Workout Tips

10 Misconceptions About Getting Stronger Trainers Hate

Stop planning your strength-training program based on weak intel.


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4. Everyone should do partial-range sets

One reason you might find yourself lifting too quickly—and not seeing the gains you want—is if you’re not doing each movement as completely as you can. Not everyone can go ass to grass in a squat (nor should they): Body proportions, flexibility, and other individual characteristics mean that range of motion varies from person to person, says Bruce Kelly, MS, CSCS, owner of Fitness Together in Media, PA. But “approximately 20% of the population is general responders, meaning that they attain full-range strength benefits from partial-range movements,” says Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., instructor of exercise science at Quincy College in Massachusetts. “That means about 80% of us are specific responders, meaning that our strength increases are pretty much limited to the movement range in which we train.”  Do your best to eke out the largest range you can safely control without pain. And unless you have a specific goal, leave partial-range sets to the bodybuilders.

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5. You should stick to the same rep & set scheme

As in, always doing the same number of reps and sets every workout. For your heavy lifting phase, you’ll need more than those three to four sets you’ve been doing, and fewer reps, if you’ve been exclusively in the 8 to 12 range: Go for 6 to 8 sets of four to nine reps, Mentore recommends, with the weight heavy enough that doing more than nine would be a real struggle. Why the relatively low reps? “Your body has to know how to recruit enough motor units to move a weight,” says Brandon Roberts, M.S., CSCS, a doctoral student of muscle biology at University of Florida. “In a high-rep scheme, you can get cycling of muscle fiber activation, so that when one muscle gets tired another muscle fiber can go into action.” That said, the real key is to mix it up. So, you want a lighter weight/higher rep scheme somewhere in your weekly mix, too. (And don't forget to change up your entire program from time to time as well!)

6. Machines are better than free weights

In case you haven’t gotten the memo: Those hulking selectorizer machines aren’t the best way to turn yourself into a hulk. “When a guy can do the entire rack of weights on a lat pulldown machine, but can’t do a single pull-up with his own bodyweight, that’s not foundational or functional strength,” Mentore says. “Machine training is useful and has its place but it doesn’t replace the benefits of strength development you get from free weights.”

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