Have you noticed that we idolize nutrition?
We think it's the end all be all. We pretend that it's the only thing that matters when it comes to reaching all of our health and fitness goals. Don't get me wrong, nutrition is extremely important, but because we've put nutrition on such a high pedestal, we've completely forgotten about the importance of proper training.
Don't believe me?
How many times have you heard this: Abs are made in the kitchen.
Fun fact, they're not made in the kitchen. Abs are made in the gym, but because we've assumed a great physique is only made in the kitchen, we've made training an afterthought that is unworthy of our undivided attention.
Let's fix that.
In this article, I've outlined and discussed in detail THREE signs that you're sabotaging your goals, by underestimating the importance of your training.
Let's do this.
SIGN #1: YOU'RE MOVING WEIGHTS, BUT NOT THE RIGHT WAY
Whether your goal is fat loss or muscle building, resistance training should ALWAYS be a staple in your workouts. In fact, it is the thing that you should give all of your time and attention to. Forget the rowers, bikes, stairmasters, and treadmills. You need to put all of your focus on your weight training.
Unfortunately, there are some that do prioritize resistance training, but they don't do it properly.
The reason we do resistance training is because it sends a signal to our body that we need to build strength and muscle. However, that signal only comes when a certain stimulus is applied to the body. Just because you have weights in your hand doesn't mean you're performing resistance training.
Change happens when your body is challenged and instructed to build muscle and gain strength to adapt to the stimulus it's given. The signal that your body gets from using 10 pounds for 10 reps is NOT the same as the signal that your body gets from using 50 pounds for 10 reps. We all tend to get far too focused on the amount of reps we're doing, and we complete forget that the reason we're in the gym is to challenge the abilities of our body (especially our strength). The reason we lift is to FORCE our body to change and grow. We must put the body in a situation where it has no choice but to grow, adapt, and change.
When you're training, do you focus on completing the amount of reps assigned, or do you focus on pushing your body's strength? Turns out, you can push your body's strength by using a certain amount weight for a certain amount of reps as long as the weight is challenging enough.
Repetitions are not magic numbers. It's all about the tension and stress we apply in order to tell our body to change and improve. We simply use repetitions as a tool to measure the time we apply tension to our muscles.
When you're training in the gym, think about how hard you're working. Are you pushing your tank a couple reps shy of empty, or are you just coasting with light weights just to say you did 10 reps?
Use this scale to help you.
SIGN #2: YOUR INTENTION IS POO POO
This ties in with sign number one.
I overheard a conversation the other day between a trainer and a potential client. They just got done going through a free workout, and the trainer was talking to the member about a game plan to help them get to their goals. After the trainer walked them through their ideas, the member said something that I thought was very interesting.
"That sounds nice and all, but what workout can I do to get in, get the workout over with, and get out as fast as possible?"
Thankfully, the trainer to some extra time to explain exactly why that would not be beneficial for them.
You see, those that don't see change in their health and fitness usually think in one of two ways. The first way is the "Get In and Get Out" mindset.
This person squeezes their workout in to their schedule, rather than blocking time out of their schedule to lift some weights. The two are completely different. This person does a workout just to check it off the list. It doesn't matter what weights they used, how long they rested, how good their form was, all that matters is that they got it done and could say "check" as they looked at their to-do list. This person treats training as a chore. As a result, this person does half-assed workouts and doesn't see consistent change over a long period of time.
The second way is the "Sweaty and Sore" mindset.
This person treats their workout as an absolute punishment. The workout doesn't count if they didn't drench their shirt in sweat. The workout doesn't count and wasn't good enough if they're not painfully sore the next day. This person tries to run their body completely into the ground every time they set foot in the gym.
The problem with both of these examples is that the reason for resistance training isn't behind their intention when they train.
After being in the fitness industry for years, I can tell you one thing is consistent and true. The people that easily make positive changes to their health and body time and time again are those that understand why they're going to the gym, and that "why" is behind their intention. They train to improve one thing that day, and then build from there. They train to test their body's limits in a safe and mechanically sound manner. They take proper rest between sets. They challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zone in some way each and every day. They seek to improve just a bit in every single workout. As they do those things, they learn to enjoy the process.
