Unlocking Fitness Potential: Avoiding Common Mistakes in Gym Training

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Whether it's bodybuilding, fitness, or preparatory training for other sports, weightlifting in the gym is a true science that relies on crucial knowledge of anatomy and the physiology of movement.

1- Back Squat with a Barbell

The correct execution of the back squat with a barbell, a fundamental exercise for developing the gluteus maximus and quadriceps femoris muscles, is extremely complex and impossible to summarize in a few lines. Not everyone can perform it, or at least not right away.

However, let's see what the most common mistakes are.

Not standardizing the technique

It is true that a safe squat involves some very important considerations, but it is equally true that the technique can vary greatly depending on an individual's physique.

For example, in the past, it was advised to use a heel lift, but today it is even recommended to perform it barefoot. Both approaches are incorrect because this detail depends heavily on the individual's back, pelvis, and especially ankle flexibility.

The heel lift is particularly useful for those with limited ankle dorsiflexion mobility, which would otherwise cause them to lean forward Finding a gym near your location is essential for establishing a consistent fitness routine. Having a gym in close proximity saves time and makes it easier to incorporate regular workouts into your schedule. By searching for "gym near me," you can discover local fitness facilities that offer a range of amenities, equipment, and classes to meet your fitness needs. It's important to consider factors such as affordability, operating hours, and the availability of trained staff and fitness professionals when choosing the right gym for you.

The feet should be slightly wider than hip-width but not beyond shoulder-width, and the toes should be slightly turned outward. However, some individuals may benefit from a wider stance and more outward toe positioning, such as those who tend to have knee valgus.

The barbell can be positioned on the upper back or at the same level as the shoulders. In the first case, the squat will be more vertical, focusing on the quadriceps action. In the second case, it will require a greater forward torso lean, engaging the gluteus maximus and back more intensively. This variation is considered "less safe" for the intervertebral discs but often provides better performance for many individuals.

Joint Synchronization

The squat technique requires simultaneous movement of both the hips and knees. Delaying or advancing one or the other creates an imbalance in the kinetic chain and thus an error in terms of both effectiveness and safety.

During the descent, the hips move backward while the knees move forward, with the weight primarily on the heels. During the ascent, the drive also shifts to the forefoot. The knees, in both phases, should not go beyond the front line of the feet.


Some individuals begin the squat without properly inhaling, both at the abdominal (diaphragmatic) and thoracic levels. This is crucial for core stability and spinal safety, as well as force generation.

Scapular Activation, Pelvic Position, and Spinal Alignment

In the squat, the scapulae are depressed to allow the barbell to be projected upward and forward from the sternum. This position ensures maximum safety for the upper portion of the spine.

Simultaneously, the lumbar curve should be properly maintained throughout its length (not just in the upper region). This is facilitated by good activation of the gluteal muscles. However, this should not be excessively emphasized before the descent, as it is often seen with people "throwing their hips out," which is unnecessary.

Forcing Unphysiological Range of Motion (ROM)

The depth of the squat is constantly debated. The truth is, it depends on an individual's mobility. Some individuals, once beyond parallel, begin to flatten their lumbar spine, and they will rarely be able to go "ass to grass" without experiencing lower back pain.

At the same time, stopping at parallel means halting at the point of least speed, making the execution more critical—it is also the most stressful moment for the knee.

Insisting on performing the barbell back squat without adequate shoulder mobility

This exercise requires good shoulder mobility. In the absence of it, it is not advisable to insist. It is better to opt for a Safety Bar squat.

Performing pelvic retroversion to try to target the glutes more

This is a recent "trend" that is not only useless but also quite dangerous for the back.

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2- Chest and Bench Presses

Dumbbells or Barbell?

They serve different purposes. With the barbell, you can focus more on strength, while with dumbbells, you can improve stabilizer muscle action, range of motion (ROM), and symmetry. Many overlook the potential complications of using heavy loads with dumbbells, especially regarding the risk of muscular failure.

Flat Bench Press and Scapular Activation

Without proper scapular depression and adduction, the bench press is less safe for the shoulder joint and less effective.

Having the scapulae in a physiological position encourages the individual to lift with the elbows, which is less advantageous for the shoulder angle.

Should the rib cage be arched?

