Top 10 Exercise Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them).

Getting results like these means avoiding these 10 exercise mistakes...

Within a few hours of arriving in Toronto (I’m living here for the next five or six weeks), my boyfriend and I joined a nearby gym. Included in said gym’s marketing materials was a bookmark with the “Top 10 Exercise Mistakes to Avoid.” Perplexed more by the idea of a bookmark than anything else (people still read things written on paper?), I took one home.

Turns out, their list of gym mistakes was pretty good.

So, I’m going to elaborate on the list – and give you tips for avoiding the pitfalls. Sound good? Great. Here are the 10 big mistakes:

  1. Not setting your goals. You need to know where you want to go in order to get there. Going to the gym and just moving weights and doing cardio isn’t effective when it’s done in a vacuum. Each time you lift a weight or engage in an exercise, it should be an intentional and necessary step to whatever goals you have.
    Simple fix: Write down specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely goals (aka “SMART” goals) for yourself.
  2. Not having a plan. Goals tell you where you are going, but you also need a plan for getting there. A plan breaks down goals into specific exercises, reps, sets, etc over time.
    Simple fix: Creating a workout plan can be overwhelming, so I’d recommend working with a trainer (or hire me by downloading my Ultimate Guide to Working Out – which will create a plan for you). Alternatively, you can make a commitment to educating yourself. Read fitness blogs, do searches online or sign up for a personal training course.
  3. Not getting an assessment before you start an exercise program. This probably made the list because gyms, like trainers, need to cover their butts. And assessments done either by trainers or physicians sometimes bring to light serious issues that must be taken into account before starting a new program. For older populations, people with joint problems, injuries or medical issues, an assessment is especially important.
    Simple fix: Get an assessment before starting a new routine. Some gyms offer assessments (know that they’ll also use it to pitch personal training to you), or else you can visit a physician and ask if you’re ready for exercise. For everyone, it’s recommended. For at-risk populations, it’s a must.
  4. Starting too hard, too fast. I’ve always said that exercise routines must be sustainable. Human beings are creatures of habit, and we deal with change best when it is small. When starting a new exercise program, you’re probably super excited and pumped up to get started. There’s a tendency to bite off more than can be chewed; channel that energy into a sustainable exercise commitment.
    Simple fix: Start out slowly. If you’re just getting started with exercise, do it 30-45 minutes a day, two to three days a week. Slowly increase the frequency and duration over time. Here are some more tips to avoid gym burnout…
  5. Not changing up the routine. For those of us that have been exercise for a number of years, changing up the routine is critical. Our bodies adjust to whatever exercises, sets and reps that we perform – and we fall into a rut or reach a plateau.
    Simple fix: Switch your workout up a few times per year. Doing so keeps your body evolving, muscles guessing and ensures maximum results.
  6. Doing only cardio. I’d add to this, doing only strength training. As it turns out, strength training and cardio go hand-in-hand. To get best results (whatever results you want), you should be doing both. Even if your goal is strictly weight loss, you’re cutting yourself super short by skipping out on the metabolism-boosting free weights.
    Simple fix: Incorporate both strength training and cardio in ANY exercise program.
  7. Exercising with incorrect form. Sometimes, we compromise form to make an exercise easier. This is cheating, and it robs your body of real results and increases your risk of injury. Other times, simply through ignorance, we may not be doing an exercise properly. It’s super dangerous; proper form is essential.
    Simple fix: Use a mirror or spot to ensure that you’re maintaining proper form while exercising. If you’re not sure what proper form is, do a Google search for some of the exercises you’re performing. Check out the diagrams and compare the posture to your own.
  8. Spot reducing effort. Spotters bring a number of great benefits to the table. They – as mentioned above – can keep a critical eye on your form, and they can help you get more bang out of your workout. A spotter should be used to help you get in a 7th rep when you can only do 6 on your own. But some people rely too heavily on spotters, and use them to get in the 6th rep when they could have done it with their own effort.
    Simple fix: Use a spotter to push you, and not to make your workout easier. If you know how many reps you typically do, tell the spotter, “I usually do 6 reps but I’m going to go for 7 today.”
  9. Following the latest trends and fads. Today it’s the bacon diet or the miracle pill, and tomorrow it’s the “wear one shoe” exercise routine. Exercise fads are marketing gimmicks to get your money. And they usually lack a real scientific foundation. Tempting as they may be, avoid at all costs.
    Simple fix: Use time-tested and scientifically proven exercise strategies or advice rather than fly-by-night fads.
  10. Ignoring nutrition. Exercise is part of the equation. But nutrition is another. You can exercise until the cows come home, and you may not see significant results if you ignore what your consuming. Nutrition is super important – it will accelerate or decelerate your results.
    Simple fix: Educate yourself. Know what you need to eat, and how your workout will affect that (i.e., protein intake, etc.). I put together a downloadable e-book called Eating for Fitness in conjunction with a nutritionist to answer your burning nutrition questions. Alternatively, educate yourself online by reading and subscribing to reliable nutrition sources.

So there you have it: 10 of the top fitness mistakes and some simple fixes.

I can think of about 1,000 others. Feel free to sound-off with some of the top mistakes you see people making in the comments below.

About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.


  1. Davey, I’ve been working out two hours a day (one hour interval cardio, one hour free weights) four times a week and eating healthy with the 80:20 rule and sleeping eight hours a night and rarely drinking alcohol for over a year now and even though I’ve attained some significant results, I’m still miles away from my ultimate goal (which is basically to have a body like yours). I think I’ve avoided all the mistakes mentioned above. What am I doing wrong? Or am I not doing enough?

    • BTW These are my stats:
      152 lbs
      14% BF
      13.7” biceps
      38.5″ chest
      20.4″ quads
      33.0″ waist

      I also supplement my diet with protein shakes but I feel like they go right through me because I’m not seeing any results, whether they’re positive or negative. The most I’ve managed to attain recently is to lose a couple of pounds after starting my interval cardio regimen, but it was both in muscle and fat. I’m sorry if I sound like a total whiny downer and I digress but it’s very frustrating.

      • Perhaps you need to increase the difficulty of what you’re doing? I can’t tell from your post if you are increasing weight/speed/length of intervals/whatever or not, but if you aren’t, that’s probably why you aren’t achieving results. We must always challenge ourselves, otherwise we won’t evolve :). Otherwise you’ve done really well! ๐Ÿ™‚

        • I’ve always pushed myself to the limit when it comes to weight lifting. I try to lift the heaviest loads in 6-8 reps (or 8-10 depending on the exercise) for 8-10 sets. If I feel I can do more than those, I increase the weight. If my physical limit isn’t enough, what is??

    • Have you had a fitness assessment and gone over your goals and workout routine with a qualified personal trainer? You have invested so much effort- might be worth investing a little money.

  2. Javan H. says:

    Stats (before the slight weight loss)

    Arms: 12″
    Chest: 36″
    Waist: 29″
    Hams/Quads: 20″

    I’ve been helping my former roommate out with his exercises because his chest was hurting. Come to find out, he was increasing his weights by, like, 5-10 lbs EVERY DAY. I was, like, “What possessed you to do that?!”

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