Weight-Training for Dummies

Five Weight-Training Mistakes That Make You Look Like a Dummy!

2009 UPDATE!!!

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Now, back to the blog...

Would you agree that the gym is a great place to people-watch? It's just as good as the airport, in my opinion. Part of the entertainment is watching ignorance in motion. The gym is full of people who either don't know what to do or don't do what they know.

As a personal trainer, I am ripe with curiosity when I see something peculiar at the gym. Is this person lifting this way because they are compensating for an injury? Are they holding their breath because they hate oxygen? I am slow to judge when it comes to things like poor form, poor execution, or misguided exercise sequence...but I am always curious as to why people are doing what they are doing. Most of the time I ask...because maybe they know something I don't know.

Usually, though, I have learned that many gym members are confused. Victims of information overload...so much information out there today, so little wisdom. Here is my list of the five dumbest things I see in the gym. If more than one of these describes you, please shoot me an email. We need to talk!

Weight-Training Dummy Trait #1: Lifting with Ego Instead of Muscle

Every gym in America has a few guys who grunt and scowl as they try to perform a bicep curl with their 70 lb dumbbell. They use their shoulders, back, legs, abs, and training partner to help that dumbbell travel from A to B. Now, there is nothing wrong with overloading a muscle now and then, doing negative reps, and things like that. What doesn't work is when the muscle you are trying to work isn't getting much work. Perfect form with less weight beats lousy form and more weight every time.

Weight-Training Dummy Trait #2: Working Muscles in the Wrong Order

It blows my mind how many people will start with bicep curls or abs, then go run through some bench press, followed by squats, and biceps again, then go after some back muscles. Working muscles inside-out (chest, back, shoulders, biceps/triceps, core for upper body) is crucial to injury prevention and muscle development. Your core is important during bench press (keeping it tight allows you to push off from a solid foundation and helps protect the lower back), so don't go after abs first! Workout your muscles in order...don't be a dummy!

Weight-Training Dummy Trait #3: Forgetting That Your Body Needs Oxygen

By observing the way most people breathe while lifting, I'm surprised global warming is getting any traction at all. Forget the need for carbon offsets, no one breathes in the gym! The rule of thumb for breathing during a lift is to exhale when you are doing the most work (pressing the bar up during a bench press, lifting the dumbell up during a curl) and inhale during the half of the rep when the body is doing the least amount of work (usually when it is working with gravity).

Inhaling and exhaling at the wrong times during an exercise messes up our body's call for oxygen, increases blood pressure, and diminishes the body's ability to perform. Breathing at the right times is crucial! And when you breathe, make sure to inhale and exhale like you mean it...fog up the mirror!

Weight-Training Dummy Trait #4: Drinking Carbonated Beverages at the Gym

I saw a guy drinking Sunkist orange soda at the gym on 7/17/08. I kid you not. In between sets he was sipping on his Sunkist. I wanted to get the Heineken cartoon guys together to say, "Brilliant!"

The sugar, the carbonation (direct attack on lung capacity over the short-term!). Yikes. Some of you are thinking, "I can't believe a guy drank Sunkist" as you sip on your carbonated energy drink. Seriously folks, carbonation is bad news...carbonated water, soda, carbonated energy drinks, beer. If you cut carbonation out of your life for a month, you would be amazed at how much easier you could breathe. Try it!

Weight-Training Dummy Trait #5: Not Stretching

Nothing blows my mind more than someone who doesn't stretch before their workout (after their warm-up) and after their workout. Breathing deeply and stretching are two essential pieces of the pre-workout and post-workout puzzle. I am amazed at how many people will tear apart their legs with a brave and brutal leg workout and then won't stretch their hamstrings, quads, calves, and groin afterward. And then they wonder why their lower back is sore the next day...because your hamstrings are way too tight, dummy!

I recognize there is more than one way to workout. However, when the above weight-training dummy traits are being demonstrated time and again, it is likely there is a dummy in your midst. If, upon reading this blog, you become aware that you may be a weight-training dummy, please email me to get some help!

Adam Erwin is a personal trainer who travels the world to work with people who want to experience the best health, nutrition, and exercise time of their life. A resident of Minneapolis, MN, Adam is currently focusing on clients in Eden Prairie, MN and surrounding areas. Please visit www.keepyourbetterhalf.com to learn more about Adam's work and how he can help you look the best you have ever looked in a ridiculously short amount of time.