Time is precious, and not something you want to waste at the gym. Given the same results, most people would rather spend less time working out. In my last article I discussed ways that you may unknowingly sabotage your cardio workout. Today, I will share with you some of the most common mistakes people make while strength training. Unless you are at the gym solely to kill time, read on to make sure you are not making these strength training mistakes.
Mistake #1: Not having a plan or purpose.
Not having a plan at the gym is like getting into your car and driving around without knowing where you want to go. Sure you will burn some fuel (or calories), but you will never make any progress. A fitness plan will ensure your workout is getting you closer to your goal, whether it be to lose weight, improve upper body strength, or increase muscle definition. Having a purpose to your workout also keeps you motivated to exercise. Without a plan, you may feel lost in the gym, and are more likely to not work hard enough.
Mistake #2: Doing the same program for too long.
If you have been doing the same routine for more than 4-8 weeks, you are no longer getting the same benefits that you were when you started the routine. Your body adapts to the exercises, and is no longer challenged. If you feel very comfortable doing your routine, chances are your fitness level has reached a plateau. Doing the same routine day after day can also be boring- and decrease your drive to get to the gym.
Mistake #3: Not lifting enough weight.
If the weight you are lifting is too light, your muscles will not be challenged enough to progress. To challenge your muscles, choose a weight that you can only lift about 15 times. For example, if you do 12 reps of an exercise at a certain weight, but could push yourself to lift the weight 8 more times (for a total of 20 reps), the weight is not heavy enough. Expect that strengthening your muscles is uncomfortable – those last few reps should burn!
Mistake #4: Not working through the full range of motion.
There are situations where working through part of the range of motion is valid. For example, if you have a knee injury and can only go half way down when doing squats, or if your flexibility inhibits you from working in full range. There are also certain workout techniques where you only do part of the range at a time. Unless you have a specific reason to be doing exercises through part of the range, however, you should be working your muscles through their full range of motion. That means starting each bicep curl with your arms straight (the bottom part of the exercise is the most challenging), getting full range of your shoulder girdle when doing upper back exercises, and getting your thighs parallel to the floor when performing a squat. If you are unable to do an exercise through the full range of motion, chances are the weight you are lifting is too heavy.
Mistake #5: Sacrificing form to lift a heavier weight.
Sure, it’s fun to brag to your friends that you can curl 50 pounds, but if you are using your entire body to swing the weight up, you aren’t really doing a biceps curl in the first place. When it comes to safe and efficient weight training, proper form is essential. If you cannot perform the exercise with proper form, lower the weight. If you do not know what proper form is, get help. You will save yourself the pain of being injured, and a lot of wasted time at the gym.
Tanja Shaw is a Kinesiologist and personal trainer, specializing in weight loss, pre and postnatal fitness, and health and wellness programs. She owns Ascend Fitness Coaching, which offers Boot Camps, mom and baby fitness classes and personal training in the Chilliwack area. More information is at www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com