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Resistance Training 101: The Amazing Benefits Of Strength Training

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Resistance training doesn’t mean resisting to performing exercise at all. It is merely an exercise routine. It’s surprising that the concept has gained popularity over the past decade only.

Researchers have, over the years, identified that resistance training has many health benefits.

Resistance training has become so mainstream that America’s governing body for exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine, included it in its recommendations for all Americans in 1998.

However, many fitness buffs still feel confused about the actual concept of resistance training.

So, let’s find out more about what it is, how to follow it, and which are the most popular strength training routines? We’ll also help you design your program, propose sample programs and outline the mistakes that you should avoid as a beginner that may save you months, if not years.

Table of Contents

What Is Resistance Training?

In simple words, resistance training is an exercising routine. It can be any type of exercise consisting of muscle contraction using external resistance to tone and strengthen muscle and improve endurance.

You can apply external resistance through anything including dumbbells, bricks, your body, rubber exercise tubing or water bottles, etc. You can use just about anything to cause muscle contraction.

There are many different styles of resistance training such as:

  • Olympic lifting: In this routine athletes lift the weight over the head.
  • Powerlifting: It’s a competition where athletes perform the bench press, squat, and deadlift.
  • Weightlifting: Athletes choose to lift heavy weights for less than six reps.

When you go to the gym and lift weights, you aim to get stronger, bigger, and “toned”, right? Well, this is resistance training!

Strictly, from a technical viewpoint, resistance training and strength training aren’t similar routines. Strength training is more about strength building while resistance training is a weightlifting routine performed to increase muscular endurance and look bigger.

However, generally speaking, the stronger you’ll get, the bigger you’ll look.  Powerlifters who leverage their nervous system to lift heavier weights also grow their muscles. 

How Does Resistance Training Work?

Resistance-Training-Women

It works by creating tears or microscopic damage to the muscle cells. Resultantly, the cells get repaired quickly, which aids the muscle regeneration process. The newly grown muscles are much stronger than before.

The muscle fiber breakdown process is known as “catabolism,” while the muscle tissue repair and regrowth process is known as anabolism. Does the term anabolic ring any bell? You are right! It is the same term we use when we are discussing steroids.

Anabolic means “to grow,” and this is what happens when you perform resistance exercise.

Your muscle fibers break down just like many other biological processes of your body.

Do you know that regrowth of muscle always occurs after a breakdown or catabolism process?

That’s how every breakdown and regrowth process in our body happens.

For example, when bones are broken down, these grow a lot stronger, thanks to calcium and other growth factors. Same is the case with muscle. Their growth is encouraged by testosterone, growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor, protein, and nutrients, etc. After you perform a strength training session, all these factors collaborate to repair the muscle and make them stronger.

Remember that your muscles get repaired and regrow while you aren’t exercising. That’s why we always insist on having breaks between workouts to allow recovery of the broken muscles.

What are the Benefits of Resistance Training?

Resistance Training Two Men And One Woman At The Weight Section

The benefits of resistance training are quite wide-ranged and well-documented. Researches are still ongoing on the benefits of resistance exercise, and results are too encouraging to ignore. Americans must perform strength training to yield the many benefits it offers.

Long time back in hunter-gatherer communities, people used to engage in muscle developing activities like hunting, shelter building, farming, and similar other intensive chores. These were necessary activities for them, by the way, but their physique also benefitted greatly.

However, today we have become more inactive in comparison to our ancestors. We have developed labor-saving devices that require minimal effort from our part to get a task performed. The result is that we never really push our muscles too hard.

Do you remember…

  • When was the last time you cut the grass or leaves by hand?
  • When did you shovel snow manually?
  • If given a choice, what would you choose staircase or elevator?

We all know the answers. We always want a machine to do the job in our place.

None of us likes to do the laundry or dishes anymore; we need machines for every task. We even use movers at the airport. We spend most of our time in front of a screen, which could be a TV, computer or mobile phone while recreational activities have taken a backseat. Outdoor activities like raking the leaves or playing soccer, touch football, hiking, and baseball isn’t part of our daily routine at all.

This trend shows that we are suffering from physical inactivity. And, it’s killing us literally because, in the United States, physical inactivity is the second leading avertible cause of death.

How can Resistance Exercise Help?

man lifting a bar outdoors

It can help by encouraging toning the muscles and making them stronger. After the 30s, humans lose at least 5 pounds of muscle every ten years and naturally the number of muscle fibers also decline.

Between 30 and 70-years of age, we are expected to lose over 25% of the type-2 muscle fibers. Type-2 fibers are the strength fibers.

So, what resistance exercise does is that it reverses or at least slows down the aging process by not only strengthening the muscles but promoting growth in muscle mass. It can build bones too, which is excellent to prevent osteoporosis in which our body rapidly loses bone mineral making it vulnerable to fractures. Osteoporosis is a crippling disease, especially in females.

Research shows that strength exercise can build bone even in the old age. It helps in lowering moderately high blood pressure, and by making the bones stronger, older adults experience fewer falls. Moreover, encourages an increase in the metabolic rate, which is vital to maintaining the ideal body weight.

