13 Training Mistakes You Need to Avoid

Fitness training isn’t rocket science.

  • Good training & nutrition decisions produce good results.
  • Poor training & nutrition decisions produce poor results.

So, how come when I go to the gym this afternoon, I can pretty much guarantee that I am going to see a lot of intelligent, well-educated, gainfully employed people making some pretty stupid training decisions?

  • Maybe fitness training is rocket science?
  • Maybe I am some sort of fitness training genius.


So, as a public service to all of the non-fitness-training genii out there, here is a list of some of the training mistakes I will probably see at the gym today.

Try and avoid them.

  1. Doing Cardio Training before Resistance Training
  2. Doing Static Stretching before Resistance Training
  3. adductor inner thighTraining Core before Legs
  4. Chugging a Gatorade while reading a book on the Exercise Bike
  5. Thinking that the Inner Thigh (Adductor) Machine is going to work some sort of magic.
  6. Ignoring your Weaknesses and over-training your Strengths
  7. Believing that Core Training is all about Crunches & Planks
  8. Training Body Parts instead of Body Movements
  9. Believing that you can Out-Train a Bad Diet
  10. Making chronic neck & shoulder pain worse by ignoring your postural muscles
  11. Thinking that Resistance Training will make you too big
  12. Thinking that Cardio training will make you too small
  13. Performing a one size fits all type of fitness program

And if you see yourself on the list and want to change your evil ways, feel free to comment.

I or one of your fellow readers would be glad to lend a hand.


I just received an email from a quasi-famous strength coach/trainer to the stars telling me that I was an idiot for believing that cardio prior to resistance training is a bad idea.

Personally, I can’t believe that he took the time out of his day to tell me off via email (wouldn’t a comment have been quicker?) but I would like to thank him because it helped me come up with another fitness training mistake:


Believing that one way of training is the 100% right and that all other methods are 100% wrong.

Whether it’s hardcore cardio junkies or Crosfitters or bodybuilders of Yoginis, being close minded to different training methods seems prety stupid to me.

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  1. What is static stretching and why is it a mistake before resistance training.

  2. Static stretching = Stretch and hold – the old-school way of stretching

    It’s a bad idea because a muscle becomes weaker when it has been stretched past it’s normal resting length.

    Dynamic stretching (arm circles, side lunges, hip circles, etc..) is a better way to warm up your muscles/joints before working out

  3. My training mistake lately has been “not training.” :-/ I really need to get back in gear.

    Okay, why shouldn’t you do cardio before resistance training? So my running on the treadmill for 10 or so minutes before doing squats and pushups and things is a bad idea?

    And what core exercises should I be doing besides crunches and planks?

  4. This is a great list! I am a Beverly Hills “Trainer To The Stars,” and agree with you that people should do cardio after strength training.

    Save the glycogen loaded muscles for the anerobic work so you can generate excellent strength training intensity. It doesn’t make any since to burn away valuable glycogen prior to a high intensity strength training workout. Your muscles need that quick fuel.

    Save the fatty acids, and possible protein breakdown for low intensity cardiovascular work.

  5. “Thinking that the Inner Thigh (Adductor) Machine is going to work some sort of magic.”

    It usually does work some magic, but not for the woman using it. The magic is usually reserved for the creepy guy across the gym staring at said woman’s crotch. 😉

  6. Why is it bad to do cardio before resistance/strength training? And does this mean ANY cardio, or does “warming up” not count?

  7. I used to train at a gym where the manager (male) arranged the inner thigh machines so that directly faced other machines.

    It was amazing how often he needed to do pulldowns on the machine facing the inner thigh machine

    Needless to say, members complained, the machines were re-arranged and the manager was let go.


    PTB Coach got it right with his comment about glycogen.

    Resistance training has a higher intensity level than cardio training (unless you’re Lance Armstrong).
    Because of this, it is better to fuel your resistance workouts with a quick-release fuel like SUGAR.

