What Not To Do When Exercising for Weight Loss

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So, you just began on your journey—or as ChatGPT might say, “embarked” on your journey—to lose weight. 

You’ve figured out what you need to eat, how much you need to do, what you need to stay away from, and… how much and what you should be exercising. 

But, you know, a lot of people go about exercise the wrong way and make some mistakes that make exercise backfire on them, ending up not supporting their weight loss goals. 

So, in this article, I am here to show you what these common mistakes are. Let’s begin.

1. Ignoring Proper Form

You know, some people do this thing where they do a particular workout just to sort of tick it off their daily to-do list, and they can be like, “Yay, I am done.” 

No, you are not done until you did the particular exercise—whether you are doing it at home or in the gym—correctly as it is intended. 

The goal of a particular exercise is to target a specific muscle or a muscle group, so if you don’t do it correctly, it’s like you might as well not have worked out that day. Because the effect will be negated.

Performing exercises incorrectly not only diminishes their effectiveness but also significantly increases the risk of injuries. Here are some common ones:

  • Squats: Performing squats with the knees extending far beyond the toes can lead to knee strain or injury. Proper form involves keeping the knees aligned over the toes and squatting as if sitting back into a chair.
  • Push-ups: Dropping the hips or arching the back during push-ups can strain the lower back and shoulders, reducing effectiveness in targeting the chest and arms.
  • Deadlifts: Rounding the back during deadlifts puts excessive pressure on the spinal discs, which can lead to herniated discs or other back injuries.
  • Planks: Allowing the hips to sag or raising them too high during a plank compromises core engagement and can increase strain on the lower back.

So, instead of rushing through exercises, focus on mastering the technique with each movement. 

Even simple exercises like planks or push-ups can cause strain if done incorrectly.

It’s worth taking the time to learn each exercise properly or even getting a few sessions with a personal trainer to ensure you are performing movements correctly.

This approach not only enhances the effectiveness of your workouts but also protects your body from harm.

2. Over-Reliance on Cardio

For many people, exercise equals a cardio workout. This can include things like cycling, running, or cross-training. 

Cardio is an important part of your overall workout routine, but that’s all it is, “an important part”; it is not the whole thing. 

The problem with doing only cardio and not doing any other types of workout is that you are just focusing on burning calories at the moment by increasing the demand at the moment, which makes your heart beat faster, and the demand for oxygen goes up, hence you burn more energy, and hence the name—cardiovascular workout.

So, while cardio is an effective way to burn calories, relying solely on it for weight loss can lead to muscle loss and a plateau in progress. 

And when you start losing muscle, your overall RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) also slows down so you’ll be burning fewer and fewer calories as the body adapts, meaning you need to do more and more cardio to maintain your weight loss progress. 

Which is not a healthy or sustainable way to lose weight. 

You need a combination of cardio and strength training in your weight loss routine for sustainable long-term weight loss that you can keep off forever. 

If you are interested in diving deeper into this, I recommend you to check this youtube video out, it explains why only cardio is not a good way to lose weight.

3. Skipping Strength Training

Skipping strength training is a common mistake for those who fear gaining bulky muscles or who underestimate the benefits of muscle mass for weight loss.

Look, the goal is not just to lose weight, it’s to lose fat, although we often refer to it as weight loss. You don’t want to lose your muscles and bone density.

Healthy weight loss equals fat loss, and to achieve this successfully, you need to build muscle mass.

The more muscle you build, the more energy your body needs to maintain that muscle mass, which means your resting metabolic rate (RMR) goes up.

This increase in metabolism means you’ll burn off excess fat because your body is using more energy and will need to pull from your stored energy if it’s not getting enough from your diet.

Granted, you may also lose a little bit of muscle here and there, but as long as you keep up your strength training routine and consume an adequate amount of protein, you can maintain your muscle mass and, hence, keeping your RMR elevated.

