Not seeing the gains you want in the gym? Check out these 6 big training mistakes to find out what you are probably doing wrong.
1. NOT FOCUSING ON THE FULL CONTRACTION
Dorian Yate’s (4 time Mr. Olympia bodybuilder) once said
“The biggest mistake that most beginners make is putting 100% of their effort into the positive (concentric) part of the rep, while paying no attention to the negative (eccentric) segment.”
This statement holds true not just for beginners, but even advanced bodybuilders and athletes. It feels much more rewarding to actually lift the weight up, but often times little to no effort is used when bringing it back down. Keen eyes glancing around the gym will often reveal someone benching with explosiveness on the concentric movement (up), but dropping it (eccentric) and bouncing it against their chest. You’re cutting yourself short of the full range of motion and paying attention to all the muscle fibers in a muscle group.
Try to pause at the top of your set and let it down slowly. Follow a rep count of 2 seconds up. Pause for .5 or 1 second at the top and lower it at the same 2 second speed on the way down. This enables you to pay attention to the full movement. Yes, you might not get as many reps, but I promise you are working the muscle much more completely than before. Another great side effect of this antidote is that the user focuses on the full contraction thus improving form.
2. TOO MANY WARMUP SETS
Let me guess…you get into the gym and you start off with a set on the bench with little to no weight just to get the blood pumping. (This is completely fine by the way) You check your form and everything looks great. Then you load on perhaps 30% of your 1 rep max and crank out a set of 12. Then you pyramid through 4 or 5 more sets on your way up to 70% or 80% of that max and you’re so tired by the time you get there that you can only do 3-4 good reps. This COMPLETELY defeats the purpose of the exercise and provides the formula for a plateau. You’re never going to enhance that 1 rep max or even add weight on your exercises because you’re just too tired to crank out enough reps to properly exhaust the muscle!
Don’t do so many warm-up sets. Finish your 1 or 2 light weight sets to warm-up and GO HEAVY for your desired rep range. Even if that means you are near failure on your first real set you’re working towards actual muscle building rather than just building endurance in your muscles! Also…don’t count your warm-up sets as actual sets in your log…that’s cheating my friends and if it don’t hurt, it don’t count.
3. IMPROPER FORM
This one is much harder to derive a solution, but it certainly is a plague amongst the gym-goer population. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but hard to prescribe because you don’t really know you’re using improper form until you find the correct way to do it. Improper form ranges from rounding your back on deadlifts/Romanian deadlifts to squatting with your toes instead of your heels which can cause some serious injuries. Listen, if you feel pain aside from fatigue or you aren’t seeing the results you want from a particular exercise, take the time to analyze your form.
Watch yourself in a mirror and compare it to videos you see from accredited professionals online. You can utilize a plethora of websites out there, youtube, or even browse zelsh.com’s form videos once they are released.
Another way to improve form is to go SLOW and use lighter weight. Don’t use your 1 rep max to try to see if you’re performing an exercise correct because often times this is when you let your form go down the drain!
4. GOING TO A NUMBER
Your battle in the gym isn’t to a hit a number, it’s to reach a sensation. The feeling that you can’t go any further with a rep or set. That you’ve truly brought your muscle to its breaking point and you still cranked out one more rep. If you make it this far in a set you will be on your way to muscle growth, otherwise all you’ve have to look at the end of the day is a sheet of paper with a number on it. 12, 8, 6, 4.
This one is pretty simple. Simply go the number you were striving for and then go further. Don’t just stop because you hit the number; keep lifting until it hurts (in a good way)! Another good method is when you are trying to reach a rep, count to 3 seconds and if you can’t get the full contraction you’ve reached failure.
“Sell yourself short on nutrition and you’re selling yourself short on maximizing your physique development”
-Ernie Taylor, IFBB Pro. While a lot of people train hard enough to grow muscle, those same people don’t eat enough to actually build the muscle they’ve been working on in the gym. Make sure you’re getting a caloric surplus if you’re bulking (Obviously this doesn’t apply when dieting, but often dieting means you’re undereating on purpose). A professional trainer spoke with me and said as a rough guideline you need to be eating 20 x Weight you’re trying to achieve = Caloric intake. Using this formula if you’re trying to reach 180 lbs you need to be eating about 3600 calories. Obviously everyone’s body is different and will respond different to caloric levels and food groups, but use it to discover a clue on why you might not be growing.
Eat more and watch what you’re eating! Use the programs mentioned in our article about Iphone apps or some sort of food diary to help you acknowledge your undereating problem. Record just one day of your protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake and you will be amazed how far you are away from building muscle and why you aren’t seeing the results you desire!
6. NOT LIFTING HEAVY ENOUGH
“Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder but nobody wants to lift no heavy ass weights,”
8 time Mr. Olympia – Ronnie Coleman. As many of you may know bodybuilding is not powerlifting. It’s not about who can lift the most weight, it’s who can build the best physique. However, this DOESN’T mean you should sell yourself short on the amount of weight you are lifting. I know I am a prime culprit for using weights that are underwhelming to my muscles. This happens for a multitude of reasons including: having a bad day at the gym, or in life, that has you not working to your full potential, being afraid of lifting heavier because of past injuries or lack of confidence, etc. It’s important that you lift a weight that is going to make your muscles grow! Lifting the same weight that you’ve lifted successfully for the past year isn’t going to convince your muscles that they need to be bigger.
Get a gym partner or spotter. This helps you in a ton of different ways. First of all, it’s great to have someone to motivate you. For example, if my gym partner can lift heavier than me for a particular exercise and set count I find that I put more effort into the reps in order to beat him. Secondly, it can help because a gym partner is going to be there if you fail. Countless times I’ve been doing a squat or bench press and my spotter was able to save me from embarrassment. Super useful for going past failure with cheat reps as well.
Another helpful tactic is to employ an incremental weight rule. To illustrate, let’s say you are performing 4 sets of 12 reps. Each time you hit that twelfth rep with your weight, no matter how hard, you HAVE to go up by the smallest increment the gym allows (Adding two 2.5 plates to a 225lb bench or moving up from 90 to 95lb dumbbells for a dumbbell row). Of course it’s going to cause you to fail a little earlier into your rep count, but remember…it’s NOT about hitting a number (see above). Remember…make sure you’re form doesn’t suffer as a result.
Hopefully you take all of these into consideration and adjust accordingly. Thanks for reading my take on gym problems.