Five common mistakes to avoid when weightlifting

Jake Calhoun

The best thing about weightlifting is that there’s always something new to learn.

For anyone who is working to build muscle mass, develop strength or lose weight, there are numerous avenues he or she can take to make those visions become reality.

However, there can be common snags for weightlifters of all experience levels — whether you’ve been lifting for 10-plus years or are just starting it.

If you consider yourself a gym rat and are deeply enthralled in the joys of weightlifting, you may be making some common mistakes or faux pas without even knowing it. So, without further ado, here are five mistakes that weightlifters make on a regular basis and how they can go about avoiding them.

1. Do not drop the weights at the end of an exercise.

Unless you are going to fail and absolutely cannot control your dumbbells or barbell on the way back to the starting position, you should never drop your weights.

The easiest way to irritate other lifters is to carelessly drop your weights at the end of a set with an accompanying loud clash or thud. If you’re trying to puff out your chest and show everyone how cool you think you are, then by all means drop the weights to your heart’s desire.

When you control the weights on your way back to the starting position, you’re causing your muscles a little extra work, creating an added benefit to the exercise.

So if you want a little extra work for your muscles, do the courteous thing and control your weights on the way down.

But please, don’t be “that guy” who just tosses weights on the floor with hopes of all the pretty girls turning their heads to see how cool you look because, truth is, you won’t look cool at all.

2. Leave your ego at the door.

Everyone has an ego; there’s no denying that.

But if you’re going to making any strength gains, you’re going to need to know when to abandon the heavy weight and lift within your means.

No one will ever walk into a gym for the first time and be able to bench-press 275 pounds; that’s physically impossible for the human body that hasn’t lifted before.

So if you’re scared of looking like a wimp in front of the other gym-goers, don’t be. Everyone is working within their own means, and there should always be a certain level of respect for those whose means are different than your own.

The gym is not a popularity pageant. This isn’t high school. If you let your ego get the best of you, then you’ll struggle to lift the weight you want to be pushing, and you won’t get anything out of it except for a potential injury.

Again, don’t be “that guy” who is so wrapped up with what everyone else in the gym thinks. Do your own thing, and your results will come.

Remember, only through humility will one find true strength.

3. Do not use your back when doing curls.

To remain with the theme of abandoning ego, from time to time you will see a lifter struggling with a fair amount of weight on bicep curls while tilting his or her back away from the bar to help propel the bar up.

You may think you’re doing it correctly, but you’re really not working your biceps if you’re cheating the lift by using your back.

Some weightlifting experts may contend that you’re still working your biceps to a degree if you’re using your back because the heavy weight involved will still provide resistance to your biceps. While this is not completely false, it is still better to strictly focus keeping your torso upright to ensure that you’re fully exhausting your biceps for the lift.

With that being said, you will not be lifting a lot of weight if you’re just starting out in the gym.

Try not to exceed curling more than 55 pounds until you have the form conquered. By that time, you should already be noticing strength gains if performed correctly.

4. Don’t be so wrapped up in socializing that you lose your focus.

Getting out to the gym is a great way to socialize with others, but that’s not the reason you’re there.

If you want to socialize, go hang out at Caribou or Hawthorn, but don’t burden others who are trying to work with your chit-chat if you’re only there to talk.

If someone tries to strike up a conversation with you while you’re working out, try and find another time to talk to them, and then, finish your workout.

Also, keep in mind that powwowing with your friends in the gym can be distracting to others, so please remember to be courteous by respecting others’ boundaries.

5. Find a good balance of compound and isolation lifts.

One of the major principles employed by bodybuilders is the incorporation of both compound and isolation lifts in their workout regimens.

As their names suggest, compound lifts are great for building overall strength and mass by working multiple muscles groups at a time, while isolation lifts focus strictly on one particular muscle for an even greater amount of gains.

Doing strictly compound lifts such as Olympic snatch and barbell deadlifts are good for developing multiple muscle groups, but don’t promote specified gains.

For isolation lifts such as barbell curls and tricep pushdowns, it can be easy to target the muscle for good gains but it is also easy to burn yourself out and plateau from making anymore gains after a couple workouts.

Always find a way to mix things up in your workout so your muscles don’t get used to a certain lift or motion. Muscle memory is one of the biggest obstacles for aspiring bodybuilders. So find unique ways to continually train your body without letting your muscles get too comfortable with an exercise.