4 Common Workout Mistakes and How to Fix Them

4 Common Workout Mistakes and How to Fix Them

by Shannon Clark
Share it:
4 Common Workout Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Designing your own workout? People have the best of intentions when coming up with their own exercise programs but, sadly, often commit one or two design errors that can cost them success.

Before you head into the gym to give that self-designed workout a try, double check that you won’t make the following common mistakes.

Mistake #1: Doing Core Work First

Six-pack abs. If there’s one goal that most people want to achieve, this is it. As such, you head into the gym and the first thing you do is head right toward the ab mat.

Sadly, this is only moving you away from progress. What you need to remember is that your core muscles will be working in each and every standing strength move you do.

Whether it’s squats, lunges, shoulder presses or step-ups, you’ll recruit your core muscles for balance when completing these moves. As such, if your core muscles are in a fatigued state while you perform these other moves, this could mean lower performance on these exercises at best and a significant injury at worst.

By doing your core work last, you’ll maintain a stronger midsection for other exercises and, by the time you get to those core moves, they’ll already be in a partly fatigued state.

Bonus: This means you have to do less core work overall.

Mistake #2: Too Much Steady-State Cardio

When weight loss is your main goal, it’s easy to go into steady-state cardio overload. For five days a week, you go hard for 60 minutes on the bike, elliptical or treadmill. Sound familiar?

You figure you’re on the best fat-loss plan possible—with all that cardio, you’ll be torching fat in no time. Only months have passed and your body hasn’t changed.

All this cardio exercise does very little to enhance fat burning. In fact, it may cause you to gain weight because it makes you ravenous after each session, leading to overeating in the hours that follow.

Instead, once per week, cut back to 30 minutes of cardio, and get into the weight room for the other 30. This will help you yield top-notch results.

This isn’t to say all cardio is bad. In moderation, intense interval sprint training can also be a great way to burn fat.

But setting the treadmill on 5 miles per hour and jogging for 40 minutes straight day after day, week after week, month after month? That’s doing very little to change how your body looks.

Mistake #3: Isolation Exercise Overload

If you do three different types of bicep exercises, three tricep exercises to match and, when leg day comes, you hit the inner and outer thigh machines, you have changes to make.

While some isolation work is fine, the vast majority of your program should be focused on compound exercises. Squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses, bench presses, bent over rows—these are the moves that will deliver the best results possible.

Mistake #4: Insufficient Rest Between Workouts

Finally, the last mistake is being just a little too motivated. If you hit the gym six or seven days a week, too much exercise could become a problem.

Remember, your body needs time to rest and recover every week. This is the time when you will actually grow stronger.

Workouts simply break down muscle tissue. If you don’t allow for enough rest between these sessions, your progress will spiral downwards.

Aim for at least one day completely off each week and 1-2 sessions done at a low intensity level. You’ll not only see better results, but you’ll also come back to each workout feeling fresher as well.

Are you making any of these errors? If you are, make sure you change your strategy so that you don’t get stuck in a progress rut.


  • Rick Donegan

    This is the worst article

  • Myfitblogger

    Mistake #1 is confusingly written. Should we do core in the end or at the beginning? Everything seemed to make sense until I read the last sentence “…by the time tou get to those core moves they’ll already be in a partially fatigued state”. So does “they” here refer to mid-section muscles , or core, and are they even different from one another to begin with? Isn’t it bad that they (whichever muscle group they may be) would be partially fatigued before even starting core exercises?

    • Antonio Gillespie

      I’ve been working my core / abs 1st for the last 2 years –> my core is insanely strong and I have abs of steel and obliques –> I run Spartan races – so my entire workout regime contradicts this entire article – I never take an entire day off – I workout a minimum of 4 hrs per day and I hunger got pain daily –> I run daily as well – pretty much every day – I do keep my body guessing though – I alternate reps and weigh size – I hit 5000 plus ab reps daily – I do upperbody work Monday and Friday – HITT on Tuesday and Thursday – lowerbody Wednesday and Sunday and Saturday is my run and ab day primarily – overall I consider myself to be a beast #

      • Keith Fedak

        Yeah it was good advice for beginners, where injury from no ab power could occur. At your stated level, you would probably benefit from some more advanced articles.

