One important part of training smart is not allowing your bad habits to sabotage your hard work. While you’ve probably mastered the basics of muscle building by now, there’s always room for improvement, that is, if you know where to look. Taking the time to calculate all factors that influence your muscle growth will help you get the most out of each training session and achieve results that you will be proud of.
That’s why we’ve made this list of 7 bad moves that diminish muscle gains and useful suggestions on how to reverse their effects.
#1. Weak stabilizer muscles
If you’re only focused on building your major muscle groups, chances are you are ignoring your stabilizer muscles. These muscles, although they’re not directly involved in the lifting of the weight, help keep your body balanced and upright and also provide protection against injury. Performing free-weight exercises requires you to balance the weights yourself, which strengthens these small but important muscles, so make sure to include more of those into your routine. Also, aim to work in all three planes of motion in order to strengthen the stabilizer muscles around your shoulders, hips and midsection.
Believe it or not, water is one of your secret weapons. Water helps you flush out toxins and metabolic waste products from the body and it supports the function of your kidneys. When the kidneys don’t perform optimally, some of its work gets transferred to the liver, overloading it and causing it to be less efficient at burning fat. Also, keeping your body well hydrated before, during and after exercise has been proven to increase strength performance up to 25%. If the general recommendation is to drink 6-8 glasses of water per day, you need to drink more, since you’re not most people – you’re regularly performing strenuous exercises. Aim for at least half a gallon per day.
#3. Insufficient warm-ups
Yeah, you’ve heard this a million times before, yet you still fail to recognize its importance or simply forget to do it. So let use tell you once again: warming up properly is one of the crucial ways to increase the effectiveness of your workout. Of course, we’re talking about dynamic stretching. Static stretching is most effective after a workout – if you do it before, you can overextend the targeted muscles and actually diminish their power and strength during the following workout. However, performing 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretching before the actual workout will prepare you for a better performance and reduce your risk of injury by activating your CNS, improving your blood circulation, priming your muscles for maximum force production and improving your flexibility.
#4. Too long rest pauses
The amount of time you spend resting between sets has a major influence on your results. One of the ways to optimize your training is by adjusting the duration of the rest pauses to your goals. Here are the recommendations based on scientific research: If you’re training for strength, aim to take 3-5 minutes of rest between sets, if your training for hypertrophy, take 1-2 minutes of rest between sets, and if you’re training for muscular endurance, the optimal rest period is 45 seconds to 2 minutes between sets. Also, for example, when you do a pushing exercise, make sure to immediately follow it with a pulling exercise, so that you can use the time when the previously used muscle group is resting to hit the opposite set of muscles. In fact, non-working muscles actually recover faster while their opposing muscles work. This can both save you time and increase your gains.
#5. Obstructed recovery process
Between two workouts, your body needs time to rest and proper nutrition in order to recover as fast and efficient as possible. If you’re not getting enough sleep, building muscle and burning fat can prove to be a difficult task because during sleep, the body releases hormones such as HGH and testosterone, which are vital to muscle growth. Therefore, aim for 7-9 hours of good quality sleep every night. Also, active resting promotes better recovery. Instead of performing zero physical activity on your non-training days, go for low intensity and active relaxation: perform foam rolling to relax and loosen the muscles and get the blood flowing, or do yoga poses to further release the tension from your overworked muscles.
#6. Non-optimal protein intake
We all know about the importance of protein consumption in the process of building and maintaining lean muscle muss. However, simply stuffing yourself with protein-rich meals or protein shakes whenever you feel like it simply won’t cut it. To optimize anabolism, protein intake should be of the right amount and it should be more or less evenly spread out over five or six smaller meals in the course of the day. Also, protein should be the crucial nutrient in your post-workout meal. According to nutrition experts, you should take no more than one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day, because excess protein consumption can lead to health problems. Depending on the frequency and type of training you do, it’s generally recommended to take between 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight on a daily basis.
#7. Inconsistent post-workout nutrition
Failing to refuel your muscles with the help of a nutrient-dense post-workout meal is one of the biggest nutritional sins in bodybuilding. After you drop the last weight, your exhausted body is screaming to be replenished with nutrients that will jump start the process of repairing damaged tissues and enable new growth. Also, post-workout nutrition helps prevent the body from using existing muscle tissue for energy, a metabolic state known as catabolism. Therefore, never missing a post-workout meal will enable you to consistently make the most of your training. If you don’t have the time to eat a solid post-workout meal, make sure to pack a ready-to-drink shake containing both fast-digesting carbs and protein that you can consume as soon as you finish training or within an hour after the workout.