Are You Making These Mistakes In The Gym? By Jon Bruney – Original Article published on DragonDoor.com in August 2013
Most Hard Training Individuals – Even The Experienced Ones – Are Making A Handful Of Easily Correctable Mistakes That Are Preventing Them From Achieving Their True Physical Potential…
So If You Want More Strength, Muscle, Speed, Power, Athleticism And Conditioning – Read On Carefully And Make Sure You Aren’t Making Any Of These MISTAKES…
In case you’re wondering why you should listen to me, let me start by quickly telling you a little bit about myself…
I’m a professional performing strongman, world class trainer, coach, motivational speaker and author. I have been featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not and appeared nationwide on NBC’s The Today Show. And thousands of people have personally experienced my “Pressing the Limits” motivational strength programs.
My work with competitive athletes includes Olympians and NFL players.
I am the author of Foundations, a training series featured in MILO, widely considered the world’s most prestigious strength training journal.
And as co-owner of Submit Strength Equipment, I have been responsible for the design of numerous pieces of cutting-edge training equipment now in use around the world.
5 Mistakes In The Gym That Are Holding You Back From Being As Strong, Muscular, Fast, Explosive and Well-Conditioned As You Could Be…
1. Choosing The Wrong Exercises
Not all exercises deliver the best results for the effort you put in.
I witnessed this personally when I was a trainer for a Cable TV show that was focused on helping individuals make rapid changes in body composition. Some of these people had been working very hard trying to make changes in their physiques.
But one of the key problems – and reasons why they weren’t progressing towards their ideal physique as fast as they’d like – was exercise selection. Once we changed the exercises, the results came RAPIDLY.
The sad truth is that many people put in GREAT effort, only to get MEDIOCRE results.
If they only knew how to incorporate the right exercises into the right program, they would smash through genetic barriers and see powerful changes in their physiques.
One example is the guy who busts his ass for an hour training his arms with a myriad of machines exercises. Sure – he is training with a lot of EFFORT, but does he possess the powerful ‘guns’ he desires?
The answer is almost always, “NO”.
On the other hand, consider the guy who trains his arms using just a handful of big, compound exercises…
Chin-Ups and Barbell Curls for the biceps.
Close Grip Bench Presses and Dips for the triceps.
And he does this week in, week out.
This guy trains equally as hard as the other guy – but his results are 10 times as good!
What’s the difference?
Simple… Exercise selection.
2. Choosing A Program That Develops ‘Show Muscle’ Instead Of ‘Smart Muscle’
Many training programs only focus on one approach to create hypertrophy. This results in muscle that underperforms. Smart Muscle, on the other hand, PERFORMS as well as it LOOKS.
Allow me to explain…
Smart muscle is muscle that can multi-task and handle any challenge thrown it’s way.
To truly create a bigger and better body a strength program must use multiple stressors. This will teach the nervous system to recruit more muscle fibers and allow the body to adapt to multiple forms of resistance. The goal should not only be to increase muscle size, but also strength and athleticism.
All of my hypertrophy programs do this… they help you to increase muscle size, strength and athleticism.
To focus only on building muscle is a mistake – especially if you compete in sports and are using your resistance training to not only help you to look better, but also to become a better athlete.
3. Spending Too Much Time At The Gym
Many trainees spend too much time in the gym and have little to show for it.
You see, the truth is that long routines plus long cardio sessions are not very effective because long training sessions cause you to miss out on key hormonal factors that could build muscle.
Secondly, people should have a life outside of the gym.
By the time you drive to the gym, change, set up your workout, have a post workout shake, shower, and drive home…you could easily spend two hours or more.
There is little free time left over to develop relationships, pursue other hobbies and interests, and to feed your mind.
I have personally helped individuals to get amazing results in their own homes using minimal or no equipment in 4 hours a week or less!
The key is understanding how the right exercises can be combined to create a synergistic effect of increased neuromuscular efficiency and maximum muscular hypertrophy in minimum time.
This combination unleashes powerful muscle building hormones throughout the body.
4. Lack Of Focus And Mental Preparation
There are days when trainees just don’t “feel” like working out…
They lack motivation, so they procrastinate.
Many individuals don’t have the proper focus to complete a training session at the proper intensity. So, they just go through the motions. The results are missed or wasted workouts.
Without proper focus and concentration when training, one can never reach their physical potential. Unfortunately, many trainees don’t know that there are exercises to focus your mind, develop your willpower, and deepen your concentration skills.
Understanding the importance of mental training can often be the difference between success and failure when it comes to building a powerful and athletic physique.
5. Failing To Break Training Plateaus
Trainees often get discouraged because their gains stop after a short time. They therefore quit or become stuck; never reaching their goals.
