A very good friend of mine, workmate and my original inspiration when I started training has recently published this: The Skinny Guys Guide To Building Muscle by Pete Stables. I couldn’t recommend this more to anyone looking to gain muscle, skinny or not! He also runs a site http://www.southpawpower.com and has been my go-to-guy when it comes to nutrition as far back as I can remember. For less than the price of a take-out, you will have all the knowledge you need to start packing on lean muscle and gaining strength, what are you still reading this for? click on the link! 🙂
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,
You’re not drinking enough water
Sounds daft I know, but it is probably the biggest reason most people are failing to gain weight. Water makes up around 60% of our bodies and lean muscle itself is around 70%. We can survive for weeks without food, but only days without water – It is second only to oxygen as being essential for life.
Research has shown that even a small decrease in hydration can lead to a significant drop in strength. If your hydration drops by 3-4% it can lead to a decrease in strength of 10-20%!! Not only that but it also plays a significant part in injury prevention – Lifting weights or resistance training at high intensity for long periods of time puts enormous strain on the joints and connective tissues. Being well hydrated helps to lubricate these joints and provides a protective layer or cushion around them, reducing the chance of injury. Dehydration can also lead to muscle catabolism (wastage), which is definitely worth avoiding!
Drinking a lot of water will also make you healthier and help to flush waste products from your body. When you are healthy you recover and grow faster, not to mention reducing sickness which will only impede your training.
Finally, drinking plenty of water helps to speed digestion and move nutrients around the body more efficiently. It helps you to store carbohydrates as muscle glycogen giving you more energy in your workouts. Building muscle also requires a high protein diet, however protein cannot straightaway be absorbed by the bodies cells, it needs to be broken down into its component amino acids, to do this you need guess what? Water.
How much water should you drink? I personally aim for a gallon a day! I don’t often get there but even if I don’t, I at least end up with the same or more than the ‘recommended guide’ as follows:
Take your body weight in pounds and multiply by the following – If you’re training 3 times a week use 0.6, 4 times a week 0.7, 5 times or more 0.8 – this will tell you how many fluid ounces to consume a day. For example 190lb multiplied by 0.6 = 114 fluid ounces or around 3.5 litres.
Avoid drinking large amounts in one go, this is the only time that excessive water drinking can be bad for you – See water intoxication – Instead aim to drink 1-2 glasses with every meal, sip throughout the day and especially when training or when you’re perspiring.
Your not training your legs as hard as the rest of your body
Our ability to increase muscle is a direct result of our ability to increase our natural anabolic hormone levels. You’ve heard of these before – Growth Hormone, Testosterone, IGF-1 to name a few – You’ve heard of these probably because you’ve heard of steroids. Steroids are just natural chemicals our bodies produce, the reason bodybuilders get so freakishly huge is they take far more of these hormones than their bodies can develop for themselves. You however, can increase your bodies natural levels of these hormones by the right training and nutrition. As our bodies operate on a ‘supply and demand’ basis, to boost these hormones you must train as intensely as possible and recruit as many muscle fibers as you can during training.
Now some basic anatomy! Our legs make up almost two thirds of our entire muscle mass! (Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Gluteals and Calves) So by training your legs as intensely as your upper body (or more), you target far more muscle fibers and so force your endocrine (hormone release) system to release all these anabolic goodies into your system. As these hormones are not just isolated to build muscle in your lower body, they also help increase size on your chest, back, shoulders, arms .. in fact, your whole body!
The Squat (In particular the Barbell Back Squat) has long been proven to be the ultimate in mass gaining exercises. It’s estimated to involve hundreds of muscles, acting as prime movers or stabilisers in the upper and lower body. The squat recruits so many muscle fibers, it releases more GH (Growth Hormone) than any other exercise – period. More GH, more muscle.
The Deadlift is number two as far as I’m concerned in the mass building arsenal. It is the ultimate strength exercise – What is more satisfying that bending down and picking up some seriously heavy weight off the ground? Again, as the squat, to deadlift requires your whole body to work ,so encourages the hormones to be released as mentioned previously.
The reason we don’t see everyone doing these exercises? (Squat & Deadlift) Mainly because they’re so hard – Most people would rather push 250kg on a leg press for 10 reps, than do 100kg back squat for 10 reps. Somehow they think this is a more impressive feat as more weight is being used. Anyone who has done a nice heavy rock bottom squat knows damn well that it is far harder (thus requires more strength) to drive up out of the bottom of a squat, than to slide a sledge a few inches along it’s track, whatever the weight involved. Either that or they don’t know how to squat or deadlift correctly so choose not to do them instead of finding out or being shown.
