10 Most Common Mistakes Women Make at the Gym that Delay Results

10 Most Common Mistakes Women Make at the Gym that Delay Results

Are you one of those women who’s been going to the gym for a while, but you still don’t have a well-rounded booty? Or were you hoping to have a “flat abs in six weeks,” as promised by women’s magazines, but see no results? Don’t despair, you’re not alone. There are many more women who are facing this problem than you would expect. In today’s article, we will therefore focus on the most common training mistakes made by women in the gym that are delaying their results.

1. Avoiding heavy weights

‘I’m not lifting weights because I don’t want to look like a man.” You have already read or heard this line before, right? Then by all means don’t take it to heart. Strength training is not enough to conjure up a manly figure. If gaining muscle was so simple for women, fitness professionals wouldn’t have to spend hundreds of hours at the gym to stand on a stage in fitness competitions. Women simply do not have the potential for such muscle growth. They have different hormone levels, namely testosterone, which affects muscle growth. So it is not possible for strength training to give you that big biceps. But by exercising you can gain strength, tone your figure and also lose extra fat. And you can use this to your advantage. [1-2]

If you’ve ever seen a woman who has as much muscle mass as men, and even start to grow stubble, it’s definitely not due to strength training. This is likely to be caused by anabolic steroids, growth hormones and other stimulative substances, which you’d better give a wide berth.

Women's fitness mistakes: avoiding strength training

2. Focusing only on cardio

When you first come to the gym, what do you see? Scores of machines, and you might have no idea what they’re for. Fortunately, by the window, you see something you know well – bikes and treadmills. The choice is clear, you move to the safety of the cardio zone, where you spend an hour, and then leave feeling good. But if you do this regularly, you can’t expect sexy curves and round buttocks.

You’re saying that popular fitness professionals also regularly add posts as they walk on the treadmill? Well, yeah, but they’ve probably finished strength training, which is the main reason they have a tonedfigure. The combination of strength training and cardio is a great way to get a dream feminine figure with visible curves. Use weights to strengthen the muscles and increase their volumehealthily. This can also increase the rate of metabolism. For the next 24-48 hours, you can then burn more calories virtually for nothing than if you didn’t exercise. Plus, you’ll be stronger and get a toned body. And as to cardio, it helps support the health of the cardiovascularsystem and also improve your physique. If you want to lose weight, you can also use it to boost your energyexpenditure. Strength training, however, should be the main form of workout. [3–⁠4]

Doing only cardio is not the way to grow muscle mass. Try to look at the physique of endurance runners. You’d be hard-pressed to find big muscles. And it’s not surprising. It takes some energy to maintain muscle mass. The body is not stupid. If you’re into endurance training, like running longer distances, it doesn’t make sense for the body to hold more muscle. The body thus begins to work as a savvy economist, calculating that it costs excess energy to maintain a large amount of muscle. It prefers to get rid of them. However, of course, if you’re engaging in strength training, this gives the muscles an impulse to grow and strengthen, allowing you to achieve a sporty physique.

So if you’re looking for a sexy figure with curves that at first glance reveals that you’re working out at the gym, you have only one choice. Stop running on a treadmill for hours, jump off it, take weights into your hands, work hard and stick to your training plan. Patience and consistency are great prerequisites for success.

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3. Focusing only on legs, buttocks and abs every workout session

Which muscle parts do women in the gym focus most on? It’s probably the legs, buttocks and abs. You may have noticed women in the gym, squatting for dear life, doing hundreds of lunges, but not working on their upper body. There’s nothing wrong with wanting round buttocks and working on it. But it doesn’t mean that all five weekly workouts should be focused only on lower body.

In order for the muscles to start growing stronger, they also need time to regenerate. This is the process during which the body builds up and rebuilds muscles and other tissues. Our body needs time to regenerate. If not, you’re putting yourself at risk of soft tissue and musculoskeletal injuries. Insufficient regeneration also brings a lack of energy, fatigue or excessive muscle soreness, which no longer has much to do with “healthy” muscles after heavy training. So give your muscles enough time to rest after exercise. You can also support regeneration with massage aids and quality food or moderate intensity physical activity. [5–⁠7]

If you also work on your upper body, you may soon start to see other changes. Your arms start to shape, slightly widen your back and round your shoulders. This will make your upper body optically bigger and make your figure look better overall, more symmetrical and slimmer.

