The 10 Worst Pieces of Training Advice Ever Given
Advice about training is like the presidential race; a whole lot of information, opinions and heated discussions only to make you more frustrated than ever before. Some thoughts on training are taken as law while others are tossed aside on the scrapheap of ridiculous. What is a newbie to do when all they want is to gain some muscle, build a little strength and look and feel better?
The basics of weight training will be a discussion for another article. Here I want to highlight some of the more common fallacies when it comes to common training advice dispensed every day in gyms around the world.
To many, these are seen as carved in stone allowing little wiggle room if any. Some will read on and scoff while others (with a genuine sense of wanting to learn more) will open their minds and contemplate their relevance. Read on and discover how many of these you have heard around the local gym water fountain.
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10 Awful Gym Tips
#1 – You need to train each body part only once per week
This age-old “wisdom” has been the norm for a couple of decades now. The belief that you need a full seven days of rest between training each body part was derived from professional bodybuilding circles.
The thought is that you should pummel only one body part per session into the ground with a plethora of sets, reps and massive amounts of weight. Since you will be driving specific body parts to their limits you will require ample amounts of rest for recovery and growth.
The truth: If we want to stick with bodybuilding ideology you could easily reference the golden era when training was polar opposite of what it is today. Training several or all body parts per session were common along with an increased training frequency.
Oftentimes, the entire body was trained twice and even three times per week. Additionally, volume was kept in check without pounding the body into submission each session, which would make it difficult to recover from.
Logic states that the more often you stimulate a muscle the faster it will recover and grow. You don’t need to participate on “international chest days” like everyone else. Blaze your own path. Besides, who wants to wait an entire week before training the same body part again?
#2 – Squats hurt your knees
These “authorities” of the squat swear that the exercise is the bane of the gym. It causes not only knee pain but also bad backs, tight hips and is an overall bad movement to perform. They have suffered said ailments from the squat so why should you, right?
The fact most likely is that they themselves are performing the exercise all wrong. Whether it’s an unstable stance/foundation, improper alignment of knees, hips and/or lumbar or simply a blatant lack of any sane technique at all, the squat-haters are steadfast in their beliefs.
The truth: The squat is one of the most functional, effective exercises you can perform when done correctly Multi-joint, full-body and real-world relatable it has the potential for making your entire body bigger and stronger.
Some key points to remember to make the squat work for you: Keep your knees in-line with your toes, drop your hips back and down (as if you are trying to sit in a chair), back straight, abs tight and stay slow and controlled throughout the movement. Let the squat be a friend, not a foe.
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#3 – Curl even more weight for bigger arms
Aside from a big, strong bench press every gym-goer yearns for bigger arms. Curls become their best friend. Set after, gut-wrenching set they sacrifice form and function just to get more weight up. If 12 sets aren’t enough, more has to be better.
They also include every angle of curl in the book: Barbell curls, dumbbell curls, incline curls, preacher curls, concentration curls and that funny-looking-double-cable-exercise-that-looks-like-your-flexing curl. But, the gains just don’t appear. What is going on?
The truth: To get bigger arms two things must change. Number one: You need to pay as much, if not more attention to your triceps. Since they have the potential to become more massive that your biceps, it would behoove you greatly to focus on them as well. Number two: You will have an easier time growing bigger arms if you also focus on the hard multi-joint exercises for your chest and back.
Bench presses, close-grip bench presses, chins, rows and other heavy pulls will all significantly contribute to larger arms. Think about it; if you are performing sets of chin-ups and heavy rows on a regular basis, your biceps have no choice but to grow. Also, you won’t have to perform countless sets of curls; two exercises should finish them off nicely.
#4 – Always start chest workouts with the bench press
Ah yes, the bench press. The (true?) measure of a man. The most common question you hear when you are recognized as someone who lifts is, “How much ya bench?” And why not start each chest session with a big, multi-joint movement that allows you to lift a ton of weight and impress your gym buddies all at the same time?
The truth: If you aren’t one of the blessed out there who possesses an impressive bench press then you may need to rethink your plan of action. Several things are at play here that could be hindering your chest development.
First, think about what you are in the gym for. Is it to get stronger, bigger or just feed your ego? Next, if the bench press isn’t working find an effective replacement. Lastly, put away your ego. Focus on you and your progress. Experiment, find out what works and get rid of the rest. Is it mostly incline work? Using mainly dumbbells? Only you can find that out.
#5 – Pull-ups are useless, stick to rows
Pull-ups are one of the most difficult exercises for someone to master for the sheer fact that you are required to pull your own body weight. Additionally, you have to achieve an overall stabilization of your entire body in order to execute it correctly.
Many seem to bypass this all-important movement instead to focus on pull down, row and deadlift exercises. The act of pulling your own body weight is mentally daunting as well. Why do it when you have other options?
