The Gym Is Actually Destroying Your Body. Here’s How To Fix It.

The Gym Is Actually Destroying Your Body. Here’s How To Fix It.

While weightlifting gives you fast, noticeable results, it could actually be messing you up in the long term.

Former weightlifter Nick Haslam from New Zealand used to go to the gym four to six times a week. He followed a basic programme with a trainer who would change his regimen gradually every three months. It seemed he was taking all the right steps to improve his body and health, and even did a certification for personal training in Australia. However, in his mid-twenties he started to get problems in his spine and legs. 

“I used to be really uncoordinated and had bad balance. I couldn’t pick up new skills or sports because I was clumsy,” says Nick. He started to realise that all the time he spent at the gym was doing him more harm that good. “I was sore and tired from weight training. I also realized I was around a lot of negative body image influences, people obsessed with how they looked, with their body, fat and diet.”

For Movember this year, we shine a light on men’s health and talk to Nick about addressing the toxic body image among ‘lads’, which leads them to train incorrectly leading to hip, joint, neck and spine problems. 

Nick doing a private training or one-on-one session at Flex Studio One Island South

How do people damage themselves in the gym? What are they doing wrong?

What most people are doing wrong is choosing exercises and programs that are popular and intense before doing the groundwork of basic body weight and mobility exercises. The average person should spend a lot more time conditioning their body to be able to move efficiently throughout a normal range of motion. Your body needs time to strengthen ligaments and tendons before you start exposing it to too much stress.

Another problem is that in the modern gym, everyone is in their own little bubble looking at a phone. In the ‘old days’, someone would approach you if you were doing something dangerous and give you advice. 

What are the common mistakes or misconceptions people make when it comes to weightlifting or heavy lifting?

People may not understand that supplemental exercises, mobility and flexibility are required to be able to lift heavy weights consistently over a long period of time. 

Also Read: Pilates Equipment vs. Gym Equipment

What’s wrong with ’the gym body’? Why does it never improve after a certain threshold?

The average gym body usually lacks symmetry and balance. As an example, the upper body is more developed than the lower, the front is more developed than the back, the right is more developed than the left, the inner thigh is weak in relation to the outer, and abdominals are weak. People who skip groundwork and basic training never improve after a certain threshold. 

How can it be fixed?

An ideal gym body takes patience, discipline and is balanced. If you want to be fit and strong, take a long-term approach ensuring progress that is long lasting. 

Nick training on The Wall at Flex Southside Hong Kong

What kind of advice would you give men looking for a fitness gym or trainer?

I can’t believe it when people see a personal trainer multiple times a week yet are unable to perform a single push up. If you don’t make progress, move on. 

Look for someone with a proven record of providing the results that you desire – not the latest equipment or programming. They should give you a thorough assessment to decide where you should begin and how to achieve your goals.

You should be mindful of getting stronger slowly. If you have sore joints every time you train, you need to stop immediately. “No pain no gain” does not apply to your spine or joints. A good trainer will be able to modify exercises to suit you, so that you get adapted to strength training without hurting yourself. A good trainer will not always increase the weight you lift… there are many parameters to modify such as range of motion or tempo.

What alternatives can people turn to in order to achieve the ripped body results they want? 

Instead of only going to the gym, think of learning a new skill that takes strength and discipline. Classical Pilates, Boxing, Muay Thai, Yoga, whatever you may be interested in. It is better to have a coach or trainer to observe and teach the correct technique.

How do other men react when they know you do Pilates regularly?

I think it’s something that most men think that they should do to become more flexible and prevent injuries. They don’t know that Pilates can be your primary exercise practice to build strength and endurance.

What are the long term effects of gymming vs. say Pilates?

I see a lot of injuries from gymming and it appears to be getting worse every year. Clients that have been weight training or doing a repetitive exercise pick up movement patterns that create spinal compression and too much muscle tension. Pilates conditions the body to move from the powerhouse (core) with length and great control. 

Pilates also corrects poor posture created by time spent on computers and phones. The way that an average person uses the gym exacerbates these issues.

What other exercise do you do outside Pilates? Does Pilates benefit or complement it and how?

In Melbourne, I used to do karate two to three times a week. In Hong Kong, I haven’t been doing a lot outside of Pilates in the last couple of years, because there is so much to learn within the method. Pilates does benefit all sports or movement practices, because the movements we practice are fundamental. I notice the ease when I run, swim or hike. 


Movember was created to raise awareness for men’s health issues. The Movember Foundation has challenged men to “Move for men’s health” as a way to promote a healthy body image and safe workouts often overlooked by men. This month, we put a focus on what’s really good for your body from joint health to spinal mobility. Join Flex Studio this month as we workout in a way that will carry you through the years such that your body will thank you.


  • First class FREE for all men
  • 10% off all drop ins for men
  • 10% off all packages for men


Book your first session here using the code MOVEMBER100! 

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