        • Keith Fedak

          But after reading the title “common mistakes” it might have been better to add “for beginners.” I may have just assumed that.

    • sarah

      I’m a PT and have a sport science degree aswell. We learnt that core exercises are best done first as it engages the core first so when you are preforming other exercises your core should engage naturally and fired up ready to go. Plus it is good to do first as most people skip the last exercise/ exercises on their program. Which 9 times out of 10 is abs. Why skip abs because your tired and want to come home. However, exercise is a science and science is being proven wrong daily. In my opinion, just mix it up!

      • Exactly! If I’m doing gymnastics or rock climbing (core-intensive sports,) I absolutely have to work my abs directly beforehand for optimal performance.

      • kyle miller

        Yes I’m a personal trainer too I’d say dedicate 1 day to core 1 day to legs and 1 to upper body for a good 3 day a week workout that will keep your muscles rested and confused. As long as you stick with it then you’ll be fine its staying motivated that people can’t do in which has them running back to the remote

      • Eddie VanBuskirk

        I graduated college with a BS in Exercise Science and a MS in Kinesiology. We were taught that your core is not just your abs and lower back, it contains your quads, hamstrings all the way up to your your lats and traps. The reasoning behind this is that all of these muscles have attachment points on the lumbar vertebrae or on the sacrum. If someone is not doing full body workouts then they are missing their core in some respect or another. On a personal note I had the best “ABS” when I did not work them isolated at all. I performed 5 exercises 4 of which were standing up and I needed to stabilize my body. You need to find out what works for you but if you do workouts that constantly need you to have an active core then you can leave the gym without doing core if you run out of time.

    • Dan Black

      Core at the end of your work outs.

    • Joel

      Hi, I’m also a PT and I see Sarah’s point about skipping your last workout as time or energy runs out. I do a light core workout mixed I to my warm ups/pre-workout and I will put a core workout at the end of each circuit. This way you hit the core hard after its been primed with the other workouts and you give you big muscles a rest when you work your core. Then if its a core focus day I’ll do a finisher that targets the core at the end.

    • Sarah

      I like your idea Joel. Do it at both ends. Best of both worlds! I like your point about utilising compound exercises Eddie. However what about Hip extension ( lengthening the core)? I can’t tell you a compound movement that will get my abs screaming as much as an ab wheel, also any movement that extends the core. I do dedicate one training day to compound movements not only to get that stabilization but also to be functional. No point having killer strong abs if you can’t use them!

    • Sarah

      Good points here. Loving the discussion on here, we all love a good debate once in a while. It’s great to share and learn from each other.

  • meg

    Mistake #2 is not correct. I do a lot of cardio, 45-60 minutes a day most days. And, I am never “ravenous” afterwards. I am no more hungry after a cardio session than I am after a strength session. Cardio might not give you six-pack abs, but it strengthens your heart and lungs – which is a heck of a lot more important. You can also do cardio and tone your muscles at the same time.

    Ms. Clark may be a personal trainer, but that doesn’t mean she knows what she’s talking about. And – deadlifts can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. You can do some serious back and/or knee injuries if your form isn’t correct.

    • BobbiDev

      I have learned the hard way that she IS correct! Not all people are “ravenous” after, but a lot of us are! Both of you need to stop generalizing.

      • cro

        I for one have to agree with #2 due to experience! It was terribly discouraging and disappointing when I gained as I trained for my 1st half marathon.

    • Kyle

      Funny because power lifting actually increases heart health much more than cardiovascular exercises do. I know it may be hard to believe but it is true. Also, deadlifts can be hard on your back but all you need to do is CORRECT your form. Because you didn’t do well your first time doesn’t mean you cut them out forever. Cardiovascular exercises are great, but mixing them with strength exercises just enhances the heart health. Research power lifting and heart health, surprised me but it makes 100% sense.

