5. Counting effortless reps
One of the first things we learn about as a gym noob is rep range. We find a weight we can lift and we go through the motions. The problem with this is that we get to our target rep count and put the weight down, regardless of how much we’re struggling.
Fix it: Considering the majority of the results we get in the gym are from the last few reps before failure, it’s important that we push our body out of its comfort zone and actually make the conscious decision to work hard instead of just getting the workout done.
6. Assuming your nutrition is ‘fine’
This one can go either way. A lot of guys go way overboard with their protein and calorie intake when trying to build muscle, resulting in increased body fat more than that of muscle. Then there are those who tend to linger too far below their recommended calorie intake or avoid carbs entirely, resulting in a fatigued central nervous system, poor recovery and an unhealthy looking physique.
Fix it: Spend 5 minutes working out your daily macros and track your intake with an app like MyFitnessPal for a week or so. This will give you a good idea of the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats you should be eating to achieve your personal goals. Even tracking for just a few days will give you more insight into what you should be consuming.
7. Avoiding compound exercises
Compound exercises such as the squat, deadlift and overhead press should be included in your workout routine. It’s not just about building muscle. It’s about being functionally fit, maintaining good core strength, improving your posture and keeping your body’s major joints in good condition.
On top of that, it’s compound exercises that burn the most calories due to how many muscles are required to perform the movements. So if you’re trying to lose weight, you should definitely consider compound exercises, even if you want to complete them with a small amount of weight.
Fix it: Try to include at least 1 compound exercise in each of your workouts. And no, not just the bench press. And no, not just the squat.
8. Not working on form
Another biggie. If you’re not maintaining good form whilst performing an exercise, not only are you risking a long term injury – you’re also missing out on a lot of potential progress. By maintaining a strict, stable core for your body to work from when performing an exercise, you encourage the target muscles to work efficiently.
Shaking and flaring and throwing yourself around in order to complete a rep is going to slowly damage your joints and take the stress off of the muscles you’re trying to work.
Fix it: Leave your ego at the door, drop the weight and keep an eye on your form. If your form begins to break down toward the end of your set, you should stop. Remember, it’s not about the amount of weight you can lift for the targeted amount of reps. It’s about the quality of the contraction and engagement of the muscle throughout the range of motion. So stop wasting your own time and energy.
9. Stopping when it burns
Our natural reaction when we feel a form of pain is to remove ourselves from the cause, but in the gym, it’s different.
“The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack. having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
Fix it: Don’t stop when you start to feel the burn. That’s just lactic acid building up in the muscle. This lactic acid is actually one of the key factors to muscle growth, so try and do at least a few more sets once you start to feel the burn.
10. Assuming we’ll be fine if we don’t warm up (or down).
One thing we see in every gym is guys marching straight from the door to the bench. This really isn’t good for the joints.
Imagine you’re holding one of those Refresher chews/sweets for a second (LaffyTaffy candy if you’re American): If you quickly bend it, it’ll snap because it’s cold. But, if you slowly bend it in each direction, it slowly warms up and becomes extremely flexible.
Our joints work in a similar way. Throw a load of weight onto a cold joint and it might just crumble a little bit. But warm it up with a few light sets, stretches and rotations and you’re good to go.
Fix it: Consider doing a 10 minute run or incline walk on the treadmill before heading over to the weights. And always do at least a couple of low-weight warm up sets if you intend to lift heavy. Your joints will thank you sooner than you think.
11. Always going to failure
A few years ago, going to failure was considered to be the key to hypertrophy, but we now know that it actually does more damage than good. Repeatedly going to failure is extremely taxing on the central nervous system.
On top of that, you’re forcing yourself into a state of fatigue earlier on in your workout than you would be if you were to stop a few reps short of failure, resulting in a less efficient session.
Fix it: Going to failure now and again is fine, but for optimal long term results, spend more of your time working towards failure and stopping 2 or 3 reps short.