Not for the faint hearted, rest-pause training can help you through sticking points or simply offer something to break through boredom!
The basic principle is to extend the number of reps you perform with a given weight by taking very small breaks between sets.
There are a few different ways to use this technique, Mike Mahler for example talks of using singles with close to your one rep max and taking around 10-15 secs between reps. This way you can do 6 or more reps with what is normally your 1 rep max. Dante Trudel AKA Doggcrapp or DC, advocates higher reps for a single set (although different rep ranges for each bodypart) and then two rest-pause sets afterwards (approx 30s rest between sets).
However they’re done, they are brutal and only to be attempted if your headstrong about your training. Don’t bother with any isometric training for them, you can’t really increase the weight on a lat raise in the same way you can a military press for example, so won’t get anywhere near the benfit of this type of training.
I personally tried DC training some time ago, but at the time I didn’t feel I was giving it enough effort, so changed to something else. However I do prefer his take on RP (rest-pause) training. For example, on an incline bench press you would be aiming for 11-15RP – Which would look something like a set of 8, 10-15 breaths (approx 30 secs), another 3 reps, 10-15 breaths and finally, another 2 reps – Totalling 13 reps RP. In DC training this is then followed up by a static hold in a mid-point of the given lift to further stress the muscle, then extreme stretching (another long discussion on this one, so not going into it!). If you have the willpower, this is a great way to train to increase both strength and mass, you are aiming to add weight to the bar every workout. If you fall in the lower end of the reps (in this case 11), you would just try to increase reps, if you get higher into the range go for the weight increase.
You’re not increasing weight or repetitions
Otherwise known as the progressive overload principle, which is basically; Strength and all other components of fitness increase if the training becomes more demanding.
It is commonly explained by the ancient Greek story of Milo (You’ve probably heard this before!), who lifted a calf every day and so, as it grew, he was eventually lifting a fully grown bull. This however, is actually referring to linear periodisation, which is followed by most serious athletes, and the majority of lifters will benefit greatly from it initially – (simply increasing the weight on the bar, by small increments, every workout) – but, to continue making progress past these initial gains, some further variation is necessary. For progressive overload to continue past hitting plateaus in linear periodisation we can look at increasing repetitions.
This does not imply doing sets of 30 reps on a given exercise, but, instead when a weight increase is no longer possible due to current strength limits, reduce the weight used and perform more repetitions than previously lifted with that lowered weight. For example you’ve benched 100kg for 6 reps previously and been adding 1kg to the bar each workout. At 110kg you stall and can’t get more than 1 rep. Drop back to 100kg and aim to beat the 6 reps you lifted at the time. If you then hit 8 reps, you have clearly increased your strength, with this increase you should then have built some muscle alongside it (as long as you’ve been eating enough! – see reason 1). You would then continue with normal 1kg increases as before, only this time you have a set rep record to beat every time you workout. On top of this you can monitor your progress and improve every session!
I’ve been looking into this a lot lately and it seems, as usual, there are many different opinions! Some advocate a ‘rack’ type position, where the bar is sat back in the hands towards the fingers and touches the collarbone/upper chest at the bottom of the movement. Others a more extreme ‘knuckles in line with forearm’ wrist position and some, as I do, feel it has to be somewhere in the middle.
When pressing (either overhead or bench) it is imperative that you can utilize as much of your strength as possible. If the wrists are rolled back, i.e bar back toward base of fingers, the wrists will flex and absorb some of the force. They will also create instability – akin to squatting in trainers (rubber soles). Aside from the pain you’ll feel when your using heavier weights, this instability should be enough to put you off, you don’t want to drop the bar on yourself! If you hold the bar with knuckles in line with forearm, then you are supporting the weight with your thumbs only – good luck with this with heavier weights!
However, when the bar is directly over the bones of the forearm (as in the right hand image), you can apply 100% of your effort directly to the bar. This can take some getting used to, especially if you’ve been letting the wrists roll back slightly (left image), however it is definitely worth doing. You will feel the difference immediately, especially on the bench, where you will get more pectoral activation and less deltoid. You may find you will need to lower your weights until you grow accustomed to the new grip, but your strength will come back and with improved technique comes greater muscle recruitment and thus more growth.
On a side note: don’t get confused by the term straight wrists, the weight of the bar should be on the heel of your palm so that you can squeeze it as hard as you can during the press. Give it a try next workout and let me know what you think?