You put in the time and effort, show up at the gym, and pride yourself in not taking shortcuts. So why is the scale not budging? Chances are, poor exercise form or bad workout habits are costing you precious calories. Fitness experts reveal the most common ways people cheat at their workouts without even realizing it, and offer ways to kick those saboteurs to the curb.
You’re a swinger
Momentum comes in handy when you’re attempting a long jump, but not if you’re lifting weights. Each exercise involves two phases: a concentric (contracting) move and an eccentric (stretch) phase. “Building momentum by swinging your arms when doing a move like a bicep curl or a tricep push-down sacrifices results by not controlling the eccentric phase, and also increases your risk of injury,” says Irv Rubenstein, PhD, exercise physiologist and founder of STEPS Fitness, a science-based fitness facility in Nashville, Tenn. Practice a two-second count on the concentric move and four to five count on the eccentric.
You hold on for dear life
Grasping the sidebars when walking on the treadmill or hanging on tight to the handles of the elliptical trainer cheats you out of the largest possible calorie burn, says Rubenstein. “In addition, if you’re using your arms to make it easier on your legs, you’ll tire faster, because your arms can’t work as hard as your legs,” he says. Instead, use the rails only as a guide, keeping your fingertips lightly on them. If you find it impossible to maintain proper form without clutching the bars, try lowering the incline or slowing down your pace.