Anyone who starts training does so with the best intentions; changing our body shape, building muscle or to boost our self-confidence.
However, good intentions are never enough, are they?
Training is all about time and effort, isn’t it?
Well, you’d think so but the truth is that there are a lot of people who start with the right attitude but the wrong focus.
Sure, time and effort are a big part of the equation...
But you also need to have a little bit of knowledge to avoid the most common training mistakes.
Unfortunately, a lot of men’s fitness magazines have been perpetuating some common methods for training that either do not work very well, if it all, or we pick up bad habits when trying to copy others.
Fortunately, we’ve come up with this handy guide that can help give you a shortcut to avoiding the biggest sins you can commit in your training schedule.
Not only will this help you achieve better results faster but it can also prevent injury, boost your confidence and give you that invaluable commodity in any training regime – momentum.
The worst thing about training hard for long periods of time and not seeing results is the effect it has on your attitude.
Why bother putting in so much energy if you don’t get closer to your targets?
We couldn’t agree more so we guarantee that you will see visible improvements, faster if you avoid these 17 deadly sins of training.
Sin #1: Not Having Tangible Goals To Start Off With
The Rock said it all...
Starting any training programme without first establishing exactly what you want to achieve is like trying to judge a beauty pageant in the dark.
It’s pointless and will not give you the focus you need to stay on track, allow you to measure and monitor your progress or keep you motivated.
Before you even think about heading to the gym or pulling on those running shoes, sit down and work out exactly what your goals for your training are.
If you want to add an inch to your biceps or lose an inch off your waist then write it down.
If you want to be able to lift an extra 20% of your body weight on a bench press, commit to that goal.
If you can’t measure it as a target, then you are wasting your time.
Start with your baseline and aim to measure and monitor your progress on a weekly basis with an intended deadline for the improvement.
As your training progresses and you start to get closer (or surpass) your goals then you can adjust your workouts accordingly.
Most importantly, the fewer goals you set the more focused you can make your training plan.
If you achieve other targets as a result then great but try to sticking to just one or two at any time.
Sin #2: Avoding The Weight Room
If you are beginning (or picking back up) your training from a standing start you might feel self-conscious about hitting the weight room in front of more experienced, well-muscled guys but, here’s the thing, they don’t care how much you can, or can’t, lift.
Everyone has to start somewhere and most weight rooms have a regular population who see people of all shapes, sizes and experience levels.
Everyone starts somewhere...
Most of them come and go so sticking to your guns and showing up regularly will earn you far more kudos than trying to lift more than you can cope with.
Show them you can work hard, stay committed to your goals and, the chances are, they may well offer you a helping hand.
Just remember that none of those big guys were born with those deltoids so they were also beginners once, too.
Sin #3: Lifting Light Weights For Too Many Reps
Most fitness advice will suggest performing between 8 and 12 repetitions on any weight lifting exercise as a standard but evidence suggests that performing fewer reps, in perfect form, with heavier weights will achieve faster results.
The best advice is to lift just six reps at the heaviest weight you can manage such that the last lift is performed very slowly and is more difficult to complete.
Each time you hit the gym, aim for heavier weights to make your muscles stronger.
Sin #4: Ignoring Your Body
No pain, no gain, right? Wrong.
Pain is entirely different to the feeling of fatigue and soreness that your muscles give you when they are worked hard.
Pain should never be ignored and is an indicator that something is wrong.
If you are working on a particular exercise and it is taking your body too long to recover (more that 2-3 days) then you might need to rethink how you are performing it, the weight you are using or even substituting it for something else.
Don’t confuse this with avoiding things that are difficult (see Sin #12) but never continue to train through the signs of pain.
Not only will injuries prevent you from training and even set you back but they can also cause serious damage.
Sin #5: Being a Slave To The Machines
The invasion of exercise machines to the gym caused a huge shift in the way training methods were employed and, whilst they can help to isolate certain muscles (particularly useful for rehabilitation), they are a poor substitute for the benefits of free weight training.
In fact, machines can actually cause more problems than they can solve.
Strength in the real world is a three-dimensional function, it requires your muscles to be able to perform at all angles.
Machines that build strength in one plane (think of an overhead press that trains your muscles to push in a single line) can prevent parts of the shoulder muscles from developing.
The alternative of either standing barbell or seated dumbbell presses can activate all of the deltoids, the biceps and the triceps meaning more bang for your buck.
Not only that but all free weights exercises engage your core muscles for stability so your efforts are being rewarded all over your body.
Sin #6: Skipping A Good Warm Up
It’s tempting, when you have limited time, to skip a good warmup and head straight to the weights but the consequences can be severe.
Not only does warming up increase your body temperature, lubricate the joints and get your muscles stretched and ready for action making workouts more impactful but it can also reduce the risk of injury.
