3 Common Strength Training Mistakes to Avoid

In this post, we're going to take a closer look at three of these mistakes and the science behind them.
March 27, 2023
3 Common Strength Training Mistakes to Avoid

Hey there! If you're reading this post, chances are you're already familiar with the benefits of strength training: it can help you build muscle, improve your metabolism, and boost your overall health and wellness.

But did you know that there are some common mistakes people make when strength training that can hinder their progress and even lead to injury? In this post, we're going to take a closer look at three of these mistakes, and more importantly, the science behind them.

Mistake #1: Not resting enough between sets

One of the biggest misconceptions in the world of strength training is that less rest between sets equals a better workout. While it might feel like you're pushing yourself harder by minimizing rest periods, the science tells a different story.

When you perform strength training exercises, you're causing microscopic damage to your muscle fibers. This damage is a good thing – it signals your body to repair and rebuild those fibers, making them stronger and larger over time. However, for your muscles to do their job and recover effectively, they need adequate rest between sets.

Research shows that taking longer rest periods (around 2-3 minutes) allows for better strength and muscle gains compared to shorter rest periods (less than 1 minute). One study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared the effects of 1-minute versus 3-minute rest periods and found that longer rest periods led to significantly greater increases in muscle strength and size.

The science behind this is all about energy replenishment. When you work out, your muscles rely on adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to fuel contractions. During rest periods, your muscles have a chance to replenish their ATP stores, allowing you to perform at a higher intensity in subsequent sets. More intensity equals more muscle stimulus, which translates to better gains.

In short: don't skimp on rest periods between sets. Your muscles need time to recharge, and giving them that time can lead to bigger, better strength gains.

Mistake #2: Changing exercise selection too often

It's easy to get bored with your workout routine, and we get it – variety is the spice of life. But when it comes to strength training, constantly changing up your exercise selection might be holding you back from making serious gains.

While it's important to incorporate different exercises to target various muscle groups, the key to building strength and muscle is progressive overload. This means gradually increasing the amount of stress placed on your muscles over time, either through increased weight, volume, or intensity. By constantly switching up your exercises, you're less likely to apply consistent progressive overload, making it harder to track your progress and see tangible improvements.

Let's take a look at the science. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that sticking to the same core exercises for an extended period of time led to greater strength improvements compared to frequently changing exercises. By focusing on a few key movements, participants were able to consistently progress in weight and volume, leading to better overall strength gains.

Now, this doesn't mean you should never change your exercises – in fact, incorporating new movements can help prevent imbalances and address weaknesses. But instead of completely overhauling your workout routine every few weeks, consider sticking to a core set of compound exercises (like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses, rows) for at 12-16 weeks, and rotating your accessory exercises every 4-6 weeks if you absolutely need to.

By staying consistent with your exercise selection, you'll be able to better apply progressive overload and track your progress, ultimately leading to better strength and muscle gains.

Mistake #3: Not getting close enough to failure

We've all been there – you're nearing the end of your set, and you start to feel the burn. The natural instinct might be to stop and catch your breath, but when it comes to strength training, pushing yourself closer to failure can be the key to unlocking major gains.

Training to failure, or close to it, means performing an exercise until you can't complete any more reps with proper form. This high level of intensity increases muscle activation and stimulates growth. By stopping your set well before failure, you're not fully capitalizing on your muscle's potential for growth.

The science backs this up. A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that training to failure led to greater increases in muscle size and strength compared to stopping short of failure. Another study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology discovered that training to failure increased muscle activation and metabolic stress, both of which are key factors in promoting muscle growth.

Now, before you go all-out in every set, it's important to note that training to failure should be used strategically. Going to failure on every set can increase your risk of injury and lead to overtraining, so it's essential to strike a balance. Consider incorporating failure training for your final set of an exercise, or use it sparingly in your accessory exercises to minimize risk while still reaping the benefits.

By pushing yourself closer to failure, you'll create a more potent stimulus for muscle growth and strength gains, helping you break through plateaus and reach your fitness goals faster.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it, folks – three common strength training mistakes and the science behind why they might be stalling your progress. Remember, when it comes to building muscle and strength, it's all about quality over quantity. Give your muscles enough rest between sets, stay consistent with your exercise selection, and don't be afraid to push yourself closer to failure. By addressing these common pitfalls, you'll be well on your way to smashing your strength training goals. Until next time, stay stoked!

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