If you train for a purpose, whether to increase your muscle mass or improve your athletic performance, you’ve likely put a lot of thought and planning into your workouts. However, even the best-laid plans can sometimes fail. There are a handful of common training mistakes athletes make, and while they may seem minor, they can greatly impact your progress. The good news is that there are relatively easy fixes, so you can quickly rectify the issue and be back on track to making solid progress again.
Here are five common training mistakes to be mindful of and start correcting.
Mistake: Lifting for Ego
No one will dispute that training should be intense and you need to push your body past its comfort zone, but there’s an area you don’t want to enter – ego lifting. If you’re heading to the gym and lifting as heavy as possible simply to boost your self-esteem (or brag to your buddies), you’re likely going to slow your progress.
With ego lifting, form is not usually a consideration, which can increase the likelihood of an injury. Also, the important mind-muscle connection is difficult to achieve, which is critical when you’re looking to improve. If you aren’t able to focus on and feel, each target muscle contracting, there’s a good chance other muscles are being recruited to execute the movement you’re doing.
Check your ego at the door and focus on ensuring that the target muscle is doing all the work. Aim to work predominately in the 8-10 rep range for muscular growth, with a few lower rep sets thrown in for strength and higher reps to flood the muscle with blood.
Mistake: Overdoing Quad Dominant Exercises
Everyone loves a killer leg day. The line-up of exercises can be exhaustive, resulting in a brutal session that leaves you depleted and proud. But when you think of your typical leg day, what does your exercise line-up look like? Likely it includes squats, lunges, split squats, and plenty of leg extensions—all which hammer your quads.
While a massive quad sweep is admirable, in order to truly create thick legs, you can’t neglect your hamstrings. Too many people over-prioritize their quads without spending enough time ensuring their hamstrings get an adequate workout. Not only do the hamstrings comprise half of your leg depth, they are also responsible for knee flexion and hip extension. Having an imbalance whereby your quads are strong and your hamstrings are weak can impact your athletic performance by causing knee and lower back injuries, as well as limiting your ability to jump and run. They deserve equal attention on your leg days!
Fortunately, simply adding posterior chain exercises to your plan can remedy the situation. Make sure your training sessions include a variety of hamstring-focused exercises such as low bar back squats, leg press with the feet high on the platform, stiff leg deadlifts, and plenty of hamstring curls to strike a better balance and create enviable legs.
Note: Traditional deadlifts are great for hitting your posterior chain, however, these should not be done on the same day as squats as these two moves are simply too intense to pair together.
Mistake: Completely Neglecting Cardio
The next training error you may be guilty of is completely neglecting cardio training because cardio kills your gains, right? Actually, it serves a couple of helpful purposes. Small doses of cardio can increase your appetite, helping you to eat more to grow; can boost insulin sensitivity, promoting faster muscle building; and can keep you in good cardiovascular shape so you can push yourself harder in the weight room. A good sweat session can even help speed up recovery and decrease soreness by increasing the blood flow and nutrient delivery to muscle tissue.
While you definitely don’t want to be doing cardio for an hour, five days per week, a couple of 20-30 minutes sessions can prove to be beneficial, even when looking to build muscle. When including cardio into your plan, it’s best to place it after a training session, so your energy is highest for your lift.
Mistake: Inadequate Recovery Time
When laying out your training program for the week, there’s a lot to consider—including every muscle group, a rest day, and secondary muscle group recovery. If your training split has you hitting chest on Monday, shoulders on Tuesday, and back on Wednesday, you aren’t allowing adequate rest for the secondary muscle groups which are activated on these training days.
At first glance, this split may seem fine, as the muscle groups are different. However, remember that your shoulders and triceps are activated on chest day, so if you have shoulders the next day, you’ll likely find that your strength isn’t what it should be. Not allowing for ample recovery time can result in less productive training sessions, hindering your progress.
Be sure that you aren’t overlapping smaller muscle groups. Keep in mind that biceps and triceps will be worked on back and chest day respectively, so you shouldn’t place your arm day right after one of those sessions. Remember that rest is required for muscle growth; don’t overlook its importance in your schedule.
Mistake: Training Abs At Improper Times
Too many people still think that training abs near the beginning of their workout, as a part of their warm-up, is a wise move. Or, they’ll train abs between sets of their major lifts to cut down on the length of the workout.
Both of these are less than optimal. If you’re training your abs before or during your main lifts, you’re fatiguing the muscles you rely on for power and to maintain core support. This could result in you lifting less on the heavy lifts you need to be focusing on, or potentially injuring yourself.
You want your core to be as strong as possible during every exercise you do, so leave all ab work until the end of the workout. By this point, they’ll already be fatigued from the heavy compound work you’ve done, so you’ll only need a few sets of direct work for them.