If you're like any seasoned lifter out there, you've undoubtedly come across various roadblocks which seem to deter rather than motivate you in your quest for a better body. Contrary to popular belief, there are ways around these so called plateaus. Let me explore some of these methods that has worked for me over the last few years of lifting.
I will begin by saying that bodybuilding is more simple than lifting heavy in the gym. It is the product of fully satisfying a multi-component strategy. You can't afford to neglect even one area if you want to progress as speedily as possible.
Without understanding the consequences of their actions, many beginners entrench themselves in a strategy for bodybuilding failure. Here I will detail common mistakes, along with how to rectify each.
Be honest with yourself. If you haven't been progressing, use this article to find out what you've been doing wrong.
Choosing The Least Productive Exercises ///
The most effective muscle-building exercises are big multi-joint movements like squat, deadlift, power clean, bench press, parallel-bar dip, chins, bent-over row, and overhead press. Instead of focusing on these mass-builders, many beginners pack their routines with easier and less effective exercises like leg extensions, leg curls, pec-deck flyes, and lateral raises. Or they try to include both types of exercises and can't put serious effort into the multi-joint movements because their energy is spread so thin. If they do manage to train hard on everything, they grossly overtrain.
Do it right: Focus on multi-joint, not isolation, exercises and do them first in your workout when your strength levels are highest. This should be a no-brainer!
Never Thinking Much About Exercise Technique ///
Many beginners gave little or no serious thought to form. They're so wrapped up in their program design, exercise equipment options and increasing their levels of strength that they don't learn how to use near perfect form. As a result, they may not control the weight properly and could end up having many aches and pains where there should exist none. I believe once said: "If you train sloppy, you look sloppy." I couldn't agree with this more.
Do it right: Make excellent form your training priority. No exercise is good for you if it causes injury. While technique means more than rep speed, most beginners take about one second to lift a weight and another second to lower it. That isn't controlled training. Slow down to about two seconds up and another 2 seconds down for each rep. You need to control the resistance for 2 reasons: to exercise your muscles properly and to minimize the risk of injury.
You'll have to reduce your poundages initially, but using improved form will stimulate better gains.
After a couple of months or so you'll be able to handle more weight with correct form than you previously used with sloppy form.
Training As Much As Possible ///
If a little is good, then more must be better and a lot more must be best. Countless beginners, including myself, have unsuccessfully tried to apply the more-is-better formula and are living proof of how unproductive it is. This myth applies not only to the number of times you work out each week but also to the number of sets you do for each bodypart, reps, and intensity.
Do it right: Train each muscle group twice a week at most. This will provide ample recovery time.
Running Yourself Ragged Outside The Gym ///
Because a moderate amount of cardio is good both for your heart and getting cut, then more must be better. So 4-5 sessions of vigorous cardio training each week, plus a game or two of basketball on the weakened, is a good complement to your weight training? You'll pay a heavy price with little energy left for your gym workouts, and your recovery machinery is spent.
Do it right: Conserve your energy when you aren't at the gym. Minimize or eliminate physically demanding activities other than your weight training. If you don't have a weight problem, restrict cardio training to just 20-30 min. of moderate work no more than 3 times a week.
Going For Maximum Intensity On Each Set ///
Hard training is good, so working even harder must be better. Not necessarily! Many beginners add advanced intensity techniques such as forced reps, negatives, and drop sets to their routines. They wipe themselves out, along with their abilities to recover from such an onslaught.
Do it right: Beginners especially should train hard on straight sets and forget about intensifiers. Even advanced-level bodybuilders use high-intensity training techniques only sparingly.
Trying To Find The Perfect Way To Train ///
Do it right: Don't waste time trying to find the ultimate way to train. Compose two different routines of no more than eight primarily multi-joint exercises each for each day's workout. Alternate the two routines, training each bodypart twice a week. Be consistent for several months at a time.
Don't randomly cut and substitute exercise (though this is something more advanced bodybuilders can get away with). While this isn't the definitive word on routine design, keeping things simple in the beginning is the essence of what will give you a solid foundation.
Talking While You Train ///
Effective training is a serious matter that demands 100% focus at each workout. When beginners turn their workouts into social events, they lose focus and concentration.
Do it right: Focus like a laser beam while you train. Cut the chitchat and leave the socializing for when you're finished. Be so mentally sharp that you simply can't be distracted.
Never Finishing A Workout Until You're Completely Exhausted ///
Many beginners think that unless they have to be almost carried out of the gym on a stretcher, they haven't worked hard enough to stimulate growth.
Do it right: Train hard, but briefly. Sure, you should be tired when you finish, but it should be an exhilarated feeling of tiredness combined with the satisfaction of a job well done. Cut back on your sets and exercises until you find the volume of work you can do without inviting overwhelming fatigue. If in doubt, do less work rather than more. Always leave the gym wanting more!
Always Training With The Same Poundages ///
Compare the weights you currently lift to those you used three months ago. All beginners should make good strength gains over a three-month period. Have you?
Do it right: To make progress in any given exercise, you can add reps or weight. Focus on progressive resistance: have a fixed target for each exercise, for example, three sets of eight reps in the barbell press. Once you can get 3 x 8, increase the poundage the next time you do that exercise.
If you got only 2 x 8 and 1 x 6 at your most recent workout, wait until you've made all 3 x 8 before you add about 5% more weight. Small, frequent increases in poundage constitute safer and more efficient loading than larger but less frequent increases. Never sacrifice good form to add weight.
Depriving Yourself Of Your Full Quota Of Sleep ///
Your newfound muscles look great in that tight shirt, so why not go out dancing and partying to show them off? Keep up that kind of lifestyle and the only thing you'll be showing off is your new set of loose-fitting clothes!
Do it right: Go to bed early enough so that you get enough sleep each night and wake up of your own accord. Muscles grow when you aren't in the gym, which is why you need to get adequate sleep to recuperate fully between workouts.
Most people, bodybuilders included, need to be awakened before they've fully satisfied their need for sleep. That means they aren't getting enough.
Not Eating Enough ///
Everyone knows that nutrition is important, but most beginners underestimate the importance of quantity of food.
Do it right: Eat as much nutritious food as you can without noticeably increasing your bodyfat. Your first priority should be the quantity of quality food spread over 5-6 evenly spaced meals a day, including generous amounts of protein. The fine details of micronutrients and food supplements are secondary to the basic supply of enough good-quality food.
Failing To Keep Record Of Your Training ///
If you're like most beginners, you don't keep a training log. This can seriously impede your progress b/c you're unlikely to remember precisely what you did in each exercise at your last workout.
Do it right: Keep meticulous records of your poundages, reps and sets. Write down each workout so you'll know precisely what targets you need to beat to make further progress.
A training log also lets you see whether your exercise poundages are increasing. Just look at your entries over the last few months.
Worrying Yourself To Distraction ///
Being anxious about your training and fretting over your physique are usually the results of a training strategy that doesn't deliver good results. Getting worked up won't speed your progress unless the anxiety motivates you to make right whatever's wrong with your current approach. Trust me...I've been there and it's the last place you want to venture towards.
Do it right: Get your training in good order. The results you want will follow. Once you make your workouts effective, you'll have no reason to be excessively preoccupied with them. Frustration and anxiety will be replaced by pure excitement from seeing visible improvement month by month. And most importantly of all, be PATIENT.
Train hard, train smart, think BIG!