7 Biggest Workout Mistakes

Fitness guru Yvan Cournoyer shares the problems he’s witnessed—and the solutions that work

He has trained stars such as Sophia Bush, toned the bodies of beauty queens including Miss Universe and Miss World champions, and graced the cover of both Men’s Health and Playgirl. Now the man with the abs behind Abercrombie & Fitch’s Fierce cologne, Yvan Cournoyer, is in town for a short time while he trains a few local very important clients. We caught up with the Vancouver-based model, actor and personal trainer to ask about the seven most common workout hang-ups and how the average person can overcome them.

1. Doing the same workout over and over. “You should be changing your workout every two to three weeks,” Cournoyer says. The fix is as simple as a trip to the store or library. “Grab a fitness magazine and try to incorporate some new exercises into your routine,” he says. Or have your personal trainer do it for you.

2. Putting too much focus on cardio. Resistance training is crucial for any fitness regime, whether you want to lose weight, get in shape or add muscle tone. “Add resistance training to your cardio routine,” Cournoyer suggests. “The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you will burn and the leaner you will get. And remember, muscle eats fat!”

3. Not having proper form. “Eighty-five percent of an exercise’s effectiveness depends on proper posture,” Cournoyer says, noting a proper “power standing position” (the stance taken while using most standing weight machines or free weights) is as follows: knees slightly bent, chest held high, shoulders down, butt out, with feet shoulder-width apart. Another trick, according to Playgirl’s Hottest Body of 2006: “Keep your abdominals contracted at all times.”

4. Doing exercises too fast. “Time under contraction is the key to building muscle tone,” Cournoyer says. He suggests following what he calls “the two-three-two concept” when lifting weights or doing any resistance training exercise: two seconds up, hold for three seconds, then two seconds down, into the starting position.

5. Spending too much time in the gym. You wouldn’t know it from looking at his chiseled abs or muscular arms, but Cournoyer gets a complete effective, efficient gym workout in 60 minutes. “You should be in and out of the gym within one hour,” he says. “You burn fat and build muscle when you rest, not when you train, so maximize your workout intensity for better results.”

6. Focusing on your weak points. If you have weak arms, you may be inclined to work on just your arms, but it’s important to give your full body a workout, not just your problem areas. “Work on your strong points and manage your weak points,” Cournoyer says. “The human body naturally wants to be symmetrical and proportional,” he says. “Make sure you work every muscle group evenly, without overdoing it.”

7. Not pushing yourself to your true limit. In order to achieve maximum results—or see real results—you have to push yourself, then push yourself harder. “Intensity is the only key to the body of your dreams,” Cournoyer says. If you can’t do it on your own, get help: Hire a personal trainer or work out with a strong-willed friend. While personal trainers don’t come cheap, Cournoyer says the results are often worth the investment. “Research has shown that training with a trainer increases your results by 80 percent,” he says.

For more information or to ask Cournoyer a fitness-related question, visit YvanCournoyer.com/personal-training, or find him on Twitter via @yvanfitness.

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