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So you’ve decided to get in shape: Bravo! Since you’re making the effort, you might as well get the most out of it, and that means working out smarter (not longer). To do that, familiarize yourself with these eight common workout mistakes and avoid them at all costs.

woman lifting weights at the gym
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Mistake 1: Doing Only Cardio

We already told you that strength training won’t turn you into a bodybuilder. So if you’re thinking about sticking exclusively to the treadmill to trim down, think again. Strength training builds muscle, which increases your metabolism and makes your body burn more calories after your workout is over.

woman doing russian twist ab exercises at the gym
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Mistake 2: Leaving Abs for the End

As tempting as it is to leave core work for the end of a workout, don’t. You’re much more likely to skip out early or phone in the work. Instead, incorporate core movements into the rest of your workout. During rest periods, instead of standing around, hold a plank and think of it as an active recovery.

woman taking a break from running hard
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Mistake 3: Never Taking a Day Off

The more you work out, the more results you’ll see…right? Not necessarily. Overtraining can actually slow your progress, causing constant fatigue and even making you more susceptible to overeating. Try to hit the gym between three and five days a week but remember that rest is just as crucial.

woman at the gym lifting weights
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Mistake 4: Always Doing the Same Thing

You finally mastered a full-body circuit at the gym. Dare you say you’re good at it? Don’t get too complacent, and make sure to change it up. In addition to being boring, repetitive workouts actually stall your progress, because muscles get used to what you’re doing. Every three to four weeks, shake it up by changing the exercises, weights or number of repetitions you do.

woman doing core exercises at the gym
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Mistake 5: Targeting One Part of Your Body

Get it out of your head: You can’t do a billion crunches (and nothing else) and get a six-pack. In order to see muscle definition, you have to lose fat, which is never going to happen if you neglect major parts of your body. And though full-body circuits seem time-consuming, they don’t have to be. Try a tabata-style circuit, which works just about every muscle you have in just 20 minutes.

woman doing a warmup jog
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Mistake 6: Not Warming Up

After sitting at a desk all day (or sleeping all night), your body can’t go from zero to 100 right away, and you’re putting yourself at risk for injuries. Even if you’re pressed for time, do some light moves like squats, lunges or jumping jacks to elevate your heart rate before the real work begins.

woman stretching after a workout
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Mistake 7: Not Cooling Down

Same goes for after. Stretching is as important as it is tempting to skip. Make sure to do something to cool down your body, like walking a very slow lap on the treadmill to lower your heart rate and following it up with a few toe touches and side stretches. It helps increase your range of motion and even allows you to push your workouts to new levels over time.

two women in a yoga class
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Mistake 8: Not Planning Ahead

This one’s less about the actual workout than all the stuff that gets you there. If you’re committed to getting in shape, make it impossible to make excuses. That means packing your gym bag before work, scheduling workouts and even working out with a partner who will hold you accountable (read: guilt you into showing up).

RELATED: 7 Post-Workout Mistakes You're Probably Making

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