What should you be doing in the gym?

The vast majority of people I watch and talk to in the gym as a personal trainer have fairly vague notions of what they are trying to achieve in the gym and even less idea of how to achieve it. Most do a combination of some steady cardio, perhaps a few weights machines that they feel comfortable with and then often some floor exercises, often for the core, followed by maybe a few static stretches. This is a typical workout that the average gym goer might engage in. Some will only do steady state cardio, reading the number of calories burnt on the machines and believing that this, allied to some core exercises will give them great shape if they do it long and hard enough.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is better than sitting on the couch watching TV. But you don’t actually need a gym for any of this. You can run or cycle outside with far more health benefits. You can do bodyweight exercises and stretches anywhere.

Hardly anybody is paying any attention to proper form – it’s just all about going longer or harder or faster now – nobody is taking a sensible long term approach it seems..Many will get frustrated by a lack of progress towards their goals (if they have any) and plenty will get injured as they increase intensity due to faulty movement mechanics and muscle imbalances that they don’t know about and wouldn’t know how to address.

So what should the gym be for? What’s needed is a progressive long term plan, with short and medium term goals built in and regular review of progress. Firstly, it is important to find out where you are now; your current body composition, any postural or movement issues that need addressing, what’s your current state of fitness in its different forms (strength, speed, muscular endurance, flexibility etc.), how’s your nutrition and sleep and how much training can you realistically absorb.

Once you have established your goals clearly, most people need to learn how to perform exercises safely and for optimum performance. If you are performing basic movements incorrectly, then adding weight or speed or greater intensity of any kind is most likely going to see you sidelined with injury sooner or later. It might not be now or next week or even next month, but it will happen if you violate the laws of correct human movement. It’s not a matter of opinion how to move correctly; the body is designed to work in an optimum way.

Therefore, the first thing we should be doing in the gym is establishing correct movement patterns through basic functional exercises like squats, lunges and deadlifts, finding out any limitations in range of movement and addressing these as we progress to more intense activity. And yet I see hardly anybody, other than the few in the know, performing this crucial type of exercise. Most people are doing core exercises instead because they believe that this will magically give them a flat belly. This is nonsense – great abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym, as the saying goes. Far better to spend your gym time getting your movement patterns better and working on mobility also, then add intensity later.

Of course most people are unaware of their postural or movement defects, like the duck footed treadmill runners or those who have severely limited hip mobility. It has just become the norm for them and they don’t even regard it as something they can change – ‘it’s just old age’ they rationalise. Not true – it can be improved drastically at any age with a little regular effort – far less effort in fact than slogging away steadily on the treadmill or bike for hours or those painful core exercises. Start doing squats and lunges and deadlifts and overhead presses etc. If you don’t know how to do them properly go onto youtube or ask a trainer to show you – I’m always happy to take 15 minutes of my time to run through the basics with you – it won’t cost you a penny.

If you wish to know more, please contact me on 07504439555 or davidperry57@sky.com.

Happy training!


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