You can start from today- it’s never too late.

In a study, elderly males and females with an average age of 87 were asked to lift weights thrice every week for around ten weeks, and they experienced a whopping 113% increase in strength. Hence, they were able to walk at least 12% faster than before, climbed 28% more steps on the stairways, and their thigh muscles increased by over 2.5%.

Don’t you think that it’s a great way to burn fat and stay fit? Perhaps, it’s time to start resistance training!

Resistance training is the best way to lose weight and burn fat

woman doing resistance training

In combination with a balanced diet, exercise can contribute significantly to intensify the rate of fat burn, and you can expect rapid belly fat loss.

People believe that cardio is the best exercise to burn fat, which is a misconception. Walking, jogging, biking, and similar long duration yet low-intensity exercise cannot burn body fat. Cardio is good for just your heart as it makes it stronger and improves your endurance.

Cardio can be beneficial for weight training as well since you can enjoy good intensity, but it isn’t as productive when the goal is to burn fat. Therefore, weight training should be your go-to exercise if you want to lose fat. You may opt for 15 to 20minutes of cardio.

Wondering why weight training is better than cardio? Check out the reasons:

Weight training boosts metabolism both pre and post-workout

But, how does resistance training achieve that?

And, what’s the link between increased metabolism and body fat loss?

If you look at the cardio exercises, these low-intensity and steady-state cardio exercises can burn some amount of calories and body fat. So, if someone weighs 220 pounds, he/she would burn 600 calories through jogging.

Remember that when you are doing cardio, the calories will burn only during the workout. As soon as the exercising session ends, your metabolism will be back to normal. Your body won’t burn calories during the remaining part of the day.

The case is different with high-intensity strength training. It burns calories but not as much as low-intensity workouts. So, for someone weighing 220 pounds, high-intensity exercise will burn 300 calories. That’s half the number of calories consumed through cardio.

But, here’s the catch. The difference between cardio and weight training is that after a high-intensity workout your metabolism stays increased for 24 hours. Therefore, your body keeps on burning fat even when you aren’t working out.

You may want to know why.

  • It happens because during low-intensity exercise you don’t damage your muscle tissue whereas during high-intensity workout micro-trauma and muscle tissue breakdown occur.

Our body needs to recover from the micro-trauma, which means repairing the muscle tissue. It goes into an emergency state where it needs to increase energy through metabolism. Resultantly, your metabolism rate is increased by at least 30% and stays so for the next 24 hours. The body takes its required energy and calories to repair muscle from body fat.

The post-workout benefit mentioned above is only applicable to weight training and not cardio.

You burn more calories at rest as your lean body mass increases 

  • Muscle growth is another reason that makes weight training a better option than cardio. How can you overlook the fact that the world’s leanest athletes are sprinters and bodybuilders?

Sprinters stay away from cardio as if it’s some plague. They are well aware of the many benefits of weight training. Through weight training sprinters can:

  • Maintain stronger upper body
  • Ensure maximum lower body strength
  • Make their frame appear fuller and healthy
  • Have larger arms, chest, and legs

Male sprinters also get to increase testosterone levels naturally, which leads to an increase in muscle size and a decrease in body fat. That’s why male sprinters are so desirable to women.

It isn’t just good for male sprinters. High-intensity weight training benefits female sprinters, as well, as they:

  • Appear more desirable to males
  • Lower body fat from critical areas like glutes without affecting the chest size
  • Maintain healthier hormone levels

But why does that happen?

Because of an increment in muscle size!

A 10 pounds increment in muscle tissue consumes at least 500 calories per day. Therefore, your body will burn 500 more calories on a daily basis to maintain your newly gained muscle mass.

500 calories! It’s a considerably high number. So, if you consume the same amount of calories as before, you would still experience fat loss because your body is burning extra calories.

It’s a whopping 3500 extra calories burnt per week, which equals to 1-pound excess fat!

Regarding calories, muscle tissue happens to be the most demanding one. Therefore, with muscle gain, the fat burn rate will increase even when you are resting.

woman doing a plank body weight resistance training

Weight training increases insulin sensitivity

Weight training increases insulin sensitivity, which leads to our body using more blood sugar to create glycogen than storing it as body fat. Hence, by merely increasing insulin activity through weight training, you can prevent fat accumulation.

Weight training makes the body produce more glucagon

With increased insulin sensitivity, our body produces lesser insulin and higher glucagon.

Insulin is a storage hormone because it stores body fat. Glucagon, conversely, is a burning hormone that uses body fat to produce blood sugar. So, glucagon encourages the body to release energy from the body fat and the liver.

How much should You Train?

According to the recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine, resistance exercise should ideally be progressive and must follow the progressive overload principle. It depends upon your individual preferences too. You need to provide a stimulus to the major muscle groups in your body such as chest, arms, legs, shoulders, back, and abdominals.

Beginners are recommended to do 8 to 10 exercises in one set for all the major muscle groups and 8 to 12 repetitions or reps to fatigue. They should do strength training two to three times per week. If you want to benefit more from the workout, try multi-set regimens.

