Questions to think about next time you work out:
1. Do you go into the gym with a set routine of which muscles you are going to work and the order you are going to work them?
2. Do you consciously think about the muscle that you are isolating?
Quite often I will see members come in the gym and randomly do an assortment of exercises. For example, a chest press, then bicep curls, then a lat pulldown, followed by shoulders. Although it is good to get in the gym, the specific order of muscles is also important. You want to start with the big muscles first and fatigue them before you go into the smaller muscles. The smaller muscles should help assist the bigger muscles, but if you work them intermittently in your workout, they will be too fatigued to assist. You will be more likely to use momentum than the actual muscle you are supposed to work thus decreasing the efficiency of the exercise and increasing your chances of an injury.
When you are training, try and focus on the muscle you are supposed to be working. Most machines will have a picture of the anatomy of the muscle that should be worked, and then the primary muscle is usually shown in red. If you are doing a seated row, the primary muscle used are your lats followed by your rhomboids and trapezius. If you do not feel these muscles working, stop and try re-positioning the way you are seated or lower the weight so you can focus on your back muscles. When you are performing tricep extensions, focus on isolating the triceps. The correct form is to bring your arms down to a 90 degree bend and then extend so your arms are straight and then come back to a 90 degree bend. Tricep extensions are an isolation exercise. If you have too much weight on the machine, you will feel it in your forearms. If you bend your elbows more than 90 degrees, you will engage you back and other muscles to help you with the weight.
Remember form is crucial to your workout. Know which muscle you are trying to train and focus on that specific muscle.