Do you hear that?
“What is it?” you ask.
That, my dear friends, is the sound of silence. That is the sound of the kids finally being back in school after a week of illness followed by a week of snow. That is the sound of me finding my lost mojo on a Monday.
I worked out this morning and it was the first time in the last three months where I felt good while doing it. I’ve had a pretty bad allergic reaction going on since November and have been on a ton of antihistamines along with three rounds of steroids. Oy! It hasn’t been pretty, but I think my docs are finally getting it under control.
So during that 3 months of being under the weather I trained 1-2 times per week and that was it. We traveled for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I’ve been housebound with sick kids and snow; however, through all of this I was able to maintain my body weight AND maintain the majority of my strength in the gym. I expect that after a solid 3 workouts this week (and possibly next week) that my strength gains will be back close to where they were in October.
That’s pretty awesome, right?
How have I been able to do that? Well, it stems from being consistent with my workouts in the past, but also from having excellent programming and the knowledge to tailor that programming on the days I felt lethargic from the medications, and once again knowing how to tailor the programming as I’m easing back into harder workouts.
Today I’m going to share with you 5 of the biggest mistakes you may be making in the gym which are preventing you from getting the body you want. As I’ve said before, I’ve learned from one of the best in the fitness industry and have been using Bret’s methods to train for the past three years. You should check out Bret’s page for learning proper form and for finding out more about strength training.
The 5 Biggest Mistakes In The Gym:
Using Poor Form
Form is everything when it comes to lifting weights. Having excellent form will ensure that you are using the proper muscles in each lift instead of recruiting other muscles to help you lift the weight up. It also keeps you from getting injured.
Have you ever had a sore, achy back after working out? Well, there’s a good chance you rounded or hyperextended your back during a lift where you were suppose to be keeping a neutral spine. Every time I’m at the gym, I see trainers allowing their clients to round or hyperextend their back and the trainer never, ever corrects the client. Rounding or hyperextending is a good way to end up with a herniated disc. I highly recommend checking out Bret’s website and Youtube channel for learning proper form!
Tip: Video a set of each exercise you are doing so that you can check your form. How we think we perform an exercise is often drastically different than how we actually perform it. If you want to get stronger and make progress in the gym, then this a must in my opinion.
Using Weights That Are Too Light
Really people, it’s time to put down those little dumbbells. Why are you doing dumbbell bicep curls with a weight that’s lighter than your purse? If the last couple of reps of each set isn’t challenging, then you know your weights are too light and you need to exchange them for some heavier weights. Don’t be afraid of getting “bulky” from using heavy weights. It’s just not going to happen.
Tip: Muscles grow slowly so you will have plenty of time to decide if you are in danger of getting too big and at that point you would go into “maintenance” mode of lifting.
A man approached me after I had finished doing 25 pound dumbbell curls and said, “What is the trick to doing that? You have the skinniest arms, but you’re curling more than I can. So how are you doing it?”
Sorry, but no tricks here. Just hard work and dedication on my part.
I think that exchange sums it up pretty well. You can get strong without getting bulky. Now go lift some heavier weights!
Using Weights That Are Too Heavy
I see this more when it comes to squatting. For some reason, girls will pick up light dumbbells for upper body work and will just pump away without having any true resistance from the weight; however, when it’s time for squatting the same girl will load up a barbell and do quarter squats where she barely bends her knees.
Tip: Range of motion trumps weight. Every. Single. Time.
Choose a weight where you can perform the exercise with full range of motion for every rep. If you’re not getting full ROM, then you are going too heavy. If you can’t complete the given number of reps in a set without having a break, then you are going too heavy. Set your ego aside and lighten the load. I promise you’ll get more out of the exercise because you will be using the correct muscles which means you will get better results!
Lifting Weights As Circuit Training
When it comes to strength training, it’s important to take adequate rest between sets so that your muscles have time to recover from one set to the next. You want to be able to lift as much weight as possible with each set and if you’re muscles haven’t recovered then you won’t be able to do this.
How long should you rest? I generally rest anywhere from 2-3 minutes between sets. When I do very high rep stuff (sets of 20 or more), then I will rest even longer so that my heart rate comes back down and my muscles feel fresh and ready to go again.
Sticking With The Same Rep Range
Bret believes it’s important to get strong in a variety of rep ranges and I happen to agree. I have stuck with the same rep range before, but I found that I am stronger and have better muscle endurance doing it Bret’s way. During the week, I will hit the same muscle groups with sets of 5, sets of 8, and sets of 12 or more. For example, one day I might do 3×5 box squats, the next workout I would do 3×8 goblet squats, and my last workout of the week I would do high rep walking lunges. All are similar exercises which work the same muscle group just in a slightly different manner, but I’ve changed the number of reps which will also challenge that same muscle group.
Hope these tips help you reach your goals in 2016!