For the elderly or frail people (50-60 years or above), 10-15 repetitions would be better.

What Is the Progressive Overload Principle?

An ancient Greek wrestler, athlete, and a strong man Milo of Croton is the world’s first athlete to use the progressive overload principle.

Legend has it that he carried a newborn calf on his back daily to train for the Olympics. He followed this routine for years before the start of the Olympics. By the time the event arrives, the calf grew into a full-size cow while Milo continued to carry it on his back.

Wondering how he was able to do that?

Milo was adapting himself to the animal’s growing weight and resultantly his body was getting stronger.

If you want to follow this principle to develop strength and tone, you need to lift weights, which should be heavy enough to generate sufficient muscular fatigue by the 10th or 12th repetition. When you feel that your body is getting used to the exhaustion, you should increase the weight and lift it until you again don’t feel fatigued by the 10th or 12th reps.

This way, you should keep on increasing the weight whenever you get to the 12th rep.

You might want to lift fewer reps as it would get heavier when you increase the weight but remember that your body muscles will grow stronger and readier for more.

Progressive overload principle is accepted universally as the best model to ensure maximum benefits from weight training.

Free Weights or Machines: What’s Best? 

Usually, bodybuilders use both of them. Let’s check out their advantages and disadvantages to get a fair analysis. I’ve also included information about the better alternatives to both weights and machines, which is exercise tubing.

Free Weights (Dumbbells and Barbells)

Advantages:

  • You can perform a variety of exercises and target all muscle groups.
  • Based on your anatomy, free weights allow self-selected movement. For instance, if your shoulder joint has limited movement range you can quickly address the issue with a dumbbell.
  • You can build coordination since moving and controlling the dumbbells require skills. For instance, when you are doing dumbbells presses, you need to ensure motion control to move the dumbbells straight up instead of pushing them outward. When doing squat, you need to steady yourself to prevent falling.
  • You can recruit more muscles than the targeted group. Such as, when doing dumbbell presses, you use your shoulder’s front, the anterior deltoid, and the triceps when targeting the pectorals but other back and shoulder muscles are also needed to coordinate and keep your body steady when you’re performing the exercise. Similarly, when you’re performing front raises, you’ll naturally get your abdomen and back to contribute to keeping your body steady

Disadvantages:

  • Dropped dumbbells and bars may cause an injury while the injury could be severe if you drop bend press with a bar. It may also lead to death. That’s why you need to use a spotter while lifting free weights.
  • If you are strong and use a lot of weights, then you would need more space to store all the dumbbells. To reduce the number of dumbbells, you can get rid of the plates that you need to load on the bars. However, it’s not a lot of fun to keep changing weight plates when you are working out.
  • Free weights can be expensive as dumbbells cost anywhere between 50 cents to $1 per pound or even higher.
  • Without necessary skills and knowledge, you cannot make the most out of free weights training. Therefore, it’s a good idea to hire a fitness trainer in the beginning.

Machines

Advantages: 

  • Machines are so easy to use. Just stick the pin in the weight stack, and you are ready to start. In case more weight is required, you only need to put the pin in the next load.
  • Compared to free weights, machines are safe to use as long as you don’t have to pick up heavy weights and strain yourself. Even if you drop the weight, it won’t hurt you.
  • Machines don’t require too much coordination from your side, push or pull the handles or the bar while lifting weights.

Disadvantages: 

  • They take a lot of space
  • Machines tend to be expensive

Remember that each machine is designed to target a single muscle group. Therefore, to cover all the muscle groups, you need to buy separate machines. Cable pulley machines are an exception though as these are quite versatile, safe, and you can perform many different exercises using them.

In case you feel that your body isn’t anatomically matching the machine’s movement, this means you have injured a joint due to repetitive usage. For example, the triceps and biceps machines offer limited range and may cause issues for the elbow and shoulder joints.

Ideally, you should visit the gym and try to find out which works for you better. It will help you choose between free weights and machines too, such as cable rows with a machine might appeal to you more than bent-over rows with dumbbells.

Check out the list of some exercises that you can do with free weights or machines.

  • Two-arm bent-over rows/pull-downs
  • Dumbbell upright rows/cable upright rows
  • Bar or dumbbell press/seated chest press
  • Dumbbell flyes/cable crossovers
  • Tricep kickbacks/triceps press-downs
  • Barbell or dumbbell squat/leg press

Exercise Tubing

It comprises of handles with elastic tubes and happens to be an excellent alternative to free weights and machines. Exercise tubing can help in toning and building strength. These come in different thickness levels with the aim to increase the tension.

Exercise tubing hasn’t ever tested head-to-head against machines or free weights, but it does allow resistance training. Remember that resistance training can involve any activity that causes muscle contraction against external resistance. Exercise tubing also does that.

