People who have been in the fitness game a while know a lot about their bodies and what they need to do to drop fat, gain muscle, etc. But sometimes we can still be blind to our own biases and not be open-minded to trying new things. And sometimes, even those who think they are far beyond beginners territory can still make the kind of mistakes most often made by those new to training.
As the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, we say, “if it could be better, it’s as good as broken.” It’s very easy for advanced trainees to get away from the basics at times and lose some of the foundational elements that have gotten you to where you currently are. It is important to change up your routine as you advance in your fitness journey, but it’s just as important not to neglect the foundational, critical elements of a successful fitness routine.
Remind yourself of these three fundamental errors and ask yourself honestly if there’s any part of your game that could be a bit better.
1. Too Much Cardio
Cardio is by far the most abused form of exercise. Yes – even by those who should know better. Mostly done by those trying to drop some fat, cardio can actually stall your fat loss efforts, if abused and not used according to your goals.
Cardio certainly has its place but I believe the timing needs to be right. We’ll assume that the majority of people utilizing cardio are trying to drop fat and not get ready for a marathon or running event.
For those attempting to drop some fat, there are a couple of ways to incorporate cardio into your program.
Low-Intensity Steady State Cardio
This cardio type will keep your heart rate in the “fat-burning” zone. It’s best to do this type of cardio in a fasted state. This will force your body to utilize stored energy sources (i.e. fat) rather than recently eaten food.
You shouldn’t have to worry about fatiguing out during these fasted cardio sessions as they are not as intense. It may take a little getting use to but your body will adjust.
Another great reason to choose steady-state cardio is because it won’t affect your strength training efforts. You will not get sore doing steady state because your muscles will not be broken down.
For steady state cardio, longer durations are necessary but shouldn’t be excessive. 30-60 minutes should work quite well.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
High intensity interval training or HIIT training, as it’s commonly called, is another form of cardio. These are often shorter durations of cardio sessions but of much greater intensity.
With HIIT, you’ll need to be very strategic with how you schedule your workout program. HIIT has the ability to deplete glycogen stores (muscle energy) and cause soreness. This is a tricky animal. You need to really have a firm ideal of what your goals are.
If your cardio program is holding your weightlifting progress back, it may be time to turn it down a notch. However, that’s up to you. After all, it’s your program, your workouts, and your goals. Just make sure that you’re using these tools in the way that’ll help you achieve your goals!
It is important not to abuse any type of cardio. Low intensity steady state cardio shouldn’t be done for hours every day, although some could get away with it. HIIT cardio shouldn’t be done more than 2-3 times per week. Depending on your goals, the amount and type of cardio will vary. Use these tips as a tool for you to use for your benefit.
2. Too Many Isolation Lifts
Advanced trainees know their way around a barbell and are quite familiar with the compound lifts, or at least they should be. But, sometimes as the spice of life drives our ambitions we sometimes get away from the simple, basics of what got us to where we are.
Isolation exercises are great and can really help bring up some lagging body parts. But, it’s important not to forget that those lifts that utilize the entire body will help out tremendously as well.
Don’t find yourself away from the critical, muscle building lifts for too long. By all means, vary them up and keep it fresh. Just don’t forget about their incredible efficiency for muscle building.
3. Working Out Too Much
As an advanced level trainee, you probably already know that you don’t grow inside the gym – that happens outside of the gym with rest and nutrition. But it’s natural human instinct to think that if some is good, more must be better. Which is why even those who have been training for years can still fall into the overtraining trap. And, as we often discover, with most things, more is not always better.
If we begin to think about progress by the minimum effective dose (MED), then we may be able to save ourselves a ton of time, fewer injuries, and potentially better results.
When you take medicine, you always start on a low dose. If that does not fix the problem, then the dose is increased. You start with the lowest dose because lower doses are going to have milder side-effects and last longer (less-expensive).
Think about the medicine scenario in the gym context. If you only do as much as necessary, you don’t run the risk of injury as much (side-effects), and it’s also much less expensive. In this scenario, your expense isn’t monetary. Your expense is something far more valuable, time.
While we all love being in the gym as much as possible, let us not forget that the gym is simply a means to an end. The gym is not the end. It is a tool that we use to create the body and life we wish to live. So make sure that your efforts in the gym aren’t preventing you from living that life outside the gym that you desire!