We all do bad things. At times, it's due to an oversight or a lapse in judgment. On occasion, the misconduct is a gamble which didn't pay off. They almost never do. If you mess up, chances are you'll pay the penalty--sooner or later.

Training is no different. Sometimes the repercussion is immediate--a pulled muscle or a strained ligament. The damage can also be developed and compounded over time; the result of either misinformation or more often, ignorance.

Before you can avoid a mistake, you have to be able to recognize it. Experience is still the best educator but that in itself can hold back progress. Once you think you know all the answers, you stop the search. Along the way it's possible to pick up bad habits without realizing it.

If you've been at the weightlifting game for a while, you know what to do. But that's only part of the process. It's knowing what not to do that can often make all the difference on the road toward a better body.

The following are the most grievous "don'ts" you can make during your workout. Think of them as the seven deadly sins of bodybuilding! They are designed to help in creating the ideal physique in the least amount of time, while avoiding setbacks. Learn them. And avoid them at all cost.

1) Don't Get Distracted.

There are several variations of this. In some cases, it's a matter of lacking focus. It's easy to get caught up in a conversation with a fellow gym member or your training partner, yet these seemingly innocuous pleasantries can unwittingly sabotage a workout. Effective training requires concentration. Plus, when you work with a sense of urgency and purpose, you continue to move forward. Dawdle along the way and success always seems out of reach. When training for musculature that is refined and shapely, it's imperative to get a pump. A pump is impossible if the rest periods between sets are too long. Any routine that exceeds one hour is counterproductive. (I'd go as far as to say that working any one bodypart for more than 15 minutes is counterproductive). At that point, the muscles and nervous system are being taxed beyond which they can recover. You may be able to tolerate the strain, but it won't grow you any muscle. It's necessary to keep rest periods short in order to overload the muscle properly. Once that's done, there's no need to beat it to death.

2) Don't Forget To Stretch.

For most people, stretching is boring so I'd rather not get into a lot of details. At any rate, stretching does more than keep muscles supple
and elastic, it may help potentiate future muscle growth by expanding existing muscle fibers. So stretch!

3) Don't Use High Reps for Abs.

It stands to reason -- any exercise where you can perform hundreds of reps isn't working the muscles very strenuously. For optimum development, the abs need to be worked like any other bodypart -- against resistance. The best "resistance" for the abs is to force them to stabilize. Don't fall for the myth that working the abs hard will cause them to overly enlarge. The rectus abdominals are a very shallow muscle group. It would be virtually impossible for them to increase as much as an inch in thickness. Thinking that the abs can get too big is as dumb as thinking that high reps will make the abs smaller. It just doesn't work that way. If you can't see your abs, the answer lies in your diet, not in endless repetitions of ineffective movements. Keep in mind also, the clarity of your abs is determined by anatomy. This fact becomes aptly evident by observing children who have very low bodyfat. Some kids will have tight little abs popping out while others will look smooth, even if they're skinny. So don't obsess if your abs don't look like a magazine model. Work the muscles and let the chips fall where they may.

4) Don't Do One Rep Maxes.

Attempting a one rep max is the best way to injure yourself. You may get away with it for a while, but sooner or later, ... SNAP!...you're out of commision for a long time. Many factors come into play when deriving intensity from a set and how much you can lift for a single rep is virtually inconsequential to muscular development. When you show up at the gym, check your ego at the door.

5) Don't Neglect or Overwork the Obliques.

Some bodybuilders allow the obliques to atrophy in order to keep the waist as small as possible. Yet, muscular obliques can add a finished look to the torso. But don't go overboard! Unlike the abdominals, the obliques are a thick muscle which develops quickly. Multi-sets of side sit-ups on the hyperextension machine and sidebends with heavy dumbells can cause the obliques to widen, thus destroying your symmetry. A set or two once a week is plenty for keeping the obliques tight.

6) Don't Be A Free Weight Snob.

Let's end this debate right now. Machines aren't better or worse than free weights. Unless, a machine's movement feels awkward (as is the case for me with the HammerStrength machines) there's no reason why they shouldn't be used. All that matters is the stress on the muscle. It isn't the machine that does the exercise -- you do the exercise.

7) Don't Get Thirsty.

Once you're thirsty you're already in a state of dehydration, and dehydration is extremely catabolic! Remember also, muscle is 90% water. If you don't keep up your fluid intake, a pump is nearly impossible. Have some cool, fresh H2O on hand at all times.

Any one of these mishaps can bring the best bodybuilder's progress to a screeching halt. By avoiding them, you can sidestep a multitude of pitfalls, plateaus and impediments. If you catch yourself slipping back into an old bad habit-- stop-- and tell yourself; "Don't do that!" It's better to not develop a bad habit than to try and break one -- both inside and outside the gym.