7 Fitness Mistakes You Should Never Make Again

by Jonathan Wong, 28 March, 2016


Here are some shocking statistics about the success rate of the fitness industry…

  • 73% of people do not achieve their New Year’s health and fitness goals*
  • 80% of people who buy a gym membership use it for less than 5 months**
  • 67% of people who buy a gym membership never use it**

I’m sure there are more “fitness failure” statistics out there.

As the famous coach John Wooden said “Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be”. 

In this post, I will share 7 mistakes that cause these “fitness failures”, to help our clients overcome them and get the healthy transformation that they signed up for. These seven mistakes are a sum of our personal training team’s experiences.

We have accumulated over 200,000 personal training sessions over the last 10 years. Using all the tracking and documentation we have for our clients, we have a pretty good idea of the struggles and frustrations that many clients go through.

If you change your habits to avoid the 7 mistakes discussed in this post, you will be well on your way to life-long health and fitness.

Mistake #1 – Blindly following the training programmes in most “fitness magazines”

The main goal of publications is to sell themselves. But your main goal is to get results. These goals do not always support each other.

For ladies – Take note that most ladies’ magazines want to sell you fashionable training programmes. They do so by featuring the coolest, cutest and most trendy workouts. However, in reality, the women who do get the fastest results, in the shortest time actually engage in challenging, planned and systematic training, which are not the same workouts featured by the media.

All forms of exercise are better than a sedentary lifestyle. But in a busy world where ladies have increased stress and limited time, you should look for the most effective programme for you.

For men – Take note that the programmes written in most bodybuilding or fitness magazines are written to impress you with their “hardcore”nature. Or for people who are bodybuilding professionals. Not for the average guy like you or me.

It is important to note that only a handful of people out there can truly benefit from these recommended workouts –

  • They are often the genetic elite, able to handle that much training.
  • They are fully dedicated to training and the bodybuilding lifestyle. Their schedule, their food and their energy is completely dedicated to training. This is unlike the situation of the typical man in Singapore who has multiple stressors and responsibilities.
  • They are almost always using illegal and possibly dangerous performance enhancing substances, which can result in long-term health consequences.
best gym in sinagpore articles

Not always the best source of information for the average person

Mistake #2 – Training without a plan

Before anyone joins Genesis Gym, our team always asks: “What kind of exercise programs have you tried before?”

Again, any kind of exercise is better than none. But in more than 95% of cases, we hear a random list of activities. Some of these exercises may even contradict each other and lead a client further from their fitness goals. For example, long jogs to “burn fat” actually end up burning away our precious lean muscle. which is never a goal that clients want to achieve.

Training without a plan is bad because:

  • You may randomly do different exercise. This week you may do exercise A, B, and C, and next week exercise X, Y, and Z depending on what machines are free at your gym. Weights this week, canoeing next week, 10km runs the week after that and 400m runs the following week. It is impossible to track your progress due to the frequent changes in the type of exercise.
  • You may always do the same exercise. This is opposite from the previous problem. But in this case you body will stagnate and refuse to progress further because it has already adapted to the kinds of exercise you are doing repeatedly. If you are always spending the same amount of time on the treadmill at the same speed every week, you will not improve. In fact you will get more efficient at treadmill-running and end up burning less and less calories over time.
  • You may not get the desired result. If you combine too many different exercise methods, your body becomes confused and does not adapt well to any of the methods. This means you have used a lot of effort for very little progress.
  • Most importantly, different activities give different results. There is no workout that is best for every goal. You need to plan a workout that is best for your goal.
best personal trainer in singapore explains training program

Everyone should have a training plan. Here, Genesis Gym centre manager Jen Li Sheng explains a new training programme to our client.

Mistake #3 – Not recording your training

“The faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory” – Chinese Proverb

Everyone who makes consistent progress records it. You may use a paper notebook, an app like “Evernote” or a specialized software like what we have developed for Genesis Gym. Ultimately, no matter what you use, it is important to record your training to track and maintain your progress. For example, if you know you lifted 50kg 10 times last week, you could aim for 51kg this week. While it seems like “only” a 1kg gain, it is a 2% improvement in a week. This serves not only as a reminder of where you last left off, but also as a motivation on milestones you achieve in your fitness journey.

best gym workout in singapore

Raffles Place centre manager Malcolm Pow teaching clients to record workouts accurately.

Recording has psychological benefits too. You also know what your previous bests are and can focus on beating them. One mental trick I like to use is to count backwards. So this week I would put 51kg on the bar, and count backwards from 10 to 1 instead of counting from 1 to 10. Our brain does not like to leave things unfinished and during the tough final reps I can find more mental focus to finish then. If I did not record anything, I would have no clue what weight or reps I need to perform to break my personal records.

