5 Things You Need to STOP Doing In The Gym
"SJ, I'm spending an hour a day in the gym yet I haven't gained mass or strength in months!"
There's a misconception that you'll progress just by going to the gym, that's far from the case - particularly for the experienced lifters out there.
It's what you do (and don't do) when you're in the gym.
If you've hit a plateau or your progress appears to be grinding to a halt ensure you're not doing these 5 things...
#1 - Doing Too Much Cardio Before Lifting
If size and strength are your primary goal you're shooting yourself in the foot if you spend a lengthy period of time performing cardio before hitting the weights.
Walking on the treadmill to warm-up for 10 or 15 minutes is fine, but if you're doing high intensity intervals on the spin bike before hitting your heavy squats don't be surprised when you can't add those extra 5lbs on the bar for your squat.
Cardio is best performed AFTER lifting, regardless of whether you're in a cutting phase.
#2 - Lifting The Same Weights, Week In, Week Out...
The key to building muscle mass and strength is progressive overload - this means each workout we should be gradually increase the weight or number of repetitions we're performing on each exercise.
If each back day for the last month you've performed 3 sets of 10 bodyweight pull-ups you're not applying progressive overload and you're not going to progress.
You MUST go that bit further each workout to continue to force your body to adapt and grow - whether this be by adding additional reps (e.g. 3 sets of 12 bodyweight pull-ups) or by adding extra weight (e.g. a 10lbs weight vest or belt).
#3 -Not Paying Attention To Rest Periods
There's no 'one size fits all' when it comes to the optimal amount of rest between sets - the key is to keep your rest periods consistent regardless of what time you choose.
Don't have a 30 second rest between one set, spend 5 minutes on your phone between the following set then spend 2 minutes between your last set filling up your drink bottle.
Progression, be it in strength, endurance or hypertrophy comes down to overloading the muscle with increased tension for the desired rep count. If you’re halving, doubling and guessing the rest period you’re taking between your sets session after session there’s no way in hell you’re going to be able to tell IF your rest periods are optimal for your goals or if you’re applying progressive overload.
Align your goal with the rest periods below...
- Optimal rest for strength gains = 3 minutes
- Optimal rest for hypertrophy = 1 minute
- Optimal rest for endurance = 45 seconds
#4 - Prioritizing Your Isolation Exercises
Don’t get sucked into the hype of excessive isolation exercises that most guys do when they join a gym.
Remember, compound exercises have and always will come first – although many of the old school photos of Arnold that remain extremely popular to this day are of bicep curls and are isolation exercises don’t forget that Arnold also stressed the important of the squat, deadlift and overhead press too.
Work your main muscle groups with the big mass moving exercises, then throw in a bit of isolation if you wish.
Compound exercises overload the muscles in a way an isolation exercise simply cannot..
#5 - Lifting With Your Ego
In the gym your ego is the enemy.
Your ego will have you swinging weight with momentum, ensuring you’re not applying any form of progressive overload.
Your ego will have you neglecting dynamic stretching and foam rolling, as you’ll convince yourself that you’re not one of the people that needs to warm up or work on your mobility.
Your ego will have you constantly increasing the weight you’re lifting, regardless of how much your form and range of motion suffer.
Regardless of whether you’ve been paying your gym dues for one week, two months or three years you’ve never eradicated your ego completely.
Leave your ego at the door.
Progressive overload, full range of motion and compound exercises.
These will get you where you want to be in terms of size and strength, there’s no way around that.