Strength training is a rewarding journey, but it can also be challenging, especially for beginners.
Many enthusiasts dive headfirst into this discipline, only to encounter pitfalls hindering their progress or even leading to injuries.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the most common mistakes in strength training and provide tips on how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Lifting Too Heavy Too Early
A lot of people overestimate how much they can move. When selecting weight that is too heavy, they are unable to use proper form and demonstrate proper control. This mistake not only impacts your ability to progress but also can be a major safety issue.
If you track your workouts and progress the weights as exercises feel too easy, there is no harm in starting out lighter than expected. This allows for correct form habits to be built as the weight gets heavier or the technique becomes more complex.
Mistake #2: Trying To Make The Program Too Complex
Since we were mentioning complexity, the tendency when starting out is to believe the best is often the most complex. Typically, these refer to exercise systems that professionals use to improve their strength.
As a beginner though there really is beauty in simplicity. Novice programs are effective and simple. Repeat the same movements for consistent workouts for weeks, if not months, while your strength builds.
The complexity will come further down the line when the strength gains are slowing down from the simple program.
Mistake #3: No Warmup
Warmups seem to be controversial these days. Some camps say you don’t need them, others say if you don’t have time to warm up you don’t have time to work out.
I believe warmups are essential, however not all warmups are created equal.
Your warmup should consist of activities to prepare you for your training that day. This is especially true in the winter months where we may also need to literally warm the muscles.
In strength training, one thing that is ALWAYS needed is a build-up to the weights you’re working with. You need to be doing sets at lighter weights leading up to your work sets to ensure the muscles and tendons are warmed up and prepared for the stress of the work sets.
Mistake #4: No Rest Between Sets
Everyone knows you’re supposed to take a break between sets, otherwise, it would just be a set. The problem comes when you rush the rest time.
Strength work where we’re working 75% or more of your maximum capacity requires a longer rest than expected for most. You should be resting for at least 2 minutes, and feel free to take more if needed.
Adequate rest allows for optimal performance.
Mistake #5: Too Frequent Too Early
I find that many novices want to go all out immediately.
They request training 5-6 days a week and I understand the logic. It’s easier to create a habit of doing something every day, and higher frequency FEELS like you’re doing more so you would get more results right? Unfortunately, not quite so.
With strength training, we all are on a Stress – Recovery – Adaptation cycle. Training more frequently can interfere with both stress and recovery.
With training more frequently, we work fewer muscles each day, reducing the load on the body. We also don’t get enough recovery time to build up the adaptation.
For the sake of habit building, I encourage those clients to go for a long walk or do some active stretching on the days between working a strength movement. This allows you to be able to be in the gym and do something without messing with your adaptation cycle.
Mistake #6: Neglecting Nutrition
Nutrition is a finely-edged sword.
As a novice, gaining muscle at a calorie deficit is possible, but you must be very intentional about the proportion of protein consumed.
If you are someone experienced with resistance training, gaining muscle without a calorie surplus is nearly impossible.
Mistake #7: Lack of Quality Sleep
As mentioned before strength is built in a cycle of strength recovery and adaptation. As much as food is important to recovery, the other key is sleep.
Too little sleep doesn’t allow for proper muscular recovery between sessions. Also, too little sleep will impact overall energy levels, not allowing you to feel ready to train on your scheduled day.
Ideally, you want at least 8 hours of sleep each night.
Mistake #8: Poor Technique
The greatest of all the strength mistakes is poor technique. This often presents itself as not using the full range of motion or compensating for the movement to make it feel less difficult.
Examples include letting your low back arch off the ground during ab exercises, and not going all the way down in squats. You do not work the desired muscle groups, leading to no results.
If you’re not squatting low enough, you can flare knee pain issues for not utilizing the full range of motion and causing muscle imbalances.
A key way to catch these errors early and make corrections is to use your smartphone to record videos of your movements and watch the videos. This will give you a frame of reference to see if you’re actually doing what you think you are.
Your Strength Training Journey
Strength training is a journey that requires patience, consistency, and attention to detail. While these common mistakes can hinder your progress, they are also growth opportunities.
Seek guidance from a certified coach, either in-person or online, to navigate these challenges and optimize your strength development. Remember, it’s not just about lifting heavy; it’s about lifting smart.