You’ve talked to the big guys at the gym. You’ve pored over countless workouts. You’ve scoured the Web for ideas. And you’ve finally got it: The perfect workout plan that’s a surefire way to get you big and ripped.
But before you start filling out that training log (and splitting your sleeves), make sure you don't succumb to these these common mistakes that can destroy your workouts and kill your progress.
1. You’re not addressing your weaknesses
There’s a reason every bench press in North America is occupied on a Monday night while the squat racks sit empty. Everyone likes to bench press. Doing what we like is easy. Doing what we need? Well, that’s another story. But addressing weaknesses is the quickest way to progress your lifts and your body composition. Take a serious look at what movements your struggling with and why. Is your core weak? Knee unstable? Hips tight? Even though it may not be fun, addressing and strengthening your weaknesses really pays off in both the short and long run.
2. You’re not prioritizing compound movements
Sure, isolation movements like biceps curls and legs extensions are fun, easy to perform, and burn like crazy in all the right places. But bigger compound movements such as deadlifts, squats, overhead presses, and pullups should really be the foundation of your training program and get priority over the small stuff. Three reasons why: they recruit more total motor units which leads to more lean muscle mass, they are more metabolically demanding so they are key to getting lean, and they release more body composition-improving hormones than isolation moves. So break out the barbell and perform the big lifts.
3. Your eye is not on the clock
Two of the most overlooked aspects of training are tempo (or speed) of lifts and rest periods. Lifting at specific speeds allows you to either complete the lift as it was designed to be used (for example, Olympic lifts should be performed explosively) or keep muscles under tension for a specific amount of time which is critical to deliver the desired training effect. Rest periods should also be monitored every session. Start a set before the appropriate rest period and you may be sacrificing strength. Wait too long to start your next set and you could be killing any metabolic effect. So stop talking to the girl in the yoga pants and sports bra, and start your next set.
4. You’re not paying attention to recovery
You’ve certainly heard or read this before. You don’t make muscle gains during training, you make them after the session during sleep and recovery. So why are you and the aforementioned yoga pants/sports bra girl out partying at 4 a.m.? (OK, I know why.) Missing sleep, missing meals, and missing your post-workout nutrition are three of the easiest ways to guarantee you will not reach your goals. Put down the beer funnel and get to bed.
5. You’re not changing programs often enough/changing programs too often
Most people fall into one of these two camps. Either they fall in love with a program and stay on it too long or they have gym ADD and jump around from one workout to the other without ever making any progress. Truth is, it can be tough to figure out when you’ve stayed with a program too long and when it’s time for a change. Objectively look at your current workouts. Did you give them enough of a chance for you to really learn the lifts and make progress? Have you been plateaued for the last three weeks but are hoping for some sort of breakthrough? If the answer is yes to either of these, it may be time to rethink how often you’re switching things up.