Beginners and even the seasoned gym rats make mistakes when it comes to training. Mistakes can be simple things like the order of exercises you progress through or trying to accomplish too much in one workout. How you are working out and what you are doing have a direct impact on the results you will see from the gym and your efforts. Once you are aware of what you have been doing wrong, fix the problems and get the most out of your time in the gym.
Don’t do Abs in the Middle
There’s been a lot of people using ab exercises as a break from working the specific muscle groups they are targeting while performing compound movements. It’s important to remember that lifting tears down muscle tissue and as a result, the muscles start to fatigue. When doing deadlifts or barbell back squats, the core is activated to stabilize the body. Although the abdominal exercises are used as a break for the large muscles you are working, its overtraining the core muscles and leaving them in a state of fatigue when you go back to deadlifting or squatting. This can cause a decline in performance.
Avoid abdominal exercises in the middle of the workout while doing core reliant exercises. Wait until the end of the workout to start the decline bench sit-ups and woodchoppers. Even if you do not notice a decline in performance, recognize that you reap more benefit from separating the two targeted muscles being worked.
Wisely Choose Supersets
All supersets are not created equal. If not chosen wisely, the exercises paired together for a superset can do more harm to your body and goals than good. Placing too much strain on the body, your joints and bones, by pairing two exercises that apply that same forces can cause injury. This is especially true if you are prone to injuries in that area or have had previous injuries. An example of a poorly chosen superset is barbell back squats and overhead presses. Both place a strain on the lower back and compress the spine. One superset might make you feel like you got the blood pumping. But, three more supersets later, you might be singing a different tune – the song of back pain.
Choose two different exercises to superset that will complement each other. Meaning, each exercise chosen should better the performance of the other. Using the same example as above, the overhead press should be paired with an exercise that will not compress the spine and stress the lower back. Instead of barbell back squats, a better choice could be pullups or pull downs. These two exercises have the opposite effect on the spine while still yielding the muscular benefits of super-setting.
Overworking the Weaknesses
We all have our imperfections whether it be in our bodies or in workouts. Generally, it’s that one area of our bodies that we wish was bigger or more defined or just better in some way. Avid gym goer’s have the drive to correct what they see wrong in their physiques or techniques. They keep trying to perfect their form or better that part of their body they see as a flaw. But, there’s a fine line between working on imperfections or weaknesses and structuring and entire workout around what’s wrong.
To achieve the goals you want out of the gym, it’s important to remember that a majority of your time should be spent lifting weights and not focusing on making your calves bigger or posture correcting exercises. Keep the bigger picture in mind and stick to your original plan with two or three, at maximum, exercises geared towards correcting a single issue. I would limit yourself to one or two issues per day that you’re looking to improve. Keep your eyes on the prize and spend most of your time lifting isolated muscle groups or your regular schedule of lifting split. Working on fixing what is wrong is great, but the rest of your body and workout should not be sacrificed to accomplish this.
Fear of Defying the Log Book
Having a plan and knowing exactly how you intend on getting the results you want is a great way to accomplish your goals. But, you have to remember that your plans and log books are not written in stone. What sounds good on paper does not always translate into a great idea in reality. The idea that you must lift the weight written down, do the specific exercise noted or complete the number of reps written lacks a lot of common sense. Accomplishing the plan should not cause you harm or injury. The obsessive-compulsive perfectionist in me loves my log book and I get a great deal of satisfaction completing my workout EXACTLY as I had written it before stepping into the gym. But, as the years have progressed, I’ve become more experienced and learned what works for me and what doesn’t. I have become rebellious from the log book because I felt too compelled to follow the structure instead of listening to my body.
It’s one thing to have a plan and know what you should be doing, it’s quite another to hurt yourself to accomplish what’s written. Not every day is going to be a strong day. Lifting less weight and doing more reps than planned will still make headway towards your goal. Sometimes lifting certain exercises can cause pain. There’s no reason to power through the pain and cause an injury instead of listening to what your body is telling you. Choose a difference exercise that works the same muscle that does not hurt. There’s nothing wrong with tweaking a plan to tailor it to your own bodies physiological needs to prevent injury and promote safety. So long as you’re working hard and smart towards your goal, the slight differences you make from the plan does not matter.
Learning to work smarter throughout your time in the gym not only promotes your own safety but will help accomplish your goals faster. Sometimes it’s in the details of what we are doing that will give us more results than we thought possible. Correct what you’re doing wrong, listen to your body and enjoy the lifting.
Written by: Samantha Meinrod