We sometimes get so caught up in our workout and fitness routines that we don’t stop and think about what exactly we’re doing, or more importantly, what we’re doing wrong. Tell-tale signs of this can be seen in different ways; suddenly putting on incremental fat, not building muscle, and of course, the dreaded training plateau. Avoiding these 5 common faux-pas is a sure way to stay on track.
1. Not Setting Goals
If you’re not setting goals for yourself, whether they be short term or long term, you can never truly achieve success.
If you have no goals, how can you measure success?
Any professional athlete, personal trainer, or successful business person, will tell you that setting a goal (or set of goals) is by far the first, and the most crucial, step in developing a diet and workout plan. So if you haven’t already, break out a pen and paper, an iPad or whatever your note taking platform of choice is, and write down your 2 month, 6 month and 1 year fitness and physique goals.
Also, think about using some of the more modern tools we have at our disposal like bodybuilding.com’s BodySpace.
2. Following Someone Else’s Program
What worked for Arnold will work for me, right? Wrong. There are tons of workout programs in magazines and on the internet, and they all contain valuable information. However, take all of these with a grain of salt. The key to a successful training program is to find out what works for you. We all have different muscle types, and aptitudes, so try everything and see what works for you! Listen to your body – if an exercise doesn’t feel like it’s hitting your muscles the way it should, then stop, and try something else.
3. Skipping Meals & Undernourishment
One of the most common questions that professional bodybuilders and physique athletes get from regular gym trainees is, “I lift heavy all the time but I’m not getting that much bigger, how do you do it?” And their response, undoubtedly, is, “How much are you eating?”.
Skipping meals and overall under-feeding is a big no-no in the muscle building world. Many amateur athletes skip meals thinking that because they work out they’re automatically going to build some muscle, and that this low calorie discipline (under-nourishment) will lead to a lean and ripped physique. This is a common misunderstanding of the basic fat-burning principle – you need to consume more to burn more. Not getting enough calories in slows down your metabolism, puts your body in a catabolic state (muscle breakdown), ultimately leading to no muscle gains (and in many cases negative gains), and a greater aptitude for fat storage in the future.
Remember – to get big, you need to eat big! Understand your BMR and how many calories you need to maintain and/or build new muscle.
If time management is an issue, consider snacks consisting of a HEXAPRO protein shake, or an ISOFLEX protein bar. If putting on serious mass is your deal, then think about mass gainers like QUICKMASS, an easy way to get 1010 calories in a quick, delicious, shake. All of these are an easy way to get high-quality protein and essential vitamins and minerals to feed hungry muscles.
4. Quantity Over Quality
No amazing revelation here, we’ve all seen it. That guy at the gym doing seated cable rows with form that makes you want to scream, or the other guy, with the massive ego, doing dumbbell curls with weight that is clearly too heavy, as he swings his whole body back and forth just to get the dumbbell to parallel.
If you’re not using proper form, adding all the weight in the world won’t make a difference.
If you’re confused about how to perform an exercise correctly, pick up a book, watch a video on YouTube, or better yet, ask someone who knows, like a personal trainer. Proper lifting technique can also go a long way in preventing serious injury, which is the biggest and most common roadblock to making gains.
5. Training Intensity
Frustrated because you’re not seeing the gains you want? One thing to consider is your training intensity. I remember the first 5 or 6 months that I started training, I was consistently hitting the gym, probably 3 or 4 times a week, following a program consisting mostly of compound movements along with a nice smattering of isolation exercises for the smaller muscle groups. At one point I ended up working out with a friend of mine, who while not a bodybuilder by trade, had competed in the amateur ranks in his younger days, and is still in very respectable physical condition.
After the workout we discussed my progress to date, or more specifically my lack thereof, and without any hesitation he said, “Your level of intensity is not where it needs to be to build muscle”. I was, in all honesty, a little taken aback, and a little offended. I was working my butt off out there! I mean, I was pushing hard, getting my heart rate up and really fatiguing myself – or so I thought.
If you don’t push yourself outside of your comfort zone you’ll never see the gains that you really want.
I spent the next few months working out under his tutelage, trying a few new exercises and adding in some variations – drop sets, super sets, giant sets and some blood volume training. I also started varying my weight, going heavier than usual with slightly less frequency, but now with someone there to spot me and help me push through those last 3 or 4 reps. The results were evident very quickly. I could lift heavier and I was putting on muscle – real noticeable muscle.
The takeaway from this is that even though you think you may be pushing hard, you can always push a little harder. Championship physiques are built after you hit your pain threshold – those last 2 or 3 reps, the ones you normally wouldn’t do because the lactic acid is killing you, and you can only do partial reps… with help – those are the ones that make you grow.