Don't make these mistakes if you want to safely build muscle.
Anthony J. Yeung, C.S.C.S., for Muscle & Fitness 1 / 8
Follow the Rules!
We hate sounding like your mother. But there's a reason we always tell you to wrap your hands—including your thumb!—around the bench press bar, or to make sure your feet are pointing straight ahead.
Actually, there are a few reasons. Safety is one. But as with most fitness rules, doing things the right way pays dividends in the short term (less chance of injury) and the long term (improved muscle growth). Listen up and pay attention so you avoid these mistakes you could be making in the gym.
The "suicide grip," sometimes called a false grip, involves doing bar work—bench pressing or pullups, for example—without your thumbs wrapped around the barbell. This is easy to justify: If the barbell slips when you're pressing, that barbell will crush your face, neck, or ribs.
But it’s not only about safety. The suicide grip is also a weaker grip compared to having your hands wrapped around the bar. To set a new personal record and really add pounds to your bench press, squeeze the bar as hard as possible. It'll help you stabilize the movement as well as engage other muscles.
The only time you should have your feet slightly turned out is when you're squatting. For everything else, keep your feet pointed straight ahead. Turning your feet in the wrong direction will not only create a lot of stress on your knees and hips but also reduce your strength.
Have you ever seen somone exercise without weight collars, only to have the plates slide around and almost fall off?
Regardless of the weight, it should be instinctive to attach weight collars when using barbells. Having weight collars on a barbaell can help improve your balance and feel of the exercise. Good luck trying to set a PR when your 45 pound plates are all over the place.
There is, however, an exception to this rule: Leave the collars off when you're bench pressing. If you get stuck at the bottom of a bench, you can safely slide the plates off the bar and get out from underneath it.
Too often, guys bend backward as they press overhead. This happens for two reasons: they want to tilt their chest up to mimic an incline bench press, or they lack shoulder mobility.
Tilting your chest or bending backward puts enormous and dangerous stress on the joints of your lumbar spine, risking a serious injury. Also, too much arching will shift the the force onto your chest, away from your shoulders, which means you won't be getting the shoulder work that you've been looking for. Instead, squeeze your glutes and core as hard as you can, and time your breathing so your lungs are full of air as you push overhead—this will stabilize your lower back and help you push more weight overhead safely.
Just ignore the myth that parallel squats are bad for your knees—it’s false. You need to reach proper depth on the squat, and that means bringing your hips below your knees.
If you don't go deep enough, you'll limit your range of motion, and in turn, limit the size and strength of your legs. Worse, you'll increase your chances of hurting yourself because the force of the weight will stay on your knees instead of shifting onto your hips, which are far stronger until you reach parallel.
Make sure to brace your core as you squat, spread your knees as you descend, and keep your weight on your heels.
Walk into any commercial gym and you’ll notice most guys do a lot of pushing exercises like the bench press, pushup, military press, dip, and squat. Those moves are effective in building muscle and strength, but you also need to incorporate pulling exercises to better develop balance and your ideal physique.
Doing more pulling—rows, pullups, reverse flyes, deadlifts—promotes better posture and balance around your joints, which prevents injuries. But a more-underrated reason, is that pulling makes you stronger—it gives you the foundation you need to push harder. For example: If you’re plateauing on the bench, do more rows to build out your back. This will actually help you press more weight.