Success leaves clues, but so does stupidity. Want to know why most people in the gym are always hurt and weak? Do you fall under this category? Keep reading for some tough love.
1. YOU SUCK ASS AT WARMING UP.
Walk into any elite gym of any sort and you’ll see the top athletes in the world all warming up before their workout. Every. Single. Session.
Yet you sit on your ass in front of a computer for 8 hours before walking into the gym, strutting over to the bench press, and doing some god-awful presses with 135lbs…and have the audacity to wonder why your shoulders always hurt?
There’s a lot of room for debate in the lifting bubble, but here and there you’ll run into the occasional “universal truth”.
Here’s one for you: Warming up is an essential component to training that maximizes your performance potential while greatly reducing your risk of injury.
Think you’re too good to skip it? Cool. Just don’t look for me when you need a good shoulder to cry on.
2. YOU LEAVE THE GYM RIGHT AFTER YOUR LAST SET.
You’d think people are in a rat race to get out of the gym fast enough so they can grace the public eye with their lackluster pump. As if anyone gives a fuck? I can’t lie, I’ve done this before. But I’m willing to bet you have to. But we’re wiser and less stupid now, so that’s no longer acceptable.
Intensity is great but it loses its effect if its not coupled with recovery. This is, in my opinion, the most overlooked aspect of training. And the area that has the highest amount of return!
Your body has both sympathetic (aka “fight or flight”) and parasympathetic (aka “rest and digest”) nervous systems.
The sympathetic nervous system is stimulated when performing all of the activities needed for human survival (training, working out, career stuff). These activities cause an increase in cortisol and adrenaline levels and can become catabolic if not balanced with parasympathetic activities that help us recover.
Parasympathetic activities help reduce the sympathetic stresses of training while allowing our bodies to recover as optimally as possible.
Most people will walk out of the gym revved up on their sympathetic system and continue to add stressors that negate any potential adaptive responses from a result of their training.
In other words, they do stressful shit (training) and then do more stressful shit (coffee, work, meetings) right after.
If you want to get the most out of your training and actually see progress, you need to prioritize recovery and get into a parasympathetic state.
Parasympathetic activities include things like stretching/mobility work, massage, sauna, yoga, or even music (maybe not Metallica, but if listening to For Whom the Bell Tolls helps you relax, by all means go ahead).
Getting into a parasympathetic state helps you recover and digest foods more efficiently post-training.
A simple way to do this is to end your training with some simple breathing.
- Lay on your back with your arms stretched out to your sides and your palms facing up the ceiling.
- Have your legs elevated on a bench (this helps induce a natural blood flow throughout the body).
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe in and out through your nose (3 sec count in, 3 sec count out). Tip: Perform belly breathing where your stomach expands as opposed to chest breathing where your ribs flare.
- Think happy thoughts and breathe for at least two min. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll look and feel following this simple routine after your workouts.
3. YOU DON’T TRAIN IN DIFFERENT PLANES.
Imagine living life the way most people train in the gym. You’re only allowed to move forward and back. No turning. No bending to the side. No fast transitions between movements. You see how ridiculous this sounds, right?
Lifters thrive in the sagittal plane (think biceps curls) but look like a fish out of water when put to the task of performing a simple cable twist.
How to fix it: Start adding more rotational movements into your programming to establish fundamental core strength and body awareness.
The stronger you are at all planes of movement, the more resilient your body is going to be. And that’s what training is all about, resiliency.
4. TOO MUCH ISOLATION AND NOT ENOUGH COMPOUND LIFTS.
To piggyback off the previous notion of only being able to move forward and back, imagine you can only perform single-joint movements throughout the day. The crazy thing is that’s how many people structure their training!
Machines guide us through movement by establishing a predetermined path. We don’t have to work as hard to do a bench press on the smith machine as we do with a normal barbell. That’s relatively common knowledge by this point.
Yet still, we have influxes of gym goers frolicking to cable pulley systems and preacher curl machines like their lives depended on it.
I have nothing against isolation or machine exercises, I think they’re great…as long as you’re implementing them with strategy. I do take issue when the majority of someone’s program revolves around isolation exercises with little to no attention to the compound lifts.
If you want to maximize your training, you want to emphasize lifts that have the greatest potential for loading. Think big body, multi-joint movements that you can load progressively over time.
In terms of a full course meal, your compound lifts are your steak and potatoes. Curls are your ice cream. I love ice cream. But I try my best to eat dinner first.
5. YOU’RE FOLLOWING YOUR FAVOURITE LIFTER’S PROGRAM.
I’ll be quick with this one: Don’t Google “Dorian Yates’ 1993 training split” and expect to go anywhere other than the physio or the ER.
These athletes put in years of dedicated training and effort to be able to train the way they do. Please don’t kid yourself into thinking you can follow their programs. And please don’t try to prove me wrong.