A generalized weight training program is typically
ideal for someone beginning a weight training regimen. Progress
occurs relatively easily at this early stage even when following
a less-than-ideal program. Substantial improvements in strength,
power, muscular endurance and body composition can be seen as
long as there is a bit of consistency. As a result, newcomers
often feel over confident in their gains and continue to do "what
works for them" even after their progress slows to a snail's
pace or eventually an abrupt halt. Others may end up hurting
themselves or dropping out all together.
ExRx.net has compiled a list of the most common weight training
mistakes, many made by exercisers of all experience levels. Whatever
your level of experience, staying clear of common training mistakes
can increase the effectiveness and safety of your weight training
program, allowing you to experience continued progress for many
decades to come.
Skimping on the Warm-up Sets
the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger once got some hair-brained
idea that he had gotten too advanced to continue performing a
specific warm-up set before his heavier sets. This was only until
he learned the hard way by injuring himself after skimping on
his usual warm-ups sets.
In addition to a specific warm-up set, a general warm-up,
such as a few minutes of cardio exercise or walk to the gym,
is also recommended before hitting the weights, particularly
for middle aged and older participants. See benefits and rationale
for general and movement specific
Not Sticking to the Basics
Many trainees fail to incorporate the essential basic
exercises in their programs, instead wasting their efforts
on either more specialize, advanced, or relatively ineffective
exercises. Basic movements include tried and tested exercise
(eg: Squats, Bench Press, Rows, etc.) that more efficiently build
strength and muscle. Strength and muscular development lay the
foundation of most other fitness attributes, which can more effectively
emphasized later in a more advanced program, with greater results.
See Periodization. Not sticking
to the basics and performing too many auxiliary exercises can
either waste time (at the best) or hamper progress (at the worst),
particularly the first few years where foundation training is
When browsing the ExRx.net
Exercise Library, choose primarily basic exercises (marked
with bold or normal type face). Only choose auxiliary exercises
sparingly if at all (marked with italics or normal type face),
particularly as a beginner or intermediate lifter. Also see Workout Creation Instructions.
Over emphasizing muscle groups relative to their antagonist
muscle groups may increase risk of injury and/or alter bodily
posture (see Weaknesses
and Posture Deficiencies).
A program which balances the posterior with anterior chain movements
are important in preventing these deficiencies. For example,
antagonist movements like rows exercise muscles which stabilize
the shoulders during bench and chest press movements. Likewise,
relatively strong hamstrings are needed to stabilize the knee
during squat and leg press moments. Conditioned abs are required
to stabilize the spine during lifting movements involving the
low back and some hip flexor movements. Consider using a workout template to assist
in balancing out your next workout. Also see Common
Inflexibilities which may increase risk of injury.
Using Too Little Resistance or Not Increasing Resistance
those same tiny weights will not stimulate further improvements.
Whether your goal is to increase strength, build or restore muscle,
increase the metabolism, or improve health, increase your resistance
a small amount when you are able to perform your upper repetition
range. For general muscular fitness, the ACSM recommends using
a resistance which permits 8-12 repetitions to the point of volitional
fatigue. Other Rep Range
Recommendations are suggested for specific and special populations
and particular fitness goals. Once the upper repetition range
is achieved, the resistance should be increased for continued
progress. It's during this increase that progress is essentially
achieved. Failing to take advantage of this window of opportunity
to increase the resistance can stagnate progress. In fact, performance
improvements can actually decrease if the same training load
is used over a long period of time (Zatsiorsky & Kraemer
1995). Find a Systematic
progression method appropriate to your fitness level and
goals: (1) rep range criteria, (2) micro-loading, and (3) periodized
progressive workloads variations.
Not Using Ideal Program for Goals
Throughout the first several months of weight training, a
program designed for general muscular fitness is generally ideal.
As an exerciser continues to progress, the program can be changed
to better address the specific training goals of the individual.
Some trainees (and even some trainers) mistakenly implement training
programs and practices not optimized for desired training goals.
Examples of obvious scenarios may include training for muscular
endurance when the goal is strength, or training for balance
(eg exercises on unstable surface) when the goal is something
else entirely. In most cases, however, the contrast between training
techniques and fitness goals are often more subtle and may only
require a few tweaks to a program in order to align training
techniques with desired goals. In any case, the wasted effort
in achieving extraneous fitness goals may decrease program efficiency,
resulting in less than optimal progress for the actual desired
goals. See Concurrent
Training and Exercise
Specific training stimuli must also be performed regularly
enough to elicit a training response. Not administering a particular
stimulus (eg: exercise, workload, etc) often enough (eg: one
or twice weekly) for at least several sessions may inhibit any
Failing to Program Variations
basic prerequisite for continued adaptation is variation. Performance
improvements will decrease if the same exercises and training
loads are continued for a prolonged period of time (aka Accommodation).
