7 common mistakes to avoid when strength training

From poor form to lifting too much weight, these are some of the most common mistakes made in the weight room that inhibit people from reaching their goals.

Chase Morlock

If you have been following along with us, you know we are huge advocates for strength training for people of all ages. We truly believe you can be strength training well into your 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond. The earlier you start, the better. Strength training builds muscle, increases strength, improves overall fitness, boosts metabolism, strengthens bones, improves mental health, reduces body fat, promotes heart health, and the list goes on. There are so many wonderful benefits from training, but there is a catch to it. It is extremely important to approach strength training with proper technique and knowledge in order to avoid mistakes, injuries, and pain. 

Let’s examine 7 common mistakes I see with strength training so you can avoid them, and then give yourself the opportunity to achieve your goals injury free, safely, effectively, and efficiently, and have some fun while doing it. 

Mistake #1 - Skipping the warm-up

This mistake can easily lead you right to an injury. We warm up to increase blood flow, improve joint mobility, and raise your core body temperature. Like with many things in life, proper preparation prevents problems. I think most people know they shouldn’t hop right into exercise or intense activities without warming up, but it is usually the first thing we cut out. (I hate to say it, but I am guilty of this many times during recreational volleyball leagues). When I don’t properly warm up in the weight room or on the volleyball court, my performance drops and I don’t get the most out of the time I’m there. Taking even 5 minutes to warm up can go a long way. There are lots of simple frameworks for a good warm-up, and one of the simplest is the RAMP protocol. 

R: Raise

  • The goal is to increase the core temperature and increase blood flow. Try light jogging, jumping jacks, biking, or rowing. 

A: Activate

  • The goal is to recruit the necessary muscles to aid stability and balance. Isometric contractions work great for this. Try glute bridges, planks, and bird-dogs. 

M: Mobilize

  • The goal is to prepare specific joints and muscles through their full range of motion and replicating movements that you will be using in your workout. Try pendulum swings, lunges, and T-openers. 

P: Potentiate

  • The goal is to amp it up and get the body ready. It will involve some explosive movements to fire up the central nervous system. Try squat jumps, bounds, and sprints. 

Mistake #2 - Pushing through pain

I totally understand the desire to “push through the pain” or the old “no pain, no gain” mentality. There was a time and place for that in my life when I was competing, but as you age and things change, there is no reason to push through the pain. As a coach, I hate when people don’t tell me about an injury they’re battling, or I find out they have been dealing with pain for weeks before they told me. Things happen in life that will cause pain, and injuries pop up, but we can make modifications and work around almost all things in some manner. We can also work with physical therapists, chiropractors, doctors, and other health professionals to keep you healthy while you are nursing injuries. So take it from this coach - do not push through the pain. If something hurts or feels off, tell your coach so they can adjust accordingly and help get you back on track. 

Mistake #3 - Not recovering properly

Mistake #3 ties in directly with #2. You need to listen to your body and the signals it is giving you. It is very important to learn the difference between the discomfort from pushing yourself and actual pain cues. With that, you also need to listen to your body if it’s telling you that it’s fatigued, worn out, tight, etc. If your body is in need of recovery, you’ll only be able to get so far in your training. There is nothing wrong with a recovery day in the weight room, or a full rest day. In fact, it can be exactly what you need. Your coach can help you determine the best way to go about recovery/rest days for your specific situation and goals. 

Do not forget how the small, consistent actions add up over time. Daily foam rolling, mobility, pre-hab, and stretching goes a long way in recovering and preventing injuries. Other important factors in recovery are proper nutrition, hydration, and sleep. You should focus on eating 1g of protein per pound of your goal body weight, drinking half your bodyweight in ounces of water, and getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night. One last tip for recovery is to take 2-5 minutes after your workout to lay down and focus on breathing. This helps greatly in getting yourself into recovery mode before you walk out of the door (and not to mention, it might be the only few minutes in a day that many of us give ourselves to be still and fully relax.)

Mistake #4 - Poor breathing

Most of us don’t talk about breathing nearly enough given how much of a major role it plays in strength training. Proper breathing will help you increase your overall strength, control, and ability to stabilize. Many people will forget to breathe during strength training or they will breathe out of sequence, which causes a loss of efficiency in the lift. 

Remember to: 

  1. Take an inhalation before beginning your repetition.

  2. Hold your breath while performing the repetition.

  3. Exhale at the top or “sticking point” of your rep. 

  4. Repeat. 

Mistake #5 - Lifting with poor form

Lifting with improper form will significantly increase your risk of injuries, pain, and will be inefficient. Remember, if something feels wrong, it probably is. Having a coach in your corner can help a ton when it comes to making sure you are lifting properly and effectively. Lifting with poor technique will put unwanted stress on certain joints and muscles and can cause muscle strains and joint pain. Practice movements with little or no weight to perfect the form before you begin progressing with heavier weights and more challenging movements. 

Mistake #6 - Lifting too much weight

This one can be tricky and is often tempting because in order to accomplish your goals, you need to be progressively overloading. We can progress by increasing reps, difficulty of movement, weight, volume, and so forth. But a huge mistake I see over and over again is people lifting too much weight when they are not ready for it, which causes their form to break down, which then causes injury. 

If you are training for a specific competition or sporting event, you obviously have a date that you need to accomplish certain feats by to be ready. On the other hand, if you are training simply to be healthy, one of the best parts about it is that there is no specific deadline. When you are training for health, longevity, and life, we do not need to rush. We can slowly progress over time to make sure you are nailing the form and slowly adding the weight necessary to accomplish goals. To reiterate, progressive overload is super important in order to achieve your goals, but it is not worth pushing yourself with weights that you aren’t ready for. Your coach can help you progress in other ways and let you know when to increase weight. 

Mistake #7 - Doing the same thing over and over

This is a common mistake I see from people who go to an open access gym, work out at home, or only do running or cardio. Our human tendency is going to direct you to do what you are comfortable with, what you know, and what you feel the safest with. In many cases, that is a good human instinct to have, but not necessarily when it comes to fitness. When you do the same routine over and over again, it may lead to overuse injuries and develop an imbalanced body. 

A great strength and conditioning routine makes sure you are working different muscle groups and movements in order to maintain a certain level of balance. It ensures you are functioning optimally and minimizing risk. It’s important to mix up your movements and exercises, and to remember to train the backside of your body, an area that’s commonly forgotten about and neglected.

Bonus mistake - Bad mindset

We should always be working towards a growth mindset. It’s essential that you tell yourself, and truly believe, that you can do and learn new things. For example: You can learn how to lift properly, you can learn nutrition skills, you can develop the habit of drinking enough water, you can recover properly. 

I see people get down on themselves way too quickly and too often. Remember that failure in the weight room is a good thing! It means that you pushed yourself. And it also gives us useful data to keep progressing and moving forward. So get your mind right and believe in yourself. 

Get started with Rise today. Reach out to me directly at chase@risetrainingmn.com if you have any questions or would like to sit down and chat.