5 Biggest Exercise Mistakes

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Having trained over 3200 people in my fitness career, I’ve seen a lot of patterns with the mistakes that people make when they start working out and want to lose weight.

Truth be told, we’ve all made these mistakes at some point or another.

>>things like starving yourself to lose weight

>>doing insane amounts of exercise to lose weight

>>addressing the symptoms and not the causes with overuse injuries

All the above points are just wrong, wrong, wrong.

And with only 24 hours in a day to go to work, take care of your family, get a little bit of healthy exercise and food in our bodies, how are you supposed to find the time to learn all this?
Furthermore, who’s to know what to believe anymore in an age of over stimulated paralysis by analysis!?

The 2 most dangerous words in the English language are I know. It insinuates a closing of the mind. And let’s be honest, you don’t know what you don’t know! You don’t know everything! I don’t know everything! And because of this, everyday, I put in at least an hour a day of dedicated research to enhancing my knowledge in fitness, nutrition, mobility, psychology…

You should never stop learning.
You should never stop exercising.
You should never stop exercising your brain.

Over 8 years in, I’ve definitely elapsed the 10,000 hour mark of deliberate dedicated practice, and I’ve seen so many bodies and patterns, it’s no longer a coincidence.

Here is the rundown of my 5 biggest exercise mistakes

1. Putting planks in retraction

I see this one a lot outside of our gym.  By doing this you are missing out on an opportunity for valuable serratus anterior activation.

What’s serratus anterior? It’s the muscle you may start hearing more everywhere soon, because it’s so inactive in the average person. And because it is so inactive, it doesn’t stabilize our shoulder blade like it should and half the population is walking around with insufficient shoulder stability! Performance Coach Eric Cressey has even gone as far as even saying: “serratus solves everything.”

serratus anterior, shoulder rehab langley,

Serratus is important to scapular stability as it is an upward rotator of the scapula, and; when you have weak upward rotators, this often leads to external shoulder impingement which is a term you may have heard before from your Doctor or Physio. Unfortunately, many attribute shoulder impingement with something being wrong with the rotator cuff – that’s treating the symptom, not the cause! (More on this later)…

By putting your plank in protraction:

>> You make the exercise more challenging as you are lifting your body away from the floor against gravity and are working in more tension

>>You are activating a generally weak muscle group which will aid in shoulder stability

>>Serratus will posterior tilt the scapula (pulling the shoulder blade flat onto the rib cage) reducing “winging of the scapula” and reducing stress in the front of the shoulder capsule

>>Things just start to work better because muscles are doing what they are supposed to do and the body gets balanced

>>Attempting to activate a muscle that you don’t have a great mind body connection with makes your CNS (central nervous system) work harder. When your CNS works harder, you burn more glucose (sugar), and the CNS burns more glucose than anything else in your body – so you burn more calories in your workout!

Here’s a quick video I put together for you on the subject:

2. Doing exercises that you are not ready for.

In the age of the internet, this one is pretty common. Unfortunately, it’s a huge driver of injuries, emotional disparity, frustration.

When most people just want to look good, feel good, and lose a few extra pounds, it always makes sense to give clients a more joint friendly exercise that they can perform with no visible dysfunctional movement compensation (it’s just the ethical thing to do).

It’s why we have 3 levels with our programming, so individuals can build a sturdy foundation and seamlessly transition from one level to the other at the pace that works for them. This all ties in with having a mature fitness attitude. I wrote about that here.

And when it comes down to it, it’s ok to be a beginner. We all have to start somewhere…

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3. Starving yourself to lose weight while exercising more.

Getting your clients to exercise more and eat less….

Any personal trainer giving out this type of advice needs to inform themselves better or just blatantly doesn’t care about you and your longterm health, as this could lead to devastating health problems like metabolic damage.

So what if your long term health is ruined?
So what if you are psychologically bruised?

