1. Holding your breath as you exert the exercise movement.
When you're focused on proper form and struggling to do your last few push-ups, it can be easy to forget about your breathing. Holding your breath is bad. As you hold your breath, you build up your CO2 in your body, which will cause you to fatigue faster, and it can be dangerous. If you hold your breath for too long, you may pass out or even worse! Your body needs oxygen to work out effectively, and proper breathing will help you last longer in your workouts.
How, then, should I breathe while I exercise?
Exhale (or breathe out) slowly and continuously while exerting (or effort phase) and inhale (or breathe in) during the relaxation phase (for instance, lowering your body during a push-up or sit-up). Be conscious of your breathing while you work out.
2. Not maintaining a straight back, good posture or proper form.
The most important reason for proper form is to prevent injury.
A difficult exercise can cause the body to become misaligned by placing tendons, muscles and joints in positions that can potentially cause strains or tears. For instance, you could strain your back doing too many sit-ups before your core is properly developed. It is best to exercise with less repetitions or a lower load (push-ups on your knees or lighter weights) in proper form than a heavier load and poor form. Rule of thumb here is to lower the reps if you have to sway your body in order to execute the exercise. If you have to do a push-up where you push up your upper body (while your hips sag to the ground) then raise your hips after your arms are extended, it would be better execute the exercise on your knees.
Proper form targets your muscles properly.
Push-ups executed with proper form engage your chest, triceps and core. Planks engage your core. You've chosen your exercise routine with the end goal in mind, correct? Why sabotage that with poor form?
For instance, you'll need to be loose to do a deep squat properly. And proper form will prevent you from bending your back when it should be straight because your hips are tight. Flexible muscles will prevent you from falling forward or backward (in the case of a deep squat). Then, your regimen can focus on toning your targeted muscles.
Also, there is evidence that regular stretching may increase power and speed. The best time to stretch is when the muscles are warm and pliable.
4. Not knowing what to do.
Find a workout routine you like to do. Try some different things and see what makes time fly by for you. If you enjoy it, it is much easier to be consistent. Interested in climbing and love the climber's body? Go for it. Want a runner's physique? You know what to do.
Set a goal. I want to lose fat, gain strength, lower my cholesterol, improve my posture, go from pre-diabetic to healthy, improve my stamina, have a muscular booty, chest, guns, glutes or all of the above. Whatever you want, you choose.
Do some research. Try googling, "What is the best way to lose fat with exercise?" Or, "How does a naturally skinny person gain muscle?" Or, "How do I get a six pack?"
Make a plan. I will do HIIT cardio 2 days a week and resistance training 2 days a week at 6am.
Adjust the plan. Take what's working and do more. Maybe weight loss is the most important. Then you do more calorie-burning workouts until you reach x weight. Then, you begin to add more resistance and muscle toning. Be flexible.
5. Executing the movement only halfway.
Start at the starting position and complete the full movement to the ending position or you compromise your benefit. Do you wish to reach only half your goal? Lose only half the desired weight, or gain only half the desired muscle? Not likely. Don't do a half rep. You are only cheating yourself.
It is better to pause, catch your breath and give it the full movement squat, push-up, crunch, whatever. And if you have exhausted yourself and cannot do another rep safely, stop and congratulate yourself! You gave it your all. By all means, don't hurt yourself. If you get hurt, you'll lose a ton of the ground you gained as you take time off your workouts to recover!
NewMe Fitness produces educational bodyweight exercise cards to help you avoid these 5 common mistakes.
They illustrate 50 bodyweight exercises you can do at home. They have a guide, include 6 workouts and allow you to build your own. Each exercise card shows how to execute the exercise from start to finish in a clear easy-to-understand visual. It also offers a written explanation of how to do the exercise, tips and what muscles are targeted during the exercise.