Training has become a habit and your day isn’t the same if you don’t get your regular dose of iron. As great as it is that you’re so excited to lift, you could have fallen into some bad habits that are holding you back. Make sure to avoid the following six pitfalls. They can ruin your workouts and prevent you from reaching your full potential in the gym, like the athletes you admire.
1. You’re Not Mentally Prepared
Obviously you’re psyched about hitting the weights, and the thought of leaving the gym with a pump is inspiring. But you need to prepare yourself and come up with a game plan for what you will do when you’re ready to lift. What are you training? Which exercises will you do? What weaknesses do you need to address? You wouldn’t go to a place you’ve never been before just by getting in the car and driving. You would consult a GPS to show you how to get there. If you want to have a great workout, determine how you’re going to do it by coming up with a plan.
2. You’re Not Physically Prepared
You made it to the gym and you don’t want to waste time. You have plans after your workout or you just can’t get started quickly enough.
You decide that you’re warmed up already and immediately start with heavy sets. You’re walking a fine line by doing this, because not only are your muscles unprepared for what’s coming, but you’re setting yourself up for a potentially serious injury. And no one makes gains while sitting in the house or lying in a hospital bed waiting for surgery.
It may seem like a waste of time, but warming up gets the blood moving through the body, increases body temperature, helps joints produce synovial fluid, and establishes a mind-muscle connection, which will help you perform to the best of your ability during your work sets. A good warm-up takes a few minutes, but your time investment will be rewarded.
3. You Pay Too Much Attention to Your Phone
How many times have you been waiting for a bench and see someone sitting on it while texting or staring at their phone like it has a spell on them? Is this something you do as well? Checking the phone has become a habit within society as a whole in recent years.
When it comes to training, it’s like the workout doesn’t count unless a selfie is on Instagram or the sets are posted on BodySpace. This is cool but do you have to do it while you’re training? Also, many of us use our phones because it has our music on it, and we need the right song to smash the next set. Make your playlist before you get to the gym so your favorite tunes will play and you won’t have to waste time finding them. Also, unless you work a job that requires you to be available 24/7, like emergency responders, ignore texts and calls until your training is done. You devote a lot of time in the day to others. This is your time so make it count, and as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would say: “FOCUS!”
4. You Ignore How You Lift
You’re looking at those dumbbells, that bar or the weight on the machine and you’re ready to teach gravity a lesson. That lesson is that you’re in control. You grab the weight and rip through 10 reps in 10 seconds. After that set, you look at the weight again and are proud of what you accomplished.
The fact is you didn’t do much.
You need to control the weight you’re using. You will see better results if you take two extra seconds to focus on the negative portion of the rep. That’s 20 extra seconds of tension on the muscle per 10 reps. Yes it makes the next set tougher but that’s the point. Lifters are supposed to find ways to make their sets more challenging. If you need to sacrifice weight to make this happen, do it. Your muscles will thank you.
5. You’re too Social
If you’re a dedicated gym rat, there’s a good chance you’ve gotten to know other members. You don’t want to be a jerk and ignore people. The problem is before you know it, a fist bump and a “what’s up” turn into a 15-minute conversation that only works your jaw muscles. Then, either you cut your workout short because of other commitments or lose your motivation to hit it and call it a day early.
You also might want to hook up with that local bikini competitor, and you decide that today is the day to ask her out; but if you wait until the workout is over she might be gone. First, don’t bother a woman while she’s training, because she’s taking what she does seriously and she’ll avoid you down the road if you bother her. Second, this is supposed to be about your own commitment to personal excellence. Save the chit chat until the workout is done.
You don’t need to be a jerk; say “hi” if you must, but after that, do what you came to the gym to do—put in the work.
6. You Ignore Recovery
You have your pre-workout supplement with you at all times. It is in your cabinet at home, your car, your gym bag or at the office (if you have to wait until after work to train). You take that pre-workout as a ritual before it’s time to lift. Yet when the workout is over, it’s on to the next thing in your day. Meanwhile, your muscles are begging and pleading for something to help them recover from the onslaught you just unleashed on them.
Not taking a recovery supplement can be the worst habit of all. Yeah, you’ll probably eat within an hour or so, but you’re missing out by not taking something for recovery as soon as you’re done training. Creatine and amino acids could assist in repairing the muscle fibers you tore down over the last hour or so. Make a post-workout protocol a new habit, and your physique will show the benefits sooner rather than later.