(This is Part 2 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)
Even before my days as a fitness professional, I spent a lot of time in gyms, including backyard, basement, garage, as well as brick and mortar buildings. Through my own experiences and subsequent educational background, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about how the muscles work, how they adapt, and how they grow. But despite all of that, I still learn something new every day that just keeps it that much more fascinating. So imagine my disbelief and frustration when I see those who are clearly investing the time to lift weights, whether it be to build strength, change the shape of their body, or improve some level of performance, and they’re going about it all wrong. It’s not just about proper form either as there are exceptions and individual characteristics to consider (we’re not all built the same) in each case. The lifter from beginner to the experienced is guilty of making the mistakes too as it pertains to strength training and here are a list of some of the most common ones to avoid.
Using Too Much Mr. Mo-Mentum
Certain power movements require some momentum to complete but not every day, standard lifts. I’ve witnessed way too often when a person uses way too much momentum and swinging when they lift. Momentum doesn’t work a muscle through the full range of motion. Instead, it works towards improving your reversal strength. When you lower a weight down (eccentric contraction) and immediately reverse it (concentric contraction), there is a large amount of stored kinetic energy. This energy acts like a spring and ends up neglecting the beginning of the concentric phase of the movement. It’s like driving a manual transmission without first taking your foot off of the gas to step on the clutch.
Pumping Ego Instead of Muscles
A lot of people, men in particular, are afraid to use the amount of weight they should be using rather than the weight they’re attempting to lift. They’re more afraid to be thought of as weak rather than sensible as they proceed to load up a bar with weight they can’t lift correctly. Train smart and progressively by using the right amount of weight and don’t worry what others think. If being in a contest is what you want, there are plenty that you go train for.
Using a Reduced Range of Motion
There are times when partial reps have a benefit – like when you’re trying to train your sticking points. For most people though, they should be lowering the weight and raising it through the full range of motion. Unless you want to get really good at doing quarter squats or partial pull-ups, you must carry the load from beginning to end as much distance as safely possible.
Neglecting the Lower Body
Men are by far more guilty of this than women are. It’s the beach body mentality – arms and chest get priority. Unless you want to look like Mr. Potato Head standing on tooth picks, you need to be training your lower body with the same intensity as your upper. Your quads, hamstrings, hips, and glutes are huge muscles – much bigger than your chest, biceps, and triceps. Adding muscle to these areas will do amazing things for your physique.
Not Having a Plan of Periodization or Progressive Overload
I’ve seen this way too many times when you can tell the day of the week by the body parts that are predominantly being worked in the weight room. With that, the same exercises done in the same order with the same weight for the same number of reps. If you’re going into the gym and doing the same thing each time, you’re never going to make any real progress. You must plan your workouts so that you’re continually getting stronger over a period of time. You might have to push forward with weight and then back off some before pushing forward again, but the overall trend should be up if your goal is to get stronger.
Unknowingly Creating Muscle Imbalances
Antagonistic muscles, the muscles that are opposite the muscles getting worked, need to be trained in balance. In addition, stabilizer muscles often get neglected, which keeps them weak and leads to injury when lifting heavy weight. Make sure all muscles in your body, however small or unnoticed, are being trained equally.
Trying to Spot Reduce With Exercise
Using the leg extension, leg curl, abductor/adductor, or glute machines aren’t going to help you tone up your butt and legs any better than any other exercise. That’s because fat loss cannot be targeted with a specific exercise. Fat loss is systemic, not localized. Use strength training to work your entire body and to create a metabolic environment that’s conducive to fat loss. Your diet will take care of the fat loss.
No Respect For Rest
You stimulate growth when you train, but you grow when you rest. Training and recovery are equally important. Your muscles must be recovered if they are to work at their max capacity. Depending on the intensity of your workout, the amount of work you did, and your diet, you may need 48 hours or more to fully recover.
Overdoing the Isolation Exercises
Isolation exercises are fun, but they are the long route to results. Compound movement exercises, such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench presses, etc., that use multiple muscle groups at once, are much more effective at building muscle and strength. Make the core of your strength training program composed of compound exercises, and then use the isolation movements to work on weak points to compliment the bigger muscles.
Not Doing a Proper Warm Up
The best way to avoid injuries when weight lifting is to be properly prepared. Warming up for weight lifting doesn’t get the attention it should as in other physical endeavors. You should at the very least get your heart rate up and blood to the muscles before asking them to move resistances heavier than they experience on a daily basis. Doing some dynamic warm-up exercises before a workout can help prevent injury and even improve performance.
See you tomorrow for Day 3 of the 12 Days of Fitness
Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.