Saturday, 20 December 2014

Common Gym Mistakes and Simple Solutions to them - Part 15

15. Being Unscientific

Far too many people are completely unscientific in there training. Typically the people chop and change their training at will or because they saw something on Youtube, or Facebook or the want to copy someone they saw in the gym. For women it often the opposite, they do the same old routine week after week, month after month and wonder why they get no gains.

So choose your training plan to meet your goals ensuring it is specific and appropriate. If you don’t know how to do this most gyms will provide you with either free generic plans or for a small charge you can get a Personal trainer to write you are personalised training plan. Once you have you plan follow it for at least 6 weeks before you re-evaluate it and change or update it to suite. Do not add or subtract exercises without a good reason (injury), do not skip a weight (ie add too much to the bar), do not increase the intensity for the first few week then, because your jeans now fit, stop increasing the intensity.

What you do need to do is log everything, the more you log the better. Top bodybuilders are all completely and utterly OCD and will log everything. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of them log their toilet output. Log the weights you lifted, the reps, the rest, how easy/hard it felt, warm-up activity, cool down, cardio (distance, pace, speed), heart rate, weight, body fat, calories, macros and so on. Top body builders take regular photos of themselves doing their poses too, how vain!

At the 6 week point, armed with your log you have scientific and objective proof of your whether or not your program works. Have you gained strength, lost weight, lost fat, improved cardio vascular fitness etc. Your log should tell you.
You can then evaluate your training and if required make changes due to weaknesses, poor gains etc. You then carryout your new plan for 6-8 weeks, logging everything and repeat. It is actually really simple when it comes down to it, don’t make it complicated, do not over think it.
If you haven’t gained anything or gains have slowed you may just need to swap one exercise out/in or change from machines to free weights, swap Spin for Body Pump or simply increase or decrease calories by 5%. I always describe this to clients as a like stepping stones across a river, lots of small steps forward in the correct direction to reach your goal. It does not matter where you start as long as you get to the other side ideally by the most direct route!

Doing something once does not prove anything. Give me a rifle and I bet I could hit a target 500m away so am I a sniper? Well that depends how many rounds I needed and how repeatable this exploit was. Why am I mentioning this? Simple, time and time again you see, for example, scrawny guys coming into the gym to train with a muscle bound guy. They copy the big guys workout set for set just with smaller weights. What is wrong with that? Well potentially a lot…..

So this big guy must know what he is doing otherwise he wont be big and muscley? Maybe but you need more information just like we still don’t know if I’m a sniper or got lucky. So the questions are:

            How long did take this guy to get big? 2 years, awesome. 10 years poor.
Is he big because he had an excellent training partner in the past? Yes, well train with his old training partner instead. No, ask more questions.
Has this guy always been naturally big? Yes, maybe he has good genetics. No, ask more questions
Is this guy on steroids? Yes, walk away fast. No, ask more questions.

If all the above works out ok 2 more questions.

Has he only ever trained himself? Yes, he could have got lucky. No, lets see some other results from other partners.

Finally and often forgotten,

Did he get big using this current workout, or is this the workout he now does for better definition or another goal? Yes, great. No, this is for definition/another goal well then this is not specific to the scrawny guy.

I have used a bodybuilding example but it works for strength, cardio, sports etc. To be scientific you have to do some research and ask the right questions. This day and age you should consider who is liable if you get hurt too (or you hurt someone else accidently), I would not let some one unqualified and uninsured train me. I may discuss training ideas theory with a customer though as you never stop learning.

You also need to consider that if you have never trained before, or it has been a while, or this is your first time training with a program/partner/trainer you will make gains regardless.

We call this “Newbie Gains” and the gains can be quite big and quite quick at first. I have a client who despite being a gym regular (but cardio only) gained 53% in the leg press in 8 weeks. How do I know this, because he logged everything in detail (well taught of course). So even if you don’t train as hard as he did, nor keep as good form etc you can still gain quickly and that is why logging and re-evaluating is important. If you keep gaining then clearly you are doing something right, if you are not the read this entire post again. You gains will reduce as you get fitter/stronger but they should not stop, especially for the average gym goer (all of us) as we will probably never get close to our genetic potential.


Conversely, don’t go to sciencey and only trust something if a study proves it. There is a thick line between what works in a lab and what works in the gym. A lot of the science stuff Is meaningless in the real world and often gets misquoted by trainers/writers/marketing so be careful.