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The 5 Biggest Weight Training Mistakes YOU’RE Making

Phil Graham

By Phil Graham

Renowned competitive bodybuilder and performance nutritionist Phil Graham has established himself as one of the most respected fitness experts in the industry. He has helped and inspired a diverse range of clientele, from every day members…Read more.

We’ve all been there…

You go to the gym ready for your session and you leave thinking, “well, that was a waste of time,” then you go home, stew over how rubbish your session was, get angry and determined to smash it the next day.

The next day comes and… It all happens again.

But instead of looking for answers as to why your session was so bad at the bottom of your pre-workout, according to renowned competitive bodybuilder Phil Graham, you really should be questioning the external factors.

So here are his 5 biggest weight training mistakes you’re most likely making, and how you can fix them to guarantee epic training sessions all.  The.  Time!

The 5 Biggest Weight Training Mistakes YOU’RE Making - by Phil Graham

Realistic Vs. Positive Thinking

Flip over to your social media feed right now and you’ll be bombarded with pictures of perfectly ripped abs, glutes, arms and people generally killing it in the gym.

Yes, these images can help serve as a source of inspiration for many people, but they can also serve as a source of despair for many others.

Think about it, if these images are uploaded 24 hours a day 7 days a week they undoubtedly create the false perception that people are in jaw dropping shape year round.

The reality – this couldn’t be further from the truth!

The inexperienced viewer can become pressurised into thinking they must be in shape year round in order to belong and ultimately refer to such imagery as a bench mark for their progress.

I’m all for positive thinking but when you base your beliefs on inaccurate assumptions you are most definitely setting yourself up for a fall.

Realistic Inspiration

The next time you feel so close yet so far when browsing social media, ask yourself:

  • Is this photo an accurate representation of my goal?
  • Is the person in the picture of a different ethnic race?
  • How long have they been training for?
  • Has the picture involved the use of professional editing/camera skills?
  • Have they dieted down specifically for these photos?
  • Have they any off-season pictures?
  • Are they natural?

You’ll find such images are merely snapshots from specific periods of time and do not fall in line with your personal circumstances. As such, they are in no way an accurate representation of an individual’s day-to-day shape.

Learn to differentiate between what pictures serve as a goal and what pictures simply serve as motivation.

S****y Advice

It’s very easy to get confused nowadays. There is so much information out there. Notice how I said information not knowledge! We live in an information dense yet knowledge starved era of health and fitness!

What makes information credible? A set of abs? A 1st place trophy?

You can’t argue with results but when you fail to consider the issue of great genetics and growing problem of drug use within the industry people will obtain results no matter what even if they follow a crappy approach.

This can prove very deceiving to the newbie or someone who has been following a hypocaloric (fat loss) diet for a prolonged period of time.

The mantra of “they’re in good shape, they must know what they’re talking about” can develop a conformation bias with the vulnerable dieter and thus lead to confusion away from their original plan.

Realistic Inspiration

The truth of the matter is most people with abs couldn’t tell you what the term protein means (prepare to embarrass a few people) and therefore shouldn’t be dishing out advice on your most important asset of all – your health.

Take Home

Get advice from someone who can both talk the talk and walk the walk. Not one or the other.

In order to get the best advice possible you need to have someone in your corner that both understands the physiological (book knowledge) and psychological (practical experience) of what it takes to get contest ready!

Adjust Your Training Based On How You Feel

In order to get the absolute most out of your training program it is imperative you listen attentively to your body. Know your limits; learn to push hard and back off when needed.

Although training is considered a controlled stress, it still is exactly that, stress.
We are exposed to various different types of stressors on a day-to-day basis; training is only one of them.  Other forms include household bills, negative people, air pollution, colds/infections and parking tickets.

Stress of any kind – physical or emotional - promotes a unique physiological response within the body to accommodate future stress. The adaption to weight training is stronger larger muscle fibres.

Here’s a short check list, the more you can answer yes to each of these questions the better your recovery and results will be, period!

woman trainer tired in the gym
  • Are you getting a good 8 hours of shuteye sleep?
  • Do you stay mindful and avoid other stressors? (emotional/physical)
  • Is the bulk of your diet based on highly nutritious minimally processed food?
  • Do you avoid training through pain and injury?
  • Do you skip training if you’ve had a bad day (mind, diet, rest)?
  • Is your training program doable (specific to your experience)?

