Training “smart” means more than just knowing how to use the machines in your gym correctly. You have to think critically about your workouts, and make sure everything you do has a specific purpose and will get you closer to your goals. Here are five common mistakes guys make when training, and how to fix them.
1. Not using the right reps
You have to vary reps based on the exercise and what muscles you’re training. Upper-body pressing moves train fast-twitch muscle fibers, so they should mainly be done with lower reps (sets of six to eight). Your leg muscles are designed for endurance, so sets of 12 or more reps are appropriate.
2. Setting up to bench press improperly
Benching with your back flat and elbows flared 90° can hurt your shoulders and limit the weight you can lift. Pull your shoulder blades together and down, and arch your back. Tuck your elbows near your sides as you lower the bar, and drive your feet into the floor as you press.
3. Doing the wrong supersets
Pullups and deadlifts are great back builders, but pairing them up will weaken your grip, hurting your performance on subsequent sets. Avoid pairing abs work with heavy compound lifts like squats or pressing—it will fatigue your core and make you more prone to injury.
4. Stretching the wrong muscle at the wrong time
Stretching the muscles you’re training between sets can temporarily weaken them. A better idea is to stretch the muscles that oppose the ones you’re training, such as stretching your pecs in a door frame between sets of seated rows. That makes for stronger back training.
5. Not lifting for your body type
Taller lifters have a disadvantage when moving big weights because their levers (limbs) are so long. If you’re 6′ or taller, try shortening your range of motion on the squat, bench press, and pullup to keep the tension on the target muscles and prevent you from going into the range where you’re at your weakest.