By Jon-Erik Kawamoto, CSCS, CEP Men's Fitness
Long-term success in the gym isn't difficult to achieve if you follow standard, tried and true training principles and couple it with adequate dedication, consistency, and recovery. However, if you look around any gym, youíll see tons of guys looking exactly the same as they did last year.
A lack of results or stalled progress can zap the motivation out of any trainee, and sadly enough, it can be a number of small mistakes you're making. Stop sabotaging yourself and your potential progress by addressing these issues.
#1. You donít know where youíve been
As the old saying goes, you canít know where youíre going, if you donít know where youíve been. Tracking your workouts in a training log or on your smart phone is one of the smartest actions most trainees arenít doing. Logging information such as exercises, weights, sets, reps, and breaks allows you to compare workouts from week to week, month to month and year to year. This action removes the guesswork and makes it easier to progress from one workout to the next.
#2. Your exercise technique is lacking
There isnít necessarily a right or wrong way to perform an exercise however, there are safe and unsafe versions, which are either effective or not effective at helping you, reach your goals. Far too many trainees are using sloppy form and only performing partial reps. Dean Somerset, author of Post-Rehab Essentials says, "seeing bent over rows with spines that resemble a question mark, pull downs with a chin poking forward over the bar, and squats that look more like a hockey goalie in the butterfly stance is unfortunately too common." Somerset explains that there is a science to exercise and lifting biomechanics upon which the body will function optimally while minimizing injury risk to its joints and soft tissues.
If youíre willing to spend hours in the gym and all your hard earned money on gym passes and supplements, invest in a personal trainer or strength coach to teach you how to exercise correctly and safely. Remember, partial reps are only going to give you partial results.
#3. You've stopping short every set
ďTheoretically training to failure is important to ensure complete stimulation of the motor unit pool in the target muscle, as well as to optimize stimulation of the spectrum of fibers,Ē say Brad Schoenfeld, author of the Max Muscle Plan. Therefore, stopping your sets short or just going through the motions will reduce the training effect youíre after and stall your progress. ďTraining to failure can enhance metabolic stress, which has been implicated in hypertrophic gains, as well creating a greater hypoxic environment in the muscle, which again is associated with anabolismĒ.
Leaving gas in the tank or not lifting heavy enough for the rep count in question, will not recruit all the muscle fibers, thus reducing your potential for improving your strength and muscle size.
#4. You're not measuring your heart rate
Knowing your heart rate during a conditioning circuit or running interval is a way of quantifying your exercise intensity. Measuring your heart rate is like comparing submaximal weights to your max (load lifted for one rep). Different heart rate percentages of your max heart rate will recruit different energy systems and result in different training effects. Your heart rate can also be recorded during your recovery periods, which will give you an indication of your recovery ability and your current fitness level.
#5. Youíre not focusing on non-gym stuff
It seems backwards, but all your gains and adaptations from training are made outside the gym. Your recovery strategies, what you eat and when, and the quality and quantity of your sleep, all determine how much youíre going to benefit from your training program. Too much stress, eating crap and a lack of sleep are going to wreck havoc on your mind and body, delaying and terminating any potential gains you might see. Eat real and nourishing foods. Try reducing the amount of stress in your life (family and work) and create healthy sleeping habits to maximize your training results.
#6. You donít have or follow a system
With the plethora of fitness information on the internet, itís difficult to find the good and cut the BS. Reading a ton of fitness blogs is only going to make you more confused about exercises and programming. Also, doing a random workout from your favorite blog may burn a ton of calories and give you a great workout, but lacking structure in your program is inferior to a program with structure. Trainer to the trainers, Nick Tumminello says, ďyou do need to follow general hypertrophy training principles (i.e. general sets, reps, rest intervals and tempos) in order to ensure that you continually create the optimal stimulus for muscle growth.Ē
Find a strength coach or personal trainer that has helped people in a similar situation to you and follow and stick to their system
#7. You're weak
Working out isnít only about your size of your guns or chest depth. Building absolute and relative body strength creates a foundation for a successful and fulfilling training career. Youíll lower your injury risk and increase your potential for packing on muscle. Also, not addressing your weak points such as joint stabilizers or smaller, less emphasized muscles, can lead you down the road to injury-ville. Strengthen the small muscles and watch the size and strength of your prime movers soar.
#8. You have comfort exercises
Just like how you have comfort foods, you also have comfort exercises too. These are common go-to exercises because:
a) they are familiar to you
b) you might be strong or good at them
c) they make you feel comfortable.
Tackling exercises which are difficult or where youíre weak are going to take you out of your comfort zone. Stick it out and youíll notice major gains in your strength and maybe new gains in size. Try to make these your new go-to exercises.
#9. Youíre not looking at the big picture
We are creates who desire immediate results and quick feedback but unfortunately, results seen from training, whether itís strength, size or fat loss, arenít seen fast enough. Skewed expectations and looking for the quick fix is not what training is all about. Look at the big picture and create a lifestyle that supports the goals youíre trying to reach. You have your entire lifetime to live, eat, and breathe fitness. Itís the only way youíre going to obtain and maintain health, conditioning, strength and size for the long term.
#10. You approach exercise as punishment, not nourishment
Many people have this mindset that exercise was created by the devil and that it serves as punishment for living an unhealthy lifestyle. Modern day exercise is now a necessity rather than an option as it attempts to simulate what used to be an active and laborious way of living. Cardiovascular fitness and weight training (and eating well) nourish the body and give you strength and confidence in other aspects of life. Having a more positive mindset and approach to exercise will make it easier to get the body youíve always wanted.