1) Never changing your rep ranges.
Seen it many times: people lift religiously, but never vary their rep range or number of sets. They stick to 3 sets of 10 for an indefinite amount of time. What results is a total lack of progression, the muscles know what to expect and they just adapt to the program. It’s important to work different rep ranges in order to cause different adaptations in the muscles. Note the basics:
1-5 reps – neurological changes and gains of pure strength.
6-8 reps – neurological adaptations, as well as metabolic and structural changes resulting in gains strength and hypertrophy.
8-12 reps – there is little neurological adaptation, but lots of structural changes resulting in major hypertrophy gains.
13-20 reps – changes are mostly metabolic resulting in local endurance gains.
Depending on your goals, you need to vary between the different ranges every couple of weeks. Overdo the 8-12 range and you may get huge, but your strength will suffer. Conversely, staying in the 1-5 rep range will make you incredibly strong but very little visible change will occur and the chance of injuries increases.
2) No variation in routine.
The next biggest mistake that one can make is never changing your routine. This stagnates your body’s development, since it isn’t being challenged with new and varying movements. When your muscles performing the same routine over, you plateau. Instead, switch workouts up every 4-6 weeks in order to re-stimulate muscles, cause muscle confusion and improve results. By changing your routine, you re-challenge your muscles to work against new stress, which forces them to adapt and improve.
3) Progressing to heavier weights too quickly.
Often, guys want to increase weights too quickly to keep up with friends, impress people at the gym, or simply to polish their own ego. Unfortunately, lifting too heavy too soon prohibits the essential neurological and physiological adaptations within the body essential to safely increase load from taking place. As a result, form inevitably suffers and exercises aren’t executed properly. To simply complete reps, we sacrifice perfect form and recruit additional muscles, thus, sacrificing the primary muscle(s) for which each exercise was selected to develop. Instead of muscular gains, you get bad habits and a loss of progress and muscular development and injuries that if serious, could have you benched from your own workout for weeks.
4) Forgetting to strengthen stabilizing muscles.
“I lift regularly but my max lifts aren’t getting heavier, what’s the deal?” and “I keep hurting myself while trying to lift heavier.” I hear these complaints frequently. The cause of both problems is often not strengthening the correct small stabilizing muscles of the major joints. Too many people focus solely on the big, visual muscles such as pectorals, deltoids and quads. If you want to develop those muscles and lift heavier, you must strengthen the stabilizers that help keep the joint in correct position during maximal lifts. For example, want a bigger chest and heavier bench press? Strengthen the rotator cuff group of muscles (deep within the shoulder) as well as the triceps. Want more developed quads and an increased squat? Don’t forget to strengthen the glute medius and piriformis, two muscles that aid in hip stabilization. By improving the strength of these muscles, you maintain the integrity of the joint, preventing injuries and permitting you to lift heavier weights.
5) Overtraining a single muscle group.
When an individual obsesses over a particular body part, such as increasing chest or shoulders size, they often train that body part too often. If you’re genuinely training for size and strength gains, you need to give the muscles adequate time to recover, regenerate and grow. Essentially, heavy training causes trauma to the muscle cells, and those muscles need time to repair and regenerate to get bigger and stronger. Muscle cells can only repair themselves during rest, thus working muscles too often actually causes muscular deterioration, the complete opposite of the desired size and strength gain. General rule: if you’re working for size gains, give muscle groups at least 4 days between sessions.