Do You Even Lift, Bro? 10 Common Gym Mistakes You Should Avoid Making

Okay bros, time to drop some more gym wisdom on you all. Now, I realize there is a broad spectrum of readers here – some of you may be brand new to the iron game, some of you may have been born with dumbbells in your hands and little six-packs, so this may be old news. Some of these mistakes seem laughable, but you would not believe how many people make these mistakes every single day.

Now, I’ve worked in a few different gyms now, and without fail, I see the same common mistakes in every single one. I’m not just pulling these out of thin air. These are mistakes that can slow your gains, and potentially set you up as the most annoying person in the gym.

Without further ado, I present to you, in no particular order, the ten most common gym mistakes that need to end.

1. Curls in the Squat Rack

You really don’t want to do this – trust me. I see motivational posters on Facebook just about every day making fun of people who curl in the squat rack, yet everyone still does it. Here’s an idea, load up a barbell and pick it up from the floor. You don’t need to set up a 55lb. curl in the squat rack so you can conveniently pick it up from waist-level, just man up and pick it up off the ground.

2. Not Putting Your Weights Away

The last thing anyone wants is to clean up behind you and strip your plates off the bar. Try to show some respect and put your stuff away; it really doesn’t take much time, and gym members and staff will be very grateful. I’ve never seen a gym that doesn’t have a sign with this rule, yet so many gym members leave their stuff laying around. Not cool bros.

3. Exercising Right in Front of the Dumbbell Rack

If you pick up a pair dumbbells and stand directly in front the rack while you curl them, to make sure your arms are getting pumped, I will find you and hit you in the face with a lifting belt. This one seems like common sense, but most of the time it isn’t. Please stand at least 5 feet away so others can get to the dumbbells.

4. Texting Way Too Much         

You’re at the gym to lift, not text your girl and update your Facebook status, aren’t you? Act like it. Don’t be the dude who sits on a bench for 4 minutes between every set messing with your phone, just get to work.

5. Dropping Weights You Can Handle (Being Lazy)

Okay, this one a lot of you will probably disagree with, but please don’t throw your dumbbells on the ground after an exercise. If it’s a very heavy attempt, and the alternative is dropping them on your head, then sure, safety first. But don’t tell me you can set up for an exercise, knock out 8 reps, and then have to throw them on the ground. I’ve seen a toe broken because someone threw 35 pound dumbbells away after a set of 12, and I’ve seen someone rep 130 pound dumbbells and gently sit up with them, and put them back. You tell me which one is better. Throwing weights that you can handle doesn’t make you look cool, it makes you lazy.

6. Not progressing your weights

We all plateau from time to time, nothing wrong with that. If possible, you should be trying to increase your weights over time. Now, if you are very strong, even a 5 pound gain after a month is pretty decent progress. However, if you’ve been squatting 135 for 6 months because you hate leg day, or any other lift stalls out for a long time, maybe it’s time to buckle down and really focus get stronger. The only way to grow is through progressive overload guys, and we all want to get huge.

7. Too much talk, not enough work 

This goes back to the cell phone rule. The gym is what separates the men from the boys, the gym is not your social club. If you can stand around long enough to hold an entire conversation, or creep a girl out with your flirting and flexing, you have enough energy to crush your next set.

8. Ego-lifting, the killer of good form

Don’t lift more than you can handle. Trying to show off and lift more weight at the expense of good form is a great way to get hurt eventually, trust me on this one. Not much else to say, just don’t lift more than you can handle.

9. Neglecting the small muscles

When was the last time you trained your rhomboids, glute medius, erector spinae, or other small, yet important muscles? Do you even know how? A lot of body part splits I see are okay (Chest, Back, Shoulders, Arms, maybe Legs, etc…), but they neglect the small muscles. You need upper back strength to keep your shoulders healthy and support your posture. You need strong glutes to stabilize your hips, protect your back, and help when you squat and deadlift. These and all other small stabilizer muscles, while not glamorous, need to be trained regularly.

10. Not warming up properly

Arrive at the gym, slowly walk on a treadmill for ten minutes while get your Beats by Dre adjusted and the perfect playlist set up, and get to work. Sound familiar? It shouldn’t, since we like to lift safely and we know better. A good warm-up prepares the actual muscles you are going to use, and gets your central nervous system fired up. On chest day, you should be getting your chest warmed up and firing, and walking doesn’t do this. For each workout, think about what you are going to be working on, and warm up accordingly.

Matt Dustin is a personal trainer and strength coach who believes you can get incredibly jacked and shredded, and still be able to function and move your body for sports, and life in general.  He is also the author of The Student Playbook, a book that teaches students how to get fit with a busy schedule. You can check out his website at, and follow him on Twitter for more cool stuff.

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