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20 Common Gym Mistakes (That Even Experienced Lifters Commit) – How Many Are You Making?

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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Think those “tough” workout techniques are doing you favors? Think again. Many popular gym moves can damage your joints and derail your fitness goals in the long run.

Protect your body and maximize your results by learning the workout mistakes you need to avoid.

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Sean Aliwani, from, breaks down the biggest offenders so you can train smarter, not just harder.

Most Crucial Mistakes (Top 5)

1. Front Raises Overuse

Front raises are a staple in many gym-goers’ routines, yet they are often redundant. Most people already achieve sufficient front deltoid stimulation through standard chest and shoulder pressing movements. Overemphasizing front raises can lead to muscular imbalances, prioritizing the front delts over the more visually significant side and rear delts.

2. Bosu Ball Exercises

Utilizing a Bosu ball for exercises like squats, curls, or presses might seem innovative, but it doesn’t enhance muscle activation or functionality. Instead, it introduces unnecessary instability, reducing the force one can exert and potentially leading to decreased performance and increased injury risk.

3. Reverse Grip Triceps Extensions

The reverse grip in triceps extensions does not activate the muscles any differently than traditional grips. This grip simply places the wrists in a weaker, more awkward position, offering no benefits while increasing the potential for strain.

4. Elbow Flaring in Chest Presses

Flaring elbows out to the sides during chest presses puts significant stress on the shoulder joints. A slight tuck of the elbows, maintaining them at about a 75-degree angle from the body, helps protect the shoulders while still effectively targeting the chest muscles.

5. Excessive Spotter Assistance

Relying heavily on a spotter to manage weights you cannot handle independently defeats the purpose of training. This practice not only risks injury but also impedes accurate measurement of strength progressions, which are essential for effective training.

Additional Mistakes (6-15)

6. Cable Squat Misuse

Performing squats with a cable setup pulling forward does little for the quads and glutes, as the resistance direction is misaligned with the muscle groups intended to be worked. Better results are achieved with direct resistance applications like free weights or machines designed for leg work.

7. Lifting in Front of the Dumbbell Rack

This common gym faux pas blocks access to weights and disrupts the flow in the weight area. Simply stepping back a few feet allows others to navigate the space freely, reflecting basic gym courtesy.

8. Standing Dumbbell External Rotations

Often misused as a shoulder warm-up, this exercise fails to activate the rotator cuff effectively when performed standing with dumbbells. The resistance from dumbbells comes vertically due to gravity, not laterally as needed for proper rotator cuff engagement.

9. Behind-the-Neck Pull-downs

This variation of pull-downs forces the shoulders into an unnatural, harmful position and offers no superior muscle engagement over front pull-downs. It’s generally safer and just as effective to pull the bar down to the chest.

10. Plate Exercises

Exercises that involve holding weight plates often appear on social media for their novelty, yet they offer no functional benefit over traditional equipment. Plates are harder to grip and challenging to scale in weight, complicating progressive overload strategies.

11. Leg Press Form Errors

Using hands to assist in pushing during leg presses is an incorrect form that can reduce effectiveness and increase the risk of back injury. Proper form requires the back to be firmly against the seat, which is compromised if the hands are on the knees.

12. Combo Exercises

Combining movements like squats with lateral raises might look impressive but typically leads to one of the exercises being underperformed. It’s more effective to separate these exercises and focus on proper form and appropriate resistance for each.

13. Super Setting Over Multiple Equipments

Occupying multiple pieces of equipment, especially during busy times, is poor gym etiquette. If super sets are necessary, they should be planned during off-peak hours or arranged to minimize disruption.

14. Excessively Heavy Lateral Raises

Using too much weight for lateral raises can jeopardize shoulder health. Opting for lighter weights and focusing on form can prevent injury and better target the intended muscle groups.

15. Dumbbell Triceps Kickbacks

While popular, triceps kickbacks with dumbbells often lead to an uneven resistance curve, making them less effective than alternatives like cable kickbacks, which provide consistent tension throughout the movement.

Less Critical But Common Mistakes (16-20)

16. Upright Rows with Excessive Motion

Pulling the bar too high in upright rows can strain the shoulders. Limiting the motion to keep elbows in line with shoulders and using moderate weights helps mitigate risks.

17. Rolling Dumbbell Shrugs

Rolling the shoulders during shrugs adds no benefits; the motion should be strictly vertical to effectively target the traps without causing strain.

18. Not Re-racking Weights

Failing to re-rack weights not only disrupts other gym users but also poses safety hazards. Re-racking is a fundamental aspect of gym etiquette that reflects respect for others and the facility.

19. Standing Plate Presses

Despite the sensation of intensity, standing plate presses do not effectively target chest muscles due to the direction of resistance. Traditional presses are far superior for chest development.

20. Side Bends with Weights in Both Hands

Performing side bends with a weight in each hand nullifies the exercise’s effectiveness, as the opposing weights counterbalance each other. Single-sided or alternative oblique exercises are more effective.


Awareness and avoidance of these common gym mistakes can significantly enhance the safety and effectiveness of your workout routine while fostering a respectful and efficient gym environment. 

Regularly revisiting and refining gym habits ensures continuous improvement and injury prevention, key components of a successful fitness journey.

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Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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