Are you frustrated by your lack of progress with your fitness program? Do you find yourself jumping from workout to workout based upon what your favorite influencer does? Are you constantly dealing with nagging aches and pains in the same exercises such as the barbell bench press? Read this article to learn about common training mistakes that may be halting your progress and how to avoid them to reach your fitness goals.
Mistake 1: Program Hopping
With social media today, you’re bombarded with exercise tips and tricks from anyone and everyone. Some of these individuals may be credible sources, but often these tips are coming from people who are posting for likes and follows. The exercises and workouts they post may not be backed by evidence, may not target the specific muscle like they claim, or are simply unrealistic and way too complex to make progress. It’s easy to fall victim to flashy and new exercises especially when they are coming from a celebrity with an awesome body. I know this because I love The Rock and would love to look like him! However, training like a celebrity unfortunately won’t help you look like them or become the world’s next biggest movie star. When you see these cool-looking exercises or intense programs, it’s common to want to stop your usual fitness program to try something new. Trying something new isn’t a bad thing and it’s good to mix up your training occasionally. However, one of the most common training mistakes I’ve seen is hopping from program to program every other week. Adaptation to training often takes 21-28 days to see results (Damas et al 2015). While you can vary aspects like sets, reps, and weight from week to week, you’ll want to stick with the same exercises for at least 3-4 weeks to maximize your results. By sticking with the same exercises, you’ll develop confidence and will be more likely to push yourself by adding weight or performing more reps which is a form of progressive overload. If you’re constantly changing exercises, it’s difficult to know if you are improving or properly overloading over time. Some of the world’s best athletes and strongest individuals use the same 5-6 simple exercises repeatedly in their programs because they know it works.
Master The Fundamentals and Avoid Training Errors!
Construct the foundation to build the house upon. That is what fitness fundamentals are all about. We often try to rush the process instead of slowing down and making sure you have a good understanding of movement standards before loading a bunch of weight on top of it. What’s the difference between a squat and a hip hinge? Should you be bench pressing if you can’t do a push-up? Should you be running if you are unable to do a single leg stance? Let’s take out the guesswork and take 4 weeks to answer these questions and to make sure you are set up for long-term results in a fitness program!
Mistake 2: Failure to Warm Up
I see this scenario time and time again. The local athlete at the gym, Joe Bro, shows up to bench press on Monday because everyone knows Monday is international chest day. Joe Bro loads the bar to his 5-rep max of 185lbs and begins to start benching. The bar moves slowly off his chest and his technique is all over the place as the bar moves from side to side. By his 4th and final set, his technique has slightly improved, and the bar starts to move straight up and down in the correct path. Joe Bro realistically only completed 1 good set of 5 reps with 185lbs on the bar because he was warmed up by the time he reached his 4th set. He wonders why his bench press has stalled at 185lbs and why he constantly has the same nagging pain in his left shoulder. Does this sound like you? One of the most common training mistakes is failing to warm up and jumping right into heavy weights or intense exercises. Incorporating a proper warm up is key to ensuring you are staying healthy while making progress. At Prehab, we have a variety of articles and resources on how to properly warm up. With Joe Bro’s example, he would have had an easier time benching 185lbs if he did a simple warmup like this:
Empty bar for 2 sets of 10 reps
95lbs for 8 reps
125lbs for 5 reps
155lbs for 5 reps
185lbs for his first set of 5 reps
This type of warm up helps groove the technique needed for the exercise and prepares the primary muscles that are involved in the movement while being time-efficient. If Joe Bro wanted to take this another step further to improve his warm-up, he can add in 2-3 additional exercises before bench pressing targeting some of the muscles involved like this:
Shoulder external rotation- 2 sets of 10 reps each side
Face pulls- 2 sets of 15 reps
Check This Youtube Video Out For The Best 5-Minute Warm-up!
Mistake 3: Training too many different goals on the same day
Too often I am scrolling through my Instagram feed and see a workout like this: 50 squat jumps in a row, 3×12 glute bridges with a band around your knees, max out on the bench press, and then perform a 3-mile run. Whoa. How do you expect your body to adapt to a specific goal if you are sending it 3 different signals? In the example above, there are signals like endurance, strength, and hypertrophy being sent to the body from one training session alone. The best training results occur when your body is having the same message sent from all exercises occurring on the same day. In the training world, this is known as the “consolidation of stressors.”
