You frequent the gym all the time and you actually workout with the weights. You believe you know what you’re doing. In fact, you sort of snicker at the newbies sitting next to you trying to do a bicep curl – you keep wondering about the mistakes they’re making and sometimes how they have no clue to what they’re doing.
But no matter how long you’ve been working out or lifting weights, you may still be making some rookie mistakes during your workouts, just like those newbies. Don’t sweat it though, there are ways you can quickly rectify let these errors before they sabotage your strength gains any longer.
Rookie Mistake #1: You Focus on Lifting, Not Lowering
Pumping out reps at warp speed may make you feel strong and fit, but focusing on the lowering phase of an exercise has big benefits. Slowing down this portion eliminates the natural elasticity in your muscles and connective tissues so the weight can’t bounce back up quickly. This technique promotes muscle growth and builds strength, since you’re no longer relying on momentum or gravity to help you.
Fair warning: Lowering slow and controlled makes the exercise more difficult, so you’ll most likely have to reduce the load or use a regressed version of the movement in the short-term if you want to reap the benefits of this type of training in the long-term.
Do this: Take four seconds to lower the weight, pause for two seconds at the bottom, take two seconds to lift the weight, and pause for two seconds at the top. Repeat.
Rookie Mistake #2: You Stick to Your Favorite Exercises
By now, you have your go-to moves. You know which exercises you’re good at and which ones work your favorite muscle groups. But are these exercises holding you back?
There will always be time for more squats and bicep curls. If you want to hit all of your muscle groups, shore up weak spots, become more mobile, correct bad habits, and challenge your body, then you have to make sure you are hitting the fundamentals each and every time.
Do this: Include the basic human movement patterns like the pull, push, hinge, squat, and carry in every workout. Choose exercises that fit those patterns, and you’ll have an effective total-body routine that continues to increase your gains.
Rookie Mistake #3: You Stand in One Position
You know that adding weight makes an exercise harder. But if you want to make your body work harder from head to toe, you must change your stance. You don’t always have to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and facing forward. Altering the way you place your feet on the ground forces more stabilizing muscles into action, which increases the challenge of the move. Working these muscles strengthens your core, which will help you move heavier loads down the road.
Do this: Make it harder by performing standing exercises in an in-line split stance position. Start in a staggered stance, with your left foot in front of your right. Now, move your right foot a couple of inches to the left. Your feet should form a straight line that passes under your body. Want to make it even more difficult? Start in an in-line split stance, and then lower your body into a lunge so that your back knee hovers above the floor.
Rookie Mistake #4: You Head Straight for the Weights
You can easily think of a million excuses for skipping your warm-up: It’s boring, you don’t have enough time, the walk from the locker room already loosened you up. The right warm-up can transform your workout, though. It improves your range of motion, increases your joint stability, reduces your risk of injury, and enhances the communication between your mind and your muscles. Add a warm-up to your routine for two weeks straight, and you’ll soon realize that the most important part of your workout was the one you were once avoiding.
Rookie Mistake #5: You Forget About Your Back
The more comfortable you get in the weight room, the easier it is to fall into a rhythm and skim over important form details. One cue you should never disregard: bracing your core. It ensures your spine is in its neutral alignment, reducing your risk of serious back injury. Whether you’re picking up a dumbbell from the weight rack or going for a new personal record, your back should always remain flat. It should stabilize your body whenever you have a weight in your hand. It shouldn’t be flexing or extending.”
Do this: Sharply exhale and clench your abs, as if you were about to be punched in the gut. Maintain this contraction throughout the entire movement. Reset before each rep.