Blasting Through Roadblocks
to do it right
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Hereís a short quiz that you beginning bodybuilders donít want to fail. (Beginners are generally defined as having less than one year of bodybuilding experience.) If you answer yes to just one of the following questions, youíve identified a deficiency thatís seriously limiting your bodybuilding progress. Here we go:1) Have you preferred leg extensions to squats or done back extensions instead of deadlifts?
More than simply lifting heavy in the gym, bodybuilding is the product of fully satisfying a multi component strategy. You canít afford to neglect even one area if you want to progress as speedily as possible.
Without understanding the consequences of their actions, many beginners entrench themselves in a strategy for bodybuilding failure. Here we detail common mistakes, along with the right tactic for each.
Be honest with yourself. If you havenít been progressing, use this article to find out what youíve been doing wrong.
1. Choosing high-risk exercises
Any movement can be dangerous if you perform it incorrectly, but some high-risk exercises are inherently dangerous even if you perform them in textbook fashion. Some of the most common examples include Smith-machine squats, any squat with your heels elevated on a board or plates, presses behind the neck, behind-neck pull-ups and pull-downs, hack squats, stiff-legged deadlifts on a bench, bench presses to the neck, and both overhead and lying triceps extensions. These exercises can apply exaggerated stress on joints and connective tissue that, sooner or later, will cause soreness or injury. Then you wonít be able to train at all.
How to do it right: If youíre a beginner, you should never include high-risk exercises in your routine. Why take unnecessary risks when you can choose similar movements that are far safer? Do a free-standing squat instead, or pull-downs to the front, for example.
2. Choosing the least productive exercises
The most effective muscle-building exercises are big multi joint movements like the squat, deadlift, power clean, bench press, parallel-bar dip, chin, bent-over row and overhead press. Instead of focusing on these mass-builders, many beginners pack their routines with easier (and less effective) exercises like leg extensions, leg curls, pec-deck flyes and lateral raises. Or they try to include both types of exercises and canít put serious effort into the multi joint movements because their energy is spread so thin. If they do manage to train hard on everything, they grossly overtrain.
How to do it right: Focus on multijoint, not isolation, exercises and do them first in your workout when your strength levels are highest.
3. Never thinking much about exercise techniques
Many beginners give little or no serious thought to form. Theyíre so wrapped up in their program design, exercise equipment options and increasing their levels of strength that they donít learn how to use impeccable exercise technique. As a result, they may not control the weight properly and could end up having many aches and pains.
How to do it right: Make excellent form your training priority. No exercise is good for you if it causes injury. While technique means more than rep speed, most beginners take about one second to lift a weight and another second to lower it. That isnít controlled training. Slow down to about three seconds up and another three seconds down for each rep.
You need to control the resistance for two reasons: to exercise your muscles properly and to minimize the risk of injury. Youíll have to reduce your poundage's initially, but using improved form will stimulate better gains. After a couple of months or so youíll be able to handle more weight with correct form than you previously used with uncontrolled form.
4. Training as much as possible
If a little is good, then more must be better and a lot more must be best. Countless beginners have unsuccessfully tried to apply the more-is-better formula and are living proof of how unproductive it is. This myth applies not only to the number of times you work out each week but also to the number of sets you do for each body part, reps and intensity.
How to do it right: Train each muscle group twice a week at most. This will provide ample recovery time.
5. Running yourself ragged outside the gym
Because a moderate amount of aerobic exercise is good both for your heart and getting cut, then more must be better, the confused logic says. So 4Ė5 sessions of vigorous aerobic training each week, plus a game or two of basketball on the weekend, is a good complement to your weight training? Youíll pay a heavy price with little energy left for your gym workouts, and your recovery machinery is shot.
How to do it right: Conserve your energy when you arenít at the gym. Minimize or eliminate physically demanding activities other than your weight training. If you donít have a weight problem, restrict aerobic training to just 25 minutes of moderate work no more than three times a week.
6. Going for maximum intensity on each set
Hard training is good, so working even harder must be better. Not necessarily! Many beginners add advanced intensity techniques such as forced reps, negatives and drop sets to their routines. They wipe themselves out, along with their abilities to recover from such an onslaught.
