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10 Bad Workout Habits That Are Totally Killing Your Progress

Break these super common exercise habits and watch your progress soar.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

Don't worry: I won't tell you to stop cracking your knuckles. But when it comes to your workouts, there are many bad habits that can limit your progress—and if you keep making them, you'll get frustrated and feel like you're going nowhere. That's why I've rounded up 10 bad workout habits that hurt your results, and what to do instead for much better fat loss and muscle gain. Thankfully, these are easy to break and you'll feel the difference almost instantly.

Keep reading to learn all about 10 bad workout habits to quit ASAP. And next, don't miss 5 Exercise Habits That Are Destroying Your Body After 50.

You're doing "someone else's" program.

woman doing at-home virtual workout

Many people use a routine they find online, but there's no "one-size-fits-all" program. Your body, limitations, and training history are unique so a random plan could lead to slower progress or even injury (if doing movements you're not ready for). Instead, always follow a workout program that's customized to your needs, lifestyle, and more.

You're not tracking your progress.

Most people don't write down what they do, but if you don't remember what you did, how can you measure your progress and make changes? Always track what you do—what exercises, number of sets and reps, and weights. That way, you can change things over time to avoid plateaus and continually get great results.

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You're not following the correct order.

Many gymgoers do exercises in whatever order they feel. But for best results, always do the biggest, heaviest, and most technically complex exercises first—like squats, deadlifts, etc.—so you have the most energy available. Then, do smaller exercises like chin-ups, pushups, etc., and finish with the smallest movements like bicep curls or tricep extensions.

You're not warming up properly.

fitness man in his 20s stretching

If you want to feel your best to crush your workout, a quick treadmill jog just won't cut it. Instead, do a series of dynamic stretches and activation drills to fire up your muscles, open up your joints, get your blood flowing, and prepare your nervous system for maximum performance.

You're using your phone.

Real talk: If you're checking your phone during your workout, then your workout ain't hard enough. Either your breaks are too long or your intensity—sets, reps, or weight—is too low. (You should be too tired to check IG.)

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You're not getting help.

Need a spot? A gym partner? Someone to teach you good technique? Don't be afraid to ask. Being too proud or "figuring it out yourself" is just asking for lousy results. After all, even the best athletes on earth all have (multiple) trainers.

You're not cooling down.

fit man doing foam rolling exercises for lower back pain on track

When you finish, don't just pack up and leave—your heart rate is sky high and your energy is ramped up. Instead, do some gentle foam rolling and stretching on your tired muscles. Then, spend a minute or two just breathing gently to calm down and shift your mind into recovery mode.

You're not getting the correct nutrition.

For great results, enhance your nutrition before, during, and after your workout. Beforehand, get quick-acting carbs and proteins with either a snack or shake. During your training, stay hydrated with water or a carb drink. (Avoid too much caffeine, which can cause "crashes" or affect your sleep.) Afterward, consume carbs and protein with a shake or meal to refuel and repair your body.

Over 50? Here Are 6 Exercise Mistakes You're Too Old To Make

You're not using the correct range of motion.

Always use the appropriate range of motion: You'll build more strength, burn more calories, and help your joints. For example, if you don't go low enough when squatting or bench pressing, you'll put too much stress on your joints and fail to target the larger muscles in your hips and chest, respectively.

You're looking in the mirror.

woman working out with barbell in mirror at gym, concept of bad fitness habits

It might be tempting to look in the mirror to check your form, but you should actually avoid this. The mirror only shows you one plane and alters your neck position, which can affect your technique and even lead to injuries. Instead, have someone record a video from the front and/or side angle.

Anthony J. Yeung
Anthony J. Yeung, CSCS, is a fitness expert featured in Esquire, GQ, and Men’s Health and the founder of GroomBuilder, the destination for men who want to transform their bodies for their weddings. Join the free 5-day course to burn fat and build muscle for the big day! Read more about Anthony
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