New to strength training or trying to tweak your technique? PT Cassie Grul takes us through the most common mistakes people make when starting strength training – and how to fix them!
1. Not having the right technique and lifting too heavy
Your technique needs to be 100% when you begin your fitness and strength training journey. At first, you might be excited and motivated to lift heavy and start piling the weights onto the squat rack or bench press. It’s great that you have the confidence, but it can be too much! Getting your technique right before adding weight is the best way to prevent injury. A few cues I like to use when I coach my clients through lifts are:
- Brace your core
- Chest up and shoulders back
- Push the floor apart (For squats and deadlifts)
- Squeeze shoulder blades and relax your neck
- Keep a neutral spine and look ahead
Also remember to consider your posture when picking up heavy dumbbells, kettlebells and large plates. I have seen injuries happen just from people racking up bars without actually doing the exercise!
It is important to note that rest days are just as important as your training days. Having rest days reduces the risk of overtraining and gives your body the recovery and repair it needs for your next training session. Training too much can slow down your progress and leave you feeling tired and sore all the time and very demotivated. If you still want to go to the gym on your rest days, do some stretching, foam rolling, take part in a yoga or pilates class or just simply go for a walk and get some Vitamin D and fresh air. For beginners, I would recommend starting with 2 or 3 training days per week and over a certain amount of time slowly increase to 5 training days with 2 rest days per week. Ensure you are getting adequate sleep (minimum 7 hours each night is recommended) and that your diet is in alignment with your goals so you get the best recovery and benefits.
3. Not reaching out to a PT or fitness professional for help and guidance
Having a personal trainer is a great way to get started on the right path with strength training if you haven’t done it before, if you’re having some issues with injury or if you’re unable to do a certain exercise due to flexibility or mobility. If you start training with poor form from the start it becomes a habit that can be very difficult to change and can be doing you more harm than good! A personal trainer can give you the tools and continued guidance on how to lift safely and get the maximum benefit out of an exercise. They’ll get you on track to achieving your goals! Having a specialised training program that is tailored to your goals and helps improve mobility, flexibility and strength will make your fitness journey a lot easier. It’s better than walking into the gym clueless about what you should be doing.
4. Not warming up and cooling down
Warming up is very important for the preparation and progression of your workout. It is very common for someone to walk into the gym and do a couple of leg and arm swings, then jump straight onto the weights thinking that they are ready. You really need to get your body moving functionally for what you’re about to do, especially if you workout in the morning after waking up or at the end of the day after work. In your warm up, you need to increase blood flow to your muscles to loosen your joints, prepare your muscles for contracting and stretching and prepare your cardiovascular system for an increase of activity. I usually recommend about 10 minutes warm up on a treadmill, cross trainer or bike and then doing some specific resistance band work for your muscles. For example, do some banded crab walks and squats before doing leg exercises.
Cool downs at the end of your workout are great to decrease your heart rate to normal levels, reduce dizziness and fainting, reduce the lactic acid that has built up during your workout and help your body prepare for your next workout in the next day or so. You can cool down by reducing the intensity of your workout (either going to a lighter weight or slowing down the pace of the exercise), doing another 10 minutes on a cardio exercise at a slow place or doing some foam rolling or static stretching to stretch the muscles you have used.
5. Persisting when you’re in pain
It might sound silly, but so many people want to keep going with an exercise even if they are in more than just muscle pain! That ‘I’ll be fine’ or ‘Go hard or go home, no pain no gain’ mentality can only go so far. If you feel something unusual in your body that isn’t very pleasant, stop that exercise and try something different. If you are still in pain, stop exercising and monitor the pain. Seek advice from a doctor, chiro or physio if it continues. I’ve heard many stories of people continuing their training even though they are in pain and it can cause some bad damage. Again, to prevent this from happening ensure you are lifting with correct technique and posture and seek advice from a personal trainer.
Cassie Grul is the owner and Head Coach of CJ Coaching and Performance. She’s a personal trainer based in Sydney and also offers specialised online coaching programs and tailored nutritional advice. Cassie has 3 years experience in personal training and she is passionate about helping people achieve their fitness and health goals and build confidence to achieve long lasting results while living a balanced lifestyle. She has also competed and placed 1st in various Bikini Bodybuilding competitions and knows what it takes to work hard and get great results! You can connect with Cassie here: Facebook | Instagram | Website