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The 5 Top Mistakes You Can Make In The Gym

The 5 Top Mistakes You Can Make In The Gym
By Mark Farrelly
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Steve Doody is the business director of Fit Studios and he has kindly taken the time to write a guest post for us in order to help Balls get in shape. Steve has decided to give us some direction on what we should be doing in the gym and the bad habits we need to kick.

Hope you enjoy it.

Before we look at these mistakes I’d like you to consider this….

You are putting together a team for say rugby and you’ve two choices. First choice is a guy who’s a little stiff but he can bench press 160kg +, squat 200kg, and deadlift 250 – 300kg; he’s a wrecking ball.

The second guy can do a lot of balance work on a bosu ball. Who would you pick?


Personally I’d pick the first guy, you can feel free to have the second. If I were to pick a guy to save my life or even just go to the gym with, I’d still pick the first guy.

Ok so look, I want you to do well in your strength training and gym training, I really do. It’s just the way things are, is that you’re nearly already set up for failure for a few reasons:

1.You’re doing everything

You do TRX on Monday, yoga on Tuesday, spinning on Wednesday, running on Thursday and then Friday to Sunday is a blur of chicken wings and alcohol. Hey, I like chicken wings too but let’s consider the following:

  • You spend (x) amount money and time trying to get fit. You are honest with yourself and deep down you really do want to look like some idiot you're following on Instagram. I’m not here to tell you a lie, I’m here to tell you the fastest way to get what you deserve and want from your cash and time invested in the gym.
  • Solution: Be very specific about what you want from training, very specific. If you desire a body that’s athletic, it won't happen with yoga and spinning, it just won’t. Yoga is brilliant for flexibility and has great value to everyone, but if your goal is body composition (fat vs muscle or being toned) yoga isn’t the answer. Resistance training and a program that starts at A and finishes at B that can be accurately measured is your answer. I personally believe spinning is one of the worst things you can do, we are in the era of sitting down way too much in the workforce. You don’t need to sit down again.

Here’s an example of a general client who wanted some body composition changes, started in her 30s and was a complete beginner when she started.

2. Measurable Nutrition Strategy

You’ve never really put in measurable work with nutrition, the whole topic is confusing to you and you may feel like you’re a hostage to the weighing scales, let’s consider the following:

  • You spend (x) amount of money on food and time trying to stay on track. You claim to be honest with your efforts but still over consume on comfort food and alcohol every week. Wine and chocolate is a nice mix I agree, but it’s not so nice for your body fat levels I’m afraid.
  • The solution? Get a tailored plan, put in some measurable effort and EARN your comfort treats. What to take away from this? If you are not assessing what you are doing you’re guessing and that my friends is pissing in the wind. Plus look how confusing nutrition can be, just look at all those words...

I try talk to people as per the below video. I think it makes the most sense bearing in mind all that you’re looking for is clarity. It’s a word that not many people use, but being very clear about what you’re doing and doing it, is one of the fastest ways to any level of success.


For more great training tips visit Avonmore Protein Milk’s training hub here


3. You're in the wrong or you're in an "unlearning" atmosphere

You have heard time and time again that in order to be better you need to train with better people. This is true in nearly all aspects of athletic development and in any areas where you’re looking to up your skill level. I’d like you to understand the following when it comes to exercise: there are certain skill levels that people fall into.

I wish squatting was as simple as copying an instructor, but it really, really isn’t, and no your age means nothing. Your education on movement however does.


Beginner : Unconscious Incompetence

Beginners have an unconscious incompetence of movement. Generally speaking your body hasn’t built up the necessary motor pattern controls for the main functional exercises like : lunge, hinge, carry, squat, pull, push, brace. Imagine going into a Spanish class in 3rd year in college, having never studied Spanish at all. You’d be at a huge disadvantage, wouldn’t you ? It’s not your fault, it’s just how it is. That is what beginners are like when they try to copy certain movements in the gym and further more expose themselves to:

  • High risk injury situations
  • Embarrassment
  • Demotivation

Intermediate: Conscious Competence


People with an intermediate skill level of movement will have a conscious competence; they will feel the errors in the movement pattern and try to fix them accordingly or not. Some people just don’t care. Usually that’s the guy swinging his back while bicep curling the heaviest weight he can because he feels intimidated by his fellow alphas in the gym. This could also be you after doing a few squats, something you feel from your body tells you 'That wasn’t right.' That is called bio feedback.

Unconscious Competence

Man or woman, have you ever gone to an exercise class where you’re being taught push-ups? You take a look around and you know some people are beginners or intermediate level, and then  there are some who you know are not really advanced but they just seem to “get it” first time. In fact it looks nearly better than the instructors? That’s unconscious competence .

It’s usually a response to a childhood of being very active. like climbing trees, cycling, running, sports etc. The nervous system has built up many movement patterns and has a library almost like on online system of movement patterns stored to use on demand. That my friend is what I’m trying to give you. That is the key to acceleration in the gym. Children who are not active and who don’t play sports etc. are at a huge disadvantage as by the time you come into adulthood, these things take longer to learn. They can come on quick in some cases, but in others it can take years to learn.

For more great training tips visit Avonmore Protein Milk’s training hub here

4. You don’t set goals.

Goal setting is not just positive thinking or affirmations. Goal setting is the start of the plan.

