Top Exercise Mistakes You Might Be Making

A fundamental part of my practice, as we discussed last week, is performing chiropractic adjustments. There are many great health reasons to receive regular adjustments, but one that I see all too often is repairing damage caused by improper exercise.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that exercising regularly is a key success factor for longevity, mobility, stability, and motor control. You are physically at your best when you move right.

Moving Wrong

That said, there are a lot of wrong ideas about exercise that I frequently have to correct with people. Too many people want to look like the guys (and ladies) in the Bowflex commercials, but they don’t understand that the Bowflex alone didn’t get them there. They came to the Bowflex having already established a consistent workout routine.

I also want to point out that the sculpted body image hawked in the TV commercials is not necessarily a worthy goal. I remember a time in my life when I thought a chiseled 8-pack and bulging biceps was desirable. The truth is, it is difficult to maintain it and easy to injure yourself in the pursuit of it. I see it all the time: people are pursuing a sculpted torso and instead wind up with a persistent back problem. Why? I’ll show you in just a minute.

If you look back 60 years, the athletes (and I’m talking about collegiate and professional athletes) didn’t look like the models we see on TV today, and yet they were able to accomplish some pretty amazing things. They were strong like bulls, but they didn’t have the bulging muscles. Some of them came from construction, ranching, or fishing backgrounds where you need enormous physical strength to do your job.

Have You Seen Superman Lately?

Even Superman has changed.If you look at George Reeves (the 1950’s TV Superman) and Christopher Reeve (the 1970s movie Superman), you don’t see the same sculpting you see on Henry Cavill (the current Superman) or Jason Momoa (the 2018 Aquaman). By today’s standards, George Reeves looks like a paunchy old man.

What changed? Are we stronger and healthier now than we were then? I don’t think so. In fact, I think we need to go back to the ways we used to move. Get back to the fundamentals: that’s why I named my practice “Fundamental Health Solutions.” We’ve gotten away from what makes our bodies strong and functional in pursuit of what makes our bodies attractive. I think it’s a facade. Facades can be attractive, but if you don’t have a strong, functional foundation behind it, it’s going to end up on a chiropractor’s table soon.

So this week, I want to examine a few of the common mistakes I see people making. Measure your workout routine against this list and see where you might be heading for danger. I don’t do this to shame anyone or to criticize good workouts, just to put up a warning flag to protect you from injury.

Top Workout Mistakes People Make Every Day

They don’t exercise at all

What is a swamp? It’s a place where water flows in and stands still, but never runs out. Eating food is good; I enjoy it myself, but taking in calories without burning any off is a recipe for disaster. This is one of the core reasons for the current obesity epidemic in America. People don’t move enough, so they don’t burn off the calories they take in. People who don’t exercise regularly are at the highest risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and more. They are more prone to stress and anxiety. Even people who eat all-organic, keto, paleo, or any other good diet are short-changing themselves by not moving their bodies enough.

And I’m not suggesting you get a gym membership and starting doing a bunch of complicated workouts. No. Walking is a great way to exercise. I set a goal of walking 10,000 steps per day. If I do nothing else, that’s a good foundation. Of course, I don’t want to stop there. Which brings me to the second mistake.

They don’t exercise regularly

If you’ve never been one to exercise and you suddenly jump up and walk around the block, I salute you! That’s awesome. Great job! But if you wait three weeks to walk again, you’re going to lose much of the benefit of that first walk in the meantime. If you workout on Monday, and then Saturday, then Tuesday and Wednesday, then the following Friday, you’re not giving your body a good foundation to build on.

I recommend to people that they pick a time to exercise each day and stick to it. If you do every other day, that’s fine, but don’t skip two or three days. Set a pattern and stick to it. Consistency is one of the core differences between successful and unsuccessful people. It doesn’t matter if you are being consistent in your reading time, bed time, work time, prayer time, or any other part of your daily routine.

The most successful people set a pattern for their day and stick with it. Over time, they find that they are more creative, make decisions more easily, and are more peaceful. Why? Your mind has a limit to how many choices it can make in a day, and every decision forms a type of mental clutter. The more you can automate your life, the more you can reduce the number of decisions you have to make, the more clear your mind is.

Set everything in your life in a routine for a few weeks and tell me if you don’t find that your life is easier. Of course, there will always be people trying to knock you off your rhythm. Find a way to tactfully block their efforts. Learn to say no to other people’s emergencies.

