Four Form Mistakes: How You Can Get More from Every Gym Session

Picture walking in to any gym in the world right now and scanning the scene, checking out each and every person that is mid-way through a set.

Other than a few choice facial expressions - what do you see?

Obviously "a crowd of trainees perfectly executing highly technical lifts, with optimal weight selection, at a purposeful tempo”... Right?

Alright, maybe not.

Instead, the exercise form on show can be questionable. This can stem from genuine naivety, or be due to the pursuit of heavier weights/a quick ego-stroke. Regardless, it always cuts people short on the pursuit of progress.

If you want use your finite, fitness-focused time each day both effectively and efficiently – be sure to avoid these 4 all-too-common form mistakes.

Mistake #1: Not ‘Pausing’ During Calf Exercises

The calves are notoriously tough to grow. And a sure fire way to secure your spot on #TeamNoCalves is to bounce up and down with no regard for tempo.

This is thanks to the Achilles. A thick, elastic band-like tendon running down the back of your lower leg.

Elastic energy is stored in the Achilles as you lower the weight, which is then released with the bounce up from the bottom of the movement. Sure, this allows you to move more weight, but it takes tension off of your calves.

The Solution:

Pause for a full one second count at the bottom of the movement. At this point imagine trying to pull the toes up to touch the knees.

This lets the stored elastic energy dissipate. So that the force needed to lift the weight comes from the calves themselves.

You will need:

  1. Less weight
  2. A high pain tolerance
  3. The ability to count

If you can check all of those boxes, then prepare yourself for some serious calf growth.

Mistake #2: Forgetting Your Elbow is a Hinge Joint

The biceps' primary role is ‘flexion of the forearm at the elbow’, AKA that curling movement we all know and love. Or to look great in a schmedium shirt... depending on which textbook you read.

Whilst the biceps do have two other secondary functions – I can assure you neither of them are ‘swing the torso’ nor ‘bounce at the knee’.

The Solution:

Emphasise the elbow joint during any curl. Begin with your arm fully extended, then focus purely on closing the angle at the elbow to lift the weight. Flex the bicep hard throughout as if you are pulling a pose, then lower the weight back to the starting position with control.

Try spider curls or seated dumbbell curls as a sure-fire way to takeout torso movement and leg drive. Be prepared to lower the weight. Your arm girth will thank you.

Mistake #3: Ignoring Your Shoulder Blades Whilst Training Back

The back is a series of complex muscles which are responsible for a whole host of movements.

Intuition tells you to lead a ‘row’ with your arms. After all, it's your hands that are clawed onto the weight.

But it is a back training faux pas to not pay mind to your shoulder blades, as all of the main muscles in the back are involved in their movement.

The Solution:

To best contract the muscles involved in rowing exercises - initiate with your shoulder blades, instead of the arms and hands.

Focus on retracting the shoulder blades back as you lift the weight, then let them protract forward when lowering the weight back down.

A squeeze at the point of peak contraction would not go amiss, either. Like you are pinching a pencil between them.

Soon enough you will have a great upper back, and an even better party trick.

Mistake #4: Letting Your Shoulders Steal the Shine on Chest Day

Poor posture and exercise set up could be killing your pec-potential. ‘Rounded shoulders’ create an exercise set up that lends itself to more front delt development and less chest activation.

The Solution:

Drive your shoulder blades back and down during all pressing movements. Imagine pulling the right one into your left back pocket and the left one into your right back pocket. Then keep ‘em there.

Do not let the chest cave in at any time. By keeping your chest ‘proud’ you will be in a much better position to push through the pecs and put the emphasis on where you want it most. 


What is the single biggest form mistake you see in the gym? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll jump in for a chat.

Now take these on board and make the most of out of today’s gym session.



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