7 Muscle Building Mistakes People Make

Photo credit: Dana Lane Photography Janeen Jones Hair and Makeup

Discover the seven muscle building mistakes that professional personal trainers see every day that may be stopping you from meeting your fitness goals.  Weight training can be truly transformative in reshaping your body, but there can be a lot of blunders that invariably seem to accompany the “dumbbell,” so I consulted with a few experienced personal trainers to talk about the most common pitfalls they see with their clients and, more importantly, how you can avoid them!

  1. You’re capable of more!

“One of the biggest mistakes people make is not progressing appropriately.  If you are always doing what you are capable of doing, your body has no reason to change.”  Explains Julian Cardoos NS, CPT, RKC and owner and lifestyle coach at Rebirth Body Transformation Center.  Cardoos goes on to say, that “this adaptation comes from changing variables like weight, repetition range, order of exercises, resting periods, frequency, volume, and much more” and advises that if you’re “doing a repetition range and you have still have two more in the tank, increase the weight, but if you have hit a wall, and you just cannot increase the weight any more, increase the weight, but lower the repetition range.”  Cardoos advises that this “change in stimulus should do the trick.  Many women are afraid to go up in weight, but remember, lifting big does not make you big and bulky, eating big does!”  In other words, if it was that easy to put on muscle mass and get buff, large muscles, there would be a lot more men walking around channeling Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime.

  1. You’re a cardio queen!

This is misstep that strikes many of us.  There seems to be a strong culture, especially among women, to prioritize cardio over strength training.  Cardoos explains that, “Cardiovascular training, keeping your heart rate elevated for an extended period, has a tremendous amount of benefits, including reducing risks of cardiovascular disease, improving insulin sensitivity, and even burning a ton of calories.” So, while cardio workouts typically burn more calories per workout, the calorie burn primarily stops at the end of the workout and has very little carryover to improving your metabolism post workout.  Cardoos explains that strength training “increases your post workout metabolic effect and this ultimately means that you burn more calories long after your workout!”  Strength training increases your lean muscle mass and your metabolism which keeps you burning more calories even when you aren’t working out!    Pro tip:  Cardoos recommends strength training two to three times each week, doing cardio once or twice per week and incorporating some lower intensity workouts like yoga, barre, or Pilates day a week, and suggests that you give yourself one or two days to rest and recover.

  1.  Don’t be gym-timidated!

Personal trainer, Meredith Steyer, NASM Certified Personal Trainer and owner of Advancing Fitness says she sees that many people simply fear the weight room!   She understands that it can be daunting to face the weights alone, especially if you are in unfamiliar territory and don’t know what to do.  Pro tip:  Book a session with your gym’s trainer to learn how to work the equipment properly and get some form pointers.   Pro tip:  Steyer recommends working out with a friend can help with the anxiety of the situation and that having a fitness friend through your journey can strengthen your friendship as well as your muscles and mind!

  1. You’re trying to spot reduce a specific trouble zone!

Although we may all want more definition in our own personal trouble spots, Cardoos explains that trying to train and target a specific body part in isolation does very little to accomplish that goal.   Cardoos suggests that it’s better to “focus on multi-joint exercises like deadlifts, squats, lunges, pull-ups, chest presses, etc., as these exercises utilize more muscles than, for example, biceps curls or triceps extensions, and, therefore, burn significantly more calories, and helping you reach definition sooner.”  While it’s tempting to try to train what you view as your least responsive muscle group, target toning isn’t the solution.    Pro-tip: “To burn body fat faster by incorporating strength training, combine upper body exercises with lower body exercises to keep your heart rate up longer.  If you are at an advanced level, add a core or cardio exercise after the upper and lower body combo!”

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  1. Bad form

Greg Rando, IFBB pro, M3 certified trainer, and four-time national bodybuilding champion says a common mistake he encounters is that people don’t put enough focus on the negative or lowering portion of a movement.  The real breaking down of muscle tissue occurs when you keep the stress load on the muscles throughout the negative portion of the exercise.  Rando also warns that performing repetitions too quickly prevent you from being able to keep the muscles under resistance throughout both concentric (a contraction that shortens the muscle) and eccentric  (a contraction that lengthens the muscle) portions of the movement.  Pro tip:  Pay particular attention to posture!  If your posture or body position is not correct you will not be able to perform proper technique which means you will not be able to isolate the target muscles efficiently and effectively!

  1. You’re not being consistent!

If you are regularly missing workouts, making excuses to skip the gym, or skipping the healthy meal choices for fried and highly processed foods, you’ll soon find yourself frustrated with your lack of results.   If you choose to regularly make time for your fitness and make substantive changes to your habits, for example, choosing to switch your beverage of choice from soda to water, you will have a much more direct road to success.   Pro tip:  When it comes to building muscle, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Steyer warns against taking an “all or nothing approach.”  Consistency rather than perfection is key!

  1. You’re fuel tank is on E!

Not taking in enough protein to build lean muscle mass is another mistake Rando says he sees and thinks part of the reason for this could be because many people are trying to lose weight while also trying to exercise and are concerned about caloric intake.  This mistake happens frequently and prevents the very progress you’re working towards!   Pro tip:  Rando advises if you’re trying to increase muscle mass, then aim for between 1 1/2 and 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight for the average sized person.

Photo credit: Dana Lane Photography Janeen Jones Hair and Makeup