Are you training and eating in a way that ensures maximum growth or are your training and eating habits sabotaging your physique? Are you frustrated with your progress in the gym? Do you seem to be putting in more and more effort for less and less of a return?
If this is the case you may be making one or more of these common mistakes, and simply correcting them could get you back on track and making gains.
Bodybuilding 101 Mistake #1. Training too often/Not getting enough rest
This is probably the biggest mistake that I see trainees making. I have spoken to many young bodybuilders who train six or seven days per week or train weights in the mornings and then go off and play football (soccer) in the evenings and wonder why they can’t grow.
Natural bodybuilders need a far greater amount of rest and recuperation then their steroid-using counterparts. Ideally, there should be at least a full days rest in between training sessions and a maximum of three sessions per week as this gives your nervous system adequate time to recover.
What you do before or after your workout and on your days off can affect your gains in both positive and negative ways. Other than your cardio sessions, keep physical activity to a minimum on your rest days and try to keep away from stressful situations, as stress hormones can destroy your hard-earned muscle.
Growth takes place while you rest, not while working out. If you do not give yourself enough time to fully recuperate, you will simply be denying your body any chance of growth.
Mistake #2. Doing too many sets per session
I see many trainees trying to emulate the training routines of the champions found in the magazines. This can be disastrous for the natural trainee. Without artificial manipulation of your hormones, there is no way that your body can recuperate from those workouts.
It doesn’t take dozens of sets to work a muscle maximally. As long as you train with enough intensity three sets of an exercise should be enough.
Mistake #3. Training for too long per session
As a drug-free trainee, you will naturally be concerned with optimising your testosterone and growth hormone levels. With this in mind, it is important to pay particular attention to the duration of your training sessions. Your serum testosterone and growth hormone levels are affected by the length of your training session, after short-duration stimulation (60 minutes or less) they increase. On the other hand, after extended duration exercise (more than 60 minutes) they decrease.
In short, keeping workouts to under 60 minutes will ensure you get the maximum benefit from your workouts.
Mistake #4. Not taking in enough protein
You may be surprised that this one made the list, but I am constantly amazed at how many hard training gym-goers sabotage their efforts by not taking in anywhere near enough of this essential nutrient. Many trainees are still not aware of the important role that protein plays in muscle growth and consume 50 grams or less per day and wonder why they can’t put on muscle.
To build muscle, your body needs a minimum of 1 gram of protein per kilo of body weight, and I would suggest raising it to 2 grams for optimum results.
Mistake #5. Not taking in enough or taking in too many calories
Many also subscribe to the mistaken belief that they need to consume huge amounts of food to force their bodies to grow. This is practice does enable them to put on weight quickly, but most of it will be unsightly fat, not muscle.
Concentrate on maximising your protein intake, keep your fat to a minimum, stick to complex carbs and play with your calorie consumption to determine the optimum intake for your body.
Mistake #6. Too little fluid intake
How does your fluid intake affect your training results? It is only recently that the importance of proper hydration in exercise has been realised. It was once thought that fluid intake during exercise was unnecessary, and drinking water during physical activity was actually discouraged. Our knowledge of the role that hydration plays in exercise has come a long way in recent years and it is now understood that proper hydration is of the utmost importance.
Dehydration impairs performance. A fluid loss corresponding to as little as 2% of your body weight can seriously impair your capacity to perform muscular work.
Our muscles are made up of 75% water, so it is understandable that a high level of fluid intake is needed in order to prevent working muscles from dehydrating. Muscular dehydration can lead to a loss of strength and muscle cramps. So make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout. Your body will thank you for it.
Mistake #7. Not properly focused
When you’re at the gym are you totally focused on your workout or do you find yourself easily distracted? It’s very easy to become sidetracked by other members wanting to talk or by the attractive girl doing bent-over rows in front of the mirror. Try to leave the socializing to after the workout and devote your time in the gym to building your physique. If someone tries to start a conversation with you while you are working out you can politely tell them that you need to concentrate on your training and that you will speak to them later.
Mistake #8. Bad exercise form
It is vitally important to pay attention to proper exercise form and technique when working out with free weights. good exercise form will not only ensure that you are working the muscle fully, but it will also help you stay clear of injury.
Mistake #9. Too many exercises per body part
Trying to hit a muscle from every possible angle only leads to overtraining. For biceps and triceps one or two exercises is enough, two for chest and a maximum of three for back, shoulders, and legs.
Mistake #10. Using mostly machines
Exercise machines have many apparent advantages over free weights, for newbies, they are much easier to learn, the weight stack can be changed quickly, there is no need for a spotter and on the surface, they appear to be safer than barbells or dumbbells. On the negative side, they do not stimulate as much muscle fiber, burn as much fat, work your stabiliser muscles or have as powerful an effect on your growth hormones as compound free-weight movements. And although they may seem safer, because they do not work your stabilisers, imbalances can occur which can increase your chances of injury in the long run.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are the mistakes that I have come across most often, and I have seen trainees make huge improvements simply by eliminating them from their training.