A fitness professional shares six lessons he had to learn the hard way.
Some people are blessed to build a killer physique more easily than others. Some are impervious to temptation while others have genetics that let them recover more quickly from workouts. But one thing that we all have in common, regardless of diet, strength, and willpower is that we all make mistakes. But mistakes are what allow us to become more refined, better versions of ourselves. If it weren’t for these pitfalls, there would never be any room for growth, figuratively and literally!
Here are six critical mistakes that I made during my years of training and some ways that you can avoid them to be the best that you can be, every day.
Don’t Lift So Heavy
One of the most important things that I wish I had learned earlier in my career was the simple concept of not lifting too heavy too often. I’m not even 30 years old, but I‘ve already begun to feel the repercussions of going overboard on squats and bench presses when I was in my 20s.
We are instructed to lift heavy if we want to have muscle growth, so avoiding heavy lifts seems counter-productive, right? Wrong. What I learned was to lift heavy relative to the muscle. What I mean by that is there is a difference between taxing the quads during squats and taxing the entire body during squats. Keeping constant tension on the muscle—through slower reps, partial reps, and not always bottoming out at the end of a movement—allows you to go heavy, but with stress on the muscle and not on the joints.
Neglecting The Rear Delts
With every client that I have ever worked with, I find that the rear deltoids are always targeted at the end of the shoulder workout. Making your rear deltoids an afterthought is a mistake. I went years training my rear deltoids at the end of my workout and it caused me to suffer from some serious anterior (frontal) development compared to my posterior (back). This led to problems for me, both aesthetically and functionally, that took years to fix and time away from other body parts that needed the attention.
My suggestion is to train your rear delts first. In fact, the fun thing is that the pre-exhaustion of the rear deltoids allows you to get more focus on the lateral head of the shoulder (the key to achieving that bold round look) during the remainder of the workout. This same principle applies for any problem areas. For example, I now train my calves before ever stepping into the squat rack.
Too Many Protein Shakes
I built my body on whey protein. Seriously, I used to drink four or five shakes a day, and I wondered why I wasn’t developing full, well-rounded muscle bellies. If only I had discovered the power of eating good old whole-food proteins earlier in my career, I would probably have a lot more density and be closer to where I want to be. What many people don’t realize is that specific proteins build specific types of muscle tissue. Rotating your source of protein can actually help develop a well-rounded muscle when it comes to density and size.
My best solution for fixing an unhealthy addiction to whey protein shakes would be to wean yourself off of them slowly and only use them when absolutely critical. The best times to have whey protein shakes are first thing in the morning and immediately post-workout. Remember, they are called supplements for a reason.
Dieting For Too Long
This is one that I still pay the price for to this day. Early on, I was a pretty chunky 275 pounds. It took me a while to get lean and stay that way. This caused me to become somewhat obsessed with my body fat, which resulted in staying on a very strict diet for an extended period of time. Where I apparently missed the memo is in that fact that dieting that hard for that long can be detrimental to your health and your longterm ability to stay lean. I am still battling a slowed metabolism from keeping my calories low for an extended period of time.
What I have found to work the best is to incorporate regular cheat meals into your diet to restore leptin levels as well as stimulate the thyroid and overall metabolism. This can be a mental challenge for those of us who are chronic dieters, but just know that by simply adding a surge of calories now and then, you are likely keeping yourself leaner by doing so.
Hating On Cardio
I’m probably going to upset some people with this one! I know how much we all love to hate cardio, but the simple fact of the matter is that it’s good for us and it does help us achieve maximum results. Growing up, I loved cardio and it was a challenge for me to eliminate it from my routine when I was bodybuilding and overly concerned with sparing muscle mass. Sure enough, over time I found my progress slowly dwindling. If I could have maintained my cardiovascular endurance while adding muscle mass, I would’ve been able to effectively stay leaner at a much larger size. Instead, I took the road most traveled and got rid of much of my cardio.
So how can you keep cardio in the mix without totally losing muscle mass and tone? Don’t worry about it so much! It has become my observation that so many people stress about doing too much cardio that they cause themselves more tissue damage and stress by worrying than they do from the cardio in the first place. This doesn’t mean go out and run a marathon, but go out and do what feels natural. And better yet, don’t be afraid to get out and enjoy life, even if it means it involves cardio. Which brings me to my last and final mistake....
Don’t Let Fitness Run Your Life
“Fitness is a lifestyle.” We hear it time and time again. I used to eat, sleep, and breathe those words. We are led to believe that if you don’t adopt a full-blown fitness lifestyle, that you can never achieve the body that you desire. The fact is, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I used to sacrifice so many beautiful things in life for the sake of my fitness. I’m talking about missing out on simple adventures with my family, or avoiding certain athletic activities because I didn’t want to waste recovery energy. This was no way to live! The purpose of being fit and looking great is so you can showcase it and utilize it, not just look good while you’re in your house eating and meal prepping. The most amazing thing is that my best gains and progress came when I stopped stressing out about fitness and let it become a naturally exciting interest that jived with what my life was all about.
By Thomas DeLauer