Exercise Tubing Advantages:

  • Inexpensive, versatile, and excellent for beginners
  • You can perform many different exercises and use them in a chair too if you don’t want to stand on your feet
  • You can use a door strap also, which allows you to attach the tubing to any door, and perform many exercises, even more than you can do with dumbbells or machines
  • A set of exercise tubing costs only $20 while the tension is denoted in different colors
  • Exercise tubing is quite handy and portable. You can pack them in your backpack when going on a vacation or keep it at the office to use your free time performing a set of biceps
  • The floor won’t get damaged when you drop them
  • Storing them is quite convenient as you can keep them inside a closet, a drawer or just about anywhere

Disadvantages of Exercise Tubing:

  • It’s possible that with continued usage exercise tubing may lose the elasticity and replacing them would be the only option
  • If you rub them up against a sharp object such as the ring on your finger or if these are wrapped around the sofa or table leg having sharp edges, these can crack

Body Weight

You can use your body weight in strength training through exercises like sit-ups, lunges, squat thrusts, pushups, step-ups, and chin-ups, etc. The good part is that you can perform these exercises anywhere. Though, you cannot increase or decrease resistance by shifting body weight.

Here are some tips to increase resistance.

Pull-ups:

Pull-ups can strengthen your back, shoulders, and arms. Some people find it difficult to do just a single pull-up. If you are also finding it difficult, stand on a chair under a pull-up bar, as this would lighten the load while you perform the exercise. The chair would support some of your weight. When you are outdoors, you can ask a friend to hold your feet to support the weight.

Push-ups:

This exercise is excellent to strengthen shoulders, arms, and chest. If you can’t perform a traditional push-up, don’t worry at all. Follow this sequence to do it like a pro.

Wall Push-up: lean at least 2 feet against a wall with your back straight and start pushing back and forth. You may also lean against a countertop to make it a bit more difficult for you. Once you master that, lean against the edges of a bed or sofa by getting on your knees.

Don’t forget to keep your back straight. When it feels comfortable, you are ready for the floor. Get down on your knees keeping the back straight and bring yourself closer to the floor and move back up. Once you can hit the 20-25 knee push-ups mark on the floor, you can do the regular push-up keeping the knees off the floor.

You can give it a try. It’s a fact that there is no single method or resistance exercise that’s the best. All that you need to focus on is to get the muscles contracted against external resistance. For resistance exercise, you can use dumbbells, water bottles, machines, cinder blocks, your own body or exercise tubing. You can even lift your two-year-old. Just built strength and tone your muscles.

How to Design a Resistance Training Plan?

Follow these steps to design a personal strength training plan.

Decide where to lift:

  • At Home:

If you have decided to workout at your home, you need to consider exercise tubing as it is a cheap but effective way to get started. You may also use free weights for which you will need:

Dumbbells: I would suggest solid dumbbells because the plate-loading kind is quite time-consuming and tedious. Dumbbells are available for 50 cents to $1 per pound. I recommend Solid Hex dumbbells because these are inexpensive and unlike round dumbbells, these don’t roll around a lot.

You may also opt for a bench. Buy a sturdy, adjustable bench that shouldn’t rock and should be well constructed to support you well when you lie down on it.

If you want to purchase a bar for the bench press, you will need uprights, which I don’t recommend for beginners as there might be a risk of injury if you don’t have a spotter.

If you intend to buy a bar with plates, look for at least a 35 to 45-pound bar with collars that would be needed to keep the plates locked in their place. You would need to buy plates too for loading the bar. You might need to shoot for a 100 pounds bench press; so, ideally, you will need plates to match that amount. In the beginning, you can purchase four 5-pound and 4-pound plates and two 25-pound plates.

  • At the Gym:

Both beginners and experienced lifters can opt for the gym as there would be a wide range of machines and weights; so, you are free to try out different exercises. Also, there will be trainers offering introductory sessions to guide you if you have just started as you will learn the basics of lifting weights. Once you get enough experience, you can confidently lift more.

  • Skills assessment:

It’s essential to assess your skills. You can hire a fitness trainer to help you at the gym or home if you have just started. It’s quite a challenge to learn how to lift weights on your own using a video tutorial or a book. Although it isn’t impossible, a trainer would guide you in a better way, and you’ll learn faster. And, you won’t need the services of a trainer always, just until you gain the necessary knowledge and skills.

Get your trainer to design the exercise plan for you and teach you how to perform it. Depending upon your skill level, you may need training for a couple of sessions and then opt for periodic and monthly follow-ups with your trainer.

You’ll enhance your confidence a lot when you’ve learned how to lift correctly.

  • Setting your goals:

For a majority of the beginners, the goal is to get stronger and tone up. Fortunately, this is possible through lifting within a few weeks’ time. Toning and muscle building may take a while because it usually depends upon how much excess fat your body has. For instance, if there is a lot of fat on the back of your arms, you won’t see overnight changes in your triceps muscles. Similarly, if there is excess fat on your belly then don’t expect the customary six-pack abs to appear right away.

Tips to Design an ideal Weight-Lifting Plan:

Weight:

Beginners can start with weights that can be lifted 10-12 repetitions to fatigue with good form. Fatigue indicates that your body cannot raise the weight more with good form. If you feel that you cannot lift the weight up without having to lean back, then it’s too heavy for you. You should lift 10-12 reps to fatigue to gain maximum strength and minimize the risk of injury or overtraining.

