Go to the typical commercial gym and have a look around. Chances are, only a small percentage of people know what they’re doing. So many people go to the gym only to be discouraged because they did not see results or because they ended up hurting themselves in the process. Traumatised, they stay away from the gym and swear of exercising altogether. Don’t let this be you! With just a few tweaks to your sessions, you could be seeing faster results and lower your risk of injury.
Make sure you avoid these common workout mistakes:
- 1.Your rest periods are too long.
Rest periods are not for texting, taking pictures or talking to other people; rest periods are for rest. Catch your breath, let yourself recover for the next set and keep yourself warm. Your heart rate should come down slightly, but not too much. If you are resting for 30 minutes in between sets, or even 10 minutes in between sets, you are resting for far too long. In that amount of time, your muscles could go cold and your performance will start to decline.
A minute and a half of rest should be more than enough for hypertrophy workouts, while strength training usually requires anywhere from 1 minute to 5 minutes in between sets.
Supersets eliminate rest in between sets for alternating exercises to really exhaust the muscle and rip as many muscle fibers as possible in a short amount of time. In that case, take only 5-10 seconds in between sets to catch your breath before you continue.
- 2.You don’t do any stretching or mobility work.
Static stretching is good for elongating the muscle, but it does not help with range of motion per se. Oftentimes people will only do some static stretches then jump straight into the workout. However, recent studies show that static stretching before a workout could even lead to reduced endurance, higher risk of injury and lower power output. Save the static stretches for post-workout and do dynamic stretches pre-workout instead.
Mobility work on the other hand, helps overall performance by increasing the range of motion and helps you move freely and easily. A short warm-up followed by dynamic stretches is recommended before any rigorous exercise. Give your body ample time to prepare for intense activity; it makes a world of a difference in your performance.
- 3.You use too much weight before mastering the proper form.
Before you even put weight on the bar, you should already know the basic form of whatever exercise you’re about to perform. Do not attempt to learn a new exercise with heavy weights. This may seem obvious, but some individuals claim that they do not feel their muscles activating until they put some weight on the bar and so they insist on lifting heavy straight away. This is a recipe for disaster and should be avoided at all costs.
Practice on a PVC pipe for high repetitions to memorize the movement before attempting it with weights. This not only reduces the risk of injury, but it also helps you get stronger in the long term. Injury prevention is one of the key aspects of strength training, so check your ego at the door. You can’t squat if your leg is in a cast.
Chinese weightlifters are among the best in the world, but when they teach the Olympic lifts to beginners, they teach them the form with a broomstick for the first couple of weeks. It just goes to show that even pro athletes start with very light equipment so that they can master the form safely.
- 4.You only do either compound lifts or isolation exercises, not a combination of both.
Compound lifts are multi-jointed exercises that recruit several muscle groups at once. Some examples are squats, bench presses and deadlifts. On the other hand, isolation exercises recruit fewer muscle groups to fixing muscular imbalances, bodybuilding and rehabbing an injury. Some examples are bicep curls and tricep extensions.
A combination of both is recommended so as to get the best of both worlds, but it’s important that you are mindful of your training frequency as well so as not to overtrain a certain muscle group and impede recovery. When you do bench presses, you work the chest, shoulders and triceps. If you were to do back and triceps the very next day, you are essentially doing triceps two days in a row (once as a secondary muscle and once with isolation exercises). These small details could make a difference in the long run because overtraining could lead to a higher risk of injury, among many other things.
- 5.You fail to establish a mind to muscle connection.
When performing any exercise, it’s important that you feel the muscle you are targeting. For example: since a dumbbell row is a back exercise, you should not feel it in your legs more than you do in your back. Establish a mind to muscle connection from the beginning of the exercise by thinking about the muscle you are trying to work. It also helps to place your free hand, when possible, on the muscle you are targeting to ‘feel’ the muscles working.
A good way to get a feel for your muscles is by practicing your posing in front of the mirror. Flex individual muscles one by one so that you can isolate them better during your next workout. Even if you don’t plan to compete in bodybuilding, it can’t hurt to practice and learn your angles. The worst thing that can happen is you’ll be posing better in photos.
Muscle imbalances could be a sign of poor mind to muscle connections. For example: if one of your pecs is bigger than the other, it could be because you ‘feel’ the dominant side more and it takes over the movement. To fix those imbalances, try doing unilateral exercises so that you can focus equally on each side.