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I’m looking in the mirror at the gym. My shoulders are about as wide as the girl standing next to me. My shirt, a medium, may as well have been a XXXL. To say I was skinny would be an understatement. I was a toothpick.
I couldn’t find a shirt that would fit tight around my arms, or get a girl to take a second look at I walked by. But I worked hard. Very hard
When I was skinny I trained longer and more often than I do now, but my body just wasn’t reacting to what I was doing. Little did I know, but I was making some very simple and fundamental mistakes when it came to my training. Mistakes that, no matter what your training goal is, can’t happen in your training if you want to achieve your ultimate goal as fast as possible.
Have a look at the following list. Are you making any of these mistakes? If so, let me know which one(s) in the comments section, and when you’re going to stop making them (i.e. TODAY!).
1. You’re not using a training log.
Progressive overload. I’m sure you’ve heard that term a million times now, but it’s a very important one to know, understand, and apply.
In order to progressively get stronger, build more muscle, and lose more fat, we have to be progressing in the gym. This progression comes in the form of lifting heavier weights, for different rep schemes, and decreasing rest intervals among a host of other factors. The only way we’re going to know if we’re improving in these areas is if it’s documented.
Use a training log to record your reps, sets, weights, rest periods, and your exercises. Compare and compete with what you accomplished last time in the gym.
Every time you’re in the gym you should be at least attempting to lift 1 pound heavier, or lift for one more rep. Continually improving, and having the proof of your improvements in the form of a training log.
2. Your ego gets in the way of your progress.
Form is one thing I haven’t talked about for a while, probably because I see it as a given, but it’s easily the most important thing to master with your training.
If you’re swinging or performing exercises improperly, you’re putting your body at the risk of injury – which will not only suck, is bad for your health, but it’ll keep you out of the gym. You’re also not building the best muscle you can build.
Trying to lift weights that are too heavy goes right in line with this. Let the rep and cadence determine the weight you’re lifting. If you’re swinging or failing too early, you’re lifting too heavy.
No one cares how heavy you’re lifting, but you. And if someone does care, and they snicker, they’re a dick. They have their own insecurities which are reflected by how they act.
If I’m lifting for a longer cadence, I lift lighter weights because that’s what the set has dictated I do. I’ve even had a guy snicker at the weight I was lifting, like he was more macho because he was lifting a heavier weight. I then saw the guy struggle for 3 reps with a weight that was way too heavy for him. The guy was also wearing a beater, had very little muscle mass and a solid amount of belly fat. But at least he had his ego in tact, right?
Don’t be this idiot. Don’t be insecure about the weight you’re lifting. Just work hard, let your sets dictate your weight, constantly improve, and watch your body transform in front of your eyes.
3. Your jaw is the only thing working in the gym.
I used to talk when I was training. As a result, my rest periods went for far too long and I’d lose my pump in between sets. You want your blood flowing to your muscles no matter what your goals are. You also want to keep your heart rate up.
If you’re in the gym, train, and train hard. Talk after. Unless, of course, you don’t really care about achieving anything, in which case, talk all you want. Just don’t talk to someone who is working hard.
4. You do the same workouts every time you train.
There’s another side to this as well, guys changing what they’re doing every time they’re in the gym.
If you’re following a program, follow it. You need to give your body a chance to adapt to the demands you’re placing on it. Then, at that 3-6 week mark when it does begin to adapt and your gains slow, you change things up.
Our bodies are marvellous things. If we’re always doing the same workouts, they’ll adapt and our results will plateau. Don’t let them. You should be incorporating variations in your training every 3-4 weeks. Any good program will automatically have these variations built in, so all you have to do is follow it.
5. You run too much.
I hear about two kinds of people a lot.
a) The guy who wants to build muscle, but not fat, so he runs a lot to keep his fat gains low.
The result: he doesn’t give his body a chance to recover, he’s ending up on the wrong end hormonally by releasing cortisol, and he never reaches the goals he wants to reach.
b) The guy who wants to burn fat, so he hops on the treadmill everyday.
The reality: weight training and sprinting will have a greater effect on your fat loss (as well as diet) than running.
The lesson: don’t just run. You can run, just don’t do it all the time. I don’t do it relatively infrequently, but I am strict with my sprinting and weight training. Thus, I’m able to maintain a good physique 365 days a year.
6. You focus on the mirror muscles.
Yes, it’s nice to have a body that looks good in the mirror, but it’s the muscles that we can’t see in the mirror that have the greatest effect on our goals.
Our back muscles: the lats and the traps, are among the biggest muscles in our body. Bigger lats make our shoulders look bigger by pulling them back and giving them something to ‘sit on’. They also help us attain the V Shape that we all want to get.
While pushing is good, we need to be focusing on pulling as much, if not more so. So at the very least have a 1:1 ratio between your pulling and your pushing exercises.
7. You’re not having a post workout shake.
When we’re training, we’re essentially just breaking down our bodies. When we lift weights, we’re breaking down muscle. It’s in recovery that we build that muscle back up.
After a workout we have a 15 minute window where our bloodflow is at it’s highest, and our bodies are craving nutrients to start this recovery process. This is the best time to have a post workout shake.
40 grams of ISO-SMOOTH protein (this is my favourite protein).
45-75 grams of Waxy Mayze (carbohydrates)
1 serving of Greens
2 servings of BCAAs
8. You’re not following a program.
Don’t write your own programs. Don’t leave your results in the hands of someone who hasn’t achieved what you want to achieve (you).
When I was doing my own thing back when I was a toothpick, I was relying on what was at that time, my own limited knowledge base and imagination. As a result, I gained nothing.
A program created by someone other that you is a must. I do other people’s stuff if I’m not testing something I’m creating, because they have a different training style than I do. And it’s important to try new things with our training.
Depending on your goals, here are a few great programs:
Final Phase Fat Loss – created by a good buddy of mine, it’s a great program that will help you lose fat (even those last 10 lbs) through some pretty unique training tactics and nutrition methods.
The Somanabolic Muscle Maximizer – another good buddy of mine who I spent a lot of time with in Austin, TX recently, created this very strange system that shows you how to eat based on your body type, pretty much guaranteeing results (learn a lot simply from the video he’s created for you by clicking the link above).
9. You’re not stretching.
Why should we stretch?
Stretching increases our ability to recover. When we lift weights and train, we break down our muscle fibers, these fibers also ‘tangle’, making the recovery process harder. Stretching brings these tangled muscles back to their natural alignment, resulting in faster, more effective recovery.
Faster recovery = better results.
Stretching also results in improved joint health and flexibility, injury prevention, and our ability to perform better exercises at a full range of motion. Stretching is a must.
Stretch for at least half the amount of time you’re training. So if you lift for 90 minutes a week, stretch for 45 minutes a week, holding each stretch for 20-30 seconds.
10. You can’t figure out your goals.
I used to want to build muscle. Then I’d want to lose a bit of fat. Then I’d want to improve my athleticism. I’d never make any major gains because I was constantly changing my training with methods that contradicted each other – largely in the diet and nutrition realm.
Can you have it all? Yes, you can. But when we fluctuate with our goals we usually fall under the spell of the training myths for each goal. We run too much when we decide that we want to burn fat, or we don’t eat enough when we don’t want to gain fat with our muscle mass gains.
Identify what that main goal is. If you want to build muscle, you have to be eating more than you’re burning on a daily basis (which is actually quite a lot). And, maybe above all, don’t get into the routine of overtraining, your body won’t like you very much if you do.