    If you burn off your stored sugar during a long cardio workout, you will have to tap into body-fat as fuel and your intensity level will drop.

    For some people, a 20 min cardio session is used as a warm-up.

    While this is not a big problem, you are still trading off resistance training performance for injury prevention. My preference is to do a dynamic stretching warm-up to get my joints lubed up, move onto the resistance training, then onto cardio and finish with joint mobility/flexibility work.

  9. Hey Brit,

    Buy an Ab-Wheel – Under $10 bucks and you won’t find a better tool for core training.

    A 10 min cardiowarm-up isn’t a problem. But I would prefer a dynamic stretching warm-up instead

  10. Hey DR

    I am a tall, slim, ex ice hockey and middle distance athlete with super skinny legs and arms and a perpetually girly-soft midsection. Lately I’ve been doing quite a bit of HIIT and resistance training, and for the first time in my life I have something approaching abs. 😀

    However, for the first time in my life I also have tuckshop arms (which are just extra muscle hanging off the bone) and thighs which touch in the middle (also muscle).

    Can I reap the benefits of resistance training without the resulting heaps of muscle? I’ve always been fairly slim, and although I’m seeing nigh immediate results from resistance training, and I am steadily getting leaner, I am also steadily getting bigger. Still slim, just slowly getting shoulders that don’t fit any of my blouses.

    Thanks in advance


  11. Yeah you called it. You’re pretty good at that 🙂 My main problem is definitely my nutrition. I love working out and feel I’m pretty good at getting the needed variety (jogging, yoga, spin, bootcamp). But I never get to see my results because I like to stuff my face when I get home from work and especially at night!! I tried your “diet compliance chart” which works great for me during the day at work, but I always have a big fat X for Meal #6 aka stupid eating before bedtime. It’s one of those things where I’m not really hungry but can’t seem to help myself from having a few more bites of leftover dinner, or pb&j….or both!! Any tips for us at home bingers?

  12. Well, the only point I disagree with you is the stretching. I do it before my weight training and I never feel sore or weak. It IS a bad idea to stretch between sets because it does weaken your muscles, thus resulting in poor form and reduced performance. But, the rest of the list is great. Still, I think that not one size fits all. I find that people need to figure out what works for them and not be afraid to get out of their comfort zone.

  13. Bill – I agree 100% with your “one size does not fit all” philosophy.

    The are hundreds of fitness experts selling their version of the “perfect” diet or the “perfect” training program…and there is no such thing.

    Even if there was a “perfect” diet or program, it isn’t going to fit the lifestyle of most people. We are all unique with unique challenges.

    And the reason I have lots of personal training clients is because I am pretty good at figuring out what works for people and then giving them that diet or training program.

    Re the “no stretching before lifting” recommendation, I am referring specifically to static stretching, not dynamic stretching or even resistance stretching.

    Static stretching cold muscles results in a loss of strength to the stretched muscle. Something I don’t want

    The other 2 options don’t. Personally, as I get older, I find my dynamic stretching routine to be more important than ever.

  14. Great post and great comments. I really like the fact that you a debunked some traditional training methods. I will be sure to share this information.

  15. Doing cardio before lifting is wrong.You will burn up your glycogen levels and won’t be able to get a good workout in.If you must do cardio the same day you lift, do it after you lifting.

  16. @Doug:

    Great list. To me, we need to think about the reason why we do things with regard to the results we are getting. These kind of guidlines can be very powerful for inspiring that kind of thinking.

    You could also fruitfully expand on each of these in an extended article I think. Some are more obvious than others and a couple might be questioned (or nitpiked) for various reasons, so the thinking behind them would be educational. Some of these cut to the heart of training, such as the concept of what the “core” is, and the relationship between the different energy systems.