Neglecting strength training can lead to several negative outcomes:

  • Decreased Metabolic Rate: Individuals focusing only on diet and cardio for weight loss might see a decrease in their metabolic rate due to loss of muscle mass, making it harder to lose weight or maintain weight loss.
  • Poor Body Composition: Without strength training, even if someone loses weight, they might still have a high body fat percentage — a condition sometimes referred to as being “skinny fat.”
  • Increased Risk of Injury: Everyday activities like lifting groceries or climbing stairs can become more difficult and prone to injury if the muscles are not sufficiently strong and conditioned.

Furthermore, strength training can help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, which are important factors in overall health and weight management.

4. Neglecting a Caloric Deficit Diet

Look, I am going to tell you something. You are not going to lose weight unless you are on a caloric deficit diet, period, regardless of how much exercise you do every day. Let me explain why.

I want you to imagine your body is like a car, and the food you eat is the fuel. If you keep filling the tank without driving enough to use that fuel, it’s going to overflow, right?

In the same way, if you eat more food (or fuel) than your body uses up, the extra gets stored as fat. Now, even if you’re super active and do lots of cardio (like running or swimming) or strength training (like lifting weights), if you still eat more than you burn, you won’t lose weight.

To actually lose weight, you need to create a ‘caloric deficit,’ which means you consume fewer calories so your body starts to use the stored fat as energy. It’s like using up the fuel you’ve got in the tank instead of adding more.

So, no matter how much you exercise, if you’re not eating fewer calories than what your body needs right now, you won’t see those pounds drop. It’s all about balancing the energy you put in with the energy you use up.

For this, I recommend using tools like food diaries or calorie-tracking apps such as MyFitnessPal or Yazio to monitor your intake and stay aware of your consumption. Accurately measuring portions and being mindful of the caloric content of foods can help ensure you maintain a deficit.

Also Read: Biggest Mistakes People Make When Counting Calories For Weight Loss

5. Lack of Consistency and Planning

Your whole week’s workout has to be planned beforehand. 

You don’t want to be in a situation where you go to the gym and decide spontaneously while scratching your mind, “Hmm…what should I do today?” or “What do I feel like doing today?” 

Look, I am sorry if I sound a bit blunt, but your feelings should not dictate which workout you do. 

As long as you are not sick or have an injury, you should be able to do your workout without fail, no matter how you feel. 

It’s about being consistent; it’s about slowly building a new habit, a new identity for yourself where you are someone who exercises regularly. 

To go from “I am lazy” to “I live a healthy active lifestyle,” you need to build that activity into your routine and go through with the workout that was planned for you, either by a personal trainer or by yourself.

For example, here is what your workout schedule could potentially look like:

  • Monday: Chest, Triceps
  • Tuesday: Back, Biceps
  • Wednesday: Cardio
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Legs, Shoulders
  • Saturday: Cardio
  • Sunday: Rest

Now, this is just an example. Your workout plan would need to be drawn up based on your individual level by you or in collaboration with your personal trainer.

The point is that you need a plan, a path that is already pre-decided for you and all you need to do is show up and execute them consistently. 

Without consistency, there is no weight loss. Weight loss is achieved by you putting in the work day in and day out with your exercise plan, your eating plan, your sleeping plan, and your managing your stress level plan. 

I know that’s a lot of plans. So, plan your workouts and meals in advance. 

Set a weekly schedule that fits your lifestyle and stick to it. 

Use reminders or alarms to keep yourself accountable, and prepare meals ahead of time to avoid last-minute unhealthy choices. 

Consistency is key in forming habits that lead to long-term success.

6. Setting Unrealistic Goals

Look, weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint, far from it. If you expect it to be a short-term sprint, you will be heavily disappointed. 

We are talking about 6 months to a year at least to see the results of your everyday work, bit by bit, like building a house brick by brick or like a tree growing up. 

I remember one of my clients asked, “Will I gain weight if I quit the gym after I lost weight?” 

And my reply was, “Why would you want to quit after you lost weight? You need to continue that lifestyle forever.”

So the point is, you cannot set unrealistic goals such as, “I have a wedding in 1-2 months, I want to lose so and so pounds and I am willing to do extreme workouts, fastings, juice cleanses, detox diets, cabbage soup diets…basically whatever it takes for me to lose 10 kgs.”

