The Biggest Mistake You Make

You’re at the gym 8 days a week, you consume 4 grams of protein per pound body weight, and you recover with daily massages, ice baths, contrast showers, a second massage, BCAA’s, and a foam roller.  If you’re putting in all of this time and energy, why aren’t you seeing better results?

Regardless of the goal, I constantly see people making the same mistake in the gym.  If I were to ask 100 people about their specific training goals, I’d hear 100 different answers.  Sure, the results that they seek may be different, but their training methods should be relatively similar.  While volume, frequency, and nutrition are all important aspects of proper training, I think that the single biggest mistake people make involves Exercise Selection.

Male.  6’2”, 140lbs.  Wants to build muscle.  ‘Chest Day’ consists of dumbbell flies, dumbbell bench, and cable crossovers.

Female.  5’3” 160lbs.  Wants to ‘tone’.  Daily workout involves 1 hour of treadmill jogging, then 50 reps of dumbbell floor press, 50 reps bicep curls, 50 reps plie squat, and 50 reps tricep kickbacks, all with 3lb dumbbells.

They’re both making the same mistake, and picking crappy exercises.  (I’d bet that they’re both eating poorly as well, but that’s for another post.)  In both cases, these individuals are using the wrong exercises, and are probably spinning their wheels.  Despite their different goals, they should both concentrate on functional compound exercises.

Regardless of how advanced you think you are, you’re probably still new to strength training.  You might have spent years in the gym, but I’d guess that you’re still new to strength training.  We’re almost all more advanced than we think.  To help show you that you’re not as advanced as you think, take this following survey.  It should shed some light on the issue.

  • Do you squat, chin, press, deadlift, and row on a regular basis?
  • Do you ask everyone, “How much do you bench?”, followed by “How many times?”
  • Do you continually miss your performance or aesthetic goals, and have no idea why?
  • Do you ever start your workout with curls?

Now, if you answered ‘Yes’ to any of those questions other than the first, you’re still a newbie.  If you answered yes to the first one, I’m going to ask how serious you are about those exercises.  Odds are, you probably aren’t, and you need to change what you’re doing.  See, you’re not as advanced as you thought!

You should be focusing on full body, compound movements.

This applies to everybody.  Seriously, everybody.  Yes, even you, Mr.  But-I-eat-so-much-protein-and-I-can’t-seem-to-grow, as well as you, Ms. But-I-don’t-want-to-get-bulky!  This includes the 14-year-old male soccer player, the 35-year-old stay-at-home-mom, and the 65 year old who wants to be able to keep up with his grandchildren.  Simple movement-based exercise can help everyone reach their goals and retain or improve their health.  For some reason, it’s not very common in the commercial world.  People focus on a single muscle or a single movement, and end up neglecting the vast majority of their body.  We’re stuck on fixed-path machines, and not moving our bodies through space.  What’s up with that?

One of the reasons I like equipment like the TRX so much is because you can vary simple body weight exercises to make them basic and simple, or complex and difficult.  However difficult the exercise, your body is moving through space, and you’re training your brain to coordinate the muscles from your head to your toes.  To me, that just makes sense.

With those concepts in mind, I want to challenge you to try out some new body-weight based exercises.  I don’t mean the easy ‘toning’ crap that’s on Fit TV, I mean exercises that start as body weight…and that you can load.  Squats are a body weight exercise, right?  You can load them any way you want, but they’re still a body weight exercise; you’ve just made your body heavier.  That applies to chin-ups, lunges, push-ups, rows, single-leg squats, dips, etc.  You should be focusing on moving your body through space, not keeping it stationary and moving a piece of specialized equipment.  The equipment should be making your body heavier when you get strong enough to easily move it!

Try it out; what do you have to lose?  Maybe it’s a few pounds.  Maybe it’s a nagging joint pain, or a sore muscle, or something that’s just not working the way it’s supposed to.  Maybe you want to get stronger, or you want to build some muscle, or you want to ‘tone’ that fill-in-the-blank area.  Maybe you just want to be healthier, or get that much better.  Whatever your reason is, you should be moving your body through space and picking better exercises during your entire workout.


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