Being an amateur bodybuilder, I will often get asked to help people write training programs that those people will then never stick to. I’ve started charging for the service now, so I don’t really mind but I do find it amusing and perhaps a little disheartening when I’ve put a lot of work into writing them… (I use the weak argument that by charging them, I am in fact encouraging them to stick to the workouts that I’m giving them… man I’m a good friend).
What’s more irritating in a way though, is when people ask me to ‘check’ the training programs they’ve already written. This seems to me to be nothing more than an attempt to side-step my fee so I’m thinking of coming up with a consultancy charge… What’s worse though, is that they will rarely actually take my advice once they’ve written something they’re pleased with so I have to just wince as I imagine them going through a training program that isn’t going to work and that may even do them some damage.
More annoying still, is the fact that the mistakes people make when writing these programs seem to be the same ones every time. If you’re writing your own training program then, read the following tips to make sure that you aren’t making the same mistakes as everyone else.
Mistake No 1 – Making the Program Too Rigid
One of the first mistakes people tend to make, is making their training program too regimented and routine. Most home-grown training plans it seems involve doing the same exercises day-in-day-out for weeks on end without any variation. The problem with this, is that the body will quickly become too used to that kind of training and adapt to your rigid program meaning it won’t be a challenge any more. At the same time, this kind of formulaic training program will see you often queuing for machines in the gym rather than getting on with your training and thus will cause you to ‘lose pump’ and not benefit from a particularly intense training program. Keep things flexible and mix it up so that you can a) work with what’s available and b) keep shocking your body to force growth.
Mistake No 2 – Not Pushing Themselves
Too many people at my gym seem to be walking around lifelessly repeating repetitions like zombies before moving onto the next machine. They aren’t challenging themselves, they aren’t pushing themselves and they aren’t engaging with the exercises that they’re doing. These people really can’t expect to grow much as they aren’t putting in the required effort or really going outside their comfort zone at any point. If you really want to see improvement, you need to hit the gym hard so that you are sweating, hurting and grunting through your workouts. If at any point you are going through the motions, or not feeling any ‘burn’ after a program, then you need to find a way to make life harder.
Mistake No 3 – Whole Body Workouts
Most beginner training programs that my friends write, seem to be ‘whole body’ programs which focus on training the entire body in one go. These systems have their place, but if you want to see fast results then you need to get more specific. For weight loss that means a lot more CV with calisthenics and other resistance work taking a back seat, while for muscle building it means some kind of split. That doesn’t mean you need to have a separate day dedicated to your serratus muscles, it just means that you need to focus more on certain areas so that you can work them harder in one sitting. Splitting your upper body workouts between ‘pushing’ and ‘pulling’ exercises is a great place for most people to start.
Mistake No 4 – Committing to Too Much Time
While people need to expect more from themselves when they’re actually in the gym, they tend to expect too much from themselves when they’re writing down their routine and when they’re actually going to go. If you write a training program that involves going to the gym for an hour and a half five days a week (and it takes forty minutes to travel there and back and to shower) then really you’ve pretty much booked up 70% of your free time. Quite simply you aren’t going to manage to stick to that for longer than a week, so there’s no point in kidding yourself. Make your workouts quick but intense and find ways to fit them conveniently into your lifestyle.
Mistake No 5 – Missing Out Muscle Groups
Something that’s amusing among bodybuilding snobs, is when someone writes a new training program but leaves out an entire muscle group. Often that will be the traps, other times it will be the legs or the lats. It doesn’t matter which part of the body it is though, it’s just important to make sure that you train every muscle in your body in order to prevent imbalances that can lead to injury and in order to kick start your muscle building process properly.
Mistake No 6 – Sticking to Resistance Machines
Resistance machines have their uses but when it comes to building muscle they are sorely limited. Because resistance machines guide you through the movement the way they do, they don’t allow you to use the stabilising muscles in your body to keep the weights steady and this means that you won’t get the same benefits. The chest press woks an occasional replacement for the bench press (especially if you’ve injured yourself or you need to focus on the pecs in particular), but it is no replacement. Be bold and head over to the ‘free weights’ section.
Mistake No 7 – Not Providing Enough Rest
Providing rest is just as important in your training program as designating days to train and this applies to specific muscle groups as well as to the body as a whole. If your training program has biceps on a Monday and lats on a Tuesday, then this is unfortunately just a poor design – reason being that you will use your biceps a lot when training your lats meaning they don’t get the proper chance to recover.