You work hard at the gym to get bigger, stronger and faster. Yet month after month, you see little improvement.
If it seems like gains are eluding you no matter how hard you work, there may be fundamental flaws in your workout.
To help you break down the barriers and reach your training goals, here are five common workout mistakes along with solutions.
Failing to Increase Intensity
Your muscles get stronger through a process called supercompensation. This happens when muscles adapt to the stimulus from the previous workout. If you fail to challenge yourself with a heavier weight or a different volume, your muscles have no need to adapt and get stronger.
To stimulate gains, use the concept of progressive overload, which involves gradually increasing the difficulty. The process is simple: add some weight, do an extra rep or two, or cut your rest time by a few seconds. There are more specific forms of progressive overload, but this basic formula will help you climb over a training plateau.
Lack of Periodization
Don’t be surprised that you aren’t getting stronger if you do three sets of 12 reps for every exercise each week. You are only targeting one of the four types of muscle development, and you will fail to make additional adaptations if you do the same thing too long.
Change cycles every three to six weeks. As you move through your sets, increase the weight so that the exercises are still challenging even though you’re performing fewer reps. Take four to seven days off between cycles to allow your body to recover and to prevent overtraining.
- Endurance – 2-3×12-20
- Hypertrophy – 2-3×8-12
- Power/Strength – 4-5×3-8
- Absolute Strength – 5×1-3
Flashy and advanced exercises may be attractive, but they don’t always produce greater gains. Mobility and strength issues may limit potential gains from plyometrics, agility drills and Olympic lifts. And you may increase your risk of injury.
Master basic multi-joint lifts such as Squats, Deadlifts, Pull-Ups and the Bench Press. Make sure you have flawless technique and don’t strive to lift beyond your limit. As a general guideline, you should exceed basic strength standards before performing plyometric and agility work.
Note: These tests use a weight equivalent to your body weight.
- 1.5 x Back Squat
- 1.25 x Bench Press
- 2.0 x Deadlift
Jogging Too Fast or Sprinting Too Slow
Jogging too fast or sprinting too slow can cause you to fall into a range where you won’t make gains. You either won’t sprint fast enough to challenge your muscles, or you will jog at a pace where you will fatigue too quickly and fail to build long-term endurance.
Always sprint at a speed greater than 95 percent of your maximum effort. To maintain this pace over several sets, you will have to rest three to five times as long as it takes to complete the sprint.
If you want to improve your endurance, jog at less than 65 percent of your max. A light steady jog will challenge your cardiovascular system and help you stay at a pace that allows for a safe, long workout.
Failing to Recover
Strength, size and speed improvements are initiated in the weight room or on the field, but they are fortified when you recover between workouts. If you fail to optimize this time, you will negate the potential gains from your training.
There isn’t one step to recover from a workout. You need to cool down and foam roll after each session. Sleep also plays a critical role, stimulating gains through the release of natural growth hormone. Get your eight hours. Finally, it’s important to focus on your diet. Follow a balanced meal plan and fuel properly before and after your workouts.
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