Women's fitness mistakes: Focusing only on legs, buttocks and abs every workout

4. Not following a well-designed training plan

Going to the gym is a great start. But if you don’t have a well-established training schedule, it’s hard to get the results you’d expect. Just so we understand each other, the training schedule shouldn’t look like you’re walking into a gym and blindly repeating what everyone else is doing. Nor should you try to exercise on all the machines at your disposal. Nor is it ideal to come to the gym and spend an hour doing machine hip abductions.

The best option to start with will be to ask a professional to make a training plan specifically for you and advise you on technique. Moreover, advice from our article may also help: How To Build a Good Training Plan – Tips, Workouts, Most Common Mistakes.

5. Focusing only on isolation exercises

You’ve found a bikini competitor’s training program when she has a month before a competition, and you feel like, if she’s working out like this and looks great, you just have to try it, too? Yeah, but you’re missing the context. The point of her training is a little different. A bikini fitness competitor that stands onstage in the spotlight needs to have every muscle visible, so her workouts focus more on isolation exercises at some stage of preparation. If you’re recklessly copying her workouts, you’ll spend unnecessary time doing a few bicep or tricep exercises in massive numbers. In order to exercise each muscle group, you will need to spend a large amount of time in the gym, which may not be keeping in with your normal life. Bottom line, your fitness will be a big burden timewise for you, and you probably won’t last long.

There is a much simpler way to go than doing dozens of isolation exercises. Be smart and focus on complex exercises, such as squats, deadlifts or pull-ups. For these, it is specific that you exercise multiple muscle parts at the same time, so you kill two birds with one stone. You spend less time in the gym, but maximize results, which pays off.

All complex exercises can be done effectively even at home. You can use a weighted vest to make squats harder, an Olympic workout bar and weights for deadlifts. You can also practice pull-ups with wall-mounted pull-up bur or doorway pull-bar.

Women's fitness mistakes: focusing too much on isolation exercises

6.Spending too much or not enough time exercising

For women who can’t properly estimate the optimal duration of a workout, we see two extremes. In the first case, they come to the gym with the idea that it will be sufficient to only work out for twenty minutes. The Internet is full of videos that promise results in a few minutes. So, half an hour should be enough, right?

This may not be entirely true. Keep in mind that strength training has its specifics. Between sets of individual exercises, you need to give the body room to regenerate fast energy. Only then can you approach muscle failure and give the body the maximum boost to grow and strengthen muscles. Keep in mind that even preparing weights for a barbell and cleaning them away can take a few minutes. Before you know it, half an hour is gone.

But it is different for home HIIT training, where you exercise intensively and with maximum effort throughout. In that case, 20-30 minutes really is enough.  

The other extreme is when women come to the gym, saying they just have to work out super hard. They can easily spend two hours intensively lifting all the weights they can get their hands on. They then finish their workout with an hour-long run on the treadmill and go home slowly on all fours. Needless to say, this approach is unsustainable in the long run.

So, stick to the golden mean instead. Go to training sessions regularly and spend approximately 60-90 minutes, including warm-up, cool down phases and stretching. In this time, you can achieve decent results, and you will be able to continue dealing with your daily duties.

There’s no need for your muscles to ache so much after every workout that you can’t even walk up the stairs. That’s definitely not a sign of good training, but rather that you just overdid it.

7. Trying to do too much exercise

Beginners often make the mistake of simply overdoing it when they start off. They don’t realise that it’s better to make changes gradually. Instead of starting, say, by putting in three strength training sessions a week, they schedule their training as if they were professional athletes. Six strength training sessions, plus four hours of cardio each week seem a must. Well, how long do you think that routine will last? They’ll probably give up after a couple of weeks, often sooner. It’s not surprising. Such approach is simply unmanageable for beginners. The body is not used to movement and the sudden overload is likely to result in severe fatigue, muscle pain or, worse, injury. [8]

Set a realistic number of training sessions that you can do each week. If you want to go to the gym 2-3 times, the best option for you will be a full-body workout to target each muscle group. Try to always have at least a day off between workouts to allow the muscles to regenerate sufficiently. [9]

In case you get to go to the gym four times a week, stick to two sessions for the upper body and two sessions for the lower body. Alternate these workouts so that the muscles can always rest for at least 48 hours. This creates an optimal training load that will soon yield results. [10]

During your first visits to the gym, our article may help: 10 Tips for Beginners In the Gym for Fast and Sustainable Results.

