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Common Workout Mistakes that Lead to Injury

Working out is supposed to improve your health – not hamper it! But all too often, overenthusiasm – or simple ignorance – can cause well-intentioned workouts to end in disaster. Yikes! There’s no room for ego when it comes to treating your body right.

So, if you think you can wing it without any risk, think again. It’s best to familiarize yourself with proper workout strategies – and ask for help when you’re unsure about an activity – rather than play it cool and end up with an injury.

To start, let’s take a look at 7 of the most common workout mistakes made by rookies and gym rats alike.

1) Scaling Up Too Soon

High hopes can tempt us to make grand goals that sometimes aren’t realistic. When it comes to progression, make a strategic plan and avoid scaling up too quickly, which can result in overexertion and strained muscles. This goes for both cardio and strength training. For example, if you’re starting to jog again after years without working out, jumping from 2 miles a day to 6 miles a day isn’t progression – it’s a recipe for shin splints, which can put you out of the game for several weeks.

2) Drinking Loads of Water at the Wrong Time

Hydration is extremely important, but you need to hydrate at the right time. Don’t wait until you’re working out to down a gallon of water – that’s a sure setup for an upset stomach and toilet issues. Instead, drink water consistently throughout the day well before your workout and after.

3) Not Stretching at All

Do not skip stretching! This is simple advice that most people are familiar with, yet even anxious gym rats can sometimes skip straight to the good stuff – dead lifts or sprints – without stretching. Muscles need time to ease into activity, and stretching allows your body a way to gear up for more intense exertion.

4) Stretching Too Soon

Likewise, stretching cold as the very first activity is no good either. Always add a light warmup – like a slow jog around the track or 10 minutes on the elliptical – before stretching. Cold muscles can’t actually stretch to their full potential without having a bit of gentle activity in advance. So, warm up first, stretch second, and then tackle the real workout. For an added bonus, consider using dynamic stretching (moving your muscles through their full range of motion) prior to your workout and save the static stretching for post-workout.

5) Poor Form

Any professional athlete will agree – proper form is essential for a long career! There’s a reason why every sport has instructors that teach the body mechanics of proper movement. Whether it’s a golf swing, an overhead serve on the tennis court, or lifting free weights at the gym – proper form is key to safe exercise that avoids muscle tears and dislocated joints. Take your time to learn the techniques to protect yourself.

6) Distracted Exercise

Perhaps one of the most embarrassing – yet incredibly common – mistakes is becoming distracted while working out. Distractions can take many different forms, like a music player that falls out of a pocket or a chatty gym goer on a weightlifting machine next to you. Simplify your workout and resist distractions so you don’t make major mistakes that prove dangerous.

7) Lifting Too Fast

Another advantage of staying focused and alert during your workout is that your muscles can actually benefit from slowing down. This is particularly true for strength training exercises. Slow and steady movement, like lifting and lowering weights, can actually engage targeted muscle groups more effectively, leading to a deeper workout.

The overall message here? Take your time! Be conscious of what you’re doing so that you can do it correctly and safely – avoiding injury and getting a more rewarding workout experience.

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Dr. Candice Seti


California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Personal Trainer

Dr. Candice Seti

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