Subtle training alterations inhibit accommodation and ultimately,
the exhaustion stage of SAID.
As a beginner, progress can be made most every workout. Variation
is inherent due to relatively rapid progress in the initial phases
of training (see Initial
Level of Fitness). As progress slows, subtle variations must
be made in other ways for progress to continue. These variations
should not vary too far from the training goals. See 'Not Using
ideal Program for Goals' above. also see Variation
- "Just when your body thinks it has all the answers,
that's when you had better change the questions."
- - Louie Simmons, Westside Barbell
Progress is made through
a process of specific and systematic overloads coordinated with
periods of sufficient recovery. In effect, adaptation actually
occurs throughout the days following the workout. At best, a
poorly-designed program that does not allow for adequate recovery
can stagnate progress and, at worst, result in overuse injuries.
A weight training program must be carefully designed to allow
both muscles and joints to recover sufficiently between workouts.
This is even more important when engaging in other forms of physical
activity in addition to weight training. See Sample
Split Program Design Flaws and Low
In addition to getting sufficient recovery between workouts,
optimal recovery also involves getting adequate sleep and a proper diet with
particular attention to post
Ignoring Signs and Causes of Injury
Trainees often fail to take steps necessary to address an
injury until they've aggravated their injury to the point where
they finally realize that their now more serious injury is not
getting any better. By that time, they have added several weeks
or months of recovery and rehabilitation time to an injury that
would have likely taken only days or weeks to heal, if they would
have only dealt with it at the first onset of symptoms. See Dealing with Injury
Many minor injuries can heal with sufficient recovery followed
by adequate progressions when reintroducing exercise. For injuries
that do not seem to get better, seek the advice of a qualified
health care provider. Some general practitioners lack sufficient
experience with sports related injuries, so consider requesting
a referral to a sports medicine doctor, orthopedic surgeon, or
The cause of an injury is often obvious in hindsight, but
some cases may be less apparent. Try to understand why a particular
injury occurred and take steps to prevent or decrease future
occurrences. See Injury
is common to see trainees use poor form either (1) in ignorance
of proper biomechanics or (2) in a futile attempt to handle weights
that they are not ready to use. The bastardized form either,
no longer targets the intended muscles or it inappropriately
utilizes momentum to decrease the resistance through the most
difficult range of motion.
By continuing to use the same excessively heavy weight, the
trainee essentially becomes weaker throughout the specific range
of motion which has been reduced. This further inhibits their
ability to correct their form even if they tried. This vicious
cycle only encourages the trainee to execute the compromised
form throughout the entire set, from the first rep to the last.
In contrast, experienced, advanced exercisers typically employ
adequate form while possibly, only periodically compromising
form slightly on the last rep or two using an advanced technique
known as 'loose form' or 'cheating',
depending upon the severity of the compromised form. Introducing
cheating too early in a trainee's repertoire of techniques is
not only unnecessary, but it also makes it more difficult for
the trainee to learn appropriate form, thereby hampering progress.
Recommendations for novices and intermediate trainees include
learning new exercises with a light resistance, introducing a
weight in which perfect form can be achieved, and only preform
reps in which sufficient form can be maintained. Also see Indentifying Initial Resistances.
On more difficult exercises, ask an experienced lifter critique
your form or video yourself performing a set.
One must consider the intended goal of the exercise in determining
the proper speed of execution. Exercises intended to increase
strength and/or muscle mass are typically performed at a moderate
speed, in contrast to more advanced exercise intended to increase
power and / or speed which are performed more quickly. See Power Training below.
On the opposite end of the spectrum of bad form are hyper-corrections.
A Hyper-corrections is a foolishly used technique (or correction)
intended for a specific purpose that has no real need for its
implementation in a given situation. Examples of hyper-corrections
pertaining to exercise may include limiting range of motion to
a particular exercise, keeping certain body parts from extending
out beyond other body part, and prohibiting certain styles of
training that maybe in fact necessary for particular fitness
goal or motor skill. In some cases, hyper-corrections can be
just as problematic as other forms of poor form. These techniques
and restrictions may in fact have valid purposes when applied
to certain situations, but to suggest, they should be utilized
in all cases (or a given case just 'because') not only exhibits
ignorance of the rationale behind these 'corrections', but it
may also decrease the ability of the affected exercise to produce
specific and possibly important adaptations. See Over
Generalizations and Range
Inappropriate Use of Advanced Training Techniques
As a beginner or intermediate trainee, there is little need
to utilize advanced techniques since progress can be made relatively
easy by following basic guidelines (See ACSM
recommendations). Strength Coach and Sports Scientist Dr. Dan Baker, advises
to work your way up by getting the best result you can with the
simplest program, then earn the right before you move onto another
level of advance.
