If you've been in the trenches training for a decent amount of time, chances are good you've made some mistakes with your training. Making mistakes is part of the process, but doing your homework can definitely save you some time and energy. Many of us would like there to be a simple answer or a go-to method to reach our goals in the shortest possible time, but in reality we have to spend time under the bar, do our homework, educate ourselves, and learn what makes our unique profile tick.

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Here are some training lessons and simple changes that you can use to steer you down the right path to training gains!

  1. Less Is More: Time-cap your training sessions at 60 minutes. In order to optimize the hormonal response to training, it's important to keep training sessions to less than an hour in duration. Training for longer than 60 minutes will decrease serum testosterone levels and increase cortisol. Similarly, listening to your body goes a long way, and being receptive to the signs that you may need a rest day is crucial to avoiding things like overtraining.
  2. Identify and Stick to a Goal: If you have exercise ADD like me then you've probably felt like your goals change every other week. Avoiding this mistake is incredibly important if you ever hope to make the progress that keeps you engaged in your training. For progress to be more consistent and sustainable, pick your goal and stick to it for at least 12 weeks. Then reassess.
  3. Exercise Handicap: Sometimes having too many movements available in a program can handicap trainees and leave them overthinking what exercise to perform. Your session will be much more efficient if you can narrow it down to four to five movements and call it day. Your session should consist of a core lift, two to three accessory movements, and some direct abdominal work.
  4. Program Hopping: It's very easy to get distracted by the "next best thing", but doing so can lead to never knowing if a program is actually the right fit for you. Within three to four weeks you should be able to tell if that's the case, but rotating programs weekly or biweekly will not serve this purpose.
  5. Layering Programs: I think many coaches can admit they've tried this a few times, but sometimes the greatest discoveries are made when you go "against the grain" and try something new. Where the biggest issues lie is trying to train specifically for an event and doing your best in both. With that said, training for something like a triathlon and an Olympic lifting meet will require training that may at times conflict. Although there will always be some parallels, identifying one goal and using a program specifically for that goal for a decent length of time will yield the greatest results.
  6. Advice from Non-Experts: In this day and age, access to information comes very easily (and if you have a great physique you're an "expert"). Do your homework on the people you're taking advice from. Having a great physique does not mean you're qualified to write individual training programs. Many times we have to try things for ourselves, but do your research first.
  7. One Size Fits All: Having a one-size-fits-all program would certainly make life easier, but unfortunately, this just isn't the case. Even if you have a coach, you have to experiment and find out where you are weakest. Even the best coach may not be able to figure that out. Trying a program you found online is okay, but just remember that if a program worked for your friend, it doesn't mean it will be the right fit for you.
  8. Celebrate Your Success: Many times we are onto the next goal the moment we accomplish something. It's okay to take a moment to be proud of yourself once you've reached a goal! Be present and remember the hard work it took to get you where you are. This is also an opportunity to reflect on what works for you.
  9. Non-Sexy Work: Most times athletes avoid the work they need the most, such unilateral work, sled work, and weighted carries. This work goes a long way for everyone, regardless of your current level of experience. Don't skip this work because it doesn't look as cool on paper. Remember, you're only as good as your weakest link. If you don't spend time building your base and bringing up your lagging muscle groups, you run the risk of injury. This work should be as high of a priority as anything else you do.
  10. Always Be a Student: We are never done learning. With training, no matter how much we know, there will always be someone who knows more. Find experts that know more than you do. Study their work, read their books, and experiment. The learning process is the best part of this ride and will keep you committed to your training!

In short, there is something to be said about identifying a path and sticking to it (this could certainly be applied to other aspects of your life as well). It's too easy to sell a program short before having enough time give it an accurate assessment. It's also incredibly important to know about the people you're receiving advice from. Doing your homework when it comes to your own knowledge and training cannot be avoided if you plan on being in the iron game for a decent length of time. Similarly, knowing the background of those you're receiving coaching or programming from is just as important. Never stop learning, asking questions, and experimenting!

Header Image Credit: langstrup ©