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,
Should you use lifting straps? It’s yet another massive debate with people on both sides passionately arguing the case for and against them.
Having had a crossfit background, I have been guilty of judging people on using them myself. However, since strength training I’ve been bringing them in for my heavier topsets on deadlifts and I’m getting a couple more reps, so definitely see the benefits. A lot of the for arguments are that there’s better Lat isolation or they say ‘I feel it in my back more’ or even just being able to perform more reps with a weight that they can’t without them.
When performing deadlifts, rows or pulldowns, the majority of the time your grip will give out before your back will. If you use straps a lot you will need to add in some grip work on top of everything else. Grip training itself is extremely taxing to your CNS and is difficult to recover from as everything you do involves your grip to some extent. My advice? Don’t use them every set, just when grip is starting to become an issue with the weight you’re using. That way you’re not having to do additional grip training and you can reap the benefits of being able to go heavier on your lifts.
The use of weightlifting belts used to be limited to Olympic lifters and Powerlifting, however in recent years they have become much more widespread and now even people completely new to lifting are using them. Are they really necessary? And if so, what are the correct uses and are there any dangers?
Belts serve two main purposes. They reduce stress on the lower back when lifting in an upright position and help to prevent hyperextension when pressing overhead. A lot of people assume that the belt supports their back, however the actual point of the belt is to increase intra-abdominal pressure which help stabilise the abdomen. For this purpose the best one is a powerlifting type belt which is the same width all the way round. If you are using a belt with a thinner front section, my advice would be to wear it backwards so you can use it as intended.
How to wear it – The correct placing of the belt varies from person to person depending on their own body structure, but as a guide it should be worn around the small of your back and lower abdomen. You want it fairly low, but not so it pushes into your hips/pelvis at the bottom of a squat or deadlift. You want it fairly tight, but as your aiming to push your abs into it, my recommendation is to go for one notch looser than full tightness. This will also make it easier to remove after your set!
How to use it – In order to increase the intra-abdominal pressure, it is important to use the Valsava maneuver. Take a big breath into your belly (not diaphragm/chest), and push your stomach as hard as possible into the belt. Imagine your trying to blow out as hard as possible but with a closed mouth/throat. This pressure against the belt will then provide support around the whole midsection and feel nice and stable. If your belt is done up too tight (see previous point), you will struggle to get a big enough gulp of air into your belly as it’s already being restricted.
When to use it – I personally don’t advise using a belt for every exercise or even for every set of the big lifts. In order to increase your own core stability, you need your lower back and abs to function normally. Try and save the use of the belt for max effort sets only. Correctly performed squats, deadlifts, etc .. work your abdomen and lower back harder than any specific core-type training, especially under heavy load so do yourself a favour, skip the sit-ups and practice your main lifts. I’m not saying you shouldn’t train your abs, but remember the main purpose of your core is to stabilise the spine. When under load this is an absolute necessity, if you use a belt every set, you won’t increase your own strength & stability around the middle and may be more at risk of injury due to muscular imbalances. On top of that, when you do decide to lift without one, you will feel very weak and unstable.
Pro’s of belt use:
- Increased intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) to support spine
- Prevent hyper-extension of the lumbar spine
- Increased stability during main lifts
- Allows heavier weights to be used
- Reduced spinal shrinkage (lower back compression) due to increased IAP
Con’s of belt use:
- Inhibited motor recruitment patterns
- Increased blood pressure
- Injuries can be more severe – due in part to heavier loads being used
- Will not make up for bad technique
- Weaker core (if used excessively)
These are just some pro’s and con’s, if you are interested in a more in-depth study have a read of Stuart McGill’s review here.
In summary, belts are not necessary for most types of weight training in which the spinal erectors don’t work against heavy resistance – i.e. machine work or isolation exercises like bicep curls or lat raises. They can be used for heavy compound lifts, but I recommend only on max effort sets. Anyone with blood pressure problems or heart conditions should use them sparingly, if at all.
Most importantly – Do some research! don’t just throw on a belt because your mate/training partner tells you to, or you’ve read it in some forum somewhere. Read up on what they’re for and why to use them!
Firstly I’ll start with a correction – Everyone has lordosis! It is the natural curve of the lower spine (lumbar), it’s commonly confused with hyper-lordosis which is an exaggerated curve in this area. When lordosis is being described it is usually being confused with this.
Hyper lordosis is usually characterized by a protruding stomach and a deep lumbar curve making the bottom appear larger/stick out. Women are stereotypically more lordotic, but the condition effects many men as well, especially with a sedentary lifestyle.
It is commonly caused by overdeveloped or tight hip flexors (although some of us are just born with it). These pull the lumbar spine forward which in turn tends to cause lengthened or weaker abdominals, which then cause inactive glutes and an overdeveloped lower back due to the force acting on it whenever standing or walking. I spoke about these previously in August in a post entitled ‘Ramblings and an article or two’ where I included a link to T-Nation’s article ‘Force Couples’. However to put it simply the hip flexors are the biggest culprit for hyper-lordosis as we as a species generally spend too long sitting and so they become shortened over time pulling the pelvis forward into APT.
To give you a better idea of this, see the following image, the strong/shortened and weak/lengthened muscles are highlighted to give you more of an indication of how the pelvis is affected. Obviously there are different stages of the condition, severe hyper-lordosis can be crippling with a lumbar curve so deep the person appears at an almost 90 degree angle and the spine is at a massive risk of damage/hernia just moving around.
However I’m looking at a mild/light degree of APT that can be treated at home (I’ll come to the treatment in a later post). But, aesthetics aside (who wants to look like they have a fat belly and butt when they don’t?), I wanted to highlight the dangers of weightlifting with hyper-lordosis. When the lumbar curve is in overextension it alters the mechanics of the spine and can lead to injury or herniation of the discs.
The two worst affected lifts are; Overhead pressing – the danger is due to the weight pushing downwards increasing pressure throughout the lumbar region, this will also effect how much weight you can press as the weight will be felt in the lower back rather than the shoulders/triceps. Deadlifting – when the lift is achieved through leaning back (sway back) mainly using the stronger erector spinae (lower back muscles ) as opposed to locking out the hips with the glutes – again putting all the pressure on the lumbar area, but massively limiting the weight as the far stronger hamstrings and glutes are not firing to help the lift. Some may even feel the lower back tightness on a bench press due to the extreme arching caused by the rotation of the pelvis, or during a squat again due to the increased arch.
All of this increased pressure over time can a cause a herniated disc (again aside from looking like a neanderthal!) which will not only slow down your progress somewhat, can well be a weak spot for the rest of your life. Not good .. Fortunately, unlike kyphosis or scoliosis, hyper-lordosis can easily be affected and eased with simple stretching/foam rolling of tight muscles and strengthening of weak/inactive ones. I will post some examples of these over the next few days. Watch this space!