You probably already know that weight training should be the main part of your exercise plan.
Training with resistance improves your strength, bone density, posture, and mood.
If you want to build an athletic body, weight training to build muscle is the way to get there.
Want a leaner midsection? Weight training has been shown to reduce waist circumference over time.
So weight training rocks…we know that!
There are, unfortunately, a couple of places where weight training programs consistently go wrong.
Whether you design your own plan, found one on the internet somewhere, or are getting advice from someone who is – AHEM – misinformed, there are some ways that things can go astray.
So if you want to maximize your time in the gym and avoid injury while building your best physique, you need to focus on some key basics.
Be Careful Of These Weight Training Mistakes:
1) Changing Your Workout Plan Too Often
There are a few popular workout programs that involve doing a different weight training routine EACH TIME you hit the gym.
It’s well known that muscles need a certain amount of repeated stimulation to ensure growth.
“Muscle confusion” is a made-up marketing term, NOT a scientific principle.
Your muscles do respond to change, after a period of time, but it’s not as short a time as most people think.
A complete beginner could get results doing exactly the same workout program for months.
The more experienced a weight trainee you are, the more often you should change your workout to keep seeing improvements.
There’s also some individual difference in response to exercise change.
Some people’s muscles respond best to more frequent changes and some do better with less frequent changes.
Let’s also not forget the psychological side.
I’ve had Online Coaching clients that preferred to stick to a similar program (or at least program structure) for a few months and other clients that get bored easily and prefer to have their workout plans changed every month.
The main thing is, there should be a structured workout plan…not just going into the gym and picking up and putting down some weights.
I’m not saying it’s a completely useless training session, but the people who always go into the gym without a plan don’t tend to see their bodies change over time.
And that’s what you’re looking for, right?
So make sure you change your workout program about every 4-8 weeks, depending on your experience and preference.
That way you’ll maximize your valuable time in the gym.
2) Not Having The Right Balance Between Training And Rest
A key area that many weight lifters ignore is the ratio of workouts to rest.
If you’re going from couch to 6 days a week in the gym, you’ll burn out quickly.
So if you’re starting a weight training routine for the first time (or coming back after several weeks off), take things gradually.
Start with 2 or 3 workouts a week and increase to 3-5 workouts after a few weeks.
Adding to your training gradually gives your body a chance to adapt to the new training load.
That way you’ll get stronger and feel fitter, rather than run yourself into the ground.
Even if you’ve been training consistently for months/years/decades, it’s important to look at the balance of work to rest that you’re performing.
We measure weight training workload in volume, which is generally described as the number of sets per body part or per week.
Training volume is the WORK and we have to get adequate rest to recover from that physical stress.
For those of us who are 35+, our need for rest increases.
Even if you did well with 2 hour workouts 6 days a week in your 20s, you’ll probably find that you need more rest in your late 30s and 40s (and beyond).
That means you have to train smarter and not necessarily harder.
You don’t want to overwhelm your body’s recuperative ability, and that ability tends to go down as we get older.
That ability is also reduced when we’re under stress or if we aren’t getting enough sleep.
So it’s almost guaranteed that parents of young children will have their recovery abilities reduced, particularly if they’re also over 35.
As a 35+ mom, I try to give myself more rest between workouts and I keep each session short (45-50 minutes right now) so that my body can recover properly.
Since I’ve made that adjustment, I’ve found that I’m built more muscle, gotten stronger, and feel better.
And I imagine that’s what you’re working towards too.
For general health and physique purposes, I recommend working out with weights 3-5 times per week.
If you’re doing five days a week, ideally you’d be doing one day off in the middle and not doing all five days in a row of weights (and then taking the weekend off).
I confess, however, that that’s often what I tend to do!
If the workouts were exceptionally demanding, I’m pretty wiped out by the end of the week.
I generally try to squeeze in a martial arts workout after I’ve done two or three weights sessions most weeks.
This change helps my muscles recover better.
Better recovery means more progress.
Remember how we said that was our goal?
3) Not Training PROGRESSIVELY.
When you do weight training, you want to increase your weights as you get stronger.
Too many people do the same exercise, for the same number of sets/reps, with the same weight, for too long.
Once your strength is enough to lift a heavier weight (for the required rep range), it’s time to move up.
As you get older, building muscle should be your primary concern.
The more muscle you have, the stronger you’ll be.
You’ll build the shape you want and your whole body will burn (slightly!) more calories all day long.
Hypertrophy (that’s muscle growth!) is produced by three things: mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress.
The main mechanism through which we build muscle is mechanical tension, so that means we need to keep pushing the weights up as we get stronger.
More weight = more strength = more muscle
And no, you won’t bulk up massively as a natural (drug-free) person working out a few times a week.
You’ll just look leaner and more “toned” (not a fan of that term, but soooo many people use it!).
The Ideal Plan
No weight training planning is perfect.
You just need to find the right workout for your current state.
I provide my Online Coaching clients the best plan possible for their goals, genetics, age, level of commitment, injury/health status, physical strengths & weaknesses, experience level, job/family obligations, and preferences.
While there are a lot of factors that determine the right weight training plan for you, making sure you don’t make three key mistakes is a good start.
Change your workout program at the right frequency, make sure you’re getting enough rest (but not too much!), and progress your weights as you get stronger.
That’s how you build a fit, strong healthy body.