Are You Cheating At Your Workout Without Even Realising?


No matter your intentions, you’re cheating at your workout. Even if you put in the time and effort, show up at the gym, and pride yourself in not taking shortcuts, you’re not seeing the wellness results you want because you have bad workout habits. Here’s how you can kick those sneaky saboteurs to the curb.


1. Swinging: Irv Rubenstein, PhD, exercise physiologist and founder of STEPS Fitness, explains, ‘Building momentum by swinging your arms when doing a move like a bicep curl or a tricep push-down sacrifices results by not controlling the eccentric phase, and also increases your risk of injury.’ According to fitness expert Linda Melone, ‘Momentum comes in handy when you’re attempting a long jump, but not if you’re lifting weights. Each exercise involves two phases: a concentric (contracting) move and an eccentric (stretch) phase… Practice a two-second count on the concentric move and four to five count on the eccentric.’


2. Holding On: ‘Grasping the sidebars when walking on the treadmill or hanging on tight to the handles of the elliptical trainer cheats you out of the largest possible calorie burn,’ says Melone. ‘Instead, use the rails only as a guide, keeping your fingertips lightly on them. If you find it impossible to maintain proper form without clutching the bars, try lowering the incline or slowing down your pace.’


3. Not Stretching for Long Enough: Melone points out, ‘Holding a stretch for only a few seconds does little to increase your flexibility and may also result in injury. The right way to stretch: hold still (no bouncing!) for at least 20 to 30 seconds. Another common cheat comes during a hamstring stretch…If you round your back so you can reach farther down your extended leg, you’re preventing your hamstrings from actually getting stretched. It also puts unnecessary strain on your back.’


4. Waiting Around: Jessica Matthews, assistant professor of exercise science at Miramar College in San Diego, notes, ‘Spending five or more minutes between sets negatively impacts the overall quality and effectiveness of your workout.’ Tom Holland, exercise physiologist and author of Beat the Gym, instructs, ‘Don’t wait for the equipment to be available—instead, fill time with exercises you can do without a machine, such as crunches, planks, or push-ups.’


5. Stretching Between Exercises: Rubenstein comments, ‘Stretching between exercises, especially static stretching, may decrease the amount of weight you can lift.’ So leave stretches to the end as part of your cool down.


6. Stopping When it Gets Tough: Holland asserts, ‘You can easily cheat your workout even during an intense cycling class. If you don’t increase the tension when the instructor tells you to, you can coast through and barely break a sweat.’ Melone details, ‘The same applies to other classes where you substitute an easy activity such as jogging in place instead of doing burpees because the latter is more difficult. Repeating a positive mantra to yourself may help you push through when you’d rather quit. A recent study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that cyclists who recited positive self-talk pedaled two minutes longer than those who did not. Tell yourself, “I am strong” or “I can do this” to get through tough spots.’


7. Arriving Late or Leaving Early: ‘Skipping out on the warm-up or cool-down means you’re missing a couple of crucial components of the class experience,’ Melone warns. ‘Abruptly stopping after an intense workout can produce pooling of blood in the lower extremities, which can sometimes lead to dizziness and even fainting. Show up on time and stick it through to the end.’



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