A good warm up should include some dynamic movement, raise your heart rate and your core temperature but also be something you enjoy…so you aren’t tempted to skip it.
If you can, incorporate part of your routine of getting to the gym as your some of your warm-up.
Maybe you could cycle or run there?
However you fit it in, don’t ever skimp or skip that warm-up.
Sin #7: Forgetting The Negative Movement
A lot exercises whether these are free weights or using machines (see Sin #5) appear to focus on one element.
Think of the humble bench press and the key word ‘press’.
The movement is very much about the ability to lift the weight and most guys will put all of their effort into this dynamic movement; however, the benefit of the negative movement is just as important on all round strength.
With this exercise the focus should also be on lowering the weight in a controlled movement.
Applying this principle to all reps you perform will allow your body to concentrate on balancing the muscle strength.
Failure to do this can have a negative impact on the shape you might be trying to achieve.
Pressing and not pulling can cause shoulder muscles to form at odd rates causing weird rounding that can make you look like a hunchback.
Whatever exercise you perform, particularly with free-weights, try to imagine that gravity doesn’t exist and never let it do the easy work for you of allowing the weight to take over.
Lift and lower in harmony and your body aesthetics will thank you for it.
Sin #8: Letting One Bad Workout Affect Your Plans
Progress in the gym can hit plateaus in anyone’s book and sometimes you can have a workout where, not only do you fail to achieve what you wanted but, you can find you seem to be going backwards.
The weight you pushed last week suddenly seems that much harder or you fail to reach the target reps you had in mind.
It can leave you feeling annoyed, low and demotivated.
Firstly, you need to shake off any feeling of negativity and acknowledge that we can all have a bad day in the gym.
There could be a dozen reasons; you weren’t prepared, you were fatigued or stressed or perhaps you just didn’t fuel yourself right (see Sin #13).
If the reasons are in your control, then you can do something about it for next time.
However, this might also be the time to look at your training regime.
Sometimes we hit a plateau because our muscles, those wily creatures, can become accustomed to our routine and they need some variation to invigorate growth.
In addition, it is our minds that can also become bored with certain routines so mixing up your plans can reengage the mind.
Having this powerful tool on your side during exercise should never be underestimated; a focused and engaged brain will deliver a much better performance from the body.
Sin #9: Going At It Alone
Not only is lifting alone dangerous to do without a spotter but it can also be hard to stay motivated when you train by yourself.
Research has shown that working out alongside another person increases both participant’s efforts by almost double.
Having someone to workout with can boost your training goals, make you less likely to skip workouts (see Sin #15) and give you some extra support when you need it most.
If you don’t have anyone you can work out with then ask around the gym or put out an ad for a workout partner.
Most gyms should be able to hook you up with someone suitable.
Sin #10: Not Pushing Hard Enough
Lifting weights can, and should, be intense.
If you aren’t performing reps that leave your muscles screaming, then you aren’t pushing hard enough.
Don’t confuse this with pain (see Sin #4) but you should be working to maximum effort where your last rep is almost impossibly hard.
Many people fear injury when pushing themselves this hard but never let that excuse prevent you from putting in the sweat and tears.
If you have warmed up well, are prepared and performing the exercise with the correct weight and form then you have nothing to fear from injury.
If you are new to an exercise, then hone your technique using lighter weights so you are confident over form but switch to the hard stuff as soon as you get this down.
Sin #11: Isolating Muscles
As with exercise machines, focusing on exercises that isolate just one muscle group are a poor use of time unless your goals are that specific.
Your time is far better spent making use of combination moves that get employ more muscles than just a single move.
Hamstring curls can work wonders for the hamstring but what about doing squats with a shoulder press?
Think about the exercises you are incorporating and look to how alternatives can make better use of your time.
Sin #12: Avoding Things You Find Hard
This is good advice in general but, when it comes to the gym, should be a golden rule.
If you are just starting out or found it hard in the past to stick to a training routine, then you may be new to a lot of techniques in the gym or weights room.
At first, some of these moves may seem hard and you might struggle to achieve good form but never let that stop you from moving forward.
Avoiding the things you find hard might just be because your muscles aren’t as developed in one area.
Continuing to skip them will result in restricted progress and an imbalance in body shape.
A good piece of advice is to start with the things you normally avoid. Be the boss and master that technique.
Sin #13: Ignoring Nutrition
Whatever you are training for, whether this is muscle growth, fat loss or both then you cannot ignore the nutritional side of your plan.
You can only achieve your goals in the gym if you are supporting those aims in your diet.
Losing weight will not happen by three weekly sessions of cardio if you are eating processed foods that are high in fat. Fact.
You will not see your muscles increase in size if you are not providing them with enough quality, lean protein. Fact.
