Cardio is great for your heart, mental health, and blah blah blah but please, stop turning your weight lifting workouts into cardio workouts. Here are five things that will sabotage your weight lifting progress (READ: sayonara muscle and strength gains).

1. Superset everything

I touched on agonist-antagonist paired sets aka supersets in this article. It’s a great, time-efficient way of training that I often use with my clients. However, where did I say in that article to turn your workout into circuit training? No need to answer. This is a rhetorical question. Just because your heart rate is through the roof and you’re sweating AF, doesn’t mean your workout is effective.

Instead, stop rushing through the workout and avoid supersets unless you’re short on time. If you use supersets, make sure you use them the way I recommended in the article — superset exercises that don’t compete with one another meaning, they train antagonist muscle groups (e.g. biceps and triceps, chest and back, quads and hamstrings, etc.).

2. Rest only 30-60 seconds in between sets or exercises

If you don’t need 2-3 minutes of rest between sets, you aren’t training hard enough. Seriously, if you rest shorter than that, you’re not training at the required effort level for muscle growth which is within a few reps of failure.

Instead, rest no less than 2 minutes in between sets. Studies have shown over and over that more rest is better for muscle growth. When I program workouts for my clients, a 2-minute rest period is a minimum recommendation. This way, you can put maximum effort into every single set. You’re better off doing fewer sets with higher effort and quality than the opposite.

3. Leave a crapload of reps in the tank, never train to failure

I see people leaving way too fucking many reps in the tank and I see this in the gym way too fucking often and I write about it way too fucking much. I mentioned it here, here, and here so maybe, just maybe, this is going to be the last time. So buckle up, sunshine.

Instead, train close to failure. 1-3 reps shy of failure on most of your sets. And if you’re early in your training “career,” you should go all the way to failure for some time to learn to gauge those 1-3 reps in reserve more accurately. There’s no reason for your muscles to grow bigger if you don’t give them a good reason to aka an appropriate stimulus.

4. Use light weight only

People, especially women, greatly underestimate their strength levels. This is why many people end up doing the “beer-can-for-50-reps” nonsense. Also because higher reps and lighter weight burn fat while lower reps and heavier weight build muscle myth is still alive. It really needs to bugger off.

Instead, try to get stronger over time. Go for personal records regularly (I have my clients go for PRs at the start of every month). Yes, you’re not supposed to hit new PRs every workout. If you do, you’re either a beginner or something in your training is off. However, you have to lift heavy. If you don’t, you will be one of many who no matter what they do in the gym, never see the progress they want. They don’t even look like they lift.

5. Do combination exercises like lunges + bicep curls, squats + overhead presses, plank + DB rows, etc.

As I said in this post, if your main goal is to build muscle, combo exercises are a waste of your time and effort. You can squat a lot more weight than you can overhead press so the squat + overhead press combo is going to be limited by the weakest link in that combination — shoulders. Your quads and glutes will be highly understimulated. But hey, at least you’ll be out of breath. Cardio, baby!

Instead, fuck combo exercises. And then fuck some more. Basic movements should make up most, if not all, of your training. Do all of the prescribed sets for squats and then do the same for overhead press.

If you want to actually look like you work out, avoid these mistakes. Don’t turn weight lifting into a cardio session. Keep weight lifting weight lifting.

And if you don’t want to deal with programming your workouts, jump on board for the Train With Me program. It’s a 3, 6, or 12-month progressive strength training 1:1 online coaching in which I’ll teach you how to train with a proper technique, volume, and proximity to failure so that you can enjoy your time in the gym without the need to figure it out all for yourself.

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Originally published by me on Medium on September 21, 2023

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