5 Common Barbell Mistakes That May Be Holding You Back
Beau Bradbury CSCS, CPT
1. Putting Technique on the Back Burner
One of the most common errors I see with people is their desire to rush into the big weights meanwhile putting their technique on the back burner. If you can’t do it right with an empty bar than it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to add more weight. One of my favorite books is just shy of 400 pages and the bulk of it covers 4 movements. Complete mastery of a movement is a beautiful thing, but it takes practice, time and patience. Before embarking on a strength training program I cannot stress enough the importance of getting with a qualified strength coach to teach you the movements and/or have a tune up session once a week or so to make sure you are dialed in. However, if every time you can train with a coach nearby the better as you may slip into bad habits over time.
This one is also a training program killer. You’re going along your program and decide instead of the 5lb increase as recommended you are feeling strong today, why not throw another 25 on each side. When I was younger I would fall victim to this as well. Being highly motivated is a beautiful thing, but getting greedy with it is not. A rule of thumb: MAKE THE LITTLE PLATES YOUR BEST FRIEND. Little plates mean progress. Getting unstuck is much harder than just staying the course with your small progressive increments.
3. Lack of Recovery
The ability to rest and recover should be an easy task. However, weight training can get quite addicting. When you perform a heavy set of say 5 reps on the squat with 250lbs for the first time and then the next session with 255 you are applying overload to your muscles. Think of it like a nice tan versus a sunburn. If you overtrain your system or not give it enough recovery you’re basically sunburning the hell out of your system. This causes loss of strength, staleness and then burnout. However, if you give yourself plenty of recovery your muscles will adapt to the progressive stress in a positive way (Supercompensation) and you should be able to lift a wee bit more than last session.
4. Short Rest Periods
Say you have 3x5 on the bench press and your weight for the day is 210 pounds. You warm up well and slam up your 1st work set of 5 with ease. You're thinking man I am getting stronger because last session was 205 and felt tough. Then the second set you get under the bar and eeeeek out 5 again, barely. The third set you get 3 and get pinned then you are mad at yourself, mad at the program, mad at the coach and mad at Dr. Phil wondering what went wrong. Chances are if the first set was easy, you just didn’t rest enough between sets. a good 3-5 minutes is optimum for rest between heavy work sets. This gives your body plenty of time to replenish lost muscle energy (think creatine phosphate) and gives you a much better chance to make your weights go up.
5. Inadequate Nutrition
If your goal is to get stronger you are going to have eat plenty of food to help your body recover and grow stronger. Now if you are already overweight, strength training can be a big part of a weight loss program and we have a diet plan that you can plug into that will help do just that. If you are a guy/gal who wants to keep pushing up heavier and heavier weight you are going to need to make sure to eat plenty of calories. Ideally from whole food sources. Like John Welbourn says the best protein sources have “faces, souls and a mother.”
Bonus 6. Distractions
Now here is one last thing getting stronger takes commitment. All out focus and drive. You must commit to it without distraction. If on Monday you want to get really strong, but then on Tuesday you want to run a marathon and on Wednesday you want to become the greatest racquetball player this side of the Mississippi then you are in fact distracted. Remember, chase two rabbits catch none. I'd recommend sit down and have a talk with yourself to figure out your major goal and pursue it with all you've got.