The truth: Pull-ups are virtually a must-do exercise. It’s one of the greatest back-builders around. Not only that, they also build strength and mass into your shoulders and biceps. Not able to crank out many reps? Try a regressive version of the exercise by either having a partner assist you by holding your feet or loop a band around the ends of the bar and hook your feet to help with reducing the resistance.
You can also include sets of inverted rows to help with strength development. Once you are somewhat proficient at the pull-up without assistance, choose a total number to complete for each workout such as 30, 40 or 50 and perform as many sets as it takes to reach that goal.
#6 – Lunges are for girls
You normally see the men in the squat rack and on the leg press sleds and women are busy lunging in all its forms. What good is it to carry a light load and lunge when you can squat and leg press a ton of weight.
Guys don’t want to even remotely look feminine in the gym so lunges are usually left off the workout menu of the day. Besides, what can lunges do for you anyways? Give you a shapely butt?
The truth: If you really think about it, lunges are actually a series of single-legged squats. Not only that, they let your hips and legs function in a more natural motion than the leg press. Since the leg press is fixed on both ends of your legs (hips and feet) your back and hips are locked in allowing no freedom for adjustments while performing the exercise.
The lunge, on the other hand let’s your own unique form and function take place. Lastly, the lunge allows for more of the lower body to be stimulated since balance and stability become factors.
#7 – Stop training calves, it’s all genetic
You’ve heard the saying, “If you weren’t born with good calves, you can’t build them.” You may be the type who has small calves and regularly beats the heck out of them on leg day. Set after painful set still produces little returns if any at all.
It is easy to see how the above statement can hold at least some truth. If you’re training your calves like a madman then you must be one of the unlucky who got in the wrong line when they were handing out genetics.
The truth: Most gym-goers don’t treat their calves equally. In other words, they will scheme, rework, re-engineer, and reconfigure their chest and arm workouts. They will refuse to accept failure when it comes to troubleshooting those mirror muscles but calves receive the white flag of surrender.
Look at your calf training with same lens. Do you need to lighten the load and practice better form? Do you need to decrease the volume slightly and increase the frequency they’re trained each week? Yes, genetics does play a role, but it isn’t an excuse. Everyone can improve their calf development to some degree.
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#8 – Ab work is useless, you just need to get lean
Abs are made in the kitchen, as the saying goes. What good is it to train the midsection if you have a thick layer of fat sitting on top of it? Plus, sit-ups, crunches and leg raises do little for the abs since there is no such thing as spot reduction.
While some of this is true to an extent you can’t overlook the advantages of a strong midsection and what it can do for the rest of your physique.
The truth: Yes, there is no such thing as spot reduction to the point that crunches will give you that ripped midsection you’ve always wanted. But, there are just too many benefits to training abs. A strong core will aid other lifts since you derive power from your midsection. Just think of how important your core is when performing a squat.
A tight, strong abdominal wall helps to keep and direct power and strength to where it needs to go. Training your abs also helps you train to control breathing during exercises and it will develop the muscularity of each area to show off once you finally strip away that last bit of adipose.
#9 – Rest as much as possible outside of the gym
You hear this one in most “hardgainer” camps. Hit the gym hard, quick and infrequently and then go home to rest as much as you can while you pack in the calories. As the theory goes you need all the rest you can possibly get in order to optimally recover and grow new muscle. This has created an army of lazy, bored wannabe bodybuilders struggling to gain muscle and stay lean.
The truth: The whole “hardgainer” mentality is backwards. The superfast metabolism that so many see as a curse is actually a blessing. A fast metabolism translates to heightened recovery ability. That will enable you to train more frequently (with proper nutrition) and recover faster from each workout. More frequency means more muscle in less time.
Additionally, you shouldn’t shun outside activities. A pick-up game of basketball won’t prevent you from gaining muscle. Be social, be active, have fun. Don’t live for the gym – let it work in your favor.
#10 – You don’t need weights, using your body is enough
Bodyweight-only training is all the rage right now. Little-to-no equipment needed and the ability to practice anywhere, bodyweight training has many benefits. Manipulating and lifting your own bodyweight is a true display of strength and ability.
You can potentially build some impressive muscle and strength from this type of training. But the fact of the matter is you need more if your goal is to build beyond an athletic looking body.
The truth: To build a truly impressive physique you need to add weight equipment to your equation. Barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, bands and other pieces of equipment are needed to pack even more muscle onto your frame. Yes, you can progress bodyweight-only training but only to a certain extent.
Sooner or later you will need to load up a bar with plates to overload an area you want to improve. Plus, functional exercise like squats, deadlifts and shoulder presses can stimulate growth that no bodyweight exercises can do.