This is not taking your best interest in mind.
If you are doing this. You have no business being a personal trainer!

The human body is the most complex machine in the world and the answer to the question: “How do I get lean or toned?” Should never be “Eat a starvation like diet on which you can barely function while doing enough work to kill a plow horse.”

Here’s how it all works…

You go low carb – lose 10lbs in a week, lose water and future energy (glycogen), and you believe it to be the holy grail of fat loss. The problem is, and this usually always happens, it stops working. You can’t lose weight anymore despite starving yourself, because YOU ARE starving yourself because..

Our body has systems and every system has a “negative feedback loop” to protect it from destroying itself. For example if you restrict water intake your body holds onto more water and you look bloated. If you do too much activity and do not adjust your caloric count and reduce your carb count, your body shuts down your “T4 to T3” inactive to active thyroid conversion which leads to “starvation mode,” which can decrease metabolic rate.

T4 is the inactive thyroid hormone while T3 is the thyroid hormone that plays a big role in metabolic rate and energy expenditure. Low T3 equals lowered metabolic rate, which makes it harder to lose fat.

Furthermore, carbs are needed to maintain optimal T4 to T3 conversion. And this tends to happen more with certain people who are more prone to anxiety, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

And when it comes down to it, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.

If you constantly eat low carb and exercise 5x/week and fat is not being lost, you need to come talk to me or (click on the contact button above).

4. Thinking you can fix a shoulder issue by working on the symptom and not the cause.

This is classic/basic kinetic chain theory!!!!! Everything in your body is connected. You most likely have a shoulder issue because another part of your body is not working properly and your body is creating a muscular imbalance where your shoulder is overworking or compensating for this. It starts to get irritated and the cycle continues…

I’ve had 3 separate shoulder issues in my life and have been able to fix all of them with time and diligent, mobility work…

You can do external rotation with a band until you are blue in the face, but if the shoulder is out of alignment, how is this going to help?

Stretching out your levator scapulae is not going to work. Once again, you’re addressing the victim, not the cause!

These methods will give you temporarily relief, but are not acting on the problem!!!

Think of this analogy, in a crime, the victim screams out, not the criminal. The majority of shoulder issues (barring any structural deficiency, stem from a tight thoracic spine from sitting down hunched over a computer all day, tight chest, weak back muscles, tight lats, all these really big muscles are exhibiting force on that shoulder joint and then these small rotator cuff muscles are victims and don’t know what to do!

This brings me to the quote: “If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you.”

You can’t expect to walk into a health practitioner’s office and be magically cured by a magic pill.

You have to do the work to feel better.
You have to put the time in to feel better.
And most importantly, you have the power to make yourself feel better.

Look at where your movement restrictions are and improve it.

5. Running long distance with the goal to lose fat

If you’re a high stress individual with above average anxiety characteristics working out 5-6 days/week, you already have a higher than normal cortisol level. Adding additional running into your week will increase your cortisol and more cortisol will create a catabolic environment that will eat away at your precious muscle.

I’m not saying stop running.  Just be aware that you can not outrun a bad diet. And eating away at your muscle is the 2nd fastest way to raise your body fat. (The fastest being to overeat unhealthy food).

If you enjoy running, that is a good reason to run. But, don’t feel you need to add in additional miles in hopes of stripping that extra fat, because in the end, you’ll most likely strip away the muscle.

Everything we do needs to be conscientious of  muscle preservation – low impact, high intensity explosive movements like rowing and sled push are great alternatives for conditioning.

Muscle is the ultimate currency when it comes to being the leanest version of you that you can imagine. If you want to lower your body fat, and look lean and toned, then you need to consistently eat nutrient dense foods like proteins, healthy fats, complex carbs, vegetables, and fruit while exercising consistently and listening to your body.

Committed to your success,
Josh Saunders, BSc, CSCS
The Bootcamp Effect
Voted Best Langley Gym 5 years in a row.