      • Ann

        I agree! I get a better cardio workout when I add weights to it! For example I pick up 25lb bells in each hand & I walk up & down the steps of my gym a few times. My heart beat rises a lot faster than if I jumped on the treadmill. Everyone is different but it also depends on what & how your doing it! Eventually you body becomes acostumed to the pace on the treadmill & you don’t get the same effect.

    • Dr. J

      You are probably on a fat burning metabolism because you have done this for long enough. Stay the course, it’s the same for me.

    • Jerry

      Everything written in this blog is spot on. Opinions may vary as well as preference, but make no mistake if you follow this regimen you’ll see quick thorough progress.

    • BuzzPreston

      Did you read the first sentence? “When weight loss is your main goal….” That sounds pretty specific. I am a former competitive runner from the old school of 50-100 miles a week, about 10% of it speedwork. In thirty years of that I never completely lost the small amount of belly fat, even though my body fat was at 10-12%. I still do some cardio, hill sprints and bike sprints, once a week and never more than 20-30 minutes, but most of my workouts are HIRT and for the first time, at age 72, I have a six pack. My vo2 max is still up there and my “fitness” age is 30 years less than my chronological age. I’ve proven it to myself; too much cardio es no bueno. Not only that, but science is now finding that excess cardio can age you faster. Who needs that?

  • #1 and #2 can be mistakes, or they can be smart. Depends on your overall workout program. Lots of athletes need 5+ hours of steady-state cardio each week, along with interval training. I’d say jumping into intense interval training without having done sufficient steady cardio first is the more common mistake (which was brought about by articles such as this one.) And a decent amount of core work before your big lifts is often helpful for activating your core muscles, so that you can use them to their full potential when it counts. (Then finish them off at the very end.)

  • Guest

    Point #2 is downright horrible. One of the best methods to lose weight is sustained cardio. Intensity doesn’t matter, but duration does and 60 minutes can help a lot. Your body doesn’t give a shit about “fat loss”, but it does care about calories in vs. calories out and it’s hard to find a method more efficient than long periods of cardio. If the problem is overeating after cardio, then obviously the real issue is the diet and not the exercise anyway

    • Joel

      There has been so much research on mid to high intensity sprints with mid to low recovery being far more effective the mid level runs/biking. To the tune of 30 minutes vs 60 and yes, a higher cal burn as well.

    • BuzzPreston

      Time to catch up on your reading. Calories in/calories out is so outdated and off the mark as to make one wonder if those who still espouse it believe in safe cigarettes and clean coal.

      • Paranormal Skeptic

        lol… CICO is outdated… Perhaps you’ve discovered solar ATP chains in the human body?

        • BuzzPreston

          “Perhaps you’ve discovered solar ATP chains……..” could use some clarification.

          • Paranormal Skeptic

            You do know what ATP is, in reference to human biology, right?

    • Eddie VanBuskirk

      Calories are not equal that C in Vs. C out is an outdated weight loss formula. it can work but in most cases i wont. With all the chemicals and bad things in the food these days your body does not know how to respond. A perfect example diet soda it has zero calories but when a person drinks one their body taste sweet and so the brain say I need to process this sugar so insulin is released into your body to take care of the sugar that is not there. What is happening to the body while the insulin is released? Your body stops burning fat to digest the sugar.

      Also read Tim Ferris’ book The Four Hour Body. In it he did an experiment where he at something like 16,000 calories in a day for around 28 days and lost weight.

      • Paranormal Skeptic

        Insulin release isn’t determined by taste, but by sugar levels in blood serum…

  • Tiberius

    Start with core exercises – period.
    1. Warm up/train with the largest muscle groups first helps warning up the whole body quicker.
    2. You can support your body (posture) during different exercises with warmed up and toned core.