The Biggest Mistakes You’re Making in the Gym

Think you train hard? Think you’re already doing everything in your power to get bigger and strong? I doubt it! Sorry, but the truth is, most lifters could be doing a lot more to make their gym time as productive as possible. Whether you’re lifting too light, avoiding the really hard exercises or just letting your ego get in the way – you’re probably doing SOMETHING to sabotage your results. To really take your progress to the next level, STOP making these common mistakes.

Not Lifting Heavy Enough

This may sound weird to you powerlifters out there, but a lot of guys just don’t lift heavy enough. Decades of bad bodybuilding advice have convinced trainees that high reps, light weights, and massive volume are the keys to growth. There may be something to that volume part, but the light weights have got to go. As the strongmen of old would tell you, you have to lift big to get big!

So, what’s the best rep range? That depends on the exercise, but you generally can’t go wrong with sets of five. Powerlifters and bodybuidlers alike have long used fives to build incredible strength AND muscle at the same time. Forget this nonsense about separating your “strength” and “growth” training – they should be one and the same! You should still do some higher-rep sets, of course, but focus on those fives for the fastest possible progress.

Using Too Much Weight

On the flipside, some guys just can’t seem to leave their egos at the door. Getting stronger is obviously essential, but it won’t do you any good to “max out” week after week. And if you’re one of those people who consistently FAILS max attempts, cut it out now! A missed rep here and there is alright, but failing with big weights will do nothing for you. It may even make it psychologically harder to lift that weight, even when you are strong enough.

Not Squatting or Deadlifting

This isn’t a big deal for competitive lifters, but almost every supposed bodybuilder I know avoids these exercises like the plague. Not surprisingly, truly impressive legs and backs are few and far between.

Building muscle is like everything else in life – you get out of it what you put into it. The toughest, most uncomfortable exercises – squats and deadlifts – are going to pay the greatest dividends, and you’d be a fool to ignore them. Squats should be the mainstay of your leg routines for at least the first few years of training, and you’ll want to deadlift about once per week. Keep plugging away, and you’ll be amazed at how fast you gain overall size and thickness. Remember, your legs and back comprise almost all of your muscle mass!

Training Legs Once per Week

If you’re a beginner, or if your legs are lagging, you may just need to bite the bullet and train them twice per week. In fact, only hitting them once per week is pretty crazy if you think about it. If you’re using a typical body-part split, you’ve got three or four days total for your back, chest, shoulders, and arms. That’s three or four days of focused upper-body training. Why would you only dedicate one day to your lower body?

Since leg training – especially squatting – is the best way to stimulate overall body growth, pretty much every beginner and intermediate should be doing it more frequently. Don’t spew any sorry excuses about soreness, either. Your body is incredibly adaptable, and I promise you that you’ll be able to handle two leg days per week. It might suck at first, but it’ll help your overall development tremendously in the long run.

Avoiding the Bench Press

You’ve probably heard the cliche: every gym rat and his bros do nothing but bench, curl, and high-five. That may be the case for some guys, but for others, the opposite is true. Lifters who are naturally talented at the squat and deadlift are often horrible at bench pressing, and they’ll eschew it in favor of other pressing movements. If this is you, you’ve got to change your ways!

You might never be a GREAT bencher, but you should absolutely strive to get better. If all you do is use dumbbells and machines, you can easily rationalize your piss-poor upper-body strength. “It’s harder to stabilize dumbbells.” “I used a really long range of motion.” “Flyes work better for me than presses.” I’ve heard all these excuses, and they’re all crap! The only way these guys ever improve their pecs, shoulders, and triceps is by working hard on the bench press. If some injury prevents you from flat benching, then attack the incline or decline with the same ferocity.

Not Being Honest with Yourself

Ultimately, you’re the only one who can really decide what you’re doing right or wrong in the gym. That’s the great thing about bodybuilding – it’s all on you! If you’re honest with yourself about your shortcomings, you can adjust your training accordingly.

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