You go to the
gym. You lift weights. But so far your muscles aren’t looking any more sculpted
than when you started. If you’ve been putting in the work but not seeing
results, it’s likely that something is wrong with your workout—not your
willpower. Avoid 5 common strength training mistakes with these tips from
weight lifting guru Wayne Westcott, PhD, Prevention advisory board
member and director of fitness research at Quincy College in Massachusetts, and
you’ll be a lot closer to achieving that lean, strong body you’re after.
Mistake #1: You’re
ditching the warm up.
While it’s tempting to forgo a proper warm up, taking a few minutes for a quick
walk or jog on the treadmill will help you get more out of your strength
training routine. “A warm up increases the temperature of your muscles and
tendons, making them more elastic so you’re less likely to injure yourself,”
says Westcott. Besides, you’ll burn a few extra calories too! See more ideas
for the right way to warm up.
Mistake #2: You’re
using the wrong amount of weight.
Too heavy, and you could injure yourself, too little and you’re wasting your
time. When you’re new to strength training, start with 1 to 2 sets of 15 to 20
reps using a lighter weight (about 50% of your maximum lift, i.e., the amount
of weight you can lift once). As you become stronger, graduate to 2 or 3 sets
of 10 to 15 reps with heavier weight (60 to 75% of your max lift).
Mistake #3: Your
form is sloppy. Lifting
too quickly and using momentum are two common culprits that can lead to injury
and make your workout less effective. In fact, slower is better when it comes
to weight lifting. “Moving slowly actually allows you to produce more muscle
force, without putting extra stress on your joints. If you’re using inertia,
the weight pretty much carries itself, so you’re not getting as good of a
workout,” says Westcott. (Weight-lifting isn't the only exercise where bad form
can hurt you. Check out 10 mistakes you make on the elliptical trainer.)
routine is older than your favorite college sweatshirt. It’s easy to fall into a
workout rut, doing the same few moves over and over. Swapping in a few new
moves every few weeks will help you avoid plateaus. “Your muscles adapt to
moves, and you no longer see the same gains in strength after a few weeks,”
says Westcott. “Even changing up your workout slightly—say by swapping your
tried-and-true bench press with an incline press—will shock your muscles and
speed results.” Want to really switch it up? Ditch your dumbbells for something
new, like kettlebells or sandbells.
Mistake #5: You’re
standing still between sets. If
you normally rest between sets, you’re missing out on the calorie-burn boost
that’s found in adding mini cardio bursts, like a 2-5 minute jog on the
treadmill or jumping rope. You’ll burn more calories, and you can cross off
both your cardio and strength training in one 30- to 45-minute workout, says