Hypertrophy Basics

Biggest Training Mistakes

Valentin Tambosi
Hypertrophy Basics


Today we’ll turn to the training side of things and take a look at the biggest training mistakes. Trust me, there’s a bunch of them. This day in the course will ensure that you don’t make any of them and help you maximize your time in the gym. Without further hesitation, here are the biggest mistakes when training for more muscle.

Mistake #1 - Using Too Much Weight

Now I know you’re enthusiastic about going to the gym and killing it with your bros. I totally get that. You want to f*ck shit up and skyrocket your testosterone by grunting like a maniac while doing twitchy hammer curls, but hear me out first! Ask yourself this simple question: do my muscles know how much weight is on the bar?If you answered yes, you’d be wrong by the way. 

Your biceps has no idea if you’re curling 40’s or 20’s - it only knows tension.

Based on HOW you move the weight you can make light weight feel heavy and stimulate your muscles to grow. Bodybuilding is very different from other barbell sports as it focuses on making exercises reasonably harder, not easier. The path of most resistance is what we’re after, not the other way around. Does that mean you should be doing all exercises balancing on a bosu ball while you’re juggling 3 eggs? Absolutely not! I want to emphasize that I said "reasonably harder", not "Cirque-du-Soleil-harder". Your brain doesn’t want to work. It wants to be as efficient as possible to save calories. Just in case the winter is around the corner and you need those fatty love handles to keep you warm, you know. Well, it’s 2016 and if you’re reading this I assume you have a roof over your head and are pretty well fed. So there’s no point in saving calories by making exercises easier and more efficient.  If you want to build muscle you want to do the exact opposite in the gym. Here are a few things how you can accomplish that:

1) Initiate every rep with the target muscle group. 

That means if you’re doing a chest press, the first thing that contracts is your chest. Make a conscious effort to flex the target muscle before you even think about moving the weight. This takes a lot of practice, so start practicing! 

2) Slow down the eccentric/negative portion of every rep.

I won’t give you a distinct number because it usually leads to people focusing on counting in their head throughout the set which makes them forget about the previous point. Just keep in mind that you want to control the weight as you lower it. You should be able to reverse the weight at any point of the negative portion of each rep - that’s the tempo we’re looking for. 

3) Stay tight and don’t 'cheat'.

Now I’m not one of those people who's so anal about “form” and who calls people out for every tiny bit of body english they might use on the last 2 or 3 reps of a hard set. What I’m anal about is taking tension off the target muscle by doing too much stuff with the rest of your body. Involving your hips in a biceps curl is doing ZERO for the growth of your arms. Stay tight and do it right. That rhymes. Nailed it. Did not plan that. So stay tight and don’t cheat. This will ensure you keep the target muscle working.   Make that SOB work as hard as possible.  Remember your body doesn’t want this. It hates doing all that work. Decide to overcome that feeling and fight through it. Practice staying tight and only do work with the target muscle. Be a surgeon, not a bricklayer. To get a more in-depth sight of what choosing the path of most resistance means, check out this excellent video by Tom Purvis. In the video he explains how most people in the gym avoid true challenge by focusing too much on moving weight from point A to point B. Check it out here. 

4) Use full range of motion on all exercises.

That means staying with a full range of motion that allows you to safely and pain free contract the target muscle group. If your shoulders hurt when you lower the bar all the way to your chest on an Incline Bench Press then don’t go all the way down. Be smart. That is still full range of motion. It is full range of motion specific to the individual, specific to YOUR body. But don’t use this as a cop-out to only  do partial reps on everything. That’s not what I’m saying you should. Use a range of motion that allows you to train the target muscle group pain free. That’s it. 

Mistake #2 - Copying What Everybody Else Is Doing

Which would result in you using too much weight. And copying people who have no clue what they are doing. Both bad things if you want to get lean and muscular as fast as possible. Which is why you’re reading this. Thanks for still being with me by the way, this really shows that you are serious about getting results! So what I encourage you to do is this: don’t focus on others. Whether it be the guy who uses way too much weight or the guy who looks amazing - copying what others do rarely works. Don’t give in to black and white thinking by following a dogmatic approach. Just because the big guy in the gym does things a certain way does not mean you should do too. There are numerous reasons why that may work in his favour. Correlation doesn’t equal causation. Be critical when you enter your gym. Don’t buy too much into someone’s opinion, regardless how strong they are or how good they look. Always ask why. Why is he doing that exercise? Why is he doing a turkish get-up when he wants his chest to grow? Why is he using his hips to ‘curl’ up the weight? Internalise that attitude. Don’t be judgemental or disrespectful, but don’t believe everything some guy in the gym tells you. Don’t copy people and stick to the principles you learn in this course. 

Mistake #3 - Focusing On The Barbell/Dumbbell/Handle

...instead of your body. Don’t think in terms of ‘up’ and ‘down’ or A to B. That’s not how your body works - that’s not how your muscles contract. Your muscles know tension and positions. They know what it’s like to be in a maximally shortened or maximally lengthened position. Instead focus on your own body. Focus what the involved joints do and how they move through space. Here’s an example: When performing a bench press, don’t think about the weight going from your chest to lockout. Instead think about your pushing your elbows as close together as possible as you press the weight up. Don’t focus on the barbell, focus on your elbows. This simple cue will immediately help your brain understand better what’s going on and result in a harder contraction.Let the powerlifters handle the ‘up and down’ lifting. You’re here to handle the ‘contracting muscles’ type of lifting. Read this at least three times: Moving the weight is not the main goal - it is the result of the main goal which is contracting the target muscle group.

Mistake # 4 - Believing In Magical Exercises

Sayings like "Exercise X is a must for thick arms!” or “If you want that V-taper you need to do this!” are complete rubbish! That’s some BS right there. And hopefully you think so too. This stuff drives me absolutely crazy and I get questions about ‘magical exercises’ every week. There is not a single exercise out there that you HAVE to do. Yes, that includes the squat - which is more a religion to some people than an exercise. If an exercise constantly hurts your joints or feels off, if you can’t feel your muscles contract with that exercise or can’t add any weight to the bar over time then that exercise needs to go. Period. Don’t hang on to something that’s not working. Regardless how big the guy is who told you must do it.

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