So you’re serious about your fitness program and never miss a workout. That’s great, as long as you know you’re not making any of these five common exercise mistakes that could wind up doing more harm than good!

1. Going overboard on cardio machines.

Good form is essential to a beneficial cardio workout, say the experts. For example, if you’re using an elliptical machine, don’t set the resistance so high that you can’t workout comfortably without leaning on the machine for support. Hunching over or gripping the handrail too intensely because your incline or resistance is too high can throw off the alignment of your body, jarring your spine, shoulders and elbows.

The solution: Challenge yourself enough that it’s a tough workout, but not so much that you can’t use a natural gait with a light grip – which applies to any cardio machine. Also, mix up your routine to include a broader mix of machines, which will work more muscle groups.

2. Incorrect weight-lifting practices.

Typical mistakes in weight training tend to be gender-specific: Men are more likely to lift weights that are too heavy, while women tend to fear bulking up and therefore go for weights that are too light. Also, people who have bad posture don’t use good form while weight training.

The solution: Choose a weight that you can lift 30 times to start, but afterward can lift only 15 times more. You’ll be injury-free, but still feel the burn. To achieve correct form, keep a strong upper back, with your chin and chest up, and tighten your core.

3. Failing to focus on your core.

Strengthening the core muscles improves all other physical activities. Many people only focus on contracting the abs when doing specific exercises. However, contracting this area during such exercise movements as bench presses, back row and leg presses will allow better stability during the move, with less risk of injury.

The solution: In addition to expanding core exercises, work out in “sport-ready” position: slightly bend your knees and hold in your abs. Your posture will immediately improve.

4. Ignoring “small” muscle groups.

While people tend to focus on major muscle groups – such as biceps and abs – smaller muscle groups, such as those around the joints, are equally important. The stabilizing muscles around the hips and shoulders should be regularly involved to achieve optimum fitness.

The solution: Incorporate exercises targeting the small muscles into your regular workout routine. If you’re a Future Fitness member, your personal trainer can advise you on the right exercises.

5. Doing too much too soon.

It’s all too common for people to commit to a workout program, then overdo it in the belief that they’re making up for lost time, or that starting out vigorously will get the best results. However, you risk injury, frustration or burnout by doing so.

The solution: Start slowly. Experts agree that a half-hour of exercise provides the desired benefits. Also, be careful when you incorporate new moves or exercises into your routine. New movements require new muscular and neurological coordination. A weak area of the body – such as an elbow, wrist, shoulder or knee – can fail if too much new stress is applied too soon. If you’re a Future Fitness member, you can consult with your instructor, personal trainer or one of our other staff experts about safe exercise techniques. Take it easy, but be consistent, and you’ll gradually achieve your fitness goals.