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9 Common Gym Mistakes

WebMD provides insight into common mistakes that can lessen the impact of your exercise routine.

Exercise Mistake #3: Always training in the 'fat burning' heart rate zone.

You’ve seen those charts on the cardiovascular machines that list “zones.” But in the so-called “fat-burning zone,” your training intensity isn’t very high -- usually 65%-70% of your heart rate. Research, however, has shown that the higher the intensity, the more calories you burn -- not only while exercising, but after you leave the gym, when your body benefits from an “after-burn” mode.

“It’s as if you turn off your car engine, but the hood is still warm,” Lucett says. “The same thing happens with the body. You need to make sure that your intensity is higher than that chart.” Unable to work out that hard? Work your way up.

Exercise Mistake #4: Overestimating caloric expenditure.

Don’t let the number on the screen of your cardio machine fool you, either. “That’s a very general number and there are a lot of variables that play into that,” Lucett says. “The machine may say that you’ve expended 500 calories, but you could only be burning 250.”

This can be especially true when you do things to “trick” the machine, like leaning on the bars. Unbeknownst to that computer, which relies on speed and revolutions to calculate calories, you’re offsetting your weight, which means you are significantly decreasing the amount of work you’re doing.

Exercise Mistake #5: Not progressing/changing your program.

When you do the same workout over and over again, the body has no reason to change. “You’ll see an initial loss, but eventually you’ll get to a point of diminishing returns,” Lucett says. 

Another challenge, Peterson says, is getting away from the machines and routines that you feel most comfortable with.

“You like the feeling of aerobic exercise, so you don’t do what it takes to maintain your muscle mass, which is the body tissue that burns calories -- the furnace,” he says. “Or you do only strength training, which maintains muscle mass, but you don’t lose weight." Those little string-bean guys who run marathons? They often don’t do anything to ensure the success of the process by, say, engaging in strength training. You have to have a mix.

Exercise Mistake #6: Spot reduction training.

Those articles that guarantee you can lose fat from your abs or glutes? Forget ‘em, say the experts. “People need to understand that genetics is the primary factor in determining where that body fat comes from,” Lucett says. “Your body is going to take fat from anywhere it wants.” The answer? Just focus on burning calories through a well-balanced training program. You’ll eventually lose the weight from all areas of your body.

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