How to do it right: Beginners especially should train hard on straight sets and forget about intensifiers. Even advanced-level bodybuilders use high- intensity training techniques only infrequently.
7. Trying to find the perfect way to train
Do you end up changing your program all the time, trying to find the one best way to work your body parts? Confusion and a lack of consistency wonít build a better physique.
How to do it right: Donít waste time trying to find the ultimate way to train. Compose two different routines of no more than eight primarily multijoint exercises each for each dayís workout. Alternate the two routines, training each body part twice a week. Be consistent for several months at a time. Donít randomly cut and substitute exercises (though this is something more advanced bodybuilders can get away with). While this isnít the definitive word on routine design, keeping things simple in the beginning is the essence of what will make you big and strong.
8. Talking while you train
Effective training is a serious matter that demands 100% focus at each workout. When beginners turn their workouts into social events, they lose focus and concentration.
How to do it right: Focus like a laser beam while you train. Cut the chitchat and leave the socializing for when youíre finished. Be so mentally sharp that you simply canít be distracted.
9. Never finishing a workout till you're completely exhausted
Many beginners think that unless they have to be almost carried out of the gym on a stretcher, they havenít worked hard enough to stimulate growth.
How to do it right: Train hard, but briefly. Sure, you should be tired when you finish, but it should be an exhilarated feeling of tiredness combined with the satisfaction of a job well done. Cut back on your sets and exercises until you find the volume of work you can do without inviting overwhelming fatigue. If in doubt, do less work rather than more.
10. Always training with the same foundation
Compare the weights you currently lift to those you used three months ago. All beginners should make good strength gains over a three-month period. Have you?
How to do it right: To make progress in any given exercise, you can add reps or weight. Focus on progressive resistance: Have a fixed target for each exercise, for example, three sets of eight reps (3x8) in the barbell press. Once you can get 3x8, increase the poundage the next time you do that exercise. If you got only 2x8 and 1x6 at your most recent workout, wait until youíve made all 3x8 before you add about 5% more weight. Small, frequent increases in poundage constitute safer and more efficient loading than larger but less frequent increases. Never sacrifice good form to add weight.
11. Depriving yourself of your full quota of sleep
Your newfound muscles look great in that tight shirt, so why not go out dancing and partying to show them off? Keep up that kind of lifestyle and the only thing youíll be showing off is your new set of loose-fitting clothes!
How to do it right: Go to bed early enough so that you get enough sleep each night and wake up of your own accord. Muscles grow when you arenít in the gym, which is why you need to get adequate sleep to recuperate fully between workouts. Most people ó bodybuilders included ó need to be awakened before theyíve fully satisfied their need for sleep. That means they arenít getting enough.
12. failing to keep records of your training
If youíre like most beginners, you donít keep a training log. This can seriously impede your progress because youíre unlikely to remember precisely what you did in each exercise at your last workout. Did you squat 2x10 with 175 pounds, or was it 180 pounds for eight reps on the first set and six on the second?
How to do it right: Keep meticulous records of your poundage's, reps
and sets. Write down each workout so youíll know precisely what targets you
need to beat to make further progress. A training log also lets you see whether
your exercise poundage's are increasing. Just look at your entries over the last
13. Eating like a mouse
Everyone knows that nutrition is important, but most beginners underestimate the importance of quantity of food.
How to do it right: Eat as much nutritious (no processed) food as you can without noticeably increasing your bodyfat. Your first priority should be the quantity of quality food spread over 5Ė6 evenly spaced meals a day, including generous amounts of protein. The fine details of micronutrients and food supplements are secondary to the basic supply of enough good-quality food. For more information, see our March 1998 special nutrition issue.
14. Worrying yourself to distraction
Being anxious about your training and fretting over your physique are usually the results of a training strategy that doesnít deliver good results. Getting worked up wonít speed your progress unless the anxiety motivates you to make right whateverís wrong with your current approach.
How to do it right: Get your training in good order; the results you want will follow. Once you make your workouts effective, youíll have no reason to be excessively preoccupied with them. Frustration and anxiety will be replaced by pure excitement from seeing visible improvement month by month.
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