When you’re a beginner, the very act of going to the gym is enough to achieve results, but once you’ve been training for a few years and have a solid base of strength and conditioning, it gets harder to make consistent gains and improvements.
If you want to take your training to the next level, avoid these five result-sabotaging mistakes:
1. NOT USING RECOVERY DAYS
The fitness community has seemingly adopted the philosophy: “Go hard or go home.” But, as one of my favorite strength coaches says, “Train as hard as you should, not as hard as you can.”
Avoid overtraining by doing high-intensity sessions followed by recovery days. For example, the day after a hard workout, do 20 minutes of light aerobic exercise, followed by stretches, mobility exercises, activation drills and foam rolling — that’s it! You’ll speed your recovery, flush out your muscles, release tightness and tension and feel a heck of a lot better than before.
2. NOT DIALING IN YOUR NUTRITION
To reach a higher level of fitness or physique goals, you’ll need more fine-tuning with your nutrition and hydration. For example, your specific needs might require more of a macronutrient (carbs, for example) than you previously thought. Or maybe you’ll require better pre-workout nutrition to power you through intense training and better post-workout nutrition to help you recover.
You’ll also need a bit more sacrifice. A beer or a few cookies throughout the week is totally fine. But too much alcohol (especially in one sitting) and junk food hinders your progress and makes it tougher for you to reach your goals.
3. NOT RESPECTING YOUR SLEEP
You know you should get eight hours of sleep each night. But how about the actual quality of that sleep? How’s your mattress? How dark is your room? What time do you go to bed?
All of those factors make a huge difference in the quality of your slumber and how restorative it is. Make sure your bedroom is cool, quiet and dark.
4. NOT FOCUSING ON THE DETAILS
Focusing on one specific adaptation (i.e. strength) requires a slight sacrifice on something like endurance, so it’s best to focus on one specific adaptation at a time.
For example, if you’re a soccer player, focus on developing your overall aerobic capacity first since it’s the foundation for your entire sport. Then, work to maintain your aerobic fitness as you emphasize lifting heavy weights to build strength. Then, maintain your aerobic and strength while building your alactic capacity (0–10 second sprints). That way, you constantly build one fitness adaptation to support the next one.
5. NOT FINE-TUNING YOUR TECHNIQUE
To make sure you aren’t leaving anything on the table, improve your technique and double-check that you’re using the correct muscles, you’re positioned correctly and everything is properly aligned.
Get someone to record you doing a lift from all angles. If you’re serious about making improvements, consider getting a trainer or attending coaching clinics to learn from elite coaches and lifters. A simple tweak by an expert with your grip, setup or arc can quickly help you lift more weight than ever before.