Remember with every training session the better the focus, the better the effort, the better the stimulus, the better the results.

If you’re not feeling up to it, it’s ok to miss a training session!

Just because it’s down on paper doesn’t mean it is set in stone. Your training plan doesn’t take into account you may have missed a few meals, had a few sleepless nights or been anxious about an ill family member.

Before you train, ask yourself two questions:

  • Am I going into my training session with adequate resources? (i.e. rest, nutrition and a stress free day)
    If you’ve had a hectic day, missed a few meals and generally feel run down, go home, regroup and train another day. Trust me your body will thank you for itand you’ll be much more ready to rock come the next session.

  • Am I going to be able to recover from this training session?
    If you know sleep and diet aren’t going to be their best after training it would be advisable to draw the line on what you do or step back and train another time.

    Key examples would include going on a big night out after training, or people who are traveling/work nightshift.

The idea of backing off becomes even more important if you are training two days in a row!

No one is going to thank you for training through a crappy mind-set, don’t try to be a hero.

Respect your body and do everything possible to chase high quality enjoyable training sessions and optimal recovery!

Avoid Silly Distractions

Distracted gym goer

Whenever it comes to getting the most out of your training session it is imperative that you minimise distractions.

Many of us are guilty of creating our own distractions or simply falling prey to the busy environment of the gym.

Let’s look at a number of key examples:

Mobile Phones

Nowadays most of our lives revolve around the use of mobile phones. We can do pretty much anything we want at the touch of a button. Think about it; a list of contacts to call/text, emails, social media, calendars, finance, books, videos etc. the list is endless…

The problem lies when we bring our phones into the gym environment. It can be incredibly hard to switch off and bring 100% focus to the session.

Just think back to when you’ve been expecting an important call or text in the gym. Maybe it’s been work related, a nagging wife/husband or even a potential date.

What was your focus like during sets?

It’s safe to say not 100%.

Your focus is on your phone, not your muscle.

As a result one can expect to reduce the level of stimulus they place on intended muscle fibres and potentially increase their risk of injury.

Mark your territory with your stuff

Mark Your Territory

Another important tip you can use to get the most out of your workouts is to mark your territory.

This almost resembles the strategy Germans use when they go on holiday. Tactfully laying out beach towels on the best sun loungers before anyone else wakes up or gets to the pool. Their spot is secured, every time…

When it comes to the gym don’t you just hate it when you’re in the middle of a super or giant set and someone comes over and hijacks your exercise?

Safe to say your ideas of including super/giant sets in your training plan have gone to waste.

What can you do to avoid this?

Don’t be afraid to mark out pieces of equipment with gym attire. Your towel, shaker and training jacket all serve as flags to mark out equipment and will save you the annoying hassle of asking to work in.

However, it is important to be respectful of other gym members, reassure them how many sets you have left to complete and make them aware what weight/attachment/setting you’re using. If they want to work-in, fine, let it be during your rest period, but make sure they know to put all the necessary weights and/or attachments back to your original setting.

Also make sure you have a plan B in place if the gym is too busy. Sometimes you need to take a detour from your original workout plan if you want to be efficient and effective with your training.

Train through the pain

Training Through The Pain

Prolonged soreness and pain every time you train is not a good sign. We’ve all heard and been under the influence of the old saying ‘no pain, no gain’. But, is this approach wise when it comes to getting the most out of your training and staying injury free?

The truth is, if you’re sore, something’s wrong and needs addressed.

Prolonged muscle soreness and tightness for days on end is a clear indicator your recovery hasn’t been a success.

There are a host of reasons for this, most likely you’ve out trained the nutritional and rest aspects that your typical recovery plan provided. As a result you may need to pull back on your training volume and/or re-evaluate your nutrition and lifestyle practices to get you back on track.


Phil Graham

About Phil

Renowned competitive bodybuilder and performance nutritionist Phil Graham has established himself as one of the most respected fitness experts in the industry.  He has helped and inspired a diverse range of clientele, from every day members of the public to professional athletes and even coaches and personal trainers. 

Phil has also spoken at some of the world’s largest health and fitness expos, including BodyPower, thanks to his valued expertise.  Phil’s personal training services are available online via his website phil-graham.com or offline at Rockpit Fitness near Belfast, Northern Ireland.

You can connect with Phil on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

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