Do yourself a favor, and learn these 10 do’s and don’ts for what you should be doing to accomplish long-term success with strength training.
Do Use Compound Movements
Compound exercises involve the movements of several joints. They allow for maximum muscle fiber and motor neuron recruitment. Don’t waste your time with isolation exercises. For 90% of fitness individuals, compound exercises will be all they need to be successful. Isolation exercises are fun but unnecessary in most cases.
Do Allow Enough Time For Recovery
You grow when you rest, not when you work out. Working out tears down your muscles so that you can build them up bigger and stronger while you’re resting. If you don’t allow enough time between workouts, you’ll be limiting your strength potential come workout time.
A minimum of 48 hours of rest should occur between strength training workouts that use the same muscles. In addition, your central nervous system needs a rest too. Don’t burn yourself out. Your mind and body both need rest.
Do Work Out at a High Intensity
If you’re using compound exercises, you’re already on the right path towards boosting your intensity. Recruiting a large majority of muscles forces you to work harder.
In doing so, you stimulate the release of all kinds of favorable hormones that will help you build muscle and lose fat. There are many other ways to boost your intensity such as cutting down rest times between sets, and employing the use of drop sets or super sets.
Do Change Things Up From Time to Time
Your body is a very adaptive machine. Do the same thing over and over again, and it will become very efficient at that movement. That sounds good, but not if you want to make progress.
Motor neuron adaptations take place very quickly. A large portion of your strength gains are not only from muscle growth, but better motor neuron recruitment too. Change your routine up every few months. Try implementing some sort of periodization.
Do Use Proper Form
I’ve seen it all. Legs flailing, rounded backs, flared elbows, and turned heads to check out the mirror. You aren’t doing yourself any favors using bad form. My own personal experience has shown me that the majority of my injuries occurred towards the end of the set when my form started wavering.
Injuries are a huge killer to moral, and can throw you into a downward spiral. Do yourself a favor and do a little research before attempting exercise. Hire a trainer, read a book, or watch some YouTube videos for exercise instruction.
Don’t Stress Out About Bulking Up
This one is directed at both men and women, but especially at women. Most people overestimate how easy it is to build muscle. If you put on a 1/2 pound of muscle in a week, you’re doing pretty good. That’s 26 pounds of muscle in a year.
For many people though, they’ll never hit that number. Building muscle requires calories, and unless you’re eating an excess of them, you aren’t going to grow much at all. Your nutrition is the biggest determinant of your size, not your exercise.
Don’t Do the Same Thing You Did Last Workout
You need to provide a stimulus to your muscles if you want them to grow. More weight on the bar, an extra rep, or more work in a given time, are all ways to make progress.
If you went to the gym and lifted 135lbs for 10 reps, and then did the same exact thing the next workout, or even 3 workouts later, why would your body think it needs to adapt? It already has the size it needs to perform that activity. If you want to grow, you need to beat your last workout.
Don’t Put Your Ego Over Your Muscles
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I see people exercising their egos instead of their muscles. What does that mean? It means that you’re so concerned about how much weight you have on the bar that you end up sacrificing your form so that you can lift heavier weights and feel better about yourself.
I see this a lot with people doing squats. They load up the bar and then only go down 1/2 or even just 1/4 of the way. Lower the weight, get your butt to the ground, and work out your muscles – not your ego.
Don’t Forget to Squat
I actually see this more with men than I do with women. I call these men “beach bodybuilders”. They go to the gym and work out their chest and biceps nearly every single time, and that’s it. They end up with a decent looking upper body stuck on top of toothpick legs.
With the exception of maybe the deadlift (maybe), the squat recruits more muscle fibers than any other strength training exercise. It, or a variation thereof, should be a staple in everyone’s strength training routine.
Don’t Compare Your Numbers to Others
I think a lot of the mistakes people make are ego related. They’re afraid of people watching them work out. They’re afraid of doing something wrong, so they avoid it. They’re afraid of not looking very strong, so they sacrifice form for more weight on the bar.
When I used to go to a public gym, my headphones would go in, and it became me and the gym. I didn’t pay attention to other people, nor did I worry about what they thought. I knew that if I could best my last workout, it was a victory – regardless of how little weight I used.
You are only in competition with yourself. Don’t compare your numbers to others. Strength training is about personal development.