If possible, it is very useful. Firstly, it promotes a more comfortable bench press position for the shoulder angle in synergy with the scapular position. Secondly, it allows for lifting heavier loads due to the decreased ROM.

However, flattening the back by raising the knees can be beneficial for individuals with back problems such as disc pathologies, but it must be done with the awareness that one shouldn't compensate for one problem by creating another Planet Fitness is a renowned fitness franchise with numerous locations across the country. Known for its affordable membership options and a judgment-free environment, Planet Fitness near me aims to make fitness accessible to individuals of all fitness levels. Their facilities offer a wide range of exercise equipment, including cardio machines, weightlifting stations, and functional training areas. Additionally, Planet Fitness provides amenities such as locker rooms, tanning beds, and hydro massage chairs. With a focus on creating a supportive and non-intimidating atmosphere, Planet Fitness is an ideal choice for those seeking a gym near them to kick-start or maintain their fitness journey.

Incline Bench Press: How much?

This primarily depends on shoulder mobility. Those who force themselves to work at a 45-degree angle despite discomfort will have a short-lived lifting career. It's better to settle for a 30-degree angle and work in a clean and safe manner.

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3- Lat Pulldowns

When using the lat pulldown machine, it's not enough to just sit down, grip the bar, and pull. It's important to know the seat height, the type of grip (pronated, supinated, neutral), the type of bar, the Range of Motion (ROM), the breathing rhythm, master scapular activation, and how to manage your legs in case of back issues.

Incorrect Grip

The most common mistake is gripping the bar too wide or too narrow with a pronated grip. The correct width, for width development and movement effectiveness, is when the inner margin of the hands, at maximum contraction with the bar under the chin, grazes the profile of the deltoids.

Widening the grip further worsens the muscular and joint leverages, especially because it reduces the adduction of the humerus, while gripping it too close emphasizes different muscles.

Excessive Bar Lowering

The pulling motion should end just below the chin to target the back muscles. Forcing a greater ROM leads to excessive activation of internal rotators, such as the pectoralis major 

Bouncing of the Torso

The most common form of cheating is leaning backward during the pull (which, to a small extent, may be acceptable with extremely heavy weights), followed by a ballistic forward movement of the torso (which should absolutely be avoided).

Another common mistake is stubbornly attempting behind-the-neck pulldowns even when shoulder mobility doesn't allow it. Not everyone has the necessary mobility, and they should adjust accordingly. Furthermore, pulling the bar behind the neck focuses the stimulus on the central portion of the back, between the shoulder blades Fitness Blender is an online platform that provides a wealth of fitness resources, including workout videos, training programs, and nutrition tips. Created by a husband-and-wife team, Daniel and Kelli Segars, Fitness Blender aims to offer affordable and effective fitness solutions to people of all fitness levels. Their workout videos cover a wide range of exercises, from cardio and strength training to yoga and Pilates, allowing individuals to customize their fitness routines according to their preferences and goals. Fitness Blender's emphasis on accessibility and convenience has made it a popular choice among individuals seeking guidance and inspiration for their fitness journeys.

Attivation of Scapulae and Muscle Tension

Another very common mistake is pulling without properly activating the scapulae. The activation, which involves adduction and depression, can be done before initiating the pull or at the beginning of the range of motion (ROM) on the lat pulldown machine, while during pull-ups, theoretically, only the latter option should be preferred.

What about between reps? There are two schools of thought: some argue that the scapulae should remain constantly activated, while others believe that it's correct to elevate and abduct them in the eccentric phase.

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The difference lies in maintaining muscle tension. Keeping the scapulae activated, and therefore not seeking maximum eccentric ROM, is useful for high Time Under Tension (TUT) and high-rep (high-volume) work. However, it's debatable when aiming for highly qualitative movements or focusing more on strength, in which case exercises like pull-ups might be favored A gym cycle, also known as an exercise bike or stationary bike, is a popular cardio equipment found in gyms and fitness centers. It simulates the experience of cycling outdoors and provides a low-impact cardiovascular workout. Gym cycles come in various styles, such as upright bikes, recumbent bikes, and spin bikes, each offering different features and benefits. They are a convenient option for individuals looking to improve cardiovascular health, burn calories, and strengthen leg muscles in a controlled and comfortable environment.