Sets:

For beginners, one set per exercise is ideal as a starter, and then you can do more if you want to. Research, however, reveals that one set per exercise is perfect for beginners to get sufficient strength.

Rest duration between sets:

Less than a minute rest between sets is better if you are looking to tone and develop endurance. Up to three minutes rest is suitable to those who want to focus more on strength since the additional recovery time allows the muscles to lift more on the next set.

Order of exercises:

You need to design a plan that allows large muscle groups to work first and then target smaller groups. The reason is that if smaller muscle group is fatigued earlier then the larger group won’t work as hard. For instance, you can do bent-over-rows before biceps curls because biceps will be working in both the exercises, but you’ll be using the larger back muscles in the rows.

Exercises:

Never select more than two exercises for each muscle group. Check out the list of best exercises for each muscle group using dumbbells and machines respectively to target large and small groups. These exercises are suitable for beginners in the listed order.

  • Chest: dumbbell press or incline dumbbell press, dumbbell flyes, chest press, cable flyes (crossovers)
  • Shoulders: dumbbell or cable side lateral raise, front raise, upright row
  • Back: dumbbell bent-over-row, assisted pull-up machine, cable row, pull-down
  • Arms: barbell or dumbbell biceps curls, triceps kickbacks, triceps press-downs
  • Abs: cable crunches, standing oblique crunches
  • Legs: barbell or dumbbell squats, leg extensions, leg curls on the machines, machine leg press.

Rest and recovery:

It’s a fact that muscle grows during the recovering time and not while training. Therefore, give yourself a day or two in between workouts to let your muscles repair and grow. You’ll feel more refreshed and strong at your next workout than the previous one. You might experience days when you won’t feel as strong, but let them pass as you’ll feel better the next time.

Splits:

You can use splits to organize your workout plan. For example, you can decide to target your chest on the first day and the back on the next day. Split routines are recommended for stronger and experienced lifters and not for beginners as it may get unnecessarily intense and expose you to the risk of an injury or burnout (overtraining).

Bottom Line:

Resistance exercise is excellent to round out your training session if you’re already doing cardio. It helps in building strength, toning up and preserving muscle while you lose excess body weight and feel good about your health and physique. Why not give it a try? 

You could get started with the following sample resistance training programs for beginners. 

Sample Resistance Training Programs For Beginners

Ideally, a workout should be tailored to each individual as it should be adapted to your anatomy and goals. However, these sample routines should be a good starting point if you’re new to resistance training. As you gain more experience, you should be able to learn to listen to your body and identify which exercises are best for you. 

Train at The Gym

For Men 

This workout is more adapted to men as the session starts with upper body exercises and focuses more on the back, pecs, shoulders and arms. Most men want a strong upper body with toned muscular legs that aren’t too bulky. 

Never skip legs and you shouldn’t have to worry much about the chicken leg syndrome. It’s not that common and you shouldn’t have such an issue as long as you train your lower body muscles consistently. 

TOTAL BODY Workout Routine for Beginners

For Women

Don’t get me wrong. I am the first to say that women should train like men in terms of intensity. However, most women want to focus more on their glutes and lower body in general. It doesn’t mean that they should neglect their upper body though.

Women must train their whole body, just like men. 

This full body workout starts with lower body exercises and hence, places an emphasis on the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. On a full body program, you always start with the muscles that you want to focus on simply because you have more energy at the beginning of your session and intensity tends to decrease as you go through the exercises.

FULL BODY WORKOUT | BEGINNER GYM EXERCISES EXPLAINED

Full workout: 

  • Leg Extension: 3 sets of 12 reps
  • Lying Hamstring Curl: 3 sets of 12 reps
  • Standing Calf Raise Machine: 3 sets of 12 reps
  • Hip Thrust: 3 sets of 12 reps 
  • Barbell military press: 3 sets of 12 reps
  • Lat pulldown: 3 sets of 12 reps
  • Wide Ez Grip Curl: 3 sets of 12 reps
  • Tricep Extensions: 3 sets of 12 reps
Abs workout 

Don’t forget to train your abs! 

Here is a sample workout by Kevin Kreider that you can perform at the gym: 

Six Pack Abs Workout by Kevin Kreider

Train At Home: Body Weight Workout

Here is a beginner’s workout for someone that doesn’t have access to a gym or weights. 

It’s a great way for people who want to start seeing their muscles while working out at home: 

The 10's Beginner Workout (Body Weight Only)

Top 27 Resistance Training Beginner Mistakes To Avoid 

resistance training women mistakes

1. Your resistance training sessions are too long

If the amount of muscle gained depended on the time spent in training, then the weight rooms would be full of guys with perfect looks, which is far from being the case. Many beginners spend hours in the gym and get discouraged by the poor results they get. Of course, you don’t gain muscle quickly, it takes months or even years to reach your full potential, but it could certainly be much faster.

In theory, your session should not exceed one hour, excluding cardio and stretching. Muscle growth does not occur during exercise, but afterwards during the recovery phase. Training is only there to stimulate muscle gain, but it is outside the gym that it becomes a reality. If you overtrain your muscles, you may exhaust your body and slow your progress.

