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The 5 Rules To Break For Building Strength and Muscle

A woman building muscle by lifting dumbbells in a gym.

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Search around different articles about training, and you will see “rules” to follow for maximizing gains.

While it is generally advisable to avoid breaking any rules, however, there are a few that may be worth disregarding. You may have thought of these if you have been lifting for a while. 

Many scientific studies have helped us learn more about how training works, and many of these studies have shown that some popular training methods are ineffective.

Many myths and “rules” that will be broken here are a good starting point for beginner lifters, but as you progress to intermediate and advanced levels, this will help you optimize your gains.

If you do not see any gains, reviewing some of the basic tenets of mindful growth may be helpful. These rules can help you become more aware and improve your practice. However, always take into account each person’s unique circumstances to maximize their potential.

Here are five rules and when they can be broken.

1.) Learn to Listen to Your Body

When someone is just starting in the gym, they generally find a workout routine to help them get started. However, this can be problematic because a lifter can become so dependent on one particular workout that they don’t learn enough about their body and have no intuition or ability to create their workouts on their own.

It is crucial to run a program consistently and ensure you’re progressing, but when you don’t gain any insight into your own body, it becomes “bad.”

Not learning how your body responds and reacts to certain situations can lead to inconsistent results in your lifts. Remember that day you attempted a lift but couldn’t? Or when you slightly backed off the volume and intensity to avoid aggravating your injured shoulder?

Learning how to train intuitively can be a helpful tool in achieving your fitness goals. By looking objectively at your goals and what it will take to achieve them, you remain calm if you don’t meet your record and avoid getting upset if the workout does not go as planned.

Knowing what works for you and what doesn’t is a key part of having freedom in your fitness routine. Many scientific programs originated from someone interested in fitness, but they may not be tailored to your individual needs. They may not know your weaknesses, so they might push you beyond your limits, and they do not know which exercises work best for you.

Take the time to get to know your body.

Many people find it challenging to adhere to a strict

workout schedule, especially if they don’t have specific goals. To help you succeed, make a list of your fitness goals and create a workout plan that focuses on working on your weaker areas and achieving the overall goal.

To get the most out of your workout, choose compound lifts, perform some isolation movements to work on weaknesses, and just train. If you find it challenging to devise a routine on your own, you may be relying too heavily on your program.

2.) Personal Records Aren’t for Every Exercise

There are a lot of exercises that shouldn’t be counted as part of your record. For example, it is doubtful that anyone has a 200-pound one rep max face pull.

One way to improve our lifts is to perform exercises that will help us increase the number of lifts that matter.

While your exercise may seem like it is providing a great workout, you might be doing it incorrectly or not targeting the correct muscles. Before beginning any exercise, take some time to think about what muscle you are trying to work and why.

Lifts that work small muscles are often called “accessory” lifts. Lifts designed to help with range of motion, pattern conditioning, and more are called “main” lifts.

To become more athletic, it is essential to focus on exercises that help build your weaknesses and make you an overall stronger individual.

Strengthening your weakest areas will help you become more versatile and efficient when performing physical activities.

3.) Quit Listening to Predetermined Width Recommendations

This “rule” is something I learned should be followed when applicable. If you’ve ever deadlifted or squatted for a long time, you’ll pick up things that help your lift and those that don’t.

Squatting was once taught a few ways. How far the feet were apart was almost a “gold” standard. Many people commonly use the “shoulder-width” or “sumo” approach. However, this was not how everyone felt comfortable squatting. 

The size and shape of your shoulder sockets, pelvic girdles, and other bones in your body can vary significantly from person to person. This means that even if you have a similar build to someone else, the way you hold your shoulders and position yourself when performing specific exercises may be different.

To get the most out of your workouts, it is important to practice different stances and forms with light loads until you find the ones that work best for you.

The use of pain relievers can help you to feel more in control and reduce the amount of pain you experience.

athletic blond female fitness model holding heavy barbell preparing squats blog

4.) Don’t Worry About Your Knees Tracking Over Your Toes

Go on social media; you will see a post talking about knees over toes. There’s been a lot of preaching to keep your knees from going over your toes

The idea of this makes sense. Many people do not squat properly with good form when their knees track over their toes. However, this does not mean knees over toes are bad during squats.

Taller lifters with good mobility can squat deeper than shorter lifters, but the greater range of motion available to shorter lifters limits how deep they can squat. This is because the vertical shin position limits how much dorsiflexion (bending at the ankle) is possible. If you want to train your dorsiflexion deeply, you’ll need to squat below that limiting point.

Since everyone has a different body shape, if you are squatting with good form and your knees track over your toes, there is no need to worry.

5.) You Can Train a Muscle Group More Than Once per Week

A misconception is that more training is required to achieve muscle growth and strength. This isn’t always the case. Some people believe that you have to work out harder than usual to see results, but this isn’t always necessary. You can increase muscle size and strength in several ways without overtraining or putting too much strain on your body in an excellent workout session.

If you want to see results from your workouts, try to work for the same muscle group two times per week instead of annihilating it with as much volume as you can fit into one session. 

Let’s take our legs, for example.

Don’t worry; you will be double sore from two leg days; let’s plan a little strategizing.

You won’t be doing two squat sessions. Instead, focus on one leg workout that targets your posterior chain muscles, like Romanian deadlifts, hip thrusts, good mornings, and lunges. The second workout will be geared towards your quads and knee-dominant exercises like front squats, leg presses, leg extensions, and walking lunges.

Applying the same logic to other workouts can help you spur new growth and strength. For example, your back workout might have row and fly pattern exercises one day and pull-downs, pull-ups, and other vertical patterns the next day.

Last Words

There are many ways to get fit. Take your time and find what works best for you based on your body type and needs.

There is evidence that following strict rules can result in gains. However, some old ways of thinking can change with modern research. Do not shortchange yourself by following guidelines strictly.

Editor’s note: The content on Base Strength is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of advice and/or supervision from a medical professional. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Speak with your physician if you have any concerns. Please also see our disclaimers.

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