5 Common Strength Training Mistakes

John Wooden, one of the most revered coaches in the history of sports was renowned for his short, simple, inspirational messages. A personal favorite is, “Do This, Not That, Do This.”

It’s a brilliant concept of showing a person what you want them do, then showing them what they shouldn’t do, and then what you want them to do again. Positive, negative, positive.

Simple and effective for coaches when making a point to their athletes. 

This blog post will cover 5 common strength training mistakes and what to do instead.

But first let’s focus on the positive.

Are you moving consistently throughout the week? Excellent! Keep doing this!

Something is almost always better than nothing at all. Especially when it comes to moving. 

Mistake #1: Thinking that running, walking and jogging is a substitute for lower body strength training. Your body should be able to hinge, squat, lunge, and pick things off the ground. 

DO THIS: Incorporate multi-joint exercises like the deadlift and squat into your workout. These movements will increase overall strength and encourage muscle development.

If you enjoy jogging and running, getting the legs stronger will only improve the 5k time! Get comfortable with moving your bodyweight first and then add a load. A Kettlebell Swing is a an excellent choice for a multi-joint exercise! 

Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, SFG Instructor and Orlando Personal Trainer, Oscar Agramonte shows how to perform the kettlebell swing. Start with KB in front of you. Hinge from the hips and sit back. Throw the bell back as you inhale, stand up tall and explosively as you exhale.

Mistake #2: All push and no pull, all front and no back. A lot of young men make this mistake. 

How much do you bench press bro? “A lot! Can’t you tell from how rounded my shoulders are?” So said the gym rat to his orthopedic surgeon. 

Pressing is ok, the problem is not doing the complimentary work. 

DO THIS: Divide upper body training into push and pull exercises and then horizontal and vertical days. For horizontal training, go ahead and train the bench press if you like.

If you can bench 200 pounds, then bent over rows with a 100 pound dumbbell should be possible. An example of upper body vertical training would be military presses followed by pull-ups or chin-ups. Your body needs this balance, and training the opposing muscles will increase overall strength. 


Mistake #3: Not increasing weight. This is a huge time waster when it comes to strength training.

If you are consistent with your training, then the weight should be either increasing, or being moved more explosively. Ladies, don’t worry about getting bulky when training for strength. That overly muscular look takes many hours in the gym everyday over many months and even many years!

Think of strength training as just learning to link the body by tensing the muscles.  

DO THIS: Focus on movement quality first. There is no point in going up in weight if it will lead to injury. Your body and brain need a couple of weeks to get proficient with a particular movement but when you are ready, go ahead and move away from the5 pound dumbbells!  

When its time to increase weight, go up in 10-20% increments. Think of 5 reps as the magic number for strength development. Choose a weight that allows for 5 perfect reps with effort, and then stop, knowing that you could have forced that 6th repetition out if needed.

As for how many sets or rounds? Don’t increase overall volume (how many reps and sets) at the same time you are increasing intensity (weight or speed). 

Mistake #4: Doing abs to get abs. When it comes to fat loss, spot reduction (crunches, sit-ups) does not work. If your goal is to have a six-pack, the best exercise might be the Push-Yourself-Away.

This is not a fancy move, but it is effective. When eating a meal, push yourself away from the table when you are 80% full. 

DO THIS: Assuming that the Push-Yourself-Away has been mastered, the next step is proper core training. Instead of moving your mid-section, thing of NOT moving it.

A plank is a great starting point and then you can move to more challenging movements with an ab-wheel. 

Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, SFG Instructor and Orlando Personal Trainer, Oscar Agramonte shows how to perform ab wheel roll out progressions. Keep the abs and glutes tight, inhale as your arms extend, exhale on the way back, back and neck are flat and neutral.

Mistake #5: Holding on to the treadmill. Running is a great way to finish off your strength training. But, if holding on the the treadmill in order to go faster is part of the routine, prepare to hit a plateau.

Plus, how is that going to translate in the real world?

DO THIS: Slow down. This might mean you have to walk before you can run. What a concept! If you still have to hold on while walking, SLOW DOWN. Once you are able to run without holding on to the treadmill, use intervals to boost endurance and metabolism.  

Start with 20 seconds of running, followed by 30 seconds of rest and work up to 20 seconds of running with 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds. Don’t be afraid to get off the treadmill and take that run outside!

No Need to worry if you’ve made any of the common mistakes listed.

Success in fitness, as in life comes from experience. Experience comes from failures (or making mistakes). Failures come from trying.

Just by trying you are already ahead of the pack. Congratulations! 

Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming- John Wooden


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