Break These 5 Rules in Your Strength Training Routine
If you pull up any article about training, you're going to see a lot of hard set "rules" that are preached.
While you shouldn't go against what everyone says, there are a few rules that are meant to be broken. If you've been strength training for a while, you may notice that some of these rules we mention may be something you've asked yourself before.
A lot of research has gone on to give us more breakthroughs and exposing many training ideologies as a myth instead of a hard set fact.
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Many myths and "rules" that are going to be broken here are a great starting point for beginner lifters, but as you progress to intermediate and advanced levels, this is going to help hack your gains to the next level.
Mindlessly applying some of these rules without considering individual cases can slow your gains and can keep you from reaching the best version of yourself. If you've hit a plateau, you know what it takes to being mindful and figuring out how to grow.
So let's check out these five rules and when they should be broken.
Strength Training Rules You Can Break
1.) Learn to Listen to Your Body
When we are new to the gym, we generally find a workout routine to help us get started. One problem with this is a lifter can get so dependent on one workout that they don't learn enough about their body and have no intuition or ability to throw a workout together on your own.
Don't get me wrong, running a program consistently and ensuring you're progressing is important — it's when you don't gain any insight on your own body that it is "bad."
Not being able to learn how your body responds and reacts to certain situations can cause a lot of confusion in your lifts. Remember that day you tried lifting what you were supposed to, but couldn't? What about backing off of the volume and intensity a little bit to keep that aggravated shoulder happy?
Learning how to train intuitively is great. You can look objectively at your goals and what it will take to get there. It keeps you sane if you don't break your PR, and it keeps you from getting upset if you have a bad workout.
Learning what works for you and what doesn't is going to give you a lot of freedom. Many programs are scientific and come from a fitness-minded person, but they don't know you and your body structure. They don't know your weaknesses, and they definitely don't know your strengths.
The Fix: Take the time to get to know your body.
As a challenge, try going to the gym for two weeks without a specific workout structure. Write your goals down, and create a workout that focuses on building your weaknesses and achieving your goals.
The intent here is to get a solid and effective workout in. Choose some compound lifts, perform some isolation movements to work on weaknesses, and just train. If you are having a lot of problems with coming up with a routine, it's proof that you are relying on your program too much.
2.) Personal Records Aren't for Every Exercise
Look, there are a lot of exercises that you shouldn't have a "personal record" for. I mean seriously, who has a 200 pound 1 rep max face pull? It's pointless.
Some exercises are performed so that our personal records can increase in the lifts that matter.
While my example is a bit extreme, my point is to take a look at why you are doing an exercise and what is it helping. If you are doing face pulls or hammer curls, it doesn't take much to get a great workout for those muscles.
Some lifts are designed to work small muscles, some help with range of motion, pattern conditioning, and much more.
Start performing exercises that help build your weaknesses and make you an overall more athletic person.
3.) Quit Listening to Predetermined Width Recommendations
This "rule" is something I learned should be broken when applicable. If you've ever deadlifted or squatted for a long time, you're going to pick up things that help your lift and things that don't.
One of the biggest things I had to change in my squats and deadlifts were how far my feet were apart. I would listen to the "shoulder-width" approach, and I just wasn't able to. My mobility isn't that great, and it really didn't give my body the right mechanics to lift properly.
I deadlift and squat with a wider stance and ever since I did my lifts have gone up. This takes a lot of learning your own body and taking the time to practice and test different variables.
Everyone has a different body, so even if you have a similar build to someone, your shoulder sockets, and pelvic girdles will be different. Practice different stances and forms to work with your body under a light load.
You'll see you'll have less pain, feel like you are more in control, and ultimately you will find what works best for you.
4.) Don't Worry About Your Knees Tracking Over Your Toes
While performing a squat is highly technical and relies on your body mechanics, there's been a lot of preaching to keep your knees from going over your toes.
The idea behind this is solid — most of the time people aren't squatting properly when their knees track over their toes.
But if you're a taller lifter and your mobility is there, you're simply going to put a ceiling on how much you can train your dorsiflexion. Enforcing that vertical shin position limits how deep you can squat and ultimately can kill your training effectiveness.
Since this is all dependent on your specific body, if you are following proper form and your knees track over your toes, you're fine.
5.) You Can Train a Muscle Group More Than Once per Week
You've probably read that in order to get bigger and stronger it means you have to train more. We all know this, but it's not common knowledge that this can transcend every workout.
Instead of annihilating your muscles with as much volume as you can fit into a workout, try to hit a muscle group twice per week. As long as your nutrition and recovery are up to par, adding a cumulative volume to your weekly training goes a long way.
Let's take our legs for example. You do leg day, right?
Well if you've been skipping out on leg days, you should try scheduling two leg workouts in your week. Don't worry about the soreness, that takes a little strategizing.
No, you won't be doing two squat sessions. Instead, make one leg workout focused on your posterior chain like Romanian deadlifts, hip thrusts, good mornings will blast your hamstrings and muscles in the posterior chain. The second workout of the week could be geared towards your quads and your knee dominant patterns like front squats, leg presses, leg extensions, and walking lunges.
Applying this same logic to other workouts can help you spark new growth and strength. For example, your back workout can have row and fly pattern exercises for one day, and pull downs, pull-ups, and other vertical patterns the next day.
Wrapping It Up
There are a million ways to get fit. Find what works best for you and run with it.
Since no one's bodies are built the same, I invite you to take at least a month to spend time and find what works best for you — the best form, the best foods, the best exercises, the best amount of time to sleep, how much recovery you need, and how you can reduce stress.
Everything adds up to making gains so quit shortchanging yourself by following strict rules.