Every gym user has once been new to the gym and at some point we have all made a mistake or two, however, it’s important to move on from the mistakes or avoid them completely. Below are three mistakes that if avoided can set you up for long term progress.
Too Much Too Soon
It's a common misconception that the more we do in the gym, the better results we get, but this is not always the case. In some cases such as the volume performed (sets x reps x weight) has a positive relation in increasing muscle growth when the dose is increased (1,2) and a medium amount of volume per week has positive muscular strength results (3).
The amount we perform eventually causes us to hit a ceiling and volume can not be treated in a never ending linear fashion. A constant increase in volume leads to diminishing returns (4) and symptoms of overtraining may occur due to a lack of recovery as a result of too much volume (5).
A new stimulus needs to be applied to create the possibility of muscle growth, which can be achieved through different mechanisms of hypertrophy (6). As a beginner a new stimulus can be an easier achievement due to the lack of previous adaptations, therefore, volume doesn't just have to the only improved variable but weight lifted and improved form should also be a priority.
Overlooking Good Form
Performing exercises with good form should be imperative and not doing so is not worth the risk. Bad form leads to a false sense of progression, your chosen target muscles ineffectively used and a higher chance of injuries occurring. Common injuries related to free weights falling within a gym and overexertion, with free weight related injuries making up a high combined percentage of gym related injuries within a recent study of fitness facilities in 2015 (7).
- Good posture needs to be maintained throughout the exercise. Good posture can be maintained by keeping the back straight, chest out with upper back engaged, slightly bent knees and weight on the balls of your feet.
- Perform the exercise in a controlled manner with a 3 second lowering of the weight and a 1 second controlled explosive action.
- Don't rush weight increases when you are looking to progress. Ensure your form is maintained and realistic progressions are chosen.
Avoiding Warming Up & Cooling Down
Something so simple yet commonly avoided is an appropriate warm up and cool down. An increase in muscle tears occurs when muscles are below the body's core temperature (8). Before any gym based exercise perform the following:
- 5-10 minute pulse raise such as a light to moderate on an exercise bike or treadmill.
- Dynamic movements
- Appropriate weight increases until a challenging resistance is achieved.
The cool down is just as important as the warm up, but a case can be made that cooling down is avoided more than a warm up. Reduction of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is possible and without a cool down the build of toxins as well as lactic acid, can cause the opposite effect potentially leaving you with muscular pain and stiffness. Further research on cool downs specifically would be beneficial to help create more data, however, cool downs can theoretically reduce the risk of injuries during a subsequent training session, because a better recovery may result in less neuromuscular fatigue and thereby decrease injury risk (9).
Not compromising the basics of training such as warm ups, cool downs and maintaining good posture, will go a long way in providing long term benefits of training. Injury prevention and execution of lifts will be the main benefactors leading to sustainability in the gym.
- Schoenfeld, Brad. (2016). Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy. 10.5040/9781492595847.