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Mistakes men make at the gym

Though the clientele at most gyms and fitness facilities is no longer dominated by over-the-top body builders, the atmosphere at many fitness centers is still somewhat of a throwback to the early days of weightlifting. It's not uncommon to walk into a gym and see exceptionally large men lifting significant amounts of weight while letting out a grunt or two along the way.

Such an atmosphere can spark the competitive spirit in many men, and that's when guys could make mistakes that can prove costly. Overdoing it at the gym is common, especially for beginners or men who are returning to exercise after a long layoff. The following are some of the more common mistakes men should avoid when going to the gym.

* Going full bore right away. Though it's important to challenge yourself at the gym, asking too much of your body, too early is a mistake many men have lived to regret. When beginning a fitness regimen, avoid high-intensity exercises until your body has acclimated itself to daily exercise. Expect soreness at the onset, and give yourself a day off between workouts to allow your body the recovery time it needs. As your body grows accustomed to exercise, you can gradually increase the intensity and frequency of your regimen.

* Overdoing it with weightlifting. As noted, the environment at many gyms can make men feel as though they need to lift as much weight as possible. However, lifting too much weight will almost certainly affect your form, and bad form can lead to injury. Don't focus on how much weight you can lift, but how well you can do each exercise. As you improve your form, you can add more weight if you so desire.

* Diving right in. Many men forgo warmup activities, choosing to dive right into their routines the moment they arrive at the gym. That's a potentially costly mistake, as warmup exercises allow your heart rate to gradually increase and prepare your body for vigorous activities, such as weightlifting and cardiovascular exercise. Men who do not warm up and stretch before attempting more intense exercises are also more likely to pull or strain their muscles. Alter your workout routine so it includes some mild cardiovascular exercise and stretching before you start more intense exercises.

* Failing to stretch. Stretching is essential to maintaining range of motion and avoiding potentially uncomfortable ailments like back pain. However, many men fail to spend enough time on the stretching mat before and after their workouts. If you want to avoid stiffness and maintain your range of motion over a life span, be sure to spend ample time stretching before and after your workout. Stretch all major muscle groups daily, and not just the ones you focused on during a given workout. Hold each stretch for no less than 15 seconds.