Like anything in life worth learning, if you want to become great at strength training, you’re going to have to go through a learning curve. This could mean embarrassing moments like using a piece of equipment incorrectly or trying to copy another person only to discover you can’t lift nearly as much.
Hey, we’ve all been there; learn from our mistakes and let us help you out. Here are 10 strength training mistakes you might be making, and the best ways to avoid them.
1. NO WORKOUT PROGRAM OR PLAN
If you fail to plan, then you’re planning to fail. Every motivational Instagram account has posted some form of this saying, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
To see real change and to be successful in strength training, you need a plan of action. That includes the obvious things like a workout and nutrition program, but you should also be looking into the future. Ideally, your fitness plan will be based on the following cycles:
- Micro-cycle: The workouts that you will perform in one week
- Meso-cycle: The workouts you’ll complete in one month – Consists of four micro-cycles
- Macro-cycle: The workouts you’ll complete in one year – Made up of 12 meso-cycles
A cycle-based program is subject to change based on your progress, but having one year of goal-focused workouts and milestones gives you a better chance to stay the course.
2. NEVER CHANGING YOUR WORKOUT
The only thing worse than not having a workout program is never changing the one you do have. Shock the muscle, keep the body guessing, or add variety to your workout: Call it what you will, but the point is that you need to change your workout on a consistent basis.
This doesn’t mean you have to completely scrap your current workout, although it could, but we’re talking about small changes. Here are some ways you can tweak your workouts to avoid a plateau and continue seeing results:
- Increase sets
- Increase repetitions
- Increase the weight (and decrease the repetitions)
- Increase intensity
- Decrease rest break
- Decrease the weight (and increase the repetitions)
- Try new exercises
- Try new training methodologies (e.g., German Volume Training, 5 x 5, CrossFit)
3. NOT KNOWING THE BASICS
Every fitness blogger will describe a crazy and intense way to perform an exercise. Before you start performing tornado push-ups or Spiderman crawls with kettlebells, take a moment to consider how well-versed you are in the basics.
There are four exercises that create the foundation of fitness: squats, deadlifts, bench press, and clean and press. You could only perform these four exercises and still hit nearly every muscle in the body. Before you start using isolation movements or different variations of compound movements, you must master these four exercises. Perfecting your form and execution of these exercise will lay an unshakable fitness foundation that you can build from.
4. USING BAD FORM AND POSTURE
Speaking of form…We’ve all looked ridiculous in the gym at some point in our lives by performing an exercise incorrectly. Kick your ego to the curb; we’ve all done it. However, there’s a difference between making a silly mistake and consistently performing an exercise believing you’re doing it correctly.
We recommend going through your entire workout and cross-checking the muscles that are targeted for a specific exercise. Perform that exercise slowly with little to no weight. Ask yourself, “Where do I feel the contraction?”
If you aren’t feeling it in the muscle you should, chances are you need to learn proper form and execution. YouTube is okay for this, but we highly recommend spending the money on a trainer for one month so you can get active and live feedback.
5. SKIPPING STRETCHING
Here’s something else we’re all guilty of: Walking right past the treadmill, resistance bands, and stretch area to hit the weights. When you’re fired up and ready to lift, warming-up and stretching is the last thing you want to do. However, if you want to see better results, alleviate soreness, and avoid injury, you need to take a few minutes to stretch.
Stretching has been shown to promote blood flow, prep the muscle for the work to follow, and avoid strain due to muscle tightness. Take 10 minutes before and after your workout to stretch the entire body.
6. LIFTING TOO MUCH TOO SOON
New weightlifters often fall into the ego trap of stepping into a gym for the first time, seeing others lifting a few 45-pound plates on each end of the barbell, and want to follow suit. Don’t be this person.
Get rid of that ego whispering in your ear. No one cares how much you’re lifting. Seriously, no one cares. They are too worried about how much they can lift, not you.
Most importantly, unless you want to end your lifting career before it begins, you need to work your way up from the bottom. Lifting too much weight too soon is a recipe for a sports injury and serious complications.
Whether it means using an assisted pull-up machine or starting out with a five-pound plate, remember that you’re in this for the long haul and move at a safe pace.
7. NOT EATING ENOUGH
You’re putting yourself through intense workouts four or five times per week. There’s no denying your commitment to the weight room, but what about your kitchen?
The majority of weightlifters and fitness enthusiasts are eating far less than they should. Don’t believe us? Take a minute to use an online calorie calculator to look up how many calories it suggests eating. Compare that to what you are currently eating. Is there a big difference?
Speaking of calories, read our article on how to calculate your personal daily calories. In six easy steps, you’ll have your very own customized caloric intake and macronutrient breakdown.
8. NOT GIVING YOURSELF A BREAK
Continuing with the point above, skipping on eating enough healthy calories can impact your recovery. If you’re someone who gets intense at the gym for hours and does so without taking a few days of rest per week, you’re increasing your risk for overtraining.
Overtraining is when your muscles and central nervous system throw in the towel from exhaustion. Too much work, a lack of rest and sleep, and absent nutrition is a powerful punch to the body that can result in extreme fatigue, muscle loss, mood swings, and weight gain. In men, it can lower testosterone levels.
Here are some of the best way to avoid overtraining:
- Sleep for no less than seven hours each night
- Do not perform intense training for more than two days in a row
- Eat a well-balanced diet of lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats
- Use one or two servings of a whey protein shake
- Meditate to keep stress levels low
- Every two or three months of training, take a week off
- Get a deep tissue massage no less than twice per month
9. HAVING NO WAY TO MEASURE PROGRESS
What’s your strength training goal? Do you want to build muscle, lose fat, or boost performance? How will you know once you’ve reached your goal?
The best-intentioned people often overlook one of the easiest yet most important steps in going after a fitness goal: you need to see progress. This means more than just looking into a mirror; you must have a measurable way to see your results. Here are the most common ways to measure your progress for appearance and performance:
- Keep a daily workout log on paper or on a phone app
- Take a before and weekly progress pictures
- Weigh yourself daily first thing in the morning then tally the average at the end of the week
- Take measurements with a body measuring tape
- Track your personal bests and test yourself monthly
10. GETTING IMPATIENT
You are your own worst enemy. One of the biggest strength training mistakes that people make is that they get impatient and put themselves down. Even worse, most throw in the towel and give up on their physique and fitness goals.
Look: results and progress take time. Nothing happens overnight. Whether you want to bulk up, lean down, or deadlift more than five-hundred pounds, all fitness goals require consistent practice and dedication. Ever repetition, every set, and every workout will get you closer to your goal, but not if you give up.
When you’re getting impatient with yourself, take a step back, breathe, and remember that getting angry won’t help you achieve your goal any faster. Stay on track and you’ll get there eventually. Just remember to practice patience.
HAVE YOU MADE ANY OF THESE STRENGTH TRAINING MISTAKES?
Which ones did you have trouble with? Do you know of any other strength training mistakes that you see in the gym? Let us know on our Facebook.