Those that succeed don't treat their workout as an opportunity to sweat and get sore. They don't treat it as something that needs to get checked off the list. Rather, they treat their workout as an important piece of the puzzle that will help them build and shape their dream body.
When you're in the gym doing your workout, are you thinking about how much time you have left? Are you thinking about how fast you can get to the next exercise? Or, are you thinking about one set, the set that is just ahead of you, and what you can do to improve in that one set?
SIGN #3 YOUR WARM-UP IS ALSO POO POO
Sign number three also ties in with sign number two. I'm just over here tying everything together. Crazy how things workout sometimes.
Yes, warming up is a part of your intention. Ask yourself what warming up means to you. I bet that if you compare your answer to your goals, it seems silly to be warming up that way. I'm guessing most of your goals are either burn fat, build muscle, or both, and you probably said the reason you warm up is to get your heart rate up and sweat a bit before you train.
Well, that makes no sense, right?
Remember how I said that your priority should always be resistance training, no matter what your goal is? Well, maybe that means your warm up should be something that helps you perform your weight training a bit better. There are some different things that can allow you to do that, but I'll go through the two most important in my opinion.
The first is activation. Next time you're in the gym, watch someone do a row of some sort. My guess is that their shoulder blades are rolled forward and their shoulder blades are not retracting/squeezing together. I bet their arms are doing 99% of the work. Take a look next time and make observations.
Situations like that are unfortunate, because it defeats the whole purpose of the exercise. The purpose of a row is to work your upper and mid back muscles. This can't be done if your shoulder blades are rolled forward and not retracting. So, taking time before your workout to activate the muscles back there and make sure they're working will make a MASSIVE difference in your workouts and results.
Not only are most people's backs inactive, but so are their glutes. This happens from countless hours in a desk day after day. Those muscles basically go to sleep and are never used properly during a workout. This is why most people feel squats in their quads, and nothing in their glutes. For those people in this situation, doing a few sets of glute bridges and squeezing for a couple seconds at the top will allow them to activate and use the proper muscles (their sweet cheeks) during a movement, leading to more effective workouts and greater results.
The next important step to better workouts is mobility. The more mobility and stability you have in a movement, the more room there is to improve. I'll be the example for this one.
In college, our strength coach would have me squat a broomsitck every single day to practice, because I simply couldn't squat. My hips were stiff, and so were my ankles. Because of this, getting my thighs to parallel seemed harder than trying to throw a fastball 100 miles per hour. Thankfully, my coach gave me a mobility routine to do before each lifting session with the team. I'd come 15 minutes early each day, and work on my hips and ankles. Id improve my range of motion and stability in a squat by hooking a band to an anchor, resting the band around my waist, and sitting in a low squat. While sitting in the low squat, i'd do some isometric tension holds to increase stability and control in that new range of motion. I'd also do a combat stretch, working on improving the range of motion in my ankle. I'd practice bringing my knee forward without letting my heel leave the ground. Once I reached my max, i'd pull my toes up as hard as I could to create stability and control in that new range of motion. I'd do this over and over and over before every single session. Over time, my squats improved a ton, and I was able to create more strength in a greater range of motion. Because of that, my squat strength has continually progressed, and my legs have grown during each phase of my programming.
Are you able to perform a movement in a full range of motion with complete stability and control? If not, take the time to work on your mobility before and after your training session.
Get your body ready to perform the best it can during your workout.
#1: Push yourself with your weights. Use the RPE scale to gauge whether or not you're pushing your body to change for the better.
#2: Be intentional. Get your mind right. Go to the gym with a plan to make one small improvement, and build from there. Sweaty and sore is not the goal, and working out is not a chore. It is a process that is meant to be enjoyed.
#3. Activate. Don't just warm up, but prepare your body to perform the best it possibly can depending on what kind of workout you have ahead of you.
BONUS: Still not quite sure what you can be doing to make your workouts better? Let's talk. I'm here to help however I can.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adam is a fitness professional, baseball fan, and cookie fanatic based in Fort Collins, Colorado. After hanging up the cleats, he found a strong interest in the human body and how it performs. Since then, Adam has been transforming lives through fitness in a fun and encouraging atmosphere. As an ACE CPT and Fitness Nutrition Specialist, he is constantly moved to help people improve in all walks of life. If you’re interested in hiring Adam as your coach, fill out an application here.