8. Having unrealistic expectations 

Do you think that after a few weeks of training you’ll have a butt like Jennifer Lopez at her best? Then I guess I’ll disappoint you, you won’t. It’ll be a while before you see minor changes, and you’ll have to wait even longer for the larger ones. In physique formation, however, genetics, your body structure and the like play a role to some extent.

If you have, say, a wider pelvic bone, you won’t shrink it with weight loss or any other exercise. Accept these assumptions as a fact that you will not change. We’re all different. That is a good thing. Life would be boring if we were all walking around looking the same, right? So don’t waste time on what you can’t control and do the things you can. Think about the fact that physique transformation is a long process and will cost you hours and hours of effort. So take up activities you enjoy so you don’t get tired of them. It’s the only way you’ll last until you reach your goal. Brace yourself with patience, though, the results won’t be visible after the first workout. The extra kilos didn’t appear overnight, either, so it would be naïve to think they’d disappear just as quickly.

Perhaps you will also be motivated to change with our article How Does the Body and Mind Change When a Person Starts Exercising and Eating Healthily? 

9. Going to the gym to chat and take selfies

Another thing women sometimes don’t realise is that it’s not enough to just go to the gym. If they want results, they need to exercise there. Spending an hour lying on a mat talking to a friend just doesn’t make for a beach body. And doing a few sit-ups every five minutes won’t help either. What’s more, some selfies for Instagram, and hashtags fitness, fitnessgirls and the like won’t bring results as well.

If you want to see results, you need to work on your body. Stand up and take some weights. You’ll discuss life later with a friend over coffee, not at the gym. You’ll see that feeling after a good workout is worth it. If you don’t enjoy lifting heavy weights after all, try other sports. The one that gets you excited definitely exists. It just needs to be discovered. How about giving swimming, running, tennis or badminton a try?

Women's fitness mistakes: going to the gym for a chat and take selfies

10. Being afraid to ask more experienced people for advice

Finally, one piece of advice that applies not only in fitness, but in all other areas of life. Take advice from the more experienced. Set aside your ego that tells you know best. It’s not like that. Contact people in the industry who are more experienced than you are. You may get results without the help of others, but you’ll need a lot of time to study the quantum of information they already know. Therefore, for your training beginnings, contact an experienced fitness instructor you will trust and allow yourself to be guided through the process. You can thus speed up the achievement of results considerably. It also helps to avoid the most common training errors that delay results.

What should you remember?

If you’ve decided you want to start going to the gym, make sure you avoid these common mistakes. Start step by step, work on your body and think that fitness is a lifestyle, not a short-term fix for weight loss. If you’ve been sitting on the couch for the last twenty years, you can’t expect to lose your all extra weight in a month. Be patient and you’ll see the results eventually.

Remember, the path to a dream body is not a straight line. Don’t stop if you accidentally mess up, get sick and fall out of routine, or things don’t go exactly according to plan. The important thing is always to pull yourself together and get back on the path to the goal you have set.

Do you have a friend who isn’t seeing results because of some of these mistakes? Share our article with her so that she can finally get the dream body. 


[1] William P. Ebben et al. Strength Training for Women – https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3810/psm.1998.05.1020

[2] Testosterone – https://examine.com/topics/testosterone/

[3] Exercise and the Afterburn Effect – https://foreverfitscience.com/exercise-science/exercise-and-the-afterburn-effect/

[4] Centers for disease control and prevention Atlanta – Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight – https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/physical_activity/index.html

[5] Regeneration – https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/regeneration.aspx

[6] Jeffrey B. Kreher, Jennifer B. Schwartz –⁠ Overtraining Syndrome – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3435910/

[7] Bernaciková, M., Masarykova univerzita, & Fakulta sportovních studií. – Regenerace a výživa ve sportu (1. vyd.)

[8] Jeffrey B. Kreher et al. –⁠ Overtraining Syndrome: A Practical Guide – https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1941738111434406?casa_token=vz1ZAKku-7EAAAAA%3A4wbiszzGN6QUBPef-lyIa8_uktGR7MGf6aySeuhA0o0JvnMi-cysE3Yt20QRC7CIbgyL8Ajd54Ui&journalCode=spha

[9] Jozo Grgic et al. –⁠ Effect of Resistance Training Frequency on Gains in Muscular Strength: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29470825/

[10] Brad J Schoenfeld et al. –⁠ Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27102172/

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