  17. Uh, did I miss something…I thought it was great that my body was dipping into it’s fat storage while I’m doing any resistance training? Yes, I’m a girl. I’m also not trying to see how big I get so I’m not working with a large amount of weight. It’s fairly common for me to do 20-30min of cardio and then what I refer to as light resistance training. Resistance bands, hand weights, and even kettle bells. I love the definition I have in my arms and legs. Maybe I would feel differently if I was a hard core weight lifter.

  18. Corrine,

    Doing resistance training before cardio training during a mixed workout has nothing to do with “trying to see how big you can get”.

    The idea is that you should do the higher intensity exercises earlier in your workout while you are fresh and full of energy. It’s simply a more efficient way of completing the most amount of work in a set period of time.

    Whether your resistance training is “light” or “hard core”, it is more efficient to do it first.

    Alternatively, if you told me that cardio training was significantly more important to you than resistance training, then I could see leaving the weight training to the end because it is unimportant to you and if you ran out of time and/or energy, it wouldn’t be a great loss to skip that part of your workout.

    But, if both are valued equally, performing the higher intensity activities first ensures maximum results.

  19. THANK YOU!! i sooo neeeeded this info…no more hardcore stretching for me before I do my resistance training! I need to concentrate on that!

  20. Doug, I truly appreciate all the information you post on your blog, it’s one of my favorite health and fitness sources. I just want to make one observation on the comment that opened this post.

    “So, how come when I go to the gym this afternoon, I can pretty much guarantee that I am going to see a lot of intelligent, well-educated, gainfully employed people making some pretty stupid training decisions?”

    If your objective is to have people make smarter decisions, then my suggestion is to give them the basis for good reasoning and not just rules. For example in this post, people don’t know WHY each of those rules makes sense, so they have to rely on your reputation and credibility rather than their own reasoning. To me that’s very useful but not quite meeting the objective of getting them to think better about fitness.

    The more you explain your rules and why they make sense, the more basis people have for reasoning out their own decisions. You say they make dumb decisions, but that’s in general because they rely on decision shortcuts not because of lack of intelligence and not even lack of information. People more often get too much information rather than too little, they just don’t know what to do with it in their own lives.

    Thanks again for your great advice so freely given and I hope this comes off as constructive. I’d enjoy hearing even more of your thinking when you post advice, in addition to the advice.

  21. Awesome stuff. The only thing I find myself doing is stretching my hamstrings, quads and groin before lifting. I have crazy tight leg muscles and if I don’t stretch i struggle through my first couple sets. I typically jump in the sauna and stretch a little and then walk about a quarter mile before lifting. This usually solves the problem.

  22. Hi,

    You are okay with static stretching while warm though, right? Because if not I have a sneaky suspicion your followers are in my pilates classes doing everything wrong because they can’t straighten their legs.

    I’ve been told by world-class dance teachers/yogis that a stretch won’t actually lengthen a muscle past its current state until you’ve been breathing deeper into the stretch for at least 3 minutes. And I’m not sure where the loss of strength comes in I find that hard to believe.


  23. holy…I have it all together…mind you I think I’ve read enough to get there and it wasn’t overnight!

  24. I get fully pumped up after 45 min intense cardio and i have so much blood flowing through the body that resistance training is a breeze! Sorry but dont follow my advise even my peers think there is something wrong with my body. It responds only under stress 🙂

  25. That is very disturbing, i have ways felt incomfortable doing that machine for that very reason.. So what is your recommendation for inner thigh workouts for great results?

  26. So, with the first two, don’t do any warm up before resistance training? Agree with #2 but #1, wouldn’t some cardio increase blood flow, heart rate, and make injury during resistance training less likely?

  27. I advocate a dynamic stretching warmup before resistance training – cardio & static stretching both impair performance during a high intensity resistance training workout. Cardio would increase blood flow, heart rate, muscle elasticity but it also impairs speed/power/strength performance. A brief dynamic stretching/calisthenic warmup gives us the benefits of a cardio warmup with improved joint preparation…all without the negatives of a cardio warmup

    Thanks for the comment..it makes me realize that I need to do an article on warming up pre-workout

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