When every fitness or health magazine you read says something different before you even start taking on advice from personal trainers, embarking on a fitness adventure at the gym can be extremely confusing from the outset.
What one expert considers to be beneficial in an exercise workout can be regarded as a big no-no by another; one routine can be promoted as time efficient by some, while at the same time counter-productive by others.
So where does this leave someone looking to get into fitness training and gym exercise as a relative beginner? Whose advice do you take on board?
Well, taking on some of the advice from respected sports stars and coaches is a pretty good place to start for many of the basics. We've highlighted a few of the things big-name individuals believe is wrong or unhelpful when training at the gym.
1) DON'T JUST PUMP WEIGHTS
The trap that many people fall into, men in particular, is to simply focus on doing as much weight training as possible, often at the expense of anything else. While it is obviously beneficial to improve strength and conditioning with weights incorporated into an exercise routine, it must not be at the expense of a well-rounded approach. Formula One star Lewis Hamilton explained the value of an all-round routine in an interview with Men's Health: "Lots of people pump weights, but they don't really condition their body in an all-round sense. There are so many different exercises that work your whole body and target your core strength."
- - -
2) DON'T ONLY FOCUS ON THE UPPER BODY
It can be tempting for many people to be most concerned with developing their upper body as it is most often on show, but one sports star is better placed than most to explain why it is foolhardy to neglect the bottom half. Superstar golfer Rory McIlroy has seen a tremendous resurgence in his form this year, and he puts much of his improvement down to his new strength training. "Lower-body work stabilised all the power that I had generated on the way down,” he told Men's Health. “I could generate the power, but I needed the stability to hold onto it." So, neglect the lower body and injuries will likely halt your progress elsewhere too. Make sure your workout is well rounded.
- - -
3) DON'T THINK THE TREADMILL IS THE ONLY OPTION
Some people enjoy relentlessly wheeling away like a hamster on the treadmill, but most really don't. On paper it may go down as the best calorie burner of the cardio options in many gyms, but there are alternative options which require less impact and slog. This is particularly the case if you have a history of knee and ankle injuries. Tennis legend Rafael Nadal told GQ magazine that he much prefers to do his cardio with less impact. "In the past I had problems in my knees and feet, so I prefer not to run a lot during training," he said. "I use the cross trainer because there's less impact." There really are more options than you might think for your cardio training.
- - -
4) DON'T LIMIT YOURSELF TO TWO OR THREE WORKOUTS
The key here really is variety, but given that specific muscles are given sufficient rest in between workouts, it really is okay to go to the gym more than two or three times a week. This is a classic case of certain advice regarding weekly sessions being rigidly adopted as law when it really is a personal thing to weigh up. Tiger Woods's personal trainer, Keith Kleven, believes it is more a question of managing the workload of the muscles in question. "Sometimes, he’ll [Tiger] take two days off,” Kleven told Men's Fitness. "But we alternate between different [routines], which allows him to be active all the time. Where the philosophy that you can only work out hard two or three times a week came from I don’t know. I know we produce better athletes by working five or six days a week."
- - -
5) DON'T HOG THE MACHINES OR FORGET TO WIPE AWAY SWEAT
There are few things that annoy fellow gym visitors more than when someone sits idly on a machine, checking out their phone or even taking a call when others are waiting. This is particularly the case during a post-5pm workout session when the gym is likely packed full of folks keen to do their work and leave as soon as possible. Equally, not wiping away sweat after using a piece of equipment is considered very inconsiderate. Here's Jessica Ennis with her advice, given to GQ magazine: "Don't hog the machines when you're resting in between sets of exercises. And always wipe sweat off after you've finished." She's equally unimpressed with men who leave the weights out and make too much noise.
- - -
6) DON'T FORGET TO WASH YOUR HANDS AFTERWARDS
You've just finished your workout and your anxious to get away to your local pub (ahem, sorry, home), but there's one thing you must always remember to do before you leave the gym, and it does not involve spending any money on over-priced protein shakes or wheatgerm smoothies: wash your hands. As Ennis explained to GQ: "Gyms are a hive of bacteria. There are so many surfaces that people have touched, so bacteria is everywhere. So always make sure you wash your hands afterwards." It really is worth going to the effort on this one, particularly if you want to stay illness free over the winter months.
- - -