Mistakes made in the gym

Originally posted 27/04/2014

Wasn’t going to do one of these for a while but today I saw a few things at the gym that really grind my gears!

Firstly then is people training legs without squatting. The 80/20 rule states that 20% of the work you put in accounts for 80% of the results. In this case I’ll look at compound exercises as the 20% of work done. In theory if you were to triple your 20% activities you’d get three times the results. Compound exercises use more than one muscle group therefore making the body work harder, utilizing more energy and working more muscles. In addition to this, the hormonal reaction you get from these large compound movements is essential for gaining strength and size.  Instead, these gym goers read too many bodybuilding magazines and articles and adhere to the leg extensions and preacher curls. Unless these exercises are supersetted with your training partner giving you glute injections you’re not going to get the average gym goer any bigger.

The second thing that irritates me; People getting too focused in the pump. These people are walking into the gym and curling the 12kg Dumbbells for 10,000 reps, well maybe not 10,000 but the amount of reps they are doing is a total waste of time for people wanting to get stronger. The body will adapt to lifting light but you will not get the same hormonal reactions and recruit the larger muscle fibres which in turn will make you bigger and stronger. People forget the old fashioned way of training, Lift big, eat big and you will get big. Too many people are following bodybuilding programmes which are being relatively ineffective and then taking pictures, uploading them all over social media and claiming themselves to be a ‘bodybuilder’. You are a body builder if you are training to compete on stage, if you’re not then you’re just a person who goes to the gym and lifts weights. I jumped over a puddle this morning, does that make me a long jumper?  

The next thing that didn’t so much annoy me but made me think of the structure of training was seeing a person perform 5 plyometric (clap) press ups before bench pressing 12 reps. He then performed 5 clap press-ups and lifted a heavier weight for 3 reps. Research shows that training strength, power and hypertrophy alongside each other has a detrimental effect when training them at the same time. You could argue he was performing this to ‘wake up’ the Central Nervous System, maybe I should have asked but power exercises before a near maximal lift can be fatiguing. Although I realise that everyone wants to be big, strong and powerful but may not have the time to go to the gym 2, 3 times a day and may not have the knowledge of periodizing training I believe there is a better way of structuring training to accommodate this. Post-activation potentiation (PAP) is the phenomenon that performing a sub-maximal contraction (3-5 reps) prior to an exercise will enhance the explosive/power movements. For example, Squatting before performing a vertical jump or a sprint will make you jump higher/run faster than you would without performing the squat beforehand. Usually PAP is applied with a 3-10 minute rest period after the first submax contraction, however in this case, to save time and as we’re only using body weight, Supersetting Strength training with Power exercises can take advantage of PAP. Performing a 5 rep max, and then performing clap push-ups will keep you strong and quick. Just ensure adequate rest of about 3-5 minutes per set.

The last thing I want to moan about is a bloke who asked me to spot him today as he was trying to work his way up to a new 1 rep max on the bench press. He stated he would hit a new 1RM of 135kg. This was his warm up prior to the maximal lift.

1.       60kgx12

2.       88.5x10

3.       115x5

4.       127.5x3

5.       135x0

Before even getting to test his Max he had lifted a volume of 2,562.5 kg in 30 reps. This excessive amount of weight lifted before he had tested the 1RM was insane. No wonder he fatigued and failed to achieve a new 1RM. So what I’m getting at here is that his warm up was excessive and ineffective for the goal he was trying to achieve. A better structure for warming up for a 1RM bench press is something like this.

1.       4x5 with bar (20kg)

2.       2x3 with 40kg

3.       3x60kg

4.       3x75kg

5.       3x88.5kg

6.       3x100kg

7.       1x115kg

8.       1x127.5kg

9.       1x135kg (NEW 1RM)

This way you are performing 40 reps but with a total volume of 1,987.5kg. So you have more of a warm-up but with less fatigue. This warm up will activate your Central Nervous System and recruit the larger muscle fibres without fatiguing them.

To conclude then, go and lift something heavy.