Being a personal trainer since 2016 (and learning under some of the world’s best coaches), my approach to training has changed as my knowledge about the human body and general movement has increased. Now I focus a lot on movement and injury prevention, and how weight training can help compliment day to day life.
In particular, I find that squat, bench & deadlift movement patterns help to develop a strong and stable body and promote a pain free life.
As with many growth periods, it was often through my mistakes that I have learnt the most. I’m very open about the pros and cons of training every day and by doing so hope to help others in their fitness journey.
So, here are my 6 biggest mistakes but also the greatest lessons I have learnt along the way. To avoid making the same mistakes, remember to reduce your weight, master your form and don’t rush your process, enjoy the journey and never train in pain!
Mistake 1: Training through joint and tendon pain
For years I used to think this was a normal part of training and wouldn’t listen to my body. Instead, I’d resort to anti-inflammatories, ice packs, deep heat creams – you name it, I’ve used it. But what I have grown to learn is that training should NEVER cause tendon or joint pain. If it does either the weight is too heavy, your technique/ movement is off or your body just simply isn’t ready for the load.
The solution: My solution to the above is simple – REST is key! Let your body rest when the pain is bad or uncomfortable. Once the pain has decreased, you should begin the process of refining your technique and learn where your movement patterns have let you down causing either your joints or tendons to take a beating. I often tell my clients ‘training is a marathon, not a sprint’ which means having some time off really isn’t that bad if you’re training for a lifetime. Listen to your body, it’s a smart machine.
Mistake 2: Not taking rest days because I was scared of ‘losing gainz’
We have all had this internal conversation with ourselves at some point. ‘If I don’t train today, I’ll lose all my effort and progression over the last few weeks’. Looking back, I realise this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the more rest and recovery the more ‘gainz’ you’ll make with your training! I have found the sweet spot with training seems to be 4-5 days per week, pending on the individual and goals (the days can be adjusted), and having 2-3 days of rest or active rest. This routine has shown to be highly beneficial for not only training motivation but also allowing the body to simply recover.
The solution: I have said this already, but training is a marathon, not a sprint! If you miss a session or two, or even three over a week, that is OK! You could even miss a whole week and in the grand scheme of things it won’t matter. In fact, the rest could do your training a world of good. Don’t over train yourself in order to achieve your goals. What I preach to my clients and something I’ve really learnt the hard way over the years is that less is more with training. Be efficient with your training and time when in the gym!
Mistake 3: Lifting heavy every session
Are you attempting a one rep PB every session? Oh don’t worry, I have many times. And guess what? It’s injury central.
As an 18–21-year-old, I was obsessed with constantly trying to be stronger week to week, only to find out after injuring both my shoulders that this is not how the body likes to train. It’s neither effective nor efficient. Heavy lifting doesn’t equal more muscle! Repetition and time under tension does. And in fact, food and nutrition is the key to putting on good muscle mass. Lifting heavy is an old school myth.
The solution: Don’t lift heavy all the time. Depending on your goal and what you’re trying to achieve and whether or not you are being coached or following a program, any strength-based program will have peak weeks.
Meaning: weeks where you will be programmed to achieve and hit your old personal best in an attempt to beat them. Stick to this plan – don’t try to out-lift yourself every week. This is the perfect storm for injury and set-backs with your training. Again, remember you don’t have to lift heavy all the time to create your dream body. Time is your best friend with training, use it wisely.
Mistake 4: Sacrificing technique for weight
I am beyond guilty of this. ‘Ego lifting’ is what I like to call it, and yes I’m guilty as charged.
Particularly in my younger years of training, all I wanted to do was lift the heaviest amount of weight for as many reps as possible, not really worrying about my form and what that might be doing to my body. Especially around my joints, tendons and lower back. I used to be sore after training, not a good muscle sore, but that dull ache where you know something isn’t right. And this all rolls into my previous mistakes of anti-inflammatories, being in pain and not taking enough rest, resulting in being injured.
The solution: The solution is an obvious one – reduce your weight. Hire a coach and learn how to move correctly.
A small investment can pay off for the long term and see you train for years to come.
Training pain free has to be the biggest objective. You should never be in pain when training and if you are, something isn’t working correctly, or your technique is letting you down. Pull your weights back, master your form, hit your sets and reps and don’t rush. Enjoy the process and enjoy the learning.
Mistake 5: Not following a program
For years I never followed a program, and at the start my training skyrocketed, but I got to a point where I was trying to train and lift heavy every session. And guess what – that lead back to my first mistake, that I was constantly injured. I would get demotivated, angry that my training wasn’t progressing, frustrated and would yoyo between loving my training and not.
The solution: The solution here is to hire a coach and follow a program. Now being a coach, I also have a coach who writes out my programs and checks in with me, just like how I do with my clients.
It keeps me accountable and also ensures I’m heading in the right direction to hit my goals. Training is all about small increments and progression over a period of time, not trying to achieve personal bests every session. Follow a program, be patient with your training and you’ll be hitting your goals not only pain free, but faster!
Mistake 6: Feeling like I had to be sore after every session
We are all guilty of this! I used to get so angry and disappointed if I wasn’t sore after my sessions. ‘What a waste’ I used to think to myself. This couldn’t be further from the truth – in all seriousness, who likes being sore for days on end? I know I don’t.
In fact, the sorer I am, the less energy I have towards the rest of my training in the week. The aim with training should be to stimulate, not annihilate!
The solution: My solution here is to ask yourself the following questions:
Have my weights from last week increased?
Am I having less rest time in between sets?
Am I moving better with my lifts?
Am I up or down weight on the scales?
These are the variables a successful program should be covering. Initially you should be slightly sore in your first week or two of a new training phase due to new exercises and loads but being sore every session, for every week, shouldn’t be the determining factor as to whether or not you had a good workout. Start using the above questions as goals and watch your training completely change.