No, no, no. I am going to repeat again, weight loss is a marathon, a slow burn. 

A healthy weight would look like you losing 1-2 pounds a week, this could be 1 pound in two weeks as well, it all depends on multiple factors such as your current weight, lifestyle, eating habits, age, gender,, etc.

So do yourself a favor and do not set unrealistic goals. When expectations are not met, it can result in decreased motivation and possibly abandoning your weight loss efforts altogether. 

Unrealistic goals often lead to extreme behaviors, such as severe calorie restriction or excessive exercise, which are not sustainable or healthy in the long run. 

Focus on setting small, achievable goals that lead to gradual, sustainable progress. For example, like I said, aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. 

Aim to get through your exercise routine every week without skipping, build that habit. 

Celebrate small victories to keep motivated, and adjust your goals as you progress. 

This approach not only helps maintain motivation but also supports a healthier and more sustainable transformation.

Also Read: How Much Weight Loss Is Good For You?

7. Skipping Warm-Up and Cool-Down

Skipping warm-up and cool-down sessions during exercise, especially when you’re trying to lose weight, is not a good idea. 

Here’s why: Warm-ups are like telling your body, “Hey, we’re about to do something tough!” They gradually increase your heart rate and loosen up your muscles, making them ready for the workout ahead. 

This helps prevent injuries, which could set back your weight loss progress if you have to take a break to recover. 

Cool-downs are just as important because they help your body ease back into its normal state. 

Imagine you’ve been running; if you stop suddenly, your heart is still racing, and your body doesn’t get a chance to adjust, which can be a shock to the system. 

Cool-downs help avoid dizziness or fainting, and they also reduce muscle stiffness, which means you’ll feel better and be ready to exercise again sooner. 

Plus, both warm-ups and cool-downs can help improve your flexibility over time, which can make your workouts more effective and help with your weight loss goals. 

So, skipping these parts of your workout routine can actually make it harder to lose weight because you might get hurt, feel too sore to keep exercising regularly, or not be able to work out as effectively. 

It’s like skipping the first and last chapters of a book—you miss out on the full story and the best results. Always remember to warm up and cool down for a safer and more effective weight loss journey.

8. Overexercising

When you’re working out to lose weight, it might seem like more is better, but that’s not always the case. 

Overexercising can actually be harmful and counterproductive. Here’s why: Your body needs time to recover after workouts. 

If you don’t give it that time, you risk injuries like strains or stress fractures, which could force you to stop exercising altogether while you heal. 

Plus, too much exercise can make you really tired and sore, which might make you less motivated to keep going.

It can also mess with your body in other ways, like causing hormonal imbalances that make it harder to lose weight or weakening your immune system so you get sick more often. 

And if you’re always working out super hard, your body might start burning muscle for energy instead of fat, which isn’t what you want when you’re trying to get leaner. 

It’s like if you tried to sprint the whole way through a marathon—you’d probably burn out and not finish the race. The same goes for weight loss; it’s a marathon, not a sprint. 

So, it’s important to find a good balance of exercise that challenges you but also lets your body rest and recover. 

That way, you’ll keep getting stronger and losing weight without hurting yourself or getting burnt out.

Also Read: What Not To Do When Hitting a Weight Loss Plateau


When exercising for weight loss, it’s important to avoid common mistakes like pushing yourself too hard too fast, skipping warm-ups, or ignoring your body’s signals. 

These missteps can lead to injuries and demotivation, which might stop your progress. Instead, focus on setting realistic goals, following a balanced routine, and listening to your body. 

Remember, successful weight loss is not just about losing pounds quickly; it’s about creating a sustainable and healthy lifestyle that keeps you fit and happy in the long run.

This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission for purchases made through links at no extra cost to you. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Rahul is a professional nutritionist certified by the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and a personal trainer certified through the American Council of Exercise (ACE). He has a special interest in the science of nutrition and how it can impact the body.

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