One of the biggest excuses we make for missing gym sessions is that we don’t have enough time.
This is true about 5% of the time.
If you really didn’t have time, then you probably wouldn’t have managed to watch that entire boxset of Breaking Bad for the second time this year.
And if you were really in that much of a rush in the gym, you wouldn’t spend so much time spinning your wheels! (Literally and figuratively.)
Because actually, a lot of the things we do in the gym are just a waste of time. If you’re really interested in building muscle/losing weight, then you need to make sure that every minute you spend in there counts. So read on and if you’re guilty of any of the following… cut it out!
The Biggest Gym Time-Wasters
Shrugs: Okay so shrugs aren’t a complete waste of time. But actually you don’t really need to spend any time doing them.
Shrugs target the traps specifically, which are the back muscles that protrude up around the shoulders and the neck. Traps help with the upward rotation of the scapulae, meaning that they help to keep your shoulders stable.
But we don’t need to have massive traps for anything we do. They aren’t necessary for any sport and there are very few scenarios in our day to day life where they’d come in handy. When you perform the bench press, traps will be one of the secondary movers and will get more than enough stimulation that way. Building massive traps might look cool, but that’s about it.
And before you worry about getting an ‘imbalanced physique’, bear in mind that having ‘every muscle group be massive’ is not the same as having ideal proportions. Some muscles should be bigger and some should be smaller.
In fact, if your traps get too large then can contribute to something called ‘upper cross syndrome’ which leads to back pain, posture issues and poor mobility.
Stretching: Stretching is useful but only in the right context. Several studies have shown us that stretching before a workout doesn’t actually reduce injury but may in fact make it more likely (1, 2). Stretching after a workout can be a good way to improve flexibility and mobility of course, but why not just do this at home in front of the TV? Foam rolling can be useful too but once again, if you’re spending 20 minutes on it instead of actually lifting anything or burning any calories, then you’re just wasting time.
Warm Up Sets: Before you get mad – I’m not talking about all warm up sets. Warm up sets can be a useful way to reduce injury as well as to improve performance by enhancing technique. While this is true though, you don’t need to do a warm up set before every single exercise in the gym. If you’re doing four ‘working sets’ of bench press, you really don’t need to do more warm up sets before your incline bench press, or your pec flyes. At this point your pecs are way past warm and if you’re in the gym to build muscle, your first working set can set your form just as effectively.
Using 20 Different Exercises: A lot of people head to the gym clutching a piece of paper that details all the different exercises they intend to do. Often, these exercises involve all kinds of exotic movements and utilize about half the equipment in the gym. We’re generally told this is a good strategy though. After all, it’s good to ‘keep the body guessing’ and doing the same workout time after time would only lead to boredom. Right?
Wrong! All this does is mean you spend half your time moving around the gym and setting up weights. Instead, sit yourself down on a weights bench with some dumbbells and you’ll find you can easily train pretty much the entire body all without moving your spot at all. This will save a lot of time and keep things a lot simpler. And if a routine is working, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to basically the same formula!
Cool Downs: If you’re into your spinning or your elliptical machines, then you might have been tempted to hit the ‘cool down’ button at the end of your run. The theory is that coming to a dead halt is going to cause some kind of attack that leaves you in a drooling mess on the floor.
The reality? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with finishing your CV workout and then just coming to a stop. And if you really want to have a cool down, then you can use the walk to the car!