We need to be patient with our fitness goals. While a 2% improvement per week does not sound like much. Imagine if your bank account increased 2% per week. $50 in the account would more than triple to become $170 after a year. That’s not sustainable in terms of weight lifting progress, but it does give you an idea of the power of measured, purposeful progression. This can only happen when you record your training.

Mistake #4 – Performing reps imperfectly

Individual reps are the building blocks of a training programme. If you don’t do them well, then the entire workout will be less effective.

The first thing that will help you achieve better results is to do your reps under control. No cheating by swinging the weights. For example, we hardly ever do “kipping chin-ups”, where your body and legs swing to help you get up. Doing chin-ups this way only makes you more skillful at the kipping chin-ups. It does not always mean you are actually stronger.

The second thing is to make your reps consistent in their technique and their speed. If today, you did your reps slow and lifted 10kg. And next week you performed your reps fast and lifted 15kg. Are you really stronger? It is impossible to say if you are progressing or not without consistent speed. That is why we recommend doing each rep exactly the same each time. You will be far more certain if you are progressing. Or not.

personal trainer singapore checks clients exercise form

Perfect exercise technique is important no matter if you are a beginner, or an advanced trainee

Finally, make sure to do your reps through a full range of motion of the exercise. Bench presses should touch your chest. Back muscles should contract fully on chin-ups, and you should straighten your arms completely. Squats should go as low as possible (depending on your body type). And so on. Muscles only get stronger in the range that you train. Anything less than full range increases injury risk, and reduces the benefits of the exercise.

Mistake #5 – Not taking care of chronic pain

Regular exercise almost never results in a sudden, serious injury like you might find in contact sports like boxing or rugby, or in extreme sports like free rock climbing or parkour.

The pain from typical exercise routines tend to be of the chronic kind. Nagging back, shoulder and knee pain are the most common among those who try to exercise regularly. The majority of clients at Genesis Gym start of with some kind of nagging pain. That is why the Genesis personal training system needs to be able to address these problems and still help clients achieve their goals.

The method we use is a three-step method that has given us a lot of success with clients who have nagging pain and injury. You can use a similar thought process to help you overcome chronic pain.

Step 1: Rule out serious structural problems. First we need to do some tests to rule out things like torn ligaments, fractured bones or serious disease like cancer. If in any doubt, we always refer to the team of medical specialist we partner with. They have the correct diagnostic tools like an MRI, a blood testing lab, or an X-ray.

Step 2: Find the root cause of the pain and solve it. The body is created with many beautiful layers of complexity. Sometimes the cause of the problem is not where the pain is.

Back pain can caused by imbalanced feet. Neck pain can be caused by an old scar that is not fully healed. And shoulder pain can be caused by any one of 30 things that connect to the shoulder!

We need to find out exactly where the problem originates, then use the correct method to address it.

  1. If the problem is in the soft tissue, for example, scar tissue from old injuries or muscles not sliding smoothly next to each other. Then we use some form of deep tissue treatment to quickly break up the scar tissue and get things moving smoothly again.
  2. If the problem is trigger-point related. Tight bundles of muscle reduce blood flow and make nerves very sensitive in a particular area. Then we can use massage and dry needling to fix that.
  3. If the problem is a muscle that cannot “turn-on” because it has too little (or too much) signal from the brain. Then we can use a technique called “Trigenics” to resolve this almost immediately.
  4. If the problem is a a bone misalignment, then a trip to a good chiropractor should resolve that in one or two treatments.
  5. If the problem is a postural problem giving misalignment in many joints. Then Genesis Posture Therapy is the only way to resolve it.

As you can see, we are not fixated on any single method. Rather, we have found it more effective to have a range of skills in our toolkit. This allows us to solve whatever pain. you might be facing.

soft tissue treatment in singapore

Coach Jon performing soft tissue treatment for four-times Singapore Strongest Man and Genesis Gym centre manager Jen Li Sheng during the competition.

Step 3: Keep training “around” the painful site. 

Most clients who have chronic pain think they should stop training and rest completely. This is actually wrong. You still have many other joints that are not injured. Continuing to train non-injured body parts boosts the growth hormone level of the entire body and speeds injury recovery.

In addition, if you train the non-injured side, there is greater nerve stimulation even on the injured side compared to doing nothing. More nerve activity means less muscle will be lost while your injured part is inactive.

This attitude, which keeps you active and moving also prevents you from getting out of shape while recovering.