They don’t do a functional assessment

One of the quickest ways to give yourself a debilitating injury is to walk into the gym and just start doing everything. No matter how good of shape you are in, your frame is not perfect. There are places in your muscle structure where you are over-tight and don’t know it. When one muscle group is over-tight, it pulls the other muscle groups around it out of balance. If your right-side rhomboids and trapezius muscles are over-tightened and you start doing a bunch of heavy reps on your left arm, you can really hurt yourself, and you won’t know why.

Your body is built like a suspension bridge, where all of the muscle groups are set in opposition to each other, and their opposing tensions set your posture and range of motion. If one set of muscles is too tight or too loose, the opposing muscle group will get pulled out of balance. Get with a qualified trainer who can identify areas of weakness or imbalance and develop a functional workout plan that will allow your body to get back into balance. Then, when all the tensions are in balance, you can start to build.

They don’t do compound exercises

If you’ve ever watched my “Move Right Monday” series on YouTube or Facebook, you hear me harp on this. It was popular in body-building circles to work on specific muscles in isolation: only biceps, or only pectorals.

That’s insane. If I work one muscle group without working out the corresponding muscle group, (think biceps and triceps or quadriceps and hamstrings) I’m going to injure myself. This is probably the most common cause of workout injury. Your muscles are set in balance with each other, so they need to be exercised together.

This is why my “Move Right Monday” videos always feature simple movements that work several corresponding muscle groups at once.

They do too much too soon

I remember what it feels like to walk into a gym and want to look like I know what I’m doing. A lot of guys know that feeling. I don’t know if it’s the competitive nature or just insecurity, but they jump from one machine to the next, doing a few reps and then moving on. They aren’t getting much benefit from that. Aside from the risk of injuring themselves (see previous), they aren’t giving themselves proper time to warm up, or they can’t set goals because they mx out their capacity immediately.

Work with a trainer, find out where you are now, set a goal for fitness and mobility, and then set a regular movement plan that will get you there over time. Remember, it’s like dieting: we’re not trying to get a great result and then quit. We are cultivating a manageable lifestyle that we can sustain from now on for optimal performance.

They punch a clock

It’s easy to think, “well, I put in an hour at the gym, so I should be good,” or “I haven’t put in a full hour yet, so I can’t be done yet.” Wellness isn’t measured in time; it’s measured in results. If I do ten minutes of “Move Right Monday” exercises, and follow it up with 20 minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), chances are I got a bunch more value from that 30 minutes than I would have gotten from an hour on the treadmill. Sixty seconds of intense activity drives your heart-rate to a place where you get the maximum aerobic and anaerobic value from your movement. Reaching your target heart rate on the cardio machines is valuable, but it’s not as valuable as bursts of intense activity.

Mix it up. Try doing 30 seconds of jumping jacks, followed by 15 seconds of rest, then 30 seconds of burpees, then 15 seconds of rest, then 30 seconds of windmills or knee lifts, and so on. Pick 4 or 5 intense movements that get your heart rate up and do them with gusto for 30 or 60 seconds, then rest for 15 or 30 seconds. You will get enormous fat-burning, muscle-toning, heart-pumping benefit out of that program.

They skimp on water

Exercise causes your muscles to release lactic acid and toxins. You need to flush that out and nothing does that better than water. Your exercise is not complete without plenty of water.

They neglect nutrition

If you follow up your trip to the gym with a beer or a protein smoothie (many of which are actually full of sugar), you are not doing yourself any favors, especially if your workout goal is weight loss. It’s tempting to load up on carbs or protein after a workout, but do you know how much your body actually needs at that moment? Neither do I. Neither does anyone else, until they have taken the time to evaluate your nutrition and metabolism needs. Your body chemistry after a workout might not be ready for protein. It might be crying out for potassium or ascorbic acid. Find out and establish a game plan for how you will replenish your body after a workout.

Let’s Build An Exercise Plan

It’s important to move right. If you are taking any steps to increase and improve your movement, I salute you. If you live in the Naples area and don’t have a trainer, I would love to meet with you, give you a full functional evaluation, and help you build a personalized workout plan. I teach classes and lead workouts here at my practice every week, and I would so honored to have the opportunity to help you.

In the meantime, would you take 8 seconds right now to help me get the word out about moving right? Chances are, someone you know is looking for this information right now and you don’t even know it. Let’s get them on the right path to wellness by sharing this article on your favorite social media channel.

“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.”  — Eric Thomas

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