As we progress and start seeing results from our training, nutrition, and supplementation efforts, we start exploring more advanced strategies and tips that could help us see even more success.
We try new rep schemes, add more complicated movements, and use different intensity boosters in hopes that we see new development and improve.
This isn’t a criticism. As a matter of fact, it’s awesome that our confidence develops and these options become more viable.
The issue we face is that as we learn and grow, both physically and in experience, we tend to forget those foundational rules of the game that we used to help us start on the right foot.
As a result, we might not follow those lessons and the advanced tips we try to use won’t be as successful as they could be.
So consider this a refresher course of a few of those tips that served us so well when we were new to the game.
Mistake 1: You Don't Have a Pre-workout Plan
Busy schedules, lots of plans, commitments, and other reasons may play a role in why we have passed this one by. We look at the clock, we think about what all we have to do, we mix our pre-workout, and speed off in the car so we can make it to the gym. Although you might rationalize why you have to do this, the fact is you’re failing to set yourself up for the best workout possible.
The Fix: Plan Out the Hour Before You Lift
It would be next to impossible for me to give you a protocol of what exactly to do in the hour before you train but I can advise you on what your routine should include in part.
First, take your time consuming your pre-workout unless the directions on it say otherwise. It might just be a few ounces but you should still do what you can to make sure your digestion system processes it properly.
Second, rehearse the workout in your mind. Think about what you’re training, what exercises would be best, and set a goal of what weight and reps you would like to achieve.
Finally, make sure you clear your mind of anything else that has been going on or that you have planned. The only task at hand that matters in these moments is the training.
Mistake 2: Rushing Through Warm Ups
As we’ve improved and gotten to know how our bodies will react to the exercises we do, it's real easy to decide that when we get to the gym we can shave a few minutes off by spending a little less time warming up. Once we get there, we do a couple light sets, and get right into our serious training.
The side effects of this is that your muscles are not completely prepared for the iron onslaught you’re about to inflict on them, there isn’t as much blood going to the muscles which can affect the pump, and the joints don’t have enough synovial fluid which keeps them lubricated. Furthermore, the chances of injury are greater.
The Fix: Commit to Preparing
The main point of warming up is to prepare our minds and bodies so that we can have the best training session possible. Although it might consume a few minutes in your day, committing to warming up is essential.
This means light aerobic activity to get blood flowing, stretching for a few minutes, and committing a couple of sets to practicing your form. If you haven’t spent a few minutes warming up in recent workouts, take some time to do this before you start training and you’re certain to feel a positive difference for yourself.
Mistake 3: Focusing on Lifting the Weight
In the age of social media and YouTube, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of admiring the weight that these superhuman bodybuilders lift. Bench presses in the 400s, insane squats, leg presses featuring piles of plates, and other feats of strength can inspire us to go to the gym, find the heaviest dumbbells there, and refuse to leave until you've done something with them for a few reps.
The issues are that we’re exposing ourselves to a greater risk of injury and that we’re forgetting what matters most which is targeting and focusing on working the muscle.
The Fix: Focus on Training the Muscle
Unless you’re a competitive powerlifter, there is really no serious need to focus on the weight you’re lifting. The weight should be a means to an end. That end is building muscle. Remember when you first started training? Whoever was working with you was very likely touching or tapping the area that the exercise was working.
Once we grow and gain experience, we tend to assume we know how to work the muscle and turn our attention to the number on the plate or end of the dumbbell. Remind yourself that you’re supposed to squeeze the muscle when you’re lifting and devote at least a couple of seconds to the negative portion of the rep. This is actually what has the most impact on the muscle anyway.
Mistake 4: Performing Comfortable Sets
When you start training you have trouble figuring out what weight you have to use to perform certain movements like curls or dumbbell presses. Once we advance, we reach a certain level of strength and it can be easy to fall into the trap of assuming that you can do 10 reps with 185 on this exercise or putting the pin on 120 on that row and sticking with that.
Eventually you get comfortable with that weight and you don’t even reach failure after achieving that target. Remember the point of training. We want to improve.
I know my previous tips discussed too much attention on the weight but there is something to be said for challenging yourself when you get comfortable. You do want to progress and get stronger while still focusing on the muscles you’re working.
The Fix: Push Yourself to Struggle for Reps
The next time you take your position on that bench, pick the weight and tell yourself that you’re going to absolute failure. Whether it’s 10 or 20 reps, go until you can’t complete another rep with good form while targeting the muscle. You’ll very likely surprise yourself and achieve more reps than you thought.
Yes it was probably uncomfortable and the muscles are burning. That’s what you want. Make sure that from here on out, you push yourself to complete one more rep than you did last time or add the 2.5’s and try to complete the same reps with 5 more pounds. This push for constant improvement will result in both short term and long term gains.
Mistake 5: Not Paying Enough Attention to Recovery
Much like we neglect the warm up process when we want to start training, it can be real easy to fall into the trap of taking the quick shower and running for the car so we can get wherever we have to go. The post workout supplements and recovery meal can wait until you need to get where you need to be because people are waiting or you’re excited to get there.
Meanwhile your muscle fibers are broken down, your body temperature is coming back down since you finished training, and your body is waiting for calories so they can fix everything you just tore up clanging and banging. You know by now that nutrition is just as important as training and you spent your hard earned money on that creatine, glutamine, and recovery formula.
Why are you not going to use it like you should and take maximum advantage of their benefits?
The Fix: Recovery Starts When You Finish the Last Rep
As you prepare to leave for the gym, prepare your recovery supplements in advance and take them with you. That way the moment you complete the last rep of the day you can immediately start sipping that post-workout supplement and begin the recovery process.
This is crucial if you want that effort you did over the previous hour to convert into long term gains. So remember when you finish your last set to start focusing on recovery. But remember to put back your weights first.