The only thing worse than skipping a workout altogether is going at it half-assed. Justifying your lack of intensity by saying, “At least I did something,” won’t cut it—go all in, or don’t go at all. You can start by avoiding these seven workout sins.
FORGETTING LEGS DAY A truck-sized chest and 18-inch pythons look fit. But slap them atop a pair of chicken legs and you look like an elephant mask. Many guys mistake squat racks and leg press machines for furniture, but you should put more emphasis on symmetry and balance before you end up becoming a human lollipop. Man up, ignore the nausea you get from squats and build a foundation for your body.
Advice: If your training consists of high-volume sets and reps, train legs once per week. If you’re working at lower intensity or lower volume, train legs twice per week. Staple movements to incorporate are squats, leg presses, leg curls, leg extensions and lunges. Don’t have a workout plan? Give this one a shot: Your Workout Sucks: Boost Your Leg Work.
CLINGING TO MACHINES Several studies have confirmed that large, compound exercises that utilize multiple muscle groups are much more effective for muscle building and fat loss. The catch? It’s hard.
Advice: Quit your bitching and don’t be afraid to sweat. Fitness and training is about challenging yourself, so incorporate dead lifts, power cleans and push presses. Focus hard on exceeding previous records. You won’t break one every session, but you should damn sure try.
REFUSING TO FAIL When it comes to training, failing is succeeding. Going into the gym to pump and run is a short-term, half-hearted approach. You don’t have to leave the gym in traction, but make sure each set and rep counts, and leave it all on the rack.
Advice: Easy would be loading your phone with songs that pump you up; music works motivational wonders. More effective, though, might be to enhance your mind-muscle connection. Focus heavily on what you feel in each muscle group being trained. Learn to embrace the tight, tearing sensation and push past moments when there’s no gas left in the tank.
MILKING THE REST PERIOD In between sets, the body demands a period of recovery before the next round of reps. But aimlessly ignoring the clock while staring into space will kill your workout’s intensity.
Advice: If you’re guilty of being a space cadet, set timers on your watch or phone to alert you when rest time is over. For moderate intensity, high repetition workouts, 45 to 60 seconds should be the limit; for lower repetition, high intensity workouts, two minutes is a safe benchmark.
BORING YOUR MUSCLES You may have developed a killer workout routine that yielded incredible results through the first two weeks, but eventually the body will adapt and results will stagnate.
Advice: Variables that need to change on a bi-weekly to monthly basis are repetition volume, set volume, the structure of the routine (i.e. full body, split routines, push-pull, etc.) and exercise specific techniques. For more ways to tweak a work out give these a read: Techniques to Reenergize Your Training.
TIMED TRAINING Just because you arrive at the gym at 6 PM every night doesn’t mean you have to leave at the same time too. Sometimes it takes longer to warm up or your routine gets slightly modified. Once you put strict time limits on your training sessions, you begin rushing through sets and losing focus.
Advice: If you adopt a routine that requires the completion of a number of sets and reps, but it’s taking longer than expected, hold yourself accountable to completing the routine in its entirety.
CRUISING Not all cardio is created equal, and the same goes for its equipment. If your idea of a good cardiovascular workout is 30 minutes of riding the stationary bike like a beach cruiser, get a clue.
Advice: Cardio should constantly vary in intensity, duration and exercise type. For moderate intensity cardio (60-75% max heart rate), it’s 40 to 60 minutes for four to five days per week, switching between treadmill, bike, elliptical and rowing at five- to 15-minute intervals. For High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), it’s 10-25 minutes for two to four days per week, utilizing one cardio machine at alternating intensities. For example, intense (90% max heart rate) for one minute followed by moderate (70% max heart rate) for one minute, followed by low intensity (60% max heart rate) for one minute, then repeat.