Are you making costly exercise mistakes that may be sabotaging your long-term fitness goals? Check out my most common workout mistakes and suggested fixes below to help you maximise your time in the gym.

Mistake 1: Unproductive treadmill time

Many people set the treadmill to a slow pace and walk along while watching TV or reading a magazine, thinking they are working out but exerting no real effort. While of course this is better than doing nothing at all, the calorie burn of a slow, distracted treadmill workout is very minimal and is not the most effective use of your exercise time.

Fix: Hit the treadmill with a purpose and at a pace that challenges you to pay attention. Vary your speed and gradient often to keep your body challenged. If you always start your gym routine with the treadmill, consider breaking your habit and try a new piece of cardio equipment.

Mistake 2: Back bending

Bending over while hunched up to pick up or put down weights (even if they’re light ones) can put a lot of unnecessary stress on both your upper and lower back muscles. This is especially true if your day involves a lot of time sat at a desk. Prolonged periods of sitting or slouching can weaken your back muscles, which when combined with incorrect weight lifting, can cause injury or avoidable muscle imbalances.

Fix: Always adopt an athletic posture. Use your glute muscles and bend your legs to pick up and put down weights.

Mistake 3: Sticking to isolated exercises

Do you focus most of your workout on small isolated muscle groups such as biceps or six-pack muscles (rectus abdominals)? Having an occasional muscle-focused session can be beneficial, but by working only the small muscle groups, your calorie burn and overall fitness level may not be impacted as effectively.

Fix: Maximise your gym time by doing combination exercises that involve large muscle groups to give you the best possible calorie burn during and after your workout. If you are focusing on small muscle groups, consider adding some cardio to your gym session too.

Mistake 4: Too much rest

Spending too much idle time “resting” in between sets is a common mistake during a weights session. Allowing the muscles you’re working to recover in between sets is important for interval training, but try to stay focused and get back to the exercise as soon as your rest time is up.

Fix: Set and stick to a timer for workout vs rest time, or to get even more from your session, do a cardio activity in between each weight set to keep your heart rate elevated.

Mistake 5: Skipping the warm-up

Jumping straight into your workout without warming up can lead to injury, and means you won’t feel or exercise to your best throughout the session. Spending a few minutes before a workout to prepare your body and mind is likely to give better overall results, and can help to reduce the next-day muscle ache.

Fix: Understand that the aim of a warm-up is to get your body ready for a workout. Try a dynamic warm-up with light cardio moves, or if you’re pushed for time, do a gentler version of your workout exercises as your warm-up – e.g. if you will do weighted squats in your exercise regime, do body weight squats as your warm-up move.