If you’re trying to build strength, what you don’t know can hurt you. Be sure to avoid these common mistakes if you’re trying to get strong, prepare for a competition, or simply look better naked.


7 Oh-No-No’s of Building Strength

1. Skipping leg day

Really though, does anyone actually skip leg day anymore? It’s the best day!

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Our point: guy or girl, you shouldn’t neglect an entire muscle group in your training, whether it’s lower body, posterior chain, upper body, or core. For optimal, sustainable, and proportional strength gains, you need to be performing multi-joint and single-joint movements that hit all major areas so your body can be biomechanically balanced and adequately adapted to physical stress.

2. Forgoing the post-workout protein

The post-workout window of around 20-45 minutes after you wipe down the last of your equipment (when your insulin sensitivity is high) is prime time for ingesting some high-quality protein, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), and carbohydrates. These will aid muscle fiber repair and regrowth, enhance your strength gains, accelerate your recovery.

3. Doing resistance training after cardio.

In general, doing strength work before cardio is ideal because you’ll get more out of your workout.

Here’s why:

1) Less-fatigued muscles can exert more power, so you can lift with greater intensity, and

2) Lifting weights can prime your body to enter the fat-burning state more quickly during the aerobic portion of your gym sesh.

Likewise, all those monster walks and T’s, I’s, and Y’s are great for targeting your small stabilizing muscles, but you need these little guys at their prime in order to safely perform the major compound movements like presses, squats, and lifts. So save accessory work for the end of your workout.

4. Focusing too much on high reps, low load.

As seen in the physical rehabilitation and kinesiology fields, resistance training with higher reps and a lower load is generally more effective for muscle tissue healing, endurance, and stamina. While these benefits are helpful, you should also have sessions where the focus is on fewer repetitions and higher loads in order to stimulate muscle fiber hypertrophy and strength (e.g., sets of 3-5 reps instead of 10-15 reps).

5. Buying into the “no pain, no gain” hype.

There’s a difference between the pain of injury and the pain of exertion. Recognize (and respect) that difference in yourself. There’s no point in busting your butt in the gym and ignoring telltale signs of injury only to be totally sidelined by a major issue.

Conversely, just because you don’t feel any pain during a movement doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t doing something potentially injurious. So unless you know for sure you’re technique is solid, check in with a knowledgeable friend or a personal trainer to get pointers on your form.

6. Ignoring mobility.

Being bendy isn’t just for yoga masters. The greater mobility, stability, and range of motion you have within your joints, the more effectively you can lift and less likely you’ll get injured. Don’t just work on flexibility willy-nilly though—identify specific areas of movement restrictions in your body (consult with a personal trainer or physical therapist if you want to get real legit with it) and employ a variety of mobility techniques, including dynamic stretching, self-myofascial release, and compression tack or flossing.

7. Forgoing active recovery day.

You don’t gain strength during a workout—you gain strength during your recovery period. So be sure to schedule rest days and days where you just do some low and slow movement (easy swim or jog, hike, yoga, etc.) to increase circulation and optimize recovery.

And remember: friends don’t let friends workout like bozos. So share this list with your gym buddies!

Sara M

Author Sara M

Sara M. is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and freelance writer living and working near Boston, MA. As a former CrossFit gym owner and current fitness lover, Sara has a lot of personal and professional experience inside and outside the gym. She loves to write about various topics related to health, wellness, nutrition, human behavior, and self-mastery.

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