Strength training is a critical component in any fitness regimen for both men and women, and will help aid in weight loss, improve body composition, and promote bone health, energy balance and disease management/prevention. Whether you are already following a program or just getting started, check out these five common strength training mistakes and how to fix them so you can avoid injury and get the most out of your workouts!
- Skipping a dynamic warm up. Jumping right into high intensity exercise when your muscles are stiff and cold is a recipe for disaster. Instead, consider adding 3-5 minutes of aerobic exercise followed by muscle activation drills or corrective exercises to improve circulation and joint range of motion. It is also a good idea to perform 1-2 sets of a lighter weight for any particular exercise before performing your 2-4 “working sets”. Remember, injury prevention is a major key to success!
- Performing heavy cardio before strength training. Aerobic exercise can definitely be utilized as part of an effective warm up or integrated within your resistance training workouts to put emphasis on metabolic conditioning, however, strenuous bouts of aerobic exercise should be avoided prior to your strength training. Doing so will pre-exhaust your muscles, which will compromise your ability to maintain proper form on exercises, and thus, increase your injury risk. Aerobic exercise should be performed AFTER your resistance training and should be kept at a relatively light to moderate intensity when doing so. Try to keep your resistance training days and your heavier cardio days separate.
- Avoiding exercises that you perceive as difficult. Whether we want to increase lean muscle mass, improve body composition, lose weight, or combat osteopenia/osteoporosis, proper exercise selection is key in helping you achieve the results you desire. We need to put emphasis on multi-joint compound movements that target large muscle groups to increase overall caloric output and yield the greatest training effect. Some of the best compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges are perceived as difficult, therefore, many exercisers shy away from them and settle for machines or single-joint exercises that are perceived to be “easier”. There are modifications for virtually every exercise and ways to work around your limitations. Make sure to ask a trainer if you need assistance.
- Neglecting certain muscle groups. There’s nothing wrong with doing pushups and bench pressing to build massive pecs and bicep curls for bulging biceps, however, what about the rest of your body? Many of our routines tend to be very anterior-dominated, and we neglect working the muscles of the posterior chain, which include the traps, rhomboids, rotator cuff, glutes, and hamstrings. By neglecting certain muscle groups, we create muscular imbalances, which over time, can lead to poor posture (rounded shoulders, forward head, and anterior pelvic tilt) and injury (impinged/torn rotator cuffs, lower back and knee issues, just to name a few). This is why it is advised to partake in full body resistance training workouts as opposed to isolated body part splits. We need to achieve optimal muscle balance to promote longevity.
- Only using machines vs. free weights: Although machines can make a great complement to your resistance training program, and may be a convenient way for beginners to become acquainted with resistance training, they should not be the ONLY form of resistance training equipment that you use. Using machines for the bulk of your exercise selection prevents you from utilizing all of the multi-directional movement planes during training, and limits us from using full range of motion during certain movements. Instead, try using a combination of machine, cables, body weight or free weight exercises, and consult with a trainer to make sure you are demonstrating proper form.