If you are following advice on how to improve your health and fitness through diet and exercise but you are failing to see progress or not progressing at the rate you would like, it may be that you have fallen victim to one or more of these seven deadly sins...
People using improper technique during training is a relatively common site. There are three main reasons why this may occur:
1) The individual is too shy/ embarrassed to ask a personal trainer/fitness coach for help.
2) The individual assumes their technique is correct.
3) The individual is using an unmanageable resistance for their current level of fitness and has adopted poor technique to cope with the demands.
No matter the reason for using improper technique, it will delay progress and cause you to reach a plateau much earlier than you should be (particularly when it comes to functional strength gains). If you continue using improper technique you risk injury, disproportionate muscle growth and a reduced rate of progression for both muscle strength and muscle mass.
You can eradicate this issue by asking the professional staff at your gym to show you the exercises (they will do this for free), thinking more carefully about the movements you are making (mirrors can help) and gradually increasing the resistance load at a rate suitable to your fitness level.
By consistent routine I mean that you never change your gym routine. You go to the gym and use the same machines, for the same amount of time, with the same resistance for the same number of sets and reps. That was boring to write, and it is also very boring to workout this way! You cannot expect to continue to see the progression you saw when you first started this routine if you continually do the same thing. I know this might sound obvious to some people, but it is surprising how many people develop habits in the gym and just stick with it. Your body adapts to the demands you place on it, if those demands never change then your body no longer needs to adapt. If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
Mixing things up is a great way to challenge your body and mind. It will increase your mental engagement with the exercises (as opposed to being on autopilot going through the usual motions), which will encourage you to train harder. The more you push yourself, the better you will look. Besides, everyone loves a challenge don’t they ;).
I have heard many people say this: ‘I can eat what I want because I train everyday’. Fair enough, if you want to look mediocre for the rest of your life, but if you really want to look the best that you possibly can you have to dedicate yourself to the fitness lifestyle. This means dedication in the gym and the kitchen.
If you are not looking for a shredded physique though, diet is still highly important. If you want to train optimally and keep yourself healthy, your diet is the way to do this. This doesn’t mean adopt a fad diet and lose weight fast. These diets are not sustainable and will negatively impact your progression and your mood. Make sure that you eat plenty of lean meat, vegetables, fruits and complex carbohydrates for an optimal balanced diet. Don’t forget to adapt your daily calorie intake according to the amount of exercise you participate in.
If you find that you struggle to include all the necessary nutrients of a balanced diet (due to diet choices, allergies or portion size), supplements can be a very useful way to ensure that you get everything you need to progress towards your goals. Protein, electrolyte drinks and multi-vitamins are all examples of supplements which may help you.
This is probably one of the most popular reasons why those who are dedicated to the gym and their diet reach an early plateau. It is tempting when you see progression, to work harder and more often in the hope that those early fast progressions will continue. However, if you don’t allow yourself enough rest between sessions, you will struggle to reach the goals you are aiming for in the time frame that you desire.
There are five basic reasons for this:
1) By over-training you place too much stress on your immune system leaving you vulnerable to illness. This is particularly dangerous in winter because it is not difficult to catch a cold or the flu.
2) You are more likely to become injured because your muscles are over-worked. Your body does not have enough time to repair the protein breakdown in your muscles between sessions. Muscle soreness reduces your range of motion and this lack of flexibility can also cause injury.
3) You are less likely to be able to complete the challenging workout routines you have set yourself because your energy is zapped and your muscles are over-worked.
4) You will feel an overwhelming sense of fatigue when not in the gym as opposed to feeling elated at your fitness progress. This may cause you to turn to energy drinks in order to get you out of this slump. The problem is that you then get into a cycle where you require these drinks and eventually it will disrupt your routine and be detrimental to your health which is the exact opposite of your intentions.
5) Over-training will negatively affect your mood which will mess with your personal life, your motivation to workout and the physical progression that you make.
We all know how important drinking water is. Not consuming enough water leads to dehydration, chemical imbalances, digestive disruption...the list goes on. Yet the majority of the population still fail to hydrate themselves properly. If you want to lose weight, increase strength gains or improve overall health, then drinking enough water is vital.
Dehydration is dangerous during exercise so always make sure that you take a re-usable water bottle to the gym. If you feel dizzy, light-headed or weak stop exercising and have some fluids immediately.
If weight loss is included in your progression plan and you are reluctant to use an electrolyte fuel because of the extra calories, try dropping a High 5 Zero Xtreme tablet into your water. It will be a nice change from plain water and is only 11 calories per serving!
Ignoring The Facts
Listening to that big guy in the gym or the girl with the amazing body instead of researching the facts is usually a mistake for two reasons:
1) That person is unlikely to be a personal trainer/ scientific graduate/ registered dietician/ nutritionist.
2) If by chance this person does fall under one of the above categories, are they going to give away the secrets that make them look so good/ lift heavier/ win all their competitions? Unlikely.
If you make sure that all the advice you follow comes from trusted source, based on scientific evidence and years of experience, you can avoid following advice from total strangers who may be leading you down a path which will not help you.
This is a genuine conversation I overheard in the gym:
Guy #1: Excuse me mate, how do you get so big?
Guy #2: What you wanna do mate, is eat a diet which is 90% protein.
Guy #1: Thanks, I will try that.
You have been warned.
Lack Of Sleep
Sleep restriction has been found to significantly decrease physical activity levels the following day. It has a negative effect on both the duration and average intensity of your workout which will hinder your progress.
Sleep deprivation results in an increase in blood pressure and decrease in muscle sympathetic nerve activity. It can also affect the way you respond to stress both physically and mentally. So, if you don’t get enough sleep, your training will not benefit you in the way that it would, should you be well rested.