There are probably a few things the average gym rat does that holds back progress. Here are the top ten things you are doing that is hurting progress in no particular order.
- NOT CHANGING TRAINING
The best training style is the one you are probably not doing. The body and muscles constantly need new stimulus to elicit growth and progress. If you are constantly doing the same weights on bench press every Monday for the same amount of reps, for years on end, your body has no reason to adapt. When we weight train the goal is to make your body and muscles uncomfortable and adapt to the increased training stimulus. The body wants to maintain homeostasis, and without adequate stimulation the body will maintain. If you are a high volume trainer, try a low volume higher frequency approach.
2. CHANGING TRAINING TOO MUCH
Changing training styles too frequently is just as bad as not changing at all. It’s difficult to see what works for a specific individual if they are constantly changing things. It’s easy to jump on a website or look at a magazine (do people do that anymore?) and see something along the lines of “Grow Biceps 5 Inches in 30 Days.” While it’s good to change things up, too frequently changing things and you could be stalling progress.
3. OVERUSE OF CARDIO
Cardio is a tremendous tool to help burn extra calories to aid in fat loss. However, if muscle gain is the goal cardio can hinder progress. To gain weight the body needs to be in a caloric surplus, so burning extra calories will only slow down the process of gaining muscle. While cardio is great for cardiovascular health, too much of it will hurt your progress.
You don’t actually grow in the gym; you grow out of the gym. After training protein synthesis is upregulated for a period of about 48 hours. During this time is when you grow the most appreciable amount of muscle. When you train you are making micro tears in the muscle tissue; these tears need time to repair. Intense training is also hard on the central nervous system, slowing down progress and putting your immune system in a vulnerable position. Training depletes muscle glycogen stores that take some time to fill back out post workout.
5. IGNORING PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD
As the saying goes, “If you want something you have never had, you must do something you have never done.” This can be directly applied to training philosophy. Just as we talked about not changing up training style, it’s also important to progress your lifts. Typically a stronger muscle is a bigger muscle. Progressive overload is a gradual increase in volume, intensity, frequency, or time. This means that loading the bar with more weight is not the only way to implement progressive overload. You could still be lifting the same amount for either more reps or more sets. The idea is to constantly progress forward to achieve the greatest stimulus to muscle tissue.
6. NOT PRIORITIZING NUTRITION
Of all the mistakes someone might make to hurt progress, this could be number one. You cannot out-train a bad diet, plain and simple. If muscle growth is the goal, undereating will only cause you to spin your wheels. You must fuel your body with the correct amount of macronutrients to recover correctly and to gain. A caloric surplus over a consistent period of time is the only way to gain weight. As well as proper nutrition, it’s important to fill in the gaps with a solid supplement regiment. Nutritional supplements help to aid with diet, but also to give you things that food alone cannot provide.
7. POOR FORM
Once again, to stimulate muscle growth the muscle must be presented with the correct catalyst. Throwing up weights you cannot control with improper form will do nothing but put your body in a position to get injured. Swinging too much on a biceps curl will take tension away from the biceps and place some of the load on other body parts. Part of progression is mastering the current weight before moving up. Progressive overload that we talked about before could also mean doing the same amount of weight, for the same amount of reps, but with better form. Time under tension and working the muscle instead of the joint will allow for faster muscle gains while also minimizing the risk of injury.
8. RELYING TOO HEAVILY ON MACHINES
The latest fad you see on Instagram these days is filling up the bars on plate loaded chest press machines. Why? Wouldn’t you stimulate the muscle more effectively using heavy compound movements such as a flat barbell press or dumbbell press? Now, machines have their place no doubt. They are safe, especially if training alone. The important thing to remember is that machines cannot completely replace free weights, but are instead supplementary movements to be used in conjunction with compound exercises.
9. FAILURE (OR LACK THEREOF)
Failure is necessary when it comes to making optimal progress in the gym. You need to reach muscular failure occasionally to elicit the greatest amount of muscle damage and then in turn muscular growth. Dorian Yates said “I’m not really good at knowing where 85 or 90 percent is. I only know where 0 and 100 percent is.” You must reach that 100 percent of training to see your body reach its full 100 percent potential.
10. MARATHON WORKOUTS
If you are training as hard and as intense as you can, there is no reason why it should take you three hours to train. Your training is severely lacking something if you can complete marathon type workouts. Someone once said “If you can text in between sets you are not training intensely enough.” This also goes back to rest and your body’s ability to recover. If you are training with the right type of intensity then it should not take you more than 90 minutes to complete a session.