When performed correctly, strength training offers several health and fitness benefits for people of all ages and physical abilities. There are training mistakes that beginning and advanced lifters commonly make, however, and these blunders can affect the effectiveness of their training and can hamper progress. Take a look at the most common lifting mistakes so you can be sure you get the most out of your training.
Overlooking Core Muscles: Avoiding Ab, Back and Hip Exercises
A strong core is essential for maintaining good balance and stability. Your core consists of muscles in your abdominals, lower back, hips and pelvis. Your core is responsible for stabilizing your entire body and you rely on the muscles whenever you sit, stand, walk or perform any lifting exercise. Despite the importance of having a strong core, exercises that target the abs, back and hips are commonly neglected.
At the end of your workouts, take five minutes to do core exercises like planks and bridges. Front planks and side planks build strength and stability in the abdominals and the hip flexors at the front of the hips. Bridges target the back of the hips, like the glutes and hamstrings, as well as lower back. Begin by holding the positions for 20 seconds and then work up to 60 seconds as your strength improves.
Skipping the Warm-up: Jumping Right Into Your Workout
One of the most common training mistakes among weight lifters, among both beginners and those more advanced, is to jump right into a workout without a proper warm-up. Lifting weights when your muscles and connective tissue aren't warm will not only increase your risk of injury, but will adversely affect the quality of your workout. Your muscles won't be able to lift as heavy of a load or complete as many reps if they're not receiving the oxygen, energy and nutrients they need to work at their peak.
Rather than picking up the weights as soon as you step into the gym, take 10 minutes to get your body ready. Walk, jog or cycle for five minutes to increase your body temperature and blood flow. Follow the short cardio bout with dynamic stretches, such as leg swings, body-weight squats, shoulder circles, push-ups and bridges.
Lifting Too Much Weight: More Isn't Always Better
It's good to challenge yourself when lifting. Training with weight that's too light won't provide enough stress to stimulate your muscles to develop. You've got to push yourself to see strength and size improvements. However, lifting too much weight also isn't beneficial. If a weight is too heavy, there's no way for you to perform the exercise using correct technique. Typically, you'll end up using momentum or jerking up the weight, which makes the exercise ineffective. Plus, putting too much stress on your muscles and connective tissue can easily lead to injuries. If your body doesn't have the capability to handle a load, you can strain muscles and sprain connective tissue.
Select a weight that is challenging and yet allows you to always maintain proper technique. It's best to pick a weight that allows you to do a couple more reps than your goal. If you are setting out to do 10 reps, for example, use a weight that allows you to do 11 or 12 repetitions. You don't want to have to squeak out every single set. If you do, you'll likely reach fatigue too fast, making the weight too heavy on subsequent sets.
Never Changing Up Your Lifting Routine: Always Doing the Same Old Workout
It's easy to fall into a workout routine. You likely have your favorite exercises and there's something comforting about having a battery of exercises that you feel comfortable performing. But, doing the same weight training workouts over and over will eventually become ineffective. Your body will adapt to the workout and you'll hit a plateau. It's essential that you change it up periodically to see further strength and size improvements.
Every three to four weeks, switch up your workout's exercises, volume and intensity. If you've been doing barbell bench press, for example, try doing dumbbell chest press or cable flyes for the next few weeks instead. If you've been doing three sets of eight reps, try doing four sets of six reps or three sets of 12 reps. Adjust the intensity of your workout by selecting a lighter or heavier weight.
Only Lifting Weights: More to Fitness Than the Weight Room
If you're strength training, it's likely you have the goal of building strength or muscle. However, you're doing yourself a disservice if you're neglecting all other forms of exercise. Only weight training can cause over tightness in your muscles, eventually leading to imbalances and flexibility problems. Additionally, doing the same thing over and over will inevitably lead to fatigue, both mentally and physically. Your body and brain will reap benefits when you incorporate different types of activities.
One or two days a week, incorporate other types of exercises, such as cardio, yoga, or Pilates. If you're athletically inclined, you could participate in a recreational sport like basketball or soccer.