Destroying Gains: Common Strength-Training Mistakes

By: Josh Bryant

Legend has it, 3,000 years ago, Greek Wrestling Champion, Milo of Crotona, lifted a baby calf every day from the time it was born to the time it became a fully mature bull.  

600 years before Milo, Samson wrestled down a stone temple and, in the process, slayed 3,000 Philistines, his sworn enemies.

To this day, the names Milo and Samson are synonymous with strength.

Since the beginning of time, man has had a fascination with strength.

Even in our enlightened, but increasingly neutered, society, the stockbroker, the moonshiner turned crystal meth cooker, the Clergymen, and the hairipist all have one thing in common, they desire to get stronger!

Knowing what not to do is often more important than knowing what to do.  Let’s take a look at six common strength-training errors.

Majoring in Minors

When hunting big game, don’t dick around chasing varmints!

One mistake I made early on in my powerlifter career was majoring in the minors!  I used to set ridiculous goals on skull crushers; I knew strong triceps were important for a huge bench.  But, there became a point where focus was no longer to build the bench press but actually to get better at skull crushers.  

This was a very slippery slope and I did not realize until after I injured my elbow. 

Assistance, supplementary or auxiliary exercises (call them what you want), all three adjectives mean the same thing; these exercises are there to assist the core lift in a subservient capacity.  Of course, we want to continue to get stronger in assisting exercises to keep structurally balanced, prevent injury and keep the core lift moving the right way.

When training for strength, always perform assistance exercises with perfect technique. For single-joint movements, focus intently on the muscle you are working not just moving weight from point A to point B; perform assisting exercises after the main core lift. 

Advice on enhancing the mind-muscle connection by Author, Josh Bryant.

Movement Intention

Performing a fly by recklessly heaving dumbbells at best will yield ineffective results and likely will get you acquainted with the local orthopedic surgeon.

But, just like King Solomon said many thousands of years ago in his infinite wisdom, “There is a time and a place for everything.”

If you try to purposefully contract individual muscles when performing a heavy deadlift or squat, you won’t even “Sweat to the Oldies” let alone move any respectable pig iron.

When it comes to multi-joint core lifts, you need to cut bait or fish or else your lifts will be sucking hind tit.  The objective is moving the weight from point A to point B as forcefully as possible while maintaining perfect technique. Leave muscle confusion and purposefully making these lifts harder to the aesthetic crowd; your mission is movement intention from point A to point B, as you do this you build a “groove”. The more ingrained the groove becomes the more you lift.

Movement Intention vs. Muscle Intention explained by Author, Josh Bryant.

Training High Reps

Strength is measured by your one-repetition max in a core lift.  You won’t get faster for football by endless miles of road work prepping for the Boston Marathon. Like running, weight training adaptations are specific. Remember, you are training to get strong for a one-rep max so you need to train with heavy weight for low reps.  Lifting 60 percent of your maximum with perfect form does not insure form will remain intact when you are lifting 90 to 100 percent of your max.  

Start training with 85 to 100 percent of your max in the one to four rep range and watch your one-repetition max increase, as well as your repetition maxes increase. 

General Warm-ups

A couple minutes on the treadmill to bring up body temperature followed by some dynamic stretches is awesome.  BUT, this awesomeness, contrary to popular belief, is not going to get you warmed up for the specific lift you are training.

If you are going to squat for strength, the lion’s share of your warm-ups needs to be squatting.  Elite strength athletes have this figured out. Every repetition performed with perfect technique dials in your squat groove and gets you warmed-up specifically for the specific movement you are going to train.

If you are going to train with 315 on the squat, try this for your next warm-up:

45 x 6 x 3 sets

135 x 5 x 2 sets

185 x 3 reps

225×2 reps

255×1 rep

290 x 1 rep

Exercise Sequence 

In the movie Tommy Boy, Chris Farley says, “If you want to take a good look at a T-bone steak you can stick your head up a bull’s ass or take the butcher’s word.” You can take my word or do a pub med search, either way, the truth is you need to train what is most important first in your training session.

If your goal is to increase your squat you have to squat first in the workout.  Whatever lift is most important to your goals need to be performed first because once fatigue sets in, your  work capacity  and ability to produce force are greatly compromised and you won’t be able to get the necessary work done to maximize strength adaptations from the strength training session.

Not Reloading 

Football teams do walk throughs the day before a game. Most sports require a period of lower intensity to remain fresh for game day. Weight training is no different. 

A reload week simply means a period of lower volume and intensity.  The reload week is basically an active recovery and chance for your boy to recover, rebuild and grow from all of the heavy weight and volume you train with.

A good rule of thumb is to train 70 percent of the total sets you normally would do when reloading, so if you squat 10 sets, just do seven sets (10 x .7=7). Intensity-wise, lift 80 percent of the weight you trained with in your last heavy session, so if you bench pressed 300, you will now train with 240 (300 x .8 =240).

Final Thoughts

Some folks estimate that the amount of strength training information available doubles every 18 months.  No longer are we in age of ignorance, it’s more like age of over saturation.

Avoid these pitfalls and you will get stronger.

Grab one of Josh’s proven strength training programs HERE.