Top 5 Mistakes You're Making in the Gym

Every time I walk into a gym, I see and hear things that make me want to jump up and down, things I want to run over and fix!
03/09/2012 11:15 am ET Updated May 09, 2012

Every time I walk into a gym, I see and hear things that make me want to jump up and down, things I want to run over and fix! On the train home from work, I overhear conversations that make me giggle, and hosting a TV reality show on weight loss I can honestly say there are many mistakes people are making in the gym and on their weight loss journey that can be easily fixed. Here are my top five mistakes people make in the gym:

1. Stretch first. At some point in time it was ingrained into our heads that we need to stretch before we warm up or step on the treadmill. Some people say it just feels good, while others believe it will help prevent injuries. The truth is that you should go through dynamic or moving stretches before doing any cardio activity, with the simple exception of walking. Leg swings, waist twists, or small lunge movements with single arm reaches help bring blood flow and heat to the connective tissue and muscles. Static stretching signals a muscle to stay in length, which may actually create an injury if you make a sudden movement without a proper warm up. Think toe point and flex, rotation moves and big patterns that mimic the cardio form you will be doing, and then go run!

2. Target the muscle. Although we all have heard we cannot spot reduce, there is still some perception out there that targeting one muscle group at a time is the best way to workout. I see many people still doing dumb bell bicep curls -- first on the right arm, then on the left. The best way to workout is to use the entire body for each move. Many of us do not have the time to spend two to three hours in the gym. Integrated or combining upper body and lower body movements together engage the core and burn more calories with each move.

3. Bench press on the press. Although men perform this move more than women, it's still a pet peeve of mine. To do chest press with free weights on the bench can possibly do damage to the shoulder rotator cuff. The most common error is lowering the weight below the bench and dropping the hands in as they lower. The hands should stay over the elbow throughout the movement and control the movement as they move against gravity, instead of throwing it up in the air. Controlled movements accentuate each muscle fiber contraction. When we increase the speed just to finish a movement, we rely on momentum to carry the weight instead of the muscle.

4. Reading during your cardio. The one thing I see in every hotel gym is people reading while doing cardio. Exercise is a time to focus on the body and clear your mind. Please put down your books and think about your posture, your breath and your stride to be more effective with your cardio workouts. This simple step can increase your output and calorie burn. Then you have time to perform some total body exercises and stretch.

5. Protein up. I see many people drinking protein shakes in the gym before their workouts. The truth is protein should be eaten at meals like breakfast, lunch and dinner instead of just before a workout. At breakfast think pure egg whites for a cholesterol free, calorie dense protein. Try an egg substitute for a simpler start by pouring them into a mug with some chopped veggies for fiber and microwave for two to three minutes. At lunch, opt for lean tuna with barbeque sauce instead of mayonnaise and add two cups of mixed greens. At dinner, try going meat free and try black beans with quinoa, fresh chopped broccoli and spices to round out your fiber for the day.

Remember that good form goes a long way. For more information on making your workouts matter, check in on every Friday at noon CST to have your questions answered. If you question is chosen for a blog post, you will receive a free workout DVD.

Andrea Metcalf is a healthy lifestyle expert, best selling author of "Naked Fitness" and host/producer of "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is," a weight loss TV reality show on NBC Nonstop in Chicago. She blogs to inspire and education people to live healthier lives by being healthy and moved daily. Sign up for her FREE monthly newsletter at for more healthy lifestyle videos and tips. Andrea has sponsored content in some of her blog postings, however reflects her personal opinions and not necessarily those of the sponsor.