Going to the gym is pretty easy – actually doing anything successful when you’re there is a lot harder. To make sure you’re actually getting something out of your time spent lifting weights rather than just wandering aimlessly around the gym floor, we got in touch with personal trainer Dan Price from London’s SIX3NINE gym to find out what it is you’re doing wrong and what you need to do to fix it.
You don’t know your goal:
‘To get the most out of your training, it is important to know what your goal is specifically, rather than just “get in better shape”. This will have an effect on you choices regarding training style and nutrition.’
You aren’t eating the right stuff:
‘If you are primarily trying to build muscle or get stronger, a calorie surplus is favourable. If you are primarily trying to lose weight a calorie deficit is required. Both these goals will require adequate protein intake.
Often people will make the mistake of either neglecting appropriate nutrition entirely or perhaps applying the wrong approach for their goal. Mantras such as “no carbs before Marbs” may make it very difficult for someone trying to eat enough food to build muscle or get stronger. Equally, if you’re over consuming protein shakes, “good fats” and copious amounts of nuts without monitoring your calorie intake, you may have a tough time maintaining a calorie deficit. Without this, you will not lose weight.’
You’re training like a bodybuilder:
‘One common approach for those starting out is to look up a training programme that their favourite bodybuilder or cover model performs. The logic being that if that’s how they train, tha’ts how you should train!
The main problem with this, is you are not a bodybuilder. These guys have likely been training for 20+ years, have a lot more muscle, greater recovery, access to professional coaches, and may well be taking a variety of performance enhancing drugs. For this reason the training protocol followed by bodybuilders and physique competitors has little carry over to the novice.’
You’re using too much weight:
‘It is common for those new to training to want to increase the weight on their exercises as soon as possible. This can often result in the weight getting heavier and heavier but the targeted muscle getting less and less stimulus as momentum, swinging and other muscle groups are coming in to help. If form is suffering as the weight increases, you are not really performing the same exercise.
Increasing load is just one variable in progression. Focus on keeping the movement controlled throughout and trying to feel the contraction in the muscle you are training. Adding more repetitions, slower tempo, shorter rest period, different exercise variations and more sets are all ways of increasing intensity without having to constantly increase the weight of an exercise.’
You don’t ‘know your body’:
‘Another reason to avoid following pre-made programmes is they are designed for a mass audience rather than an individual. Depending on your own body, injury history, muscular imbalances, and bio mechanics, different exercises will vary in how suitable they are for you. For example, typical desk posture can contribute to protraction of the shoulders (rounding). In this instance a training programme may be better focused around retraction exercises to strength the upper back rather than additional pressing exercises that may exacerbate the issue.’
You haven’t had the right advice:
‘Seek professional advice from a good PT even if it’s just for one session. This should help assess your goals and make sure your training programme and nutrition are appropriate for your body and what you’re trying to achieve.
More generally, when starting out keep your training simple. Train movements rather than muscles and focus on technique rather than weight. Unless you have identified a particular imbalance and are working with a professional, look to include a hinge, squat, press and pull in each session. Make sure your nutrition is in line with your goal.’