Our general guideline is “never train into pain” so don’t do anything that hurts. And “if it hurts more tomorrow – that was too much”. Don’t do as many sets next time.

Any injury also tends to respond well to:

  • Light movement to prevent scar tissue formation
  • Good nutrition that aids healing
  • Positive attitude towards healing, which lowers perceived pain levels

Mistake #6  – Using exercise to overcome bad food choices

“I’m going for a run after this meal to burn off all these extra calories” is something that is often said after a particularly unhealthy meal. But does it actually work? Usually not. And here are the reasons why.

  • First, it is very hard to overcome the calorie content of an unhealthy meal. A fast food meal with fries and a drink is easily over 1000 calories. While an hour of hard exercise is only uses about 600. Are you really going to go do hard training for almost two hours after each meal?
  • Second, unhealthy foods have an effect of triggering cravings for more unhealthy food. Sugar has been shown to have an addictive effect similar to that of drugs like cocaine. This is why we say “there is always room for dessert!” In contrast, healthy food choices like vegetables and lean meats tend to send “full” signals to your brain, cutting excessive desire for more food.
  • Third, you and I are not the genetic elite. And we are not on performance enhancing drugs. There are people in the world who can look fit, and even win Olympic medals while eating fast foods. Olympic gold medalist sprinter Usain Bolt once told a reporter that his pre-race meal was chicken nuggets. With his genetics he can get away with it. But the rest of us who are genetically average cannot.
abs diet personal trainer singapore

Usain Bolt has top 0.0001% genetics. He can get away with habits that would kill progress for the rest of us

In general healthy foods come in their natural forms and are found on the outside isles of supermarkets, while unhealthy ones come in boxes and a long list of ingredients and are found on the “inner”isles of supermarkets.

Mistake #7 – Trying to get fit without getting healthy as well

It is 100% possible to have a strong and good looking physique – while having terrible internal health at the same time.

But that is not the best way.

Our strength and conditioning team coached a Singapore national athlete who looks exactly like you would expect a top level athlete to look.

This lady was tall, lean, strong and fit, simply from training so often and so long.

When she first started with us, she was having trouble with her digestion, sleep quality and recovery from training. This combination of factors meant that she had trouble progressing in the gym as well as in her sports training.

Simple test results like a high morning heart rate and a low saliva pH (too acidic) showed that she was not able to recover well from the stresses her body was under. In addition, under these conditions, her mental focus was not sharp. Brain chemicals that give us focus, drive and concentration are depleted under heavy stress loads. Progress was not possible till we improved her health.

ph strip test saliva alkaline acid singapore personal trainer

One of the fittest athletes we have coached, had a saliva ph level of 5.5. This is very low. 7.2 is a much more healthy reading that she achieved two months later

Another personal training client we had, was a very busy manager of an IT company. He had already changed his lifestyle to incorporate more exercise and healthier food. He successfully lost almost 20kg of fat. But he could not get lean enough to see his “abs”.

Because of the service nature of his job, there were nights where he had to work shifts, disrupting his sleep patterns and reducing the amount of fat loss hormones he could produce. He was only able to improve his fat loss when he added “stress-busting” nutrients like magnesium and Relora to his diet. Progress was dependent on things other than good food and training.

Rest assured, I can totally understand the desire to look great and Genesis Gym’s personal trainers can certainly help with that. But in the big picture, health is what determines our long-term quality of life, not how good you look in a photo shoot.

Thankfully in our experience, it is a lot easier to look great when we focus on health first. A healthy person can quite easily put on lean muscle and burn fat. An unhealthy person can also get visible results, but it would be a much tougher, uphill battle.


There are many things that may go wrong on our individual journeys to better health and fitness. But by removing the fitness-killer mistakes, we can avoid a lot of the frustration that many people experience. The 7 mistakes in this post are some of the “killers” that I really hope you can be aware of. By avoiding these 7 killer mistakes, we have been able to (thankfully!) help clients build both better health and better physiques.

If you would like to work with us to get the best possible results in your health and fitness, we look forward to helping you. Genesis Gym personal trainers work very hard to design the ideal plan for you. So you do not need to go through months or years of stagnation and frustration.

By having a holistic and health focused approach, Genesis Gym aims to be the best gym in Singapore for people who are serious about achieving total health and fitness. Our team’s experience combined with thousands of documented cases, give us the information to help you safely, effectively and quickly. Click on the button below to find out about our programmes.

I Want To Achieve My Goals

To your happiness, healthy and strength,

Coach Jonathan Wong


Genesis Gym Singapore 

-Smart Fitness, Total Health

*Harris Interactive on behalf of Bodybuilding.com

**International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA)


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