Building muscle and getting stronger may seem simple. The common belief is that if you lift heavy and often, you’ll see results quickly. This is true to a degree, but in reality there are tons of nuances to get you to your goals. Sometimes to get to where you want you need a little inside knowledge from industry vets.
Legendary strength coach Mark Rippetoe said “Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general.”
Since most Muscle & Fitness readers wouldn’t argue “Rip’s” wisdom, let’s take a look at the six worst things you can do in your pursuit of strength.
Self-help guru, the late Jim Rohn, says we are a product of the five people we spend the most time with. If strength is a serious goal, you must eliminate training partners that are lazy, negative, and not willing to work.
Surround yourself with like-minded people with similar goals and attitudes, in turn you will feed off of each other and success will be a foregone conclusion. Don’t train with jabronis!
Machines are great for some secondary assistance movements, but training exclusively on machines isn’t efficient if your goal is super-human levels of strength.
Machines alter the way your body moves, eliminate stabilization and restrict range of motion which is great for isolation.
Strength is not built in isolation. Strength is built by teaching muscle groups to work together to produce maximal force.
There is a time and place for machines in your program but if you want to get strong, free weights need to be at the nucleus of your program, with machines playing a subservient role.
Are you logging countless hours on the same, boring piece of cardio equipment or putting in endless miles of potentially joint-destroying road work?
If you answered yes, you’re performing far below your strength potential. One study from the University of Tampa showed that adding jogging to a weight-training program decreased strength gains by 50 percent.
Adding insult to injury, as you get weaker, you lose muscle and your body fat increases, atypical of the goals of the Muscle & Fitness readers.
Opt for walking at a low intensity, which will facilitate recovery and have no adverse effects on strength. For intense conditioning, short bouts of HIIT will suffice.
As little as two to three percent dehydration can cause performance detriments in the double digits performance range. Staying hydrated is one of the most underrated performance enhancers. Minimally, drink a half an ounce of water per pound of bodyweight; if you train extremely hard and(or) live in a hot/humid climate, you may easily need to double that.
Staying hydrated keeps you healthy and your performance on par.
It’s very difficult to get stronger and ignite hypertrophy without adequate sleep. Sleep is when a large percentage of anabolic hormones, like growth hormone and testosterone, are released. Besides hormonal disruption, one study found after three days with only three hours of sleep per night, maximal bench press, deadlift, and leg press were down significantly. The bench press decreased by 20 pounds.
Other findings in the literature caused by sleep deprivation include reduced energy, decreased time to exhaustion, increased injury rate, reduced sprinting speed, reduced accuracy in basketball, and slower reaction times.
Since strength is the goal, strive for eight hours of sleep nightly, minimally seven.
In 2006, Albert Argibay, a bodybuilder and a state correction officer, was training at Planet Fitness in New York and literally had the police called on him by gym management for grunting.
Interestingly, Dennis G. O’Connell, a professor of physical therapy at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, has piloted studies on the effects of grunting. O’Connell found that weight lifters produce between two and five percent greater force when they grunt.
On a 500-pound squat, that is 10 to 25 pounds—no gym rule is worth giving up that! Furthermore, Planet Fitness has removed all squat racks. If strength is the objective, avoid this type of gym like the plague.
If you are worried about calming your nerves and feeling slightly healthier, you can keep on “sweating to the oldies” and hanging on the machines.
However, if building serious strength and a no-nonsense physique is the objective, avoid these cardinal strength sins at all costs, and get to work hitting the iron!
BY JOSH BRYANT, CSCS, MFS, PES