March 15, 2017


6 common mistakes to watch out for when using a gym programme

IT’S SO IMPORTANT to get the basics right, so today we’re going to take a look at gym programmes and some of the most common mistakes people make when structuring their training.

If you are exercising purely for health and mindset benefits every now and then that’s great, but this article is geared towards people who are working off a certain programme and questioning whether or not they are on the right track.

People often ask me to look at their gym programmes — I’ve seen all sorts including strength, sport-specific, bodybuilding, weight-loss and weight-gain routines.

Programming is vital. A good place to start is a basic gym template that features specific mobility work, strength work and a variation of conditioning workouts. Your programme should be aimed towards your goal, your body, your training age, your strengths and your weaknesses.

It’s great that you are following a fitness plan but make sure whatever goal you’re working on matches well with the training you’re doing, and that it’s at your fitness level.

I regularly see people using programmes which are far too advanced for them; they haven’t mastered the basics yet, they don’t have enough time in the week to be doing the programme correctly, and other lifestyle factors such as sleep, food, and recovery aren’t matching up either.

The individual is therefore already at a disadvantage and would make far more progress by seeking out advice from a good trainer who can put them on the right path.

Do the basics first and get really good at them before moving on. Sometimes you may never need to even stray too far away from the basics.

I have been designing programmes for almost 10 years and it always comes back to the basics. They can’t be beaten and the results speak for themselves.

The fitness industry can sometimes be blamed for ignoring this as so many of its promotions rarely sell patience; it’s all about speed, youth, intensity and vanity.

A quick search on Instagram and you will see what I mean. A lot of people buy into it and are searching for “get shredded in 4 weeks” or “six-pack in 6 weeks”. Some people think that beating themselves up in an all-out intensity workout is the way towards achieving the beach-body look that they want. However, there are much smarter ways you can go to reach your goal.

The big thing that might be lacking here is education. A good trainer isn’t just training their clients but also educating them on how they should be chasing their health and fitness goals.

Six areas where people make mistakes

1. No strength and/or mobility work

Endurance athletes often have little to no strength work in their programme and no mobility or recovery protocols in and around their training.

I have worked with a number of runners who have a lot of niggles and knocks which have been down to not looking after their body the right way and relying on a relatively weak frame to get them through their training and races.

Tweaking your approach by including a basic strength programme and 15 minutes of daily body maintenance goes a long way.

2. Too much too soon

You need to master basic compound movements like deadlifts and squats before moving on to advanced strength programmes.

On top of that you might not have the basic mobility to get into some of the positions and would be better off working on that before putting your body into these positions while carrying a heavy load.

3. CrossFit workouts

CrossFit can be good and bad but the key is to make sure the movements you are doing are right for your level.

A lot of the time the problems are not down to the CrossFit progamme itself but the coach who is delegating you the work.

Every CrossFit gym is different and I will stress that there are some fantastic CrossFit coaches in Ireland. But it’s not a case of one size fits all.

4. Sport-specific programmes

If you play a sport you should be working on areas in the gym that will complement your performance.

Over the years I have trained alongside many professional soccer players, inter-county GAA players, pro golfers and shadowed sessions at the renowned Florida State University, which produces some of America’s finest athletes.

Any athlete I have worked with has the basics nailed down first, a good range of mobility, good body awareness and the ability to work through the gears — pushing themselves into certain zones of training.

There is no point getting specific until you have the basics mastered. A good place to start is being able to squat well, having a basic level of strength, and being able to complete the mobility/flexibility tests I have mentioned in previous articles.

5. Bodybuilding split programmes

These programmes are great but you have to be all-in when you’ve a real goal to change your physique. This route may not be for everyone but it certainly has its place.

Too many people try doing split programmes that are aimed at those looking to increase mass and muscle but they aren’t spending enough time in the gym, not eating enough food and don’t carry the necessary commitment into their weekends.

6. Weight-loss programmes

The myth of avoiding weights, dramatically cutting carbs and doing lots of cardio is still floating around.

A lot of people who are chasing weight loss tend to stay away from the weights room, hammer the spin class and cut carbs for a few days before they crash again.

From the experience I have working with two clients who have lost 63kg and 40kg respectively over the last year, both were training two or three times a week, on a structured weight training plan, did some cardio every now and then and relied on carbs to get them through certain workouts and days.

It’s important to have a sustainable and sensible approach if your goal is to lose weight.


Its great that you have a goal in mind and that you’re working off a training template or programme. However, it’s important to constantly assess, not guess.

Consider your goal and what you need to work on instead of selecting a programme at random. Get the basics sorted first and then make sure your training regime matches up with your goal.

If you are still unsure of the best approach, then source a trainer or coach who is particular about technique, has a good pedigree and a track record of achieving results.

David Last is a personal trainer based in Dublin. For more information you can follow him on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Or you can send him a direct message here.

You can also see some of his previous articles here.