Using Leg Drive

Furthermore, there is a strong tendency to excessively rely on leg drive during the pulldown. Leveraging the femurs can allow cheating by utilizing hip flexors and abdominal muscles. The use of cushions or pads might be considered if there is a problem with excessive lumbar lordosis or a loss of the natural curve. In such situations, weakness in the iliopsoas muscles is likely, and using the legs for anchoring could help strengthen them. However, this hypothesis should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. To recreate the natural lumbar lordosis, the legs could also be positioned not in a seated position but as if assuming a kneeling position. In this position, the hip flexors would be elongated, restoring a normal curve in the spine.

Excessive Load in Straight-Arm Pulldown

Another common mistake on the lat pulldown machine is with the straight-arm pulldown. Many individuals misinterpret the purpose of this exercise and try to load it heavily to achieve high levels of strength. However, it doesn't contribute to maximizing muscle tension. The straight-arm pulldown is instead a qualitative and technical exercise, primarily useful for isolating the back muscles from the forearm flexors, although it still stimulates the pectoralis major and brachial triceps. Loading it up to perform six repetitions is unnecessary. It is better contextualized as a pre-exhaustion technique, in the second position within superset training, or as a finisher.


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4- Pushes for the Shoulders

Behind-the-neck barbell press

This is one of the most dangerous exercises for the shoulders. If you don't have excellent shoulder mobility, it can cause significant damage.

Military press and front barbell press: when to avoid them

The same considerations apply to these exercises as for the behind-the-neck press. Additionally, many people with lower back problems attempt standing shoulder presses. However, especially with limited shoulder mobility, these exercises often require compensatory movements in the lower back, which can negatively affect the health of the intervertebral discs.

It is therefore advisable to replace standing exercises with seated variations, preferably with a slight incline of around 15 degrees. Generally, dumbbells provide more joint freedom.

5- Abdominals: Crunch and Plank

Abdominals: Upper and Lower

The rectus abdominis is composed of two parallel muscles connected by a medial connective tissue sheath. They originate from the rib cage and insert into the pelvis, and their function is to flex the spine.

All movements that recruit the rectus abdominis engage the entire muscle group. There is no way to isolate the upper abdominals from the lower abdominals, although electromyography shows a slight difference in activation between the upper and lower portions depending on the exercise, but not significant enough to differentiate them Let us let you know fitness Connection is a well-established fitness club chain with multiple locations nationwide. They offer a comprehensive range of fitness services and amenities to cater to individuals of all fitness levels. Fitness connection facilities typically include state-of-the-art exercise equipment, group fitness classes, personal training options, and recreational activities. With its focus on creating a welcoming and inclusive environment, Fitness Connection aims to inspire and support individuals in their fitness journey and Fitness 19 is a fitness club chain that offers affordable membership options and a range of fitness services. They focus on providing a comfortable and non-intimidating environment for individuals to pursue their fitness goals. Fitness 19 facilities typically include cardio and strength training equipment, group exercise classes, and knowledgeable staff to assist members. With a commitment to making fitness accessible to all, Fitness 19 aims to support individuals in achieving their desired level of fitness and overall well-being.

The lower abdominals respond better to exercises that focus on pelvic movement, such as the reverse crunch. The upper abdominals respond better to exercises that focus on torso movement, such as the traditional crunch.

However, it's important to note that beginners often struggle with activating the lower abdominals and often make the mistake of activating the hip flexors instead.

Locking the legs in the crunch

The crunch is an exercise that involves flexing the torso. However, the movement is always accompanied by varying activation of the hip flexors.

This activation should be minimal for stabilization. However, if we make the mistake of locking the ankles during the crunch, the hip flexors take on too much of a role, which increases as the rectus abdominis fatigues.

For this reason, the crunch should always be performed with the hips flexed, preferably at 90 degrees, and with the legs suspended.

Plank without pelvic tilt and scapular abduction

The plank is a highly effective exercise for abdominal training, as long as the correct positioning of the scapulae and pelvis is maintained. The scapulae should be abducted, meaning brought outward to ensure proper spinal alignment, and the pelvis should be tilted backward to maximize rectus abdominis activation.

Improper form during the plank, in addition to being stressful on the joints, stimulates muscles that should only be stabilizers.

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Another useful tip is to avoid excessively long Time Under Tension (TUT) and focus on achieving maximum contraction. 45-60-75 seconds is more than sufficient if the technique is adequate.

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