“Common workout mistakes” has always been a very popular topic in fitness publications. But no matter how many times this subject is re-hashed, you almost always hear about the same half a dozen or so mistakes, including poor form, overtraining, going too heavy, not stretching, not warming up, yadda, yadda yadda. Ironically, you seldom hear about the biggest mistakes of all. I call these humongous bloopers “bonehead mistakes” because once you start to analyze and think about them, it’s really just common sense and it all seems so obvious… except of course to the person doing it… who is often quite oblivious until someone else points it out to them… then the light goes on and it’s like… “Doh!”
Before I begin the countdown, (in no particular order), there’s one more gripe I have about the treatment this subject has been given in the past: Most of the attention has been put on the mistakes, but very little on the solutions. It’s all too easy to point fingers and say, “Don’t do that” and “Shame on you, dummy” but only 1% of your time should be spent on problems. 99% should be spent on solutions. So in that spirit, after I bring each mistake to your attention, I’ll give you a solution-oriented training tip to help you avoid boneheadedness and join the elite group who “kick butt” in the gym at every workout…
Bonehead workout mistake #1: “Winging it”
“Winging it” means having no written goals or plans, no training journal and no way of “keeping score.” It’s when you just show up at the gym day after day and do whatever strikes your fancy, whatever machine happens to be available, or whatever you’ve become habitually accustomed to doing. Winging it is when you don’t know where you are, where you’re going or how you’re going to get there – but you start your journey anyway – no compass, no roadmap. It’s been said that “Action without planning is the biggest cause of failure,” and I believe that statement is 100% accurate.
Kick butt workout tip #1: Develop a strategic plan
Successful people never “wing it,” they always have a plan. Strategic planning is a never ending process and includes: Assessment (where am I now?), goal setting (where do I want to go?), creating a plan or strategy (How will I get where I want to go?), executing the plan (what action steps must I take daily to reach my goal?), and measuring results (how will I know if I’m moving towards my goal and how will I know when I’ve reached it?). Boneheads “wing it.” Butt-kickers have a master plan and goals for every workout.
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Bonehead workout mistake #2: Repeating the same workouts… without progressive overload
In one respect, repeating the same workouts is important – it’s called “continuity.” Continuity means that to experience an adaptive response (more muscle, more strength, less fat and all that other good stuff), you must a repeat a certain modality or exercise consistently over a long enough period of time to allow the adaptive response to occur and to reap the full benefits (rather than changing exercises at every workout). That type of repetition is good. The bonehead mistake is when you do the same exercises, same reps, same weight, same everything, week after week, without ever challenging yourself to do more than you’ve done before. If your muscles could talk they would say, “Yawn…. Did that, done that, been there… we’re just going to stay exactly the way we are… no need to get bigger or stronger today.”
Kick butt workout tip #2: Strive to beat your previous workouts
Muscle growth and strength increases occur when you place demands on your body above and beyond what it has experienced in the past. Your body responds to this progressive overload by getting stronger in order to handle this type of demand in the future. Your objective at almost every workout is to set goals to beat what you did during the previous one. If you can’t add more weight, it could be as simple as one more rep with the same weight or the same sets/reps/weight in less time. It could also mean one more minute of cardio, one level higher on a stairclimber, or half a percent steeper incline on the treadmill. Continuous and never-ending improvement is the name of the game.
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Bonehead workout mistake #3: Starving yourself
A calorie deficit is the only way to lose body fat. However, the caloric deficit must be kept small. When calories are cut too much, or held too low for too long, your body thinks you are starving and sets into motion a series of metabolic and hormonal events, which ultimately result in muscle loss, slow metabolism and plateaus. Your body is like a power plant or furnace and when you don’t feed the fire, your metabolic flame dwindles to a flicker, producing less heat and less energy. That’s why not eating enough is one of the biggest mistakes of all. As Charlie Remington likes to say, “Food is not your problem, food is your solution”
Kick butt workout tip #3: Eat more, burn more
Did it ever occur to you that if you exercise more you can eat more? And that this is a more effective fat loss strategy than eating less and exercising less? To lose body fat, you must create a calorie deficit. A deficit can be created by exercising more, eating less, or ideally, with a combination of both. The best combination of all is a small decrease in calories accompanied by a large increase in activity. Think about it: Decreasing calories slows your metabolism. Increasing calories increases your metabolism. Exercise increases your metabolism.
Therefore, eat more, exercise more = double increase in metabolism. Eat less, don’t exercise = double decrease in metabolism. This is the entire premise of my Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle System and that’s why the program is so powerful and has helped tens of thousands of people lose fat without depriving themselves. Yes, starving is for boneheads.
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Bonehead workout mistake #4: Skipping scheduled workouts
A great body doesn’t happen overnight. Successful body transformation is the cumulative result of dozens or even hundreds of successful workouts. Each workout brings you one small step closer to your goal. Each workout missed takes you one small step backwards. Most people underestimate the cumulative effect of each small step. They figure that “It just doesn’t matter… it’s only one workout.” If you don’t think that one little workout matters, then think about the humble termite; they’re such itty bitty little creatures and they take such itty bitty little bites, yet when enough little bites are taken, an entire building can come crumbling down.
Kick butt workout tip #4: Be disciplined and consistent
Not only do you slip backwards physically when you skip even one scheduled workout, perhaps more devastating is the effect on your mind and character. Every time you successfully complete a scheduled workout, you build your discipline and self esteem. When your self esteem increases, it makes you feel good and that stimulates a positive self-reinforcing cycle of even more discipline, confidence and action. Everything you do helps or hurts. Every workout counts. Treat your word as law. When you say you’re going to work out… WORK OUT!
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Bonehead workout mistake #5: Focusing on strengths, favorite exercises and favorite body parts, neglecting weaknesses
Most people have a favorite body part or exercise. But playing favorites in your training can lead to big problems. An unbalanced, asymmetrical physique is one of them, but having a great upper body with toothpick legs is the least of your worries. Strengthening and stretching some muscle groups but not others is a great way to cause poor posture, muscular imbalance, dysfunction, strains, pulls, tears or ruptures.
Kick butt workout tip #5: Train for functional balance and aesthetic balance
Non-boneheads train every muscle group for symmetrical, visually pleasing development. However, “balance” is more than cosmetic. Everyone – athletes, bodybuilders, and recreational exercisers – must also train for functional balance to prevent injury and maintain optimal function and range of movement in every joint and muscle group. Every plane of movement and angle of movement must be trained. Flexors must be balanced with extensors. Front to back movements must be balanced with rotational and side to side movements. Prime movers, antagonists and stabilizers must all be strengthened. Always stretch, strengthen and build to the point of total body balance.
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Continued in part 2
Tom Venuto is a certified personal trainer, nutritionist, natural bodybuilder and author of the #1 best selling diet e-book in the world, “Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle. You can get information on Tom’s Fat Burning e-book at: http://www.burnthefat.com To get Tom’s free monthly e-zine, visit http://www.tomvenuto.com