The real problem lies with the training programs. And the reason I say this is because many training programs do not provide a way to keep on gaining.
Understanding how to keep the training fresh and the gains coming is essential to reaching your true athletic potential.
If you find yourself making any of these “Mistakes”, I have good news. Tomorrow I’ll be teaching you how to avoid these mistakes and how to get on the path toward building “Smart Muscle”….
Talk to you then,
So you’ve been doing a plank variation for some time now and can hold it for a couple of minutes so think your ‘core’ is strong?
There is a far more difficult and massively more effective version called the RKC Plank (Russian Kettlebell Challenge).
Most of us hold a plank ‘passively’ with little activation of the internal abdominal muscles that the plank is supposed to strengthen. A few tweaks to it and you’ll understand what a plank really is and be stronger under the bar for it!
Anyone who has read any of Pavel Tsatsouline’s books will know he advocates ‘whole body tension’ in all movements, but especially when looking at strength training. The RKC plank is a great way to learn how to do this and can then be applied to your lifts.
——————– An extract from Deadlift Dynamite by Andy Bolton and Pavel Tsatsouline ———————
Senior RKC Thomas Phillips has called the plank “the most popular exercise performed incorrectly”. Most folks either let their backs sag or their butts shoot up and use a minimal amount of effort in order to last the longest. Using poor form amounts to what Gray Cook, RKC, calls “adding fitness to dysfunction” and all sorts of problems down the road. And going for a minute or longer develops endurance rather than strength.
The difference is fundamental.
To express max strength one must learn to maximally contract all the muscles at once and hold nothing back. To develop muscular endurance one must learn to use as few muscles as possible and the least effort.
The conflict is obvious.
The bottom line: a strength athlete ought to practice the plank as an all out effort, and has no business leaving the 5-20sec window.
Giving it all in a short period of time is what the RKC plank is all about. Sports scientist Bret Contreras comments:
The RKC plank is a reverse-engineered core exercise that has evolved into a brutal full body isohold. I learned about the RKC plank (also called the Hardstyle plank) from Pavel Tsatsouline, creator of the RKC, and when done right, it wipes you out completely after only ten seconds. Sure you can do a [regular] plank for 3 straight minutes, but now show me that you can do a [RKC] plank and exhaust your body through maximum muscle exertion. The RKC plank has you manipulating whole body muscle tension to generate maximum internal work. Though you won’t be moving as it’s a static exercise, you’ll be engaging in a 10-second isometric war…
Contreras took EMG measurements to compare the peak activation of various midsection muscles in the traditional front plank and the RKC version and here are the results:
|Exercise||Lower Rectus Abdomnis (RA)||Internal Oblique (IO)||External Oblique (EO)|
|Standard Front Plank||33.5||42.6||26.7|
In the RKC plank, the six-pack is contracting more than three times more intensely, the internal obliques more than twice, the external obliques almost four times as intensely as in the typical plank seen in gyms everywhere.
It is the many technique subtleties that make the RKC plank work so well, so pay attention, and add various technique elements to your practice gradually. If you try to do it all the first time out, you are bound to forget something.
- Place your elbows directly underneath your shoulders or slightly in front of them. Either keep your forearms parallel to each other or make your fists touch. Keep your fists in the “hammer” position.
- Keep your whole body in one straight line, from head to toes. In the beginning it helps to have a training partner place a stick on your backside to teach you what a straight line is. Your back may not sag, your butt may not pike up. Your hips must extend as they do in the deadlift.
- The stick will also help you correctly align your neck. The following subtle alignment practiced in martial arts and physical therapy makes a difference. Stretch your neck long—and then, in Dr. Michael Hartle’s words, “rotate the chin in the direction of your chest around the axis going through your ears.” This will flatten your neck against the stick. You may have to practice it lying on your back at first.
- Look straight down on the ground, between your wrists.
- Make tight fists.
- Breathe shallow, as you would when holding a bar on your back between squat reps. Periodically employ Hardstyle breathing—short, powerful hisses. Do your best to keep the tension out of your head and neck.
- Lock your knees and pull up your kneecaps. You will have an easier time doing this if you stretch your hip flexors first.
- Cramp the glutes and try to tuck your tail under (posterior pelvic tilt)—without bending the knees! We do it for many reasons. Contreras has one more and it is right down our alley: “The posterior pelvic tilt develops glute endurance and helps engrain proper deadlift lockout form.”
- You may not let your knees bend or your butt shoot up when you are strongly tucking in your tail!
- A useful cue for the posterior pelvic tilt comes from karate: point your belly button slightly towards your head. Insist on keeping your knees locked and your kneecaps pulled up.
- Use your lats to maximally “unshrug” your shoulders away from your ears.