To be successful, you need to do short, intense sessions. It’ s silly to say, but you’ll get better results by doing less; do less work to gain more!

So don’t fall into the trap of “ever more” which consists in extending the duration of training and adding even more sets of exercises. Training for 2 hours is not the right solution; more is not better! On the contrary, in weight training, you need to train less but better. 

45minutes to an hour excluding warm-up is a good rule of thumb. 

2. You train too often

As explained above, weight-training sessions exhaust the body, both regarding its composition and its capacity. Exercises have the effect of traumatizing the muscles, generating micro traumatisms, which are the cause of aches and pains, which the body will repair during the recovery phase. If you put it back on too soon, the body will not have time to clean up and prepare for another attack. By force, you will progress less quickly, and you may even fall back, without really understanding what is happening to you.

In practice, to avoid these inconveniences, do not exceed 3 to 4 weight training sessions per week if you train hard, with high intensity. Allow at least 3 days of recovery between sessions for the same muscle group, in the case of a split program with high training volume and intensification methods (supersets); and at least 48 hours between 2 sessions for the entire body (full-body).

3. You don’t eat enough

To gain muscle, you must eat! Many people ignore nutrition when it is as essential as training. In practice, you have to increase your calorie intake by eating more, but not too much. 

4. You eat too much

It’s a mistake I made when I started because I listened to the coach in my gym.

Overall, many will tell you that you have to eat a lot to become stronger. You certainly have to reach a caloric intake, but above that, it’s useless, and you’ll just store this useless surplus in the form of fat. 

You’ll then struggle during the cutting phase to trim all the fat gained while bulking and risk losing more muscle at that time since you always lose a little bit of it when you’re getting leaner.

5. You don’t warm up, and you don’t stretch

Today you’re fine, but tomorrow, how’ll you end up? Well, if you neglect the warm-up and ignore the stretching, chances are you’ll get injured.

The human body is not made to lift heavy weights day after day; so the least you can do is prepare it by warming it up and stretching after each session to keep its flexibility.

Wearing a lightweight warmup jacket at the beginning of the session can help you raise your overall temperature efficiently.

6. Your resistance training sessions are not intense

Do you do the correct number of reps and sets?

Traditional workout wisdom suggested for long that for muscle hypertrophy you have to work on between 8 and 15 reps and take an average of 1 minute 30 to 2 minutes of rest.

Recent studies showed that you could also build muscle by lifting lighter weights for more reps. 

What’s essential is focusing on getting stronger and keeping your sessions intense. 

When you choose to do ten reps on a set, your load must not allow you to any additional rep. You should also try to make progress regarding weights lifted and/or reps performed while keeping a proper form on your exercises.

I often see people doing the same exercises with the same loads all year round without getting tired. If you don’t suffer at least a little, your training is useless!

To build muscle, your goal is to lift heavier at each session or to do more reps, even if you only add 2.5 pounds per session or 1 rep. There will necessarily be sessions where you won’t lift more, but you should note an improvement month to month, otherwise, you won’t have built any muscle.

Generally speaking, the heavier you can lift with good form, the more muscle you will have built. This is valid unless you are on a powerlifting program based on very short sets (1 to 5 reps) and where progress will be due in large part to the nervous system (which doesn’t mean that you don’t build any muscle that way, but that’s another question). 

7. You don’t sleep enough

Rest is one of the three pillars of resistance training along with training and nutrition.

I don’t know about you, but when my sleep is shortened, my weight training session doesn’t go very well. We often forget it, but in a program that aims to radically change the physical appearance of your body, rest is essential. In general, 8 hours of sleep per night is recommended but it’s specific to each individual.

To sleep well, make sure you don’t train too late at night; avoid heavy and fatty meals before going to bed, as well as some stimulating activities such as video games, TV or the computer.

Try to go to bed at the same time every night, and not too late. If you had a bad sleep, take a short nap of about 20 minutes during the day. This will allow you to recharge so you can intensely hit the weights at the gym.

8. You believe in miracle pills

Beginners are often fascinated by supplements, thinking that they will turn out almost overnight like bodybuilding cover models.

Don’t be fooled.

Supplements are by no means magic products. Many people that aren’t familiar with weight training think that protein shakes are what builds muscle. 

Your first priority is to have a good diet; according to your needs and that it is adapted to your goal.

Supplements are not essential for progress, far from it, but may be useful in some cases and practical in some situations. Also, even advanced practitioners should be careful not to rely on supplements to correct training or nutritional errors. Look elsewhere where the problem lies!

Nothing prevents you from testing certain products though. It would be silly to deprive yourself of nutritional advances, but please do not turn your cupboards into a supplements store.

Protein shakes won’t replace a balanced diet with enough protein (0.8g per pound of body weight). That’s why they are called supplements and not substitutes!

If your nutrition is on point, you don’t even need them as a beginner!

9. You overlook the importance of fats and vegetables

Lipids or fats are essential to building muscle. They are involved in the production of hormones (growth…) that trigger this construction. No more neglecting them, consume a minimum of 0.8 g per kg.