Training can be organized in many ways, and it all comes down to your individual goals. If your goal is to sprint faster as an athlete, you’ll want to have a training day that is structured around running faster. Including a 5-mile run on your speed day isn’t going to lead to the best results. However, that 5-mile run can possibly fit into another training day in your program, just not the one that is geared towards speed.
If you are new to training, the most important thing is to be consistent and train when and however, you can. As you advance or have more specific goals, consolidating stressors can lead to improved recovery and results. You can train for different qualities within the same training program, but you’ll have better performance and recovery if you are only training for 1 goal within a single training session.
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Mistake 4: Not training hard enough
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…there existed gyms where cell phones didn’t exist. While cell phones have been an amazing advancement for sharing and learning knowledge, they are incredibly distracting. One of the most common training mistakes I’ve seen is being glued to a cell phone during and between sets. If you’re on the phone talking about what you are going to wear out tonight while back squatting, you aren’t training hard enough! Focus is key to continue making progress over time. The reality is that you need to train hard if you wish to achieve specific goals. In a previous article about training to add muscle without getting injured, I discussed the importance of training to failure. While you do not need to train to failure to see results, you should be around 1-2 reps from failure if your goal is hypertrophy. This is difficult and will usually have you out of breath towards the end of the set. If your goal is to get stronger, you will have to train with challenging weights near your maximum. If your goal is to sprint faster, you will need to perform sprints with your maximum output. In each of these scenarios, it takes a large amount of focus to provide the amount of effort needed to see results. It’s extremely difficult trying to do these things while multitasking and it can lead to injuries if you aren’t careful.
I understand your program may be on your phone and you like to listen to music when you train. With most smartphones today, you have the option to place your phone on “Do not disturb” which will help limit notifications like calls and texts from showing up on your screen. If you struggle with scrolling during your workouts, consider placing your phone on Airplane mode. Have your program screenshotted in case you need to access it and have music downloaded that doesn’t require data. If you don’t need your phone for training, consider leaving it in your locker or car. Your increased focus will thank you later as you reap the benefits!
Avoid program hopping; instead, aim to stay with the same program for at least 3-4 weeks before you change things up.
Warm-up properly to achieve the best results and reduce the likelihood of injury.
Consider consolidating training stressors for the best performance and recovery.
Limit distractions to achieve the best focus during your training sessions.
Ensure You Are Set Up For Success When Training!
Take the guessing game out of your gym fitness programming. Get started with us today, and train for longevity.
Damas, F., Phillips, S. M., Lixandrão, M. E., Vechin, F. C., Libardi, C. A., Roschel, H., Tricoli, V., & Ugrinowitsch, C. (2015). Early resistance training-induced increases in muscle cross-sectional area are concomitant with edema-induced muscle swelling. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 116(1), 49–56. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-015-3243-4
About The Author
Ryan Nosak, MS, CSCS, SCCC
[P]rehab Writer & Content Creator
Ryan was born and raised in Throop, Pennsylvania and he has worked in the world of fitness since he was 15 years old. Ryan realized he had a deep affinity for strength training and how it can alter the human mind, body, and spirit. He began his coaching career in high school by coaching his friends through strength training sessions, which inspired him to pursue a career in strength and conditioning. Ryan spent 10 years as a Division 1 strength and conditioning coach with stops along the way at Penn State, Tennessee State, Vanderbilt, Robert Morris, Charlotte, and DePaul. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and operates his own training practice, RyNo Strength, out of Studio DelCorpo in Chicago, IL. He specializes in fat loss, body composition, strength, and sports performance training programs. Ryan received his Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology from Penn State and a Master’s in Sport Management from Western Carolina University. In his free time, Ryan enjoys training for bodybuilding, eating at the amazing restaurants in Chicago, and spending time with his wife and dog.
Disclaimer – The content here is designed for information & education purposes only and is not intended for medical advice.