5 Ways Athletes Sabotage Their Muscles

Are you sabotaging your workout? STACK Expert Mike Samuels discusses five ways you could be hurting your own performance.

To get bigger, faster and stronger, which is seemingly the goal of every young athlete, you need to train hard and train often.

Right? Not necessarily. Training too much may be what's holding you back from reaching your true potential.


Workout Mistakes

To get bigger, faster and stronger, which is seemingly the goal of every young athlete, you need to train hard and train often.

Right? Not necessarily. Training too much may be what's holding you back from reaching your true potential.

You may also be falling victim to a poor diet—or sneaky injuries that you may not even be aware of could be lurking. Or you could just have bad timing. Any one of these five factors can derail your efforts. Are you making these workout mistakes?

Training Too Much

Everyone loves the feeling of nailing the perfect Heavy Squat, beating a previous Chin-Up total, or rifling off more Deadlifts than ever before. But sometimes taking a day off from lifting can be the best option.

Training takes a toll on your central nervous system (CNS). Your CNS and muscles need time to recover following a workout. If you're going into every session with sore muscles and feeling exhausted, you're going to have a hard time maintaining or gaining muscle.

The solution: Schedule frequent rest days and don't be afraid to take an extra one if you feel beat. Also, the old advice of not working the same body part on two consecutive days still holds true. Alternate the muscle groups you train to avoid tiring out any one of them.

Shooting for PRs In Season

Your workouts during the season should be all about keeping you fit and healthy and making sure you're in top shape for games. What happens in the weight room takes a back seat to your efforts on the field. How silly will you look if you have to tell your coach you're going to miss the next game because you popped your shoulder while trying for a new personal best on the incline bench?

During the season, don't try to set PRs on any lift, even if you're feeling good. To avoid compromising form and risking injury, always leave at least one rep in the tank on your heavy sets. If you're injured, not only will you miss games, but you won't be able to train either. An idle muscle is a diminishing muscle.

Not Scheduling Active Recovery

Think that light workouts are a waste of time? Think again. Lighter weight workouts give your muscles a break from the demands of hard training while also aiding muscle recovery and growth.

Pick one workout per week to go light. You might make it a lower-body session one week and an upper-body session the next. Alternatively, perform all your workouts at normal intensity for three weeks and then go light in every session for the fourth week.

By the way, "light" means 50 to 70% of what you usually lift. So if you usually do five sets of five Front Squats with 185 pounds, go for five sets of five with 115 pounds.

Ignoring Corrective Exercise

Remember the old adage "a stitch in time saves nine." Corrective exercise, or "pre-hab," is your stitch. You might not be injured, but you should still perform certain exercises or drills in your routine to protect common trouble spots for athletes, especially the shoulders, hips and knees.

Take five minutes at the end of each workout to perform the following upper-body and lower-body circuits of corrective exercises.

Upper Body

A1 - Cable Face Pull - 15 reps
A2 - Cable External Rotation - 15 reps
A3 - Scapula Wall Slide - 15 reps
A4 - Band Pull Aparts - 15 reps
A5 - Band Shoulder Dislocation - 15 reps

Lower Body

A1 - Single-Leg Elevated Glute Bridge Raises - 10 reps each side
A2 - X-Band Walks - 10 steps each side
A3 - Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch - 30 seconds each side
A4 - Squat Sit - 60 seconds

Perform all of the moves in each circuit with no rest between them, then rest for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat the entire circuit twice more. Keep the weight fairly light, stopping at least three to four reps away from muscular failure.

Poor Nutrition

Here's another phrase you may have heard: "You can't out-train a bad diet."

To build and maintain muscle mass, you need plenty of good quality food. Eat too much and you'll get fat, but eat too little and you won't be able to add muscle. You could even lose it, since your body will catabolize muscle tissue for fuel if it is not taking in sufficient calories. A diet that's right for you depends on your age, weight, current body composition, activity level and the demands of your sport and training; but a good set of general guidelines to follow every day are:

  • Consume 18 calories per pound of body weight
  • Eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight
  • Aim for 0.3-0.5 grams of fat per pound of body weight
  • Carbs should make up the rest of your calories
  • If you're losing muscle, eat more. If you're getting fat, eat less.

It's as simple as that.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock