Everyone makes training mistakes at one time or another. And not just beginners—sometimes more experienced athletes have a hard time changing bad habits because they've been doing them for so long.
Here are three of the most common mistakes I've seen in the weight room since I began working as a trainer in 2001.
Using a Bodybuilding Routine
Blame it on mainstream magazines, peer pressure from friends or advice from your uncle, who took third place in his city's bodybuilding competition in 1972. Body part splits are still the most prevalent training program for anyone loading weight on the bar. When I ask an athlete with lifting experience what type of program he is doing, more often than not I get, "chest and back on Mondays, bi's and tri's on Tuesdays."
Unfortunately, for several reasons, this type of training is usually a mistake for most athletes. First off, training should enhance your physical prowess in your sport. When you use a bodybuilding program, your lifting becomes your sport. Doing numerous sets and reps for a particular body part can wear you out before you practice the sport-specific skills you need.
Second, bodybuilding training splits usually involve training only one or two body parts per session. To train all your body parts for the week, you must lift daily. If you miss a training day to attend your girlfriend's birthday dinner, it can throw off your whole week. You may even commit the all-too-common sin of skipping leg day.
Finally, body-part split programs neglect the multiple energy systems you need to train to perform at your highest potential. By focusing on a single body part at a time, you fail to train your body to work in unison for power exercises like Medicine Ball Slams, Kettlebell Swings and Power Cleans.
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Not Lifting in Both Directions
This is a technical lifting issue that I see with novice and experienced lifters alike. Lifters who have not been trained properly focus only on lifting the weight, with no concern for total control over the entire movement—especially the eccentric phase (i.e., the descent).
Neglecting to lift in both directions is dangerous. When you do not control the weight down with gravity, your joints take the impact. Do this too many times and you are sure to suffer an injury. You also limit the movement to an isolated group of muscles, ignoring their antagonist pairs.
Muscles are elastic and capable of producing power when stretched. I correct my athletes by cueing them to load the spring. This means that when they eccentrically lower themselves, they imagine they are compressing a giant spring. When they hit bottom, all the energy they've built up drives their weight back to the top with crisp strength and power. If you use this technique, your lifting will be stronger, more powerful and safer on your body.
Not Doing Unilateral Exercises with Offsetting Weight
Unilateral exercises such as Step-Ups and Lunges are essential for any athlete. The two sides of most athletes' bodies are unequal, so at times they must be trained separately to work efficiently together.
Step-Ups and Lunges are the most common unilateral exercises. If you are accustomed to them, you may want to take them to the next level by using only one weight on one side of your body. When you do this, you give up tension from the other side to stabilize the movement, and you must rely much more on your core for stability—and who doesn't want to work their core?
I have noticed that self-trained athletes (or athletes coming from Planet Fitness) sometimes often do lower-leg unilateral exercises without understanding their benefits and without knowing that unilateral exercises for the upper body are just as important. Like your legs, your upper body has a stronger and more stable side. You should try your best to balance this out.
Set down a dumbbell you typically use for the Dumbbell Chest Press. Notice how you have to tighten your legs and core and pay extra attention to the descent so you don't flip off the bench. Try this with other upper-body movements like Single Dumbbell Military Press and One-Arm TRX Body Rows.
Applying these strategies to your strength and conditioning program might be just what you need to take your athletic performance to the next level. If you need more of an explanation, check out the video link below.
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