Choose the right sources of fat such as avocado, salmon, olive oil, walnut oil, coconut oil, and almonds.

Vegetables are also essential because they contain fiber and also help build muscle and prevent injuries.

10. You don’t have a program, or your routine is not consistent

If you come into the gym and you don’t know what you’re going to do, you’re going nowhere. There are many gyms where coaches offer basic programs. This is always good, even if it is unfortunately not the case everywhere.

Be careful not to do too much isolation exercises. Concentrate mainly on polyarticular exercises such as the bench press or the squat.

Overall, your training sessions should consist of 75% polyarticular exercises and 25% isolation movements.

Do not hesitate to ask for advice but always keep in mind that sometimes coaches and other practitioners can tell you crazy things, so always verify the information you are being told.

11. You lift too heavy

Focus on the mind-muscle connection and mastering the techniques during your training.

Lifting heavy is good but if your form is bad, your muscle doesn’t work to the maximum of its capacity because you are using other muscles to lift the weight and no longer targeting the one that should work.

12. You do partial reps

I see this especially in the case of pull-ups or squats.

Many people are ashamed of being able to do only 2 or 3 pulls, especially those who have been training for years. Unfortunately, partial repetitions are not the solution. If you are ashamed of your performance in pull-ups, use the lat pull-down machine: it has been scientifically proven that doing pull-downs or pull-ups is exactly the same in terms of muscle stimulation.

When it comes to squats, you have to go as low as your mobility allows. Indeed, we are all different, and you may experience pain in your knees, pain in your lower back or fear of getting stuck at the bottom.

The sedentary lifestyle is devastating and if you are not descending to the squat at a very low level, the problem may not be where you think it is. Indeed, the knee can only do what the foot can control and what the hip allows.

In other words, to improve the range of movement, it is necessary to work on the mobility of the entire joint chain of the lower limbs, namely the feet, ankles and hips.

It is also essential to take genetics into account and the anatomy of your muscles. It will be much more difficult for someone very tall with long femurs to go very low on the squat without compromising the form and rounding the back.

This does not mean that you have to be satisfied with making 1/4 squats to impress everyone in the gym because you loaded the bars with so many plates.

Secondly, do not be ashamed to ask for advice, a poorly executed movement is less effective and often particularly dangerous.

13. You never change your program 

If you have been doing a program for several weeks/months and the results are decreasing, it is time to change your exercise or training program.

Your muscles and nervous system get used to your routine.

To force a muscle to grow bigger, you have to stress it, shock it.

14. You change your resistance training program every week

On the one hand, it is necessary to change the program periodically to stress the muscles and not fall into a routine to continually improve.

However, if you change programs too regularly, how do you want to measure your progress since the exercises, their order, and the number of reps change all the time?

15. You do useless exercises

Please stop with these forearm and adductor exercises thinking that it will allow you to build anything!

16. You try to train like a pro

You can’t train like a pro bodybuilder because you’re just not a pro! The pros who go on stage (not to mention natural bodybuilders competitions) are all doped up without exception, and they can train for hours and get results because they have chemical assistance.

17. You do too many abs

Okay, everyone would like to have Ronaldo’s abs. However, it is not by making 500 abs that you will succeed. Abdominal muscles are muscles just like any other muscle group and to stimulate them correctly, there is no point in doing hundreds of crunches a day.

I have some good news for you. You already have abs. To make them visible, you need to reduce your body fat percentage, generally below 10% for men and 15% for women.

To do this, bodybuilding helps because it allows you to burn fat all over the body and especially on the abdominal area, but it is your diet that will determine your muscle definition and will enable you to have beautiful and visible abdominal muscles.

18. You lack energy during your training

It seems that this is the case for some people, but I am not personally concerned since I practice intermittent fasting and I train on an empty stomach before my first meal without any problem.

If you don’t eat before training, you may have less energy to do your exercises and less strength which would result in less intensity in your workout.

Don’t forget to eat before training (2h – 1h before), or otherwise add a fast-acting carbohydrate source (maltodextrin, dextrose…) to your water for training.

19. As a woman, you’re afraid of becoming too bulky

That’s it; it’s the most common fear women encounter when they’re advised to do resistance training. I can perfectly understand them because, after being bombarded by images of bodybuilders, there is cause for concern!

It’s quite funny when you think about it because some men think they can become as muscular as bodybuilders and can’t, and women are afraid to become like the bodybuilders and that doesn’t happen either.

Why? 

Simply because these people use anabolic steroids to build a body beyond what is naturally possible. Without these products, which are illegal, it is impossible to look like a competing bodybuilder.

20. You train your pecs and biceps every day and forget about legwork

If you want to have a harmonious physique and avoid injuries, never do this.

Chicken legs are really not aesthetic, and you may simply hurt yourself.

21. You are obsessed

It’s a classic mistake.

You have started going to the gym, your muscles are magically growing, and you think you have found meaning in your life. “Gym is my life.” Um…

If you are not a professional in the world of weight training and weight training is really your life, you have a serious problem to solve.

Weight training is above all an activity that can be afforded by “luxury”. It is an excellent tool to feel good, push your body to its limits, externalize your rage and learn a few things about life.