You need to put as much planning into your nutritional regime as you do with your training plan.
It’s a massive area that is overlooked by a lot of people and one that it’s important to get right.
One of the biggest mistakes is that by training more you can simply eat more.
Yes, training twice a day can mean that you eat six meals a day but what about your days off?
What about the content and timing of those meals?
Getting the right combination of carbs, protein and fat is essential for each meal depending on the goals you have and the type of training you are performing.
The bottom line is, ignore the nutritional side of your planning at your peril.
Sin #14: Not Being Prepared
However often you are planning to train it is important to make sure that you are physical, mentally and logistically prepared for each session.
When we say physically:
- Get enough quality sleep
- Don't over train so make sure you're incorporating rest days
- Warm up properly (see sin #6)
When we say mentally:
- Forget your worries and channel your energy towards your training
- Consider your targets to achieve in the session ahead
- Visualize overcoming those goals and achieving them
Forget about that conference call and focus on the training.
Think about your targets to achieve in the session ahead
Visualise your goals
When we say logistically:
- Make sure you've eaten beforehand
- Have the right equipment ready (could just be a barbell and some weights)
- Ensure you're hydrated well before, during and after your workout
- Prepare your post-workout snack at the very least
If you are someone who leads a busy and active social life then, if you want to achieve maximum results from your training, you will need to ensure you prioritise your workouts.
We aren’t saying that you need to forego a party life but try to ensure that you give yourself adequate rest time in between the workouts and the big night outs.
If you are coming to a workout tired, then it is worth having a boost of caffeine before you hit the gym.
Try to avoid complex exercises to avoid the risk of injury and have realistic expectations; better still, get the rest and sleep you need beforehand!
When it comes to the right equipment, invest in some quality training shoes that suit the type of exercise you are doing.
If you are lifting weights, then rubber soled running shoes have a tendency to compress under the weight and can throw you off balance.
Look at investing in performance lifting shoes that have a stable sole.
Sin #15: Skipping Workouts
Staying on track with your training plan is essential if you have any realistic expectations of achieving your goals.
However, it’s all too easy with busy work and social lives to be tempted to skip a session or two here and there.
A meeting crops up, a family gathering or just a lack of motivation can all be reasons to avoid the gym but if you want to see results you need to stick to your guns.When you are planning your training programme, you need to make time for your gym sessions.
Pre-plan these, add them to your diary and treat them the way you would any other important appointment.
In the first few weeks this shouldn’t be too hard as you harness that initial enthusiasm to achieving your goals but after a month you may feel less inclined to stick to the programme.
This is a good time to enlist the help of a workout buddy.
Having someone to train with can make you less likely to cancel as, not only will you be letting yourself down but, you will be breaking an engagement with someone else.
After a couple of months your training routine should become more of a habit and, if you are seeing good results you are more likely to stay motivated.
Just remember that your workout plans can always be tweaked after you have committed them to paper.
If you find that you have less energy after work then try moving your training to first thing in the morning.
Be flexible but don’t skip those training sessions.
If you do skip one session then don’t beat yourself up about it just make sure that you hit the gym with extra vigour the next session.
Sin #16: Not Taking The Lifts
Okay, so you should always take the stairs and not the lifts but that’s not what we mean.
We’re talking about deadlifts and Olympic lifts.
When it comes to one singe movement that combines strength, agility, power and stamina then the Olympic lift is the one that ticks every box.
It’s a great way to provide the whole body with a strength workout.
The deadlift is another excellent way to build muscle and is also particularly useful in your daily life.
With so many Americans suffering from back injuries, the deadlift builds strength in those areas of your back which are susceptible to damage from lifting.
There are plenty of different techniques to the deadlift but perhaps the easiest on the back is the Romanian.
Not only does this move work the hamstrings but research has also proven that people who perform this lift have less issues with their lower back than through other lifting.
Lifting requires practice to ensure you are employing good form and technique so be prepared to work at this exercise with a lighter weight to begin with.
However, once you have mastered the lift then you will see significant strength gains as a result.If in doubt, ask the guys in the weights room to give you some pointers (see Sin #2).
Sin #17: Pounding The Pavement
There is no doubt that running is great form of cardio exercise and can form part of a healthy way to stay in shape but pounding the pavement on a regular basis can actually tighten your muscles which can negatively affect your ability to lift properly.
If you enjoy running, then why not try explosive sprinting?
This can help with the power needed for strength training and combine the benefits of cardio.
You can continue to use running as a form of pre workout warm up.
We all make mistakes and training can be a steep learning curve for some.
With the sheer volume of information available in this modern world it can be daunting to understand what and what is not required in any given training regime.
However, it is how we learn from our mistakes that will make us a better performer in the gym so we hope that learning from others mistakes before you make them gives you the boost your training needs to see better results, faster.