Let’s face it…….many of us begin an exercise routine only to become disappointed and frustrated that we are not making any noticeable progress. We try to make changes only to become too tired, sore, and discouraged.
There is good news though. Let’s back up for a minute and see what might be going wrong here:
1) Lack Of Instruction:
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Typically, people don’t get proper instruction to begin with. They read something or watch the guy next to them at the gym. Always try to find a qualified trainer who has National Certification that is “accredited”.
2) Using Mechanical “Advantage”:
Our bodies use our limbs (arms, legs, etc.) as lever arms. We bend them (flex or extend) under added resistance to activate the body’s adaptation system(s). If we move our pivot points (joints) around to make things easier, we are just using mechanical advantage. When flexing or extending (as in a biceps curl), lighten the load a little, and keep the bending joint in place as it flexes/extends.
3) Using Too Much Weight:
Adding to what I said above, we’re using our bodies as a system of lever arms. Rather than throwing around heavy weights, try using a lighter resistance and employ better, more controlled, steady form. It will generate the same force but with better results.
4) “No Pain / No Gain”:
Great mantra from the ‘80s! Its original intent was to encourage more effort, however the human body responds best to small, incremental increases. While putting out good effort is appropriate, overdoing it causes the body to go into “Damage Control Mode” resulting in inflammation or injury. I often describe proper increments as “Baby Steps”. If we just take baby steps CONSISTENTLY, we will see positive results. If it hurts…take notice!
5) Inadequate Recuperation:
Those who design their own programs often follow unscientific “rules” about how often to hit a muscle group. Here’s the skinny: After adequately working a muscle group, the body needs time to heal. This is where the actual “progress” is made….OUT of the gym. A good rule of thumb is to allow at least (3) days rest before reworking that muscle group. In fact working it once per week is a great way to insure proper recuperation.
6) Excessive Range of Motion (ROM):
Many folks move their bodies too far along a path of motion as they are performing exercise movements (curls, squats, lunges, shoulder lateral raises). When bending a joint, take notice of just how extreme the “bend” is…..in other words, don’t necessarily squat to an extremely deep point with a ton of weight. Don’t raise the extended arms out to the side over shoulder height. Joints have protective tissue to protect them during movement. If we move along that path of motion to an extreme, it might crush (impinge) that tissue causing inflammation or injury.
7) Using Ballistic Moves and Stretches:
(Ballistic: “sudden and explosive movement”). Now, training known as “plyometric” is all about being ballistic (powerlifting). It is for highly-conditioned athletes and some others, but for most of us, NOT competing in The Olympics, the movements simply need to be steady and deliberate…no excess acceleration and popping it at the end of the movement. Also, many of us stretch when exercising. Don’t go into a stretch with a “bouncing” motion at the end. Just ease into the stretch and hold it when you reach a noticeable GENTLE tug. Hold for several seconds.
8) No Progressive Changes to Our Program:
Many folks go to the gym and basically do the same workout all the time. We might separate different muscle groups on different training days, but we don’t change the style of work on those muscles (same # of reps, same weight, etc.) Remember, our muscles consist of essentially two types of fibers: Type I—endurance, and Type II—strength (there are also a couple of hybrids but we won’t go there). We must vary the workload to fully hit the entire muscle structure. High reps/low weight for endurance….Low reps/heavier weight for strength. In between, we need moderate reps/moderate weight for building muscle fiber (not necessarily outside “size” but also inside “density”). This varying is known as “Periodization”….varying phases, or “periods” of style of training.
9) Using Improper Nutrition:
It doesn’t matter how well we train….if we don’t fuel and feed the body’s tissues and systems properly, we won’t get good results. Proper nutrition includes immediate consumption of sugar and protein within 30-40 min after a workout. More sugar than protein! A good ratio is between 2/1—-4/1. (Hint: a great post-workout drink is low-fat chocolate milk…a normal glass followed by another of water, then a decent meal an hour or so later)