It’s great that you took up lifting weights. Building that jacked and shredded physique shows you’re in pursuit of a new personal standard of excellence.
Fitness is a great habit to pick up and turn into a positive addiction. But too much enthusiasm over clanging and banging the iron can lead to some bad habits.
There may be things you’ve been doing wrong since you started lifting and you didn’t even know it.
Pay attention to these 10 training no-nos. If you’ve been doing any of these, it’s time to start retraining your training.
1. Not Having a Game Plan
It’s not necessarily a bad thing to train on instinct if you just want to change things up occasionally. But you can’t wing it every time you set foot in the gym and expect to get results. You need to at least have an idea of how you’re going to train every week. What day will you train chest? (I know, Mondays.) Is your goal to improve your upper chest or increase strength? Which exercises are available at your gym that will help you reach those goals?
You must have a strong idea of how you are going to improve yourself and how much time it will take for you to achieve your task that day. This applies to every aspect of training. Once you have that game plan established, then you can adjust as you go along.
Also, when are you going to train? If you think you can just get it in any time you want, then you’re likely going to be disappointed. Commit to a training time like you would any other appointment. Make a training plan to help make training a priority.
2. Not Mentally Preparing
How many times have you made it to the weight room and started thinking about that meeting you have coming up later or something that bothered you that morning? Your mind begins to wander and then it’s hard to focus which makes the workout feel less than successful.
It might be tough when you’re having a bad day or a lot on your plate, but clear your mind and focus on the task at hand which should be a bar, dumbbells, or machine that awaits.
3. Not Warming Up
You're in a rush for whatever reason, think you’re ready to go, throw the big boy plates on the bar and start right out of the gate with some serious heavy sets. Meanwhile your joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles are all like “what the heck, dude?”
It’s awesome that you get excited about training and don’t want to waste time. But if you keep a strategy like this up, you’re going to be sitting at the house or working on rehab from an injury. No one grows from a bed or couch.
It’s important that you warm up before going into the heavy sets for several reasons. First, you need to get the blood flowing to the areas you plan to train so it can be there when you start breaking those muscle fibers down and your tendons and ligaments are having to help provide support.
Second, your joints need to provide synovial fluid to lubricate them so they can work efficiently. Third, you need to establish a mind-muscle connection so you know how the weight will feel and how your muscles should feel with each rep. This will help maximize the effectiveness of your workout.
4. Quick and Fast Reps
Let’s say you’re doing dumbbell curls and you have 50s in your hand. That’s a heavy load but you’re able to curl it up with proper form and in an explosive manner with no struggle whatsoever. That’s a powerful and awesome feeling, isn’t it? You’re so pumped that you want to do it again so you immediately let the weight drop back to the starting position so you can get another one. Congratulations. You just wasted 50% of your rep.
It’s not just about what you lift but how you lift it. It’s one thing to curl a 50 pound dumbbell. It’s another to lift it and control how it goes back down again. That negative, or eccentric portion, of the rep is important if you want to make the muscle grow and get stronger. Take your time in lowering the weight and let gravity know you’re the boss of this set.
5. Not Staying Hydrated
Muscles are made up of almost 75% water yet there are still people who just take a stroll to the water fountain to have an occasional sip. Are you one of these people? If your muscles aren’t fully hydrated then you won’t perform at the level you’re capable of. If you’re sweating then you’re losing even more water over the course of your workout.
Not only should you drink water often throughout the day, but when you train you need at minimum 20 ounces of water or take some BCAAs mixed with water.
6. Not Listening to your Body
Have you been dealing with a dull ache in your shoulder or knee? Was your arm a little tight but you decided you’re good and went on with the biceps and triceps workout anyway? You’ve been able to get away with this but eventually you’ll guess wrong and get hurt.
If your body is telling you something, listen to it. If you have trouble lifting your arm past shoulder height, overhead presses should probably be skipped. If the pain is serious, then skip the workout and go see a physician about it. It’s hardcore to press on, but there isn’t anything hardcore about being hurt and unable to train. Work around the aches or skip that day and come up with a new plan until the pain goes away.
7. Too Much Phone Time
In the last few years everyone has started using cell phones. Now you can do everything on them from social media to emails to games, and tracking workouts with all the apps out there. It’s also commonplace to see people who have become 100% dependent on them and they seem to have their face stuck in their mobile at all times of the day including in the gym.
What seems like a second to check out a text can lead to five or ten minutes of distraction instead of banging out sets. If you use your phone for music, create a playlist in advance and don’t waste time looking for the right song to get yourself psyched for the big lift. Otherwise, unless you work in emergency response and need to have your cell at all times, whatever it is can wait until the workout is over.
8. Taking Too Much Rest Between Sets
It’s not wrong to be friendly when you see someone you know in the gym. If someone says hi then by all means you definitely respond but let’s be clear. You’re there to put in work. You’re there to lift first and foremost. Chatting between a set may be all you plan to do, but a chat turns into a deep conversation or exchanging numbers and social media handles.
Before you know it, you’ve wasted time and may have to split from the gym to get to work or follow through on whatever plans you have that day. Don’t be a jerk but keep the talking to a minimum until the job is done. Then feel free to talk with whoever it is you saw. Also, be respectful of their time as well. If you see they’re focused, don’t interrupt them.
9. Not Trying Anything New
Sometimes we can get stuck in a rut. The workouts get boring which means we’re less motivated to do them. Also it can be a bad habit to constantly focus on what we’re good at and ignore weaknesses that are hard to improve.
Don’t fall into this trap. To be a complete athlete, bodybuilder, powerlifter, or whatever you’re aiming for, you need to focus on areas you may not be familiar with. If you’re not very flexible, try yoga. If your endurance sucks, try running and set goals to get better and run a little further every week. The results will show and make your new habit more worthwhile.
10. Skipping Out on Recovery
Man, people are religious when it comes to their favorite preworkout supplement that they take before they train. If they forgot it at their house and made it to the gym, they will go back to the house again just to take their favorite supplement and then go make gains in the weight room.
How many of you give that kind of attention to recovery? This is something that is a horrible habit that is happening more often. You need to support those efforts in the gym with recovery supplements as well. Creatine, glutamine, amino acids, and protein are crucial for you to improve and grow. It isn’t as serious to some people because when it’s time to recover the workout is done.
Consider recovery from today’s workout as preparation for tomorrow’s. Start taking recovery as serious as you do your preworkout plan and the gains will come.