Sometimes I think people forget the main goal of training. Unfortunately, some people go to the gym just as a social exercise or so they can tell their friends that they “train”. The chances are that if you’re reading this you are not one of these people. Hopefully your goal is to improve. Whether it’s to lower your bodyfat, to squat more or to run faster what you need to ask yourself is ‘Am I getting there’? If you’re not getting closer to your goal you need to ask yourself (or a professional) why this is the case. Below are some common reasons people are not improving based on my experiences.
No Diet Plan
Diet plans are a major part of the great results we achieve here at Definitive Physique. Like a training routine a diet plan should be progressive for it to be effective. This applies to both fat loss and muscle gain. Just eating ‘healthily’ is not enough, you need to have some sort of plan no matter how simple or complicated. For example, depending on your goal you could just follow the Paleo system of eating, which is very simplistic and requires no calculations. If you wanted to get more complicated you could workout the energy your current body composition requires daily and split this up into protein, carbs and fat. Obviously the latter is more complex, but if done correctly it will help you improve drastically. There is no perfect plan, the point is at least have a plan. Failing to plan is planning to fail so think ahead and stick to it.
Not Eating Enough Protein
Some people have a diet plan, however, they fail to eat enough protein. Protein is made up of amino acids which are the building blocks of the contractile component of muscle. Put simply, protein in your diet is what builds tissues in your body. Amino acid supplements are very common in sports performance for the unique effect they can have on performance. When you weight train you breakdown muscle tissue. The muscle tissue then goes through a cycle of breakdown and re-synthesis. All muscle in the body is constantly going through this cycle of breakdown and growth. Unlike carbohydrate and fat protein is not easy stored in the body. Therefore, if you’re not eating enough protein your body will not have the supply of building blocks to repair from the stress of training. This is why you need a constant influx of amino acids is needed if you want to make gains. Start at 1g per pound of body weight and use good quality organic lean meat and fish sources.
Not Lifting Heavy
I find it irritating to hear baseless crap spouted about exercise and nutrition. Unfortunately everyone is an expert and even people who are “experts” are misinformed. A common misconception you may hear is “You don’t need to lift heavy you just need to feel the muscle”, this is nonsense. It does need to be heavy and challenging to have an effect. As long as you have a good base of technique and you can maintain this correct technique under a heavy weight then it is safe. We believe in lifting heavy year round. I define heavy as 85% of your one repetition max. Meaning, if your max is 100kg you should be doing sets of 85kg+. This doesn’t mean for every movement but some part of your routine should include this kind of work. Even if you are training for fat loss this should be the case. Lifting heavy whilst dieting is important to stop the breakdown of your muscle tissue. Also, lifting heavy if you’re trying to gain muscle is essential. For a muscle to grow it needs to become stronger in the 6-10 repetition range. If you’re not making gains perhaps it’s time to add weight to the bar.
Not Using The Essential Compound Movements
I consider the essential compound movements: deadlift variations, squat variations, rowing variations (e.g. pull ups) and pressing variations (e.g. bench press). These movements and their variations contain the longest and heaviest muscles in the body. They also cross the major joints of the body. Therefore, the effect they have on the hormonal system is far greater than smaller isolation movements. Everyone should use big compound movements in their workouts. I am talking about the free weight versions of these movements. I am not anti-machine weight training I just do not believe people should use them for their whole workout, especially if they are at a beginner level. Get off the smith machine, stop cable pressing and start deadlifting if you want lasting gains.
Not Training Your Legs Hard or Skipping Leg Training
All too often you see guys in the gym that are so top heavy they are in danger of the wind blowing them over. Regardless of whether your goal is fatloss, muscle building or strength gain you will benefit from training your legs. Training your legs and training them hard is important for a number of reasons. Training your legs elicits a massive positive hormonal response. They also contain the longest muscles in the body, the heaviest muscles in the body and (although it may sound like stating the obvious) you need them to stand up, run and walk. Having strong lower extremities will help you perform better in sports and also avoid injury in those sports. If you avoid training your legs you’re basically avoiding hard work. Training is hard, get used to it. Remember, doing a few sets of leg extensions and hamstring curls is not enough. You need to focus on big compound free weight movements or compound machine movements at the very least.
Not Applying Progression
One of the main benefits of weight training as a training tool is the amount of variables it involves that can be manipulated. There are a lot more variables than can be manipulated in weight training when compared to other training methods such as plyometrics or cardiovascular training. These variables need to be manipulated for progression of the routines and therefore physical progressions of the body. The obvious way to progress a routine is to increase the weight. However, there are a number of ways you can progress a workout. These include changing the tempo of the lift, reducing rest times, using more advanced movements, using different equipment and increasing the volume to name a few. Whatever method of progression you choose to apply you need to apply it and apply it regularly to improve.