
  • Lose 2 pounds per week
  • Female
  • Male
ft. in.


Demand Media