When you have figured out how to do all of the above, add the following powerful subtleties added to the RKC plank by Dr. Michael Hartle, Senior RKC.
“Make sure the toes are fully extended and the ankle is maximally dorsiflexed.” In other words, point your feet and toes towards your nose. “This aids in the anterior chain contraction one is achieving during this plank.”
Simultaneously drive your elbows and your toes hard towards each other (isometrically). This will make your body pike or jacknife. Prevent your pelvis from rising by tensing your glutes even harder and driving the hips forward, as in the DL lockout. Now you will understand what Bret Contreras meant by the “isometric war”!
Practice the RKC plank in sets of approximately 10sec long, always stopping before the intensity of the contraction drops off. We are in the strength business—not endurance business.
Your workout routine isn’t effective.
Most beginners or even some experienced lifters get their routines from magazines and publications written by professional bodybuilders – these are not designed for people new to lifting or natural lifters, rather for the ‘enhanced’ trainee due to the huge amounts of volume for specific bodyparts. Others follow the routine their ‘friend’ is doing as he’s had great results, however everyone is different and just because your friend has had decent gains, it does not follow that you necessarily will. Following these examples will generally only leave you frustrated, sore and with minimal improvement.
A good routine needs to be well structured; workout days to be arranged to allow for adequate rest, muscle groups arranged well in order to avoid overtraining a specific bodypart, muscle groups arranged in order for each muscle to be worked for maximum effect, a good selection of compound and isolation exercises and good warm-up and cool-down.
A compound exercise is one where the body moves through more than one joint (i.e. Squat moves the Hip, Knee and Ankle) and isolation exercises move through only one joint (i.e. Leg Extension moves only the Knee). To provide complete stimulation of a muscle, you should take advantage of both of these types of exercise. However if mass is your main goal, compound exercises should make up the majority of your training with a few isolation exercises thrown in to supplement the main lifts.
Compound movements allow you to lift more weight and work through more muscle groups at the same time than isolation, this will not only save you time in the gym, but provides more stimulation for the muscles and in response your body will release more anabolic hormones (such as testosterone and growth hormone) in response to the stress.
3-4 days a week of training is adequate for any natural lifter, any more than this and you’ll struggle to recover enough between workouts to keep the right level of intensity when training. Don’t forget the importance of warming up and cooling down – These will not only increase blood flow and loosen muscles prior to training, but also reduce the chance of injury during your workout and enhance recovery afterwards.
Finally try to have a days rest between each workout, for many of the reasons above but also to be able to perform at maximum intensity every session. If you follow up a heavy squat session with deadlifts the next day, you’ll no doubt have tired legs and won’t be able to lift the same amount of weight/reps as you could with a days rest between sessions. Building strength and muscle is a long term goal and trying to rush it will only hinder your progress.
How many of you see people training multiple sets to failure at every angle possible for chest development? How many sets should people be doing of curls? Why perform squats, then leg extensions, then lunges, then several different calf movements when working legs?
We have been polluted with these ridiculous bodybuilding methods for years, and despite the fact that nobody ever seems to make much progress from these, we continue to train in the same manner. Men’s fitness magazines to this day push high volume training and splits as a good thing, yet any personal trainer who has been around for a while or bothered to do some research on more than just one type of training should be able to tell you otherwise (I say should, as I have encountered many a complete idiot in the industry as well as some very knowledgeable trainers).
I myself used high volume training and although I did gain some weight in the short-term, most of this was just due to increasing the amount I was eating, alongside what is affectionally termed ‘the beginner effect’.
I’m not saying that no-one will benefit from high volume, there’s plenty out there who have, but this is structured volume like GVT or otherwise – The type of high volume I’m talking about is the classic split – Let’s take Chest & Triceps as an example split – several sets of flat bench, followed by incline, decline, some flyes or crossovers and then onto tricep extensions, pushdowns and maybe some dips to follow. Sound like something you’ve seen? Has this person made significant gains in the last year? Most likely not.
If you want to get bigger or stronger, you need to increase the weight on the bar, or the number of reps your performing with that weight. Adding another 4 sets will not help if you’re still only managing 10 reps every session with that same weight. I read a great article the other day where the author wrote “What if someone added 20kg to the bar, put a gun to your head and said ‘do another rep!’ You’d do it!, how about if they said ‘do two more or I shoot your wife?’ Again, you’d do it. How many sets would you do at that intensity? and do you think you would then go and perform 5 more sets of a different exercise using the same bodypart?”
How many of us are working at that level of intensity? If you are training without a log book your holding yourself back already. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing if you’re not taking note and increasing the intensity with either weight or reps each time you hit the gym – how do you know your progressing? You don’t! Cut all the crap, get a log book, start writing it down and start adding some intensity to your workouts!