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The German Cup Final in Berlin
You get the picture, weight training is an all round winner.
However, time and time again, I see the deflated faces of gym goers, slogging out long strength sessions without getting the results they feel like they deserve. After months of hard work, they don’t have a lot to show for their efforts. And in fact they seem to be getting weaker.
Check out these 7 common weight training mistakes and make sure that you are on the right track to building hardcore strength.
1. Poor Form
This one is simple. If you have incorrect form, it means that you are strengthening bad habits and increasing the risk of injury. Tighter muscles become tighter and weaker muscles diminish. With poor form, there is a limit to your strength gains and it will often show up as injury.
Tip – Spend time with a trainer making sure you have correct form and good muscle recruitment patterns. This will help keep you injury free, help you develop good habits and ensure that any sneaky muscle imbalances are tackled early on.
2. Not lifting heavy enough*
The body adapts to the stress delivered by weight training, when the external stress is above a certain threshold. The human body is extremely efficient, meaning that if the stress is within a comfortable range, nothing will change.
As a guideline, beginners should aim for 3 sets x 8 repetitions which will allow the body to make the neural and muscular adaptations necessary to build a base level of strength. Intermediate lifters should aim for 4-6 sets x 1-6 repetitions.
Tip – When you finish a set, you want to have enough left in the tank to be able to complete one more repetition only. If you feel like you can complete more, then the weight is not heavy enough to improve muscular strength.
*Before increasing the load, ensure your form is correct.
3. Not enough rest time between sets
The energy used during strength training mainly comes from the adenosine triphosphate phosphocreatine (ATP-PC) system. This system needs a minimum of 3 minutes to restore the energy expended during a set. Therefore 3-5 minutes rest between sets is considered optimal for developing strength. With the system fully recharged, it’s more likely that you will have the ability to perform a higher volume of work at any given load and therefore may lead to faster development of strength.
Tip – If you are short on time, consider performing supersets of upper and lower body exercises.
Eg. 6 x Pull ups / 6 x Barbell Reverse Lunge (each side) Supersets save time as one body part is resting while the other is working and vice versa.
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4. Inadequate post workout nutrition
It’s important to refuel your body with a meal containing carbohydrates and quality proteins in a 4:1 ratio after a weight training session. There is a window of 60-90 minutes post-workout in which refuelling is found to be the most effective in muscle recovery, protein synthesis, building lean muscle mass and reducing injury risk.
Tip – Carbohydrates are imperative in building muscle. Aim to consume 10-20% of your daily carbohydrates in your post-workout meal.
5. Insufficient recovery between training days
Muscle and joint adaptations occur in the days following the workout often during sleep. Without a carefully designed program that allows sufficient rest and adequate sleep the muscle tissue cannot rebuild and become stronger. Back to back sessions, using the same muscle groups commonly lead to overtraining injuries or plateaus in strength development.
Tip – Aim for 7-8 hours sleep to give your body the time it needs to recover and rebuild muscle.
6. Poor exercise choice
Make your training specific to your goal.
The body will make adaptations specific to the stimulus it’s given. What does this mean? Well, if you want to be able to perform a pull up, the best way to train is to perform movements that require the same muscle action: Try assisted pull ups or eccentric pull ups. These exercises will teach the body to recruit muscles in the pattern required to perform the movements.
Focus your workout around compound exercises.
Compound exercises are movements that work more than one muscle group across more than one joint, for example squats, deadlifts, pull ups, bench press and dips. They are the building blocks for effective strength training. These exercises train neural pathways, develop muscular co-contraction and build strong foundational strength.
Tip – As a general rule, start each session with at least one compound exercise that is relevant to your goal.
7. Skipping the warm-up
A warm-up not only delivers blood and oxygen to the muscle, improves performance and reduces injury risk, it also ensures that muscles are working together to perform movements correctly. A warm-up should have a general component to increase heart rate and body temperature as well as a specific component, which focuses on muscle release, muscle activation and skill specific movements.
Tip – Use a foam roller or massage ball to release tight, overactive muscles. Follow this with an activation exercise for the opposing, inactive muscle group.
The brilliant and encouraging thing about strength training is that with the right stimulus, the body adapts relatively quickly, especially for beginners.
Strength training is simple. Armed with an effective program, sufficient recovery and good nutrition, you can efficiently increase your strength as a beginner and blast through plateaus as more experienced lifter.
Get out there and train hard!