  • Pick what you‘re bad at, e.g: women – upper body, men - lower body
  • Do that thing twice a week and in four weeks you’ll be better.

I’m not talking down goal setting, in fact, I want to clarify how to do it. Pick a realistic, measurable goal and put a time frame on it. Here’s another example.

Goal: 'In 8 weeks I want to learn 10 perfect push ups from the knees and one full push up.'
Action: Source a professional and tailor the appropriate plan, take the recommended nutritional steps and go after the goal with focus.
Result: I done my first full push up.

Next goal...

Goal: 'I want to squat my bodyweight for 10 reps in 8 -12 weeks time.'
Action: Source a professional to help and tailor the appropriate plan, take the recommended nutritional steps and go after the goal with focus.
Results: I actually squatted my bodyweight for 15 reps…

Set specific measurable goals tailored to your needs in a realistic time frame and then set a new goal.

That is it. You’re not asking the “universe for it” or some nonsense like that, you’re taking ownership of it and you’re going to get it. Period.

5. You just do what your friends do.

What would life be without friends? Pretty bad I guess, but here’s the thing… I have tons of friends who don’t deadlift and that’s fine. That’s my thing and that’s’ the point here. Specificity must rule the roost here. You only get one  body and you know deep down in your gut and heart what you want to do with it. Nobody is holding a gun to your head, make a decision for you. You have the power of choice, so take responsibility for your own actions.

Nothing bothers me more than meeting someone after 2 years of doing spinning with their friends while the whole time they really wanted to lift weights and get in athletic shape or men who play football when really deep down they want to hit the weights and build muscle. I’m sat here thinking you’re being held hostage to nonsense Your friends won’t desert you, go after what you want in life in all areas and if they do desert you, they weren’t friends to begin with.

My Top 3 Exercises to start doing right now

Really I could name about 10 exercises, but I know people, and I know people only retain about 10 – 20% of what they read so listen up carefully.

1. Loaded carries

This guy is in his 60s and has a better back than most 20-year-olds. You should do loaded carries for a few reasons.

  • You’re a human.
  • You will need to be able to carry things in your life for as long as you live. These will have a greater carry over to life. Bicep curls won’t.
  • Most people won’t have a problem with walking and here we can increase the load quite significantly from the get go. We can teach you about breathing, bracing, postural control and strengthening your grip.
  • Not convinced? Try the following workout:

1 : Carry 1/3 of your bodyweight the length of a football pitch twice, rest as you need.
2: Carry ½ of your bodyweight the length of a football pitch twice, rest as you need.
3. Carry ¾ of your bodyweight the length of a football pitch twice, rest as you need.

Repeat this five times.
This is a beginner's training session.

The carry over effect

If anything happened in your life, I’m sure you’d like to know you had the ability to get someone or yourself out of a bad situation. Carrying things is where we start.

Remember you’ve been walking since you were two. This will train cardio, strength, posture, abs, back, shoulder stability and glutes. A nice finisher for a back day.

2. Hinge / RDL / Deadlift

I sometimes start here with clients because of the carry over into life. The Romanian Deadlift hits the entire back of your body and more. We bend over in life; we bend or hinge in a variety of ways and use our backs all the time. Gravitational forces are always against us putting pressure on our posture; with movements like the RDL we can fight back, keep straight, burn tons of calories and get really strong.


61% of Irish people are obese and chronic back pain is top orthopedic issue in the country. Period. We have stiff, weak backs and it’s getting worse. We don’t train them a lot because all we see is the mirror muscles. Further more, the carry over into sports is arguable in every single sport. Humans need strong backs ,or for a better description,  posterior chains (the entire posterior skeletal set up, from your calves to your neck). You probably know someone with back pain. Learning to hinge and pull is top of my list and I can’t see it changing, again like before you may have limitations because of your lifestyle, mobility, flexibility, training age and muscle mass to name but a few, so for neurological reasons it may take you a few weeks to learn competent reps and skill level.

3. Squat

Arguably the only squat we need to do is the goblet squat, although I do encourage you try many other variations; the goblet is pictured here above.

This is not spine loaded, and relatively easy to learn the correct set up.

The fact is each person will squat differently for many reasons. Quite commonly peoples squats are horrendous of some basic strength knowledge that they are lacking, combined with mobility in a few key areas. Humans need to squat. It’s what we call one of our foundational movements. Unfortunately people don’t put it as a priority.

Rest assured squatting burns a lot of calories, makes you kick harder, jump higher and run faster. If you’re not squatting, I’m afraid you are a beginner in all terms of knowledge and understanding of training, regardless of what you perceive your level of expertise to be. If you’re injury free and not squatting, you’re really missing out on a move that carries over into so many sports, daily life, hip, back health and bone density. If your not squatting I recommend getting professional instruction to learn good technique and squat three times a week for eight weeks at least.

Trust me, you’ll thank me afterwards.

Steve Doody

Instagram https://instagram.com/the_fit_coach/
Fit Studios Instagram https://instagram.com/fitstudios_ie/
Website www.fitstudios.ie E [email protected]
Tailored training programmes and nutritional plans

For more great training tips visit Avonmore Protein Milk’s training hub here

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