Whether it’s coming from a clueless bro or a well-meaning personal trainer, bad gym advice is everywhere. Learn which common tips you should ignore.
Leave it to a gym bro or a bad trainer to saturate the industry with misinformation.
It’s funny how rapidly the wrong stuff spreads and how hard it is to get clients and trainees to do what’s good for them when it comes to strength training. If you could get results by following the instruction of these guys, the world would be jacked.
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), that’s not the reality. These guys do more harm than good by taking well-intended trainees away from progress with misguided methods to prevent them from training intuitively.
Here are 7 of my favorite miscues. Make sure you’re on the lookout.
1. FEET SHOULDER WIDTH APART
Whether you’re squatting, deadlifting, or doing any other movement, this cue has got to be the most common. I hate it simply because it doesn’t take into consideration the differences in human anthropometry.
Someone with very wide shoulders, very narrow hips, and a full coverage acetabulum would have plenty of issues when squatting if he were to use a directive like the one above.
The truth? It depends.
Find the squat stance that works best for you to emphasize good form and good depth. Chances are, it’s going to be different than the next guy’s.
2. DON’T LET YOUR KNEES PASS YOUR TOES
Just like I mentioned in the last subheading, performing squats without letting the knees come forward would be perfectly fine for a lifter who’s got short legs, a long torso, and relatively short femurs. For even a lifter of average proportions, however, this directive is bollocks.
This is intended to keep the knees safes, but in reality it restricts knee and ankle range of motion, while promoting more hip flexion than should be needed for a true squat. The result is a squat that resembles a good morning, and a weak max effort.
This is taken a step further when people attempt to train themselves or their clients for “good form” by using the wall squat. Check out this video to explain why I hate it, and for more on the knees passing the toes.
3. LOOK UP WHILE DEADLIFTING AND SQUATTING
It’s often encouraged to keep a high chin and head position, and even to pick a “target” on the ceiling while squatting or deadlfiting in order to emphasize good posture and a strong pull or push. The reality of the situation is that all you’re doing by applying this cue is putting your neck into unhealthy cervical extension.
The spine should be neutral when bearing load, and looking upwards completely negates this rule and puts the cervical vertebrae in harm’s way.
When training, make sure the head follows the torso, and the chin stays tucked. Think “packed neck”. Watch this set of heavy deadlifts to get a visual of the right idea.
4. DON’T BREAK 90 DEGREES ON ANY EXERCISE
Straight up, this is just ridiculous.
The guys that usually say this are matchstick skinny and have barely trained a day in their lives.
Squatting deep isn’t bad for your knees, and benching or pressing with full range of motion isn’t bad for your shoulders. This thinking permeates the industry without considering the fact that anything is dangerous when poor technique is applied.
Your body was made to travel through full ranges of motion, that shouldn’t disappear when weight bearing comes into the equation.
5. TRAIN LOW REPS AND HEAVY WEIGHT FOR SIZE
This isn’t as bad as the others as far as general guidelines go, but it’s still worth mentioning that it’s an extremely introductory “rule”.
As a lifter becomes more intermediate, he realizes that training for size is usually a product of volume and intensity. Adding particular supplements to manipulate that system, such as minimized rest time and extended sets can send this cue to the crypt in a hurry.
Doing 4 sets of 8 isn’t horrible, but for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (which is the key for cosmetic size), you must consider how to train the muscle in isolation, and then get your nutrition game on point to satisfy your goals.
6. INCREASE THE WEIGHT FOR PROGRESSIONS
In truth, “progress” can and should be measured in a less black-and-white fashion. Immediately lifters and gym rats often revert to adding more weight to quantify progress in any given exercise.
Don’t get me wrong – progressive overload is important and even essential – but it doesn’t work quite as effectively when you’re doing unilateral movements or corrective exercises to supplement your big lifts.
Instead, view progression with a more open mind:
- Increasing weight
- Increasing range of motion
- Increasing rep range
- Increasing time under tension via tempo changes
- Decreasing rest interval
Especially when you’re looking to gain size, it’s important to manipulate the system and find ways to make light weight feel heavy. Applying the above tactics will do just that.
7. THE WEIGHT’S TOO HEAVY IF YOU HAVE TO MOVE YOUR TORSO
Many training textbooks and schools will recommend any row variation be completed with a completely rigid torso. Nothing’s wrong with this, until the weight gets heavy and you’ve graduated from complete beginner level instruction.
Holding an isometric contraction through the spinal erectors while retracting the shoulder blades and pulling (in any direction) will place a ceiling on how much your arms can lift. You won’t get additional back stimulation from keeping this technique.
With that said, it’s not “cheating” if you use a properly timed toprock with good form. That means keeping the back flat and performing a small hinge from the hip joint to start each rep.
This is difficult to articulate in writing, so without further adieu, here’s a video to explain.
For some reason, many people neglect to ask the simple question “why?” when blanket cues are so freely thrown around the training world. It’s important that you do, because it could mean the difference between a broken, skinny body, and one that’s healthy and strong.
On top of this, it’s essential to help you learn your own body, rather than be confined to the strictures of someone’s random cookie-cutter directions. Make like Spike Lee and do the right thing.