Strength training can be an important part of your workout routine—that is, if you’re doing it right. If you’re making some of the most common strength training mistakes, not only will you see fewer results, but you’ll put yourself at greater risk for injury. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t able to have a personal trainer sitting by our side, pointing out our errors. This means that it’s not unusual for most people to be getting something wrong when it comes to strength training. Luckily, it’s never too late to make some changes that can take your fitness to the next level.
“People commonly make mistakes mostly because they don’t get the right advice,” says Personal Trainer and Health Coach Carmen Shawn CPT- ISSA, PN1, CHC. “They get tips from friends or family, and they copy what others are doing in the gym. This leads to poor form and exercise selection.”
To make sure that you’re making the most out of your workout, you’ll want to make sure you strength train the right way. Here are seven common strength training mistakes to avoid and what you can do to fix them.
Lifting Too Heavy
It’s tempting to lift the heaviest weights you can, but doing so can put you in danger of injury. “Put your ego to the side, and lift the weight you can control confidently,” says Aaptiv Trainer Ackeem Emmons. “A remedy for this is experimenting with lesser weights and higher rep ranges. Strength is the goal, but there are various ways to get there.”
If you’re not sure what weights to lift, start light and work your way up. If you can perform 15 solid reps with good form, you found your proper weight. Once that becomes too easy, it’s time to level up 2-5 pounds.
Lifting With Incorrect Form
Form will make or break your strength workout. You not only can injure yourself by not paying attention to form, but you also cut your effort short. Prioritize form over everything else, especially over weight. Practice every strength move in the mirror before you add weight. Once you have perfected form and can ensure that you’re activating the correct muscles for a movement, then you can add weight.
Also, never push yourself just for the sake of gains or depth. One of the most common strength training mistakes is rounding the back while performing a squat. “This is especially dangerous if using a heavy weighted barbell in a back squat,” says Heather L. Tyler, NSCA-CPT. “Many do this when squatting as low as possible—as they’ve been led to believe it is the only ‘proper’ way to do this exercise.” Instead, Tyler says that you should only squat as low as you can with correct form. “Excessive forward pressure on knees, heels raising off the floor, back rounding rather than maintaining natural curvature—all of these errors are indicators that you’re not ready yet to squat so deeply, and injury is on the way,” she says.
Losing Control of Weights
Another very common mistake is not controlling the weight lifted, whether the movement involves free weights or machines. “The motion should not be jerky, and when returning to the starting position, it should be fluid and controlled,” says Tyler. “Avoid dropping or completely releasing the weight/resistance. This puts the joint at risk for injury. Think of a rubber band slowly extending and releasing.”
Following the Same Routine
Make sure that you switch up your routine every time you hit the gym. “As humans, we are designed to adapt,” says Emmons. “Lift the same weight, the same amount of times, every time, and your body will no longer change or improve. To prevent this, manipulate your workouts. Different modules, rep ranges, and weights are key.”
Not Eating Enough
One of the most common strength training mistakes people make is not nourishing themselves before and after working out. “A car cannot run without gas, and we cannot run without fuel,” says Emmons. “Good carbs, lean protein, and healthy fats nourish the body to benefit your training. The lack thereof does not allow for an efficient workout.”
Resting Too Much—or Not Enough
“If lifting heavy, you must rest between sets in order for your body to clear lactic acid from [the] muscles,” says Tyler. “The time is typically two to three minutes. Conversely, if you are lifting lighter in an endurance zone, your rest between sets should be no more than one minute on average. So, watch your screen time and conversations between sets.”
Wrong Exercise Order
When it comes to strength training mistakes, the order that you do your exercises in matters as much as what types of workouts you’re doing. “Always have a plan entering the gym,” says Trainer James Shapiro MS, CPT, CES, PES. “Aiming for larger movement patterns should be a priority when you step in the gym for your workout. Squats, bench pressing, overhead pressing, deadlifts, and Olympic lifting should come first in your order. As your workout moves along, you should move to more isolated exercises that work along one muscle joint, like curls, tricep extensions, leg curls, leg extensions, and calf raises.”
Avoid these common strength training mistakes to have a safer, more effective workout.