Common Strength Training Mistakes and How to Fix Them
by Evelyn Valdez·
It’s not a secret that a strength training routine can be tricky to master. Perfecting your performance at the gym is something that you’ll achieve with time, but in the meantime, you might find yourself making the same mistakes over and over again. Even advanced lifters run into these mistakes from time to time – we’re all human after all!
Making mistakes is part of the natural fitness progression, as it is with anything new that you’re learning, and just like there are many mistakes that you can make there are also many ways to fix them. If you want to build a stronger and more muscular body, this is something that you definitely need to keep in mind.
We’re here to show you some of the most common mistakes that you might come across at any point in your strength training journey, whether you’ve already noticed them or not, as well as ways to fix them and even avoid them in the future. So sit tight and keep reading!
You can’t keep proper form
Having the correct form and positioning during strength training should be priority number 1, particularly when you’re lifting heavy weights – after all, without good form, you can’t get good results. But proper form is also crucial for safety while lifting because it prevents you from putting too much stress on weak or delicate areas of your body, such as your spine.
Proper form means keeping your body in a certain position and moving through a certain pattern, not only at the starting position but throughout the full range of movement of the exercise. Every part of the exercise is important, and when you’re dealing with weights it’s the middle part of the movement that needs the most attention because it’s usually when resistance is at its highest.
For example, being able to get into position for a Bulgarian split squat with your back straight and your foot positioned on a bench, but at the bottom of the movement you don’t have the ability to squat down correctly with your leg behind you, so you end up leaning your torso forward. This is bad form and can lead to a lack of gains and even injuries in the future, so you need to be careful.
How to fix it
Work on your flexibility! While strength also plays an important part in not being able to maintain proper form, improved flexibility will help you increase your strength much faster on top of allowing you to move more freely. From your shoulder joints to your hips and knees, there are many areas of your body that might need some work before you get into heavy lifting or even more basic exercises that require a lot of flexibility.
You can improve your mobility by properly warming up before your workouts so your muscles and joints are prepared for the specific movements you’ll be doing, as well as properly cooling down after too to avoid having tense muscles. If you’re serious about improving your mobility, you can also dedicate half an hour each day to doing light flexibility exercises and stretches, such as lunges with spinal twists and knee-to-chest stretches.
You’re unstable while lifting
Do you let the bar tilt from side to side when you’re doing overhead presses, or find yourself losing your stability during walking lunges? This is very common among beginners, but it can also be a big problem during more advanced lifts because the greater the weight, the more difficult it is to keep it stable.
Stability has a lot to do with coordination as well as core strength. The left side of your body needs to be in sync with the right side at all times during weight training so you can keep the weight stable enough, and your core needs to be engaged to keep your movements grounded. If you fail to do this, the weight will start tilting, suddenly putting more stress on one side than the other, or you’ll lose your balance and possibly trip or drop the heavy weight on the floor (or your foot – ouch!).
How to fix it
Lateral training and core strengthening exercises! By lateral training, we mean actually moving laterally from side to side, not just using one side of your body at a time (unilateral training). This will help you develop total body coordination and improve your stability by strengthening each side of your body while also teaching it to rely on core strength to stay balanced.
And this is where core strengthening exercises come in! Your core is at the very center of your body, so having a strong core and learning how to engage it properly will help you keep your stability much more easily and for longer. Exercises such as side lunges and dumbbell lateral raises will work both your lateral coordination and stability as well as your core strength for better gains!
You’re stronger on one side
Sometimes, your instability while lifting has less to do with an actual lack of balance and more to do with the fact that one side of your body is stronger. It doesn’t have to be your full body, maybe it’s just a couple of muscles or even just one that you accidentally developed more than its pair, like having a stronger left biceps than the right one.
This happens a lot due to us naturally having a dominant side. You might use your right hand more for day-to-day things, or maybe you kick with your left foot when playing. This results in having a stronger side, and that dominance can show through your workouts, making your weak side work harder than it probably can and struggling to finish a rep at the same time or lifting a weight at the same height as your dominant side.
How to fix it
Try some unilateral training! Having a well-rounded routine with different types of exercises will prevent you from developing muscular imbalances, but if you’re already experiencing them, adding more unilateral exercises to your training sessions can help you break that imbalance by working one side of your body at a time.
Unilateral exercises such as single-arm cable rows and pistol squats can help you give each side of your body a dedicated workout to work on your strength in a more dedicated manner, instead of relying on the strength of the dominant side to finish your reps. This is also great to develop functional strength, which is helpful both inside and outside the gym!
You’re bored of your routine
If there’s something that can slow down your gains and damage your progress is getting bored of your current strength training routine. Whether you created it yourself, a personal trainer did it for you, or you’re following an online routine, boredom can happen – and it can happen fast. When a strength training routine gets too old or repetitive and it isn’t exciting for you anymore, neither your body nor your mind will want to keep going.
Frustration and demotivation can take over your body, making you think that you don’t want to work out anymore and even dread going to the gym when in reality you just need to keep challenging your body in different ways to stay engaged and motivated. Doing the same routine over and over can also lead you to a training plateau, which you definitely want to avoid if you have serious fitness goals.
How to fix it
Constantly change your workout routine! We’re not necessarily talking about having a brand new workout every week because planning those can also be exhausting. Just try to move things around a bit and play with different exercises, free weights, machines, and equipment in general. You can stick to your favorite exercises while still keeping a healthy rotation so that you (and your muscles) don’t get bored of them.
Changing your workout routine from time to time also means gradually increasing the volume and intensity of your exercises to keep progressing so that every workout feels different and slightly more challenging. This is the basis of progressive overload, which allows you to continually keep building muscle while avoiding training plateaus along the way.
You can’t finish high rep sets
You might be super strong and able to lift really heavy weights for a couple of reps, but if you’re not able to go lighter and longer without losing your breath, then you might have a conditioning problem. Strength does not equal endurance, so you can’t expect to be able to go on for long periods of time just because you have huge muscles.
While strength does play a crucial role, good conditioning means having a well-rounded physique, including endurance and power. Cardio is the most common way of training for endurance, so if you’re completely focused on your strength and not so much on your cardiovascular and muscular endurance, the inability to perform high reps will definitely impact your workouts.
How to fix it
Improve your physical condition by increasing your endurance! If regular cardio doesn’t do it for you, you mix it with strength training to get the most out of both types of training. High-intensity exercises such as kettlebell swings and snatches as well as ball slams can help you build strength and endurance at once, and they don’t take much of your time.
And practice with high reps! Go low on the weights to get used to the high number of reps at first – it’ll feel like easy work until you get to the few last reps. When you’re no longer struggling to finish your reps, gradually increase the weight to take your endurance to the next level. It’s all baby steps, but it’s worth it in the end!
Achieve better gains by fixing these common mistakes
…Not only for a better physique, but for a safer fitness journey too! These are the most common mistakes, but there are a lot more that you should keep an eye on, such as neglecting smaller muscle groups (all muscles need some love!) and fighting through the pain (you need to take care of yourself). Fix these mistakes and you’ll get closer to your goals in no time!
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