However, basing your life solely on it will not get you anywhere because resistance training does not pay the bills.

Eating 6 meals a day with a timing studied to the minute and calculating your intake to the exact calories won’t allow you to gain more muscle, just not to have a life anymore.

The basis of nutrition is balance:

– You must have a sufficient protein intake (0.8g per pound of body weight is enough, not as much protein as specified in the reviews)

– The rest of the calories can come from carbohydrates or fat, whatever.

– You should try to calculate your intake with an accuracy of 100 or even 200 calories (ballpark it). We have an article that explains in detail how to lose belly fat and become shredded.

– The most important thing is the number of calories that you consume daily. It can be spread over 2 or 10 meals, the timing has little impact on your weight loss or muscle building efforts. Following the example of old-school bodybuilders won’t allow you to gain more muscle or burn more fat. On the contrary, intermittent fasting which consists of eating during restricted time periods will have many benefits for your body.

22. You think some exercises are necessary

There is no essential exercise.

I repeat.

There is no essential exercise in resistance training.

No, the bench press isn’t necessary to have beautiful pecs. It works well for some, but not for everyone.

Indeed, some exercises are simply not adapted to your morphology.

Some exercises are too risky, such as deadlifting. It is not for nothing that it is called like that! The benefits are not proportional to the risk. 

Other exercises can simply hurt you because they are not adapted to your morphology.

No exercise is essential. You can always find an alternative.

23. You don’t listen to your body

This is one of the most serious mistakes.

As soon as you feel discomfort or pain of any kind, you must immediately stop your movement, and analyze WHY.

For example, I had regular pain in my right shoulder during stretching exercises. I finally understood that it was a lack of warm-up. Since then, I’ve been warming up my rotator cuff muscles and no longer have any problems!

Forcing a painful movement is the best way to hurt yourself.

Listen to your body. This is the best indicator to know if a movement is appropriate for you or not.

24. You compare to your friends

Weight training is ‘’unfair’’. 

From one person to another, there can be huge differences.

One person will have a very beautiful genetic (long and symmetrical muscles), another will have a very bad genetic (short, asymmetrical muscles…).

Some progress very quickly, others progress much slower.

We are unequal in terms of genetics, that’s a fact.

However, this is absolutely no excuse to give up. In weight training, we always try to do as little as we can. You can always get better.

The “muscular you” will be infinitely more aesthetic than the “skinny/big you” version.

Actually, I’m convinced that the “final” version of you, no matter what your genetics, will be very impressive and better than 99.99% of people.

25. You listen to anyone’s advice in the gym

In weight training, everyone thinks they have the Holy Truth. Everyone becomes an expert based on their own experiences, without understanding that their bodies and those of their neighbors do not react in the same way.

This is very common in the gym where everyone thinks they know better than the other and will come to correct your movement or advise you on a super-revolutionary exercise that only works in their dreams.

If someone gives you advice, always try to analyze how they justify it. It’s the best way to identify if someone knows what he’s talking about. 

26. You’re doing too much cardio

Have you ever seen a marathon runner or even an accomplished jogger with a good physique? Probably not. They are either slightly emaciated, have a body with very few curves, or are very thin.

Without going into all hormonal or evolutionary changes, let’s simply accept the scientific fact that the body would generally sacrifice muscle rather than fat during caloric deficits, and what is excessive endurance exercise if not an artificially induced caloric deficit?

In any case, low-intensity cardio is not the best way to burn fat. It’s a myth.

Remember that you want to build muscle and excessive aerobic exercise is fatal to muscle growth. There are many more effective ways to burn fat.

Resistance training exercises are much more effective in achieving this goal.

Similarly, short periods of high-intensity exercise in the form of a sprint or Tabata exercise help muscles grow and burn fat simultaneously.

If you are not familiar with Tabata, it is a simple but brutal protocol in which you perform an activity as intensely as possible for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, then perform another 20 and 10 second exercise/rest cycle. You do this for 4 minutes in a row and then you collapse and it will be much more effective than 30 minutes of low-intensity cardio.

You can do training sessions in Tabata with stationary bike sprints or on a treadmill, dumbbell squats, or many other exercises.

27. You fall into the dark side

Understand by this, you’re using steroids! Anabolic steroids are banned and there’s a reason for that: using it has many side effects on mental and physical health. Don’t fall into this trap because there’s nothing to gain.

Sport is good for your health, but doping is cheating on yourself by destroying your health.

It is possible to build an impressive physique without the use of these substances. For most people, the natural mass limit corresponds to their height in centimeters minus 100 while being lean (at about 7-8% body fat), which is about 83kg for someone who is 1.83m tall.

Here’s how someone with these stats looks like: 

Kevin Kreider

So, do you really need to ruin your health with steroids?

These are just the most classic mistakes that we often encounter. If you think that your lack of results is not due to these errors, I invite you to comment and our experts will try to guide you. Anything else to share or to add? Let us know! 

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Youssef is the founder of DoctorFitHealth.com. He's passionate about fitness and nutrition and loves sharing his thoughts with others about the subject.

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