Four Strength Training Mistakes
If you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right. This applies to just about everything in life, and strength training – increasingly important as we age – is no different. Here are four common strength-training mistakes and some tips for turning these mistakes into successes.
1. Switching Programs Too Often (“Program-Hopping”)
There are many effective strength training programs. There also are many great subjects you can study in college. What’s the connection? In college, you sign up for a class and then you attend it several times a week – for an entire semester. This is the best way to gain sufficient knowledge and mastery. Unfortunately, some exercisers don’t use this mindset to stay consistent with their strength training. Long-term progress is often abandoned in favor of impulsive “program-hopping,” all because a radical transformation hasn’t yet occurred.
FIX THE MISTAKE: Once you begin an effective program, commit to it, do the work, and make sure to keep it steadily progressive as your body adapts. Most of all – give it time!
2. Lifting … Without Shifting or Twisting
Most weightlifting exercises involve lifting – directly opposing gravity by moving resistance vertically up and down (e.g., squat, dead lift, shoulder press, pull-up). But in life, we lift, shift and twist things we hold, even if it’s just ourselves. We move through gravity, which means we have to deal with momentum. Because we live in three planes of movement, our strength-training programs should adjust accordingly.
FIX THE MISTAKE: Shifting and twisting is an important addition to strength training. Click here to view three great examples of these exercises.
3. Never Changing Your Speed
Strength training is great for developing muscle and aesthetics, but it’s equally important to do it for life in general. Sometimes life makes you move fast, like when you almost drop your cell phone. Sometimes life makes you move fast and unpredictably, like when someone bumps into you while walking down the street. For most exercisers, however, strength training is performed at a slow, controlled tempo out of concern for safety. The negative: if all of your strength training is slow and controlled, then you’re not preparing for everything life can throw at you.
FIX THE MISTAKE: Try moving a little faster while weight training – and perhaps even a little slower. Add or subtract enough speed that it challenges you in new ways, but not so much that it makes your movements sloppy.
4. Lifting Too Little
The common fear that lifting heavier weights will make you too bulky is, like most fears, unfounded and irrational. It is exceedingly difficult to grow very large muscles, and even more so for women due to hormone differences between the genders. Lifting heavier does not mean going from 10 pounds to 200 pounds. By steadily increasing demand, real gains in strength, muscle definition and physical ability are guaranteed.
FIX THE MISTAKE: Once you’ve been using a comfortably challenging weight for a while, try to beat your rep goal and don’t stop until you feel fatigued on the movement. Once you can do two or more reps than your target, you can be assured that it’s safe to increase the amount of resistance.
Making real progress with strength training isn’t easy, but it’s much more challenging to approach our later years with decreased strength, ability and vitality. All you need is the right mix of consistency and intensity. So lift heavier weights more slowly, lift lighter weights more quickly, and mix in some shifting and twisting along with your lifting, and you’ll be well on your way to strength-training success!