In beginners and intermediate exercisers, many advanced
techniques can actually stagnate progress and increase risk
of injury. Even for an advanced exerciser with many years of
training experience, it is important to properly progress toward
and implement these more complex and potentially taxing training
techniques for optimal results.
Training Heavy Too Often
In the early years of training, progress is typically consistent
when training for general muscular fitness with a weight that
allows 8-12 reps. After a few years of training, going heavier
maybe necessary to achieve certain fitness goals. Beyond the
intermediate level of training, working out with different workloads
every workout (eg: medium / light / heavy) is more effective
than training with the same or similar workload (See Varying
Workload Research). Training heavy most every workout leads
to accommodation (AKA: stagnated progress) and increases the
incidence of injury. Even the most advanced powerlifters, Olympic
Weight-lifters, and professional athletes cycle their loads every
workout, allowing for greater gains than if they always train
heavy. See sample programs an Olympic-style
Weight Lifting, Powerlifting,
and other Athletes.
Regular Use of Forced Reps
your ego and spotters a break and use only the weight you can
handle by yourself. Utilizing Forced
Reps regularly can lead to burnout and over-training syndrome.
Limiting the use of force reps will allow for a more manageable
applications of training loads. Other techniques which coax progress
are much more effective in the long run:
Drinkwater (2007) found no benefits in performing forced reps
for strength or power development. Accomplished powerlifters,
Olympic-weightlifters, and strongmen actually attempt to avoid
training to failure and very rarely use this technique. In fact,
they do not even approach failure throughout most of their workout.
Even when contemplating forced reps for bodybuilding-style
training, more sustainable and productive techniques exist that
allow more manageable long-term progressions. See Forced
Introducing Power Training Too
Power training involves exercise designed to increase explosiveness.
They include Plyometrics,
other explosive type exercises. Whatever your goal as a beginning
trainee, a program aimed at general muscular fitness should be
performed for several months before specialized training is introduced.
The adaptations gained during basic training serve as a foundation
so more specialized training can be performed more safely and
efficiently. The National Strength and Conditioning Association
suggests athletes should be strong in the squat before beginning
a lower body plyometric program. In addition, they also recommend
that high intensity plyometrics should not be performed year
round (NSCA, 2000). Also see Power
Abrupt or Prolonged High Volume Training
excessive training volumes (gratuitous
number of sets or exercise for each muscle group) can increase
risk of injury and stagnate or halt progress altogether, particularly
when utilized indefinitely or introduced too quickly. However,
the degree of volume that can be tolerated appears to vary between
individuals. Certain individuals can tolerate higher volume training,
whereas, other individuals tolerate less, particularly as one
ages. Those who consider themselves, 'hard gainers' report making
better progress on lower volume programs.
Issues such as over-training and overuse injury can occur
when implementing a high volume program indefinitely or haphazardly,
particularly with little understanding of its intended application
to specific training goals.
Certain fitness goals require progressively increasing volume
for periods of time, but magnitude of volume required for an
adequate training effect may be less than what is normally prescribed.
Any small and temporary strength, muscular size, and metabolic
improvements gained from a volume increase gradually diminish
as volume is increased beyond a modest level. For example, only
marginal benefits are gained between 2 and 4 sets per muscle
group in trained individuals. See Strength
Dose-Response Curve and Single versus
In addition, certain fitness goals simply do not require the
high volumes that are generally prescribed. For example, Heden
(2011) found that one set is equally effective as three sets
in increasing energy expenditure for up to 72 hours after weight
training in overweight college males. Also see Weight
Training for Fat Loss Requires Long Workouts Myth.
If high volume training is deemed necessary for particular
fitness goals, it should be administered progressively and judiciously.
Even the most advanced exercisers with the greatest tolerance
to high volume programs will benefit from a gradual progression
of training volume. This may occur when transitioning from a
lower volume mesocycle or resuming training after a layoff.
The body responses more favorably to small incremental progressions.
All it takes is a little bit more than the last time. See Adaptation Criteria.
Since any small change in volume is enough to illicit a training
response, anything greater could be considered a waste of effort
particularly since rapid increases in volume can prolong recovery.
Periodic increases of volume should be intermittently cycled
with periods of a low volume. Typically, training intensity is
inversely cycled with training volume in a strategic manner.
See Weight Training Periodization.
Concurrent progressive high volume and high volume workloads
are generally not recommended unless the intent is to overreach
with a subsequent taper of training volume.
It is plausible that overall progress may be greater on a
generally lower volume training regimen by keeping training more
consistent over many years through greater long term program
adherence and lower incidents of layoffs due to overuse injury.
Any small increases that might be gained with continuous high
volume training are are potentially lost, soon after the first
incidence of overuse injury, if not the attrition due to burnout.
See Low Volume Weight Training