By Steve Shaw

So, you’re wondering how your lifting routine stacks up? You’re jamming out sets of bicep curls, crunching your abs into oblivion, and performing pec deck flyes until your eyes are about to burst out of their sockets. You have felt the burn of lateral raises and cable crossovers, to the tune of 30 sets per day.

Pull out your workout logs, because here we go. The following are 8 signs that your workouts are weak. Read at your own peril.

1. No Progression. If you’re not busting your balls (or butt, if you are a woman) to increase in weight, then you might as well go purchase some Richard Simmons’ aerobics DVDs and sweat to the oldies. Progression is the cornerstone of muscle growth. If you lift like a sissy, your physique won’t change. There are hundreds of thousands of gym rats across the globe who have been bench pressing the same weight for the same reps for the last 10 years. They claim they’re training “to tone up”, but their physiques look like crap. Either start progressing, or end up as their training partner.

2. Too Much Volume. Yes, you heard me right. More is not better. If you think that 30-40 sets per workout will make you look like Arnold, you need to put down the pipe and take a deep hit of reality. More is not better. Most natural lifters can make very good gains with 10-12 sets per day, if they are progressing in weight and using heavy compound movements. Workouts that last over an hour tend to be catabolic. Do you know what that means? I’ll give you a hint…it is the opposite of anabolic.

3. You’re Not Squatting. A routine without squats is like a kegger without a keg. It just ain’t happening. Not only are heavy squats an amazing leg builder, but they also place the body in a more anabolic state. A common routine mistake of posers everywhere is to pretend they’re avoiding squats because they are bad on the knees. This is bunk. Enough already with the leg extensions. Get in the rack, and get some weight on your back.

4. Isolation Overload. If your routine is filled with isolation exercises - because you really want to get that “mind muscle connection” - you might as well step outside and start flapping your arms like a bird. Maybe you’ll fly, and maybe you’ll grow big muscles too! A heavy diet of isolation exercises is about as good for your body as eating Pop-tarts all day. A workout should consist primarily of heavy compound movements, especially for beginners and intermediate lifters.

5. Advanced Training Techniques. Forget negative reps, super sets, giant sets, super slow-mo reps, rest pause sets, partial reps, pre-exhaustion, drops sets, and burns. None of these techniques matter at all if you don’t have your weight lifting act together. Stop pretending that negative rep bench presses with 135 on the bar is going to turn you into a monster. Stop dreaming that a rest-paused giant set of quarter hack squats is going to turn you into Tom Platz. And for the love of all things right and just, stop pretending that holding your arms out to your side for 10 seconds while performing side laterals makes any difference. I can hold my arms over my head for 30 seconds and feel a burn. Go back to the basics; head back to the land of simplicity.

6. You’re Not Deadlifting. Deadlift! Start deadlifting, now! Run. Go. OK, you’re back? Good. Odds are, if you’re not squatting, you’re not deadlifting. The deadlift is the king of full body heavy compound exercises. Tugging heavy weight off the ground sends growth signals to your brain. And what if your gym doesn’t allow you to deadlift? Strip yourself down to your undies, and run around wildly screaming war cries. You’re sure to get thrown out. And then you’ll be forced to purchase a barbell set of your own, and deadlift in your basement.

7. Arm Obsession. If you are hammering out 30 sets of bicep curls every third day, it’s a sure sign of an arm addiction. If you want big guns, you have to lift big weights. Have you ever seen someone deadlift 600 pounds that didn’t have biceps as full as car tires? Have you ever seen someone bench press 400 pounds that didn’t have wicked horseshoe triceps? Overkilling your arms with 50 sets a week is wrong in so many ways. And for the love of God, if you are performing barbell curls in the squat rack, stop now.

8. 6-Pack Obsession. Generally, routines that are obsessed with big arms are also obsessed with having a 6-pack. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a good looking midsection. But if you’re spending an hour a day crunching yourself into oblivion, you’re living on the wrong side of the tracks. Great looking abs come primarily from diet. And once that gut fat is gone, what will you find underneath? Where do you think thick, blocky ab muscles come from? Well it sure ain’t from doing a set of 20 crunches. Try heavy squats and deadlifts, and see how hard your ab muscles work.

If you’ve survived the sarcasm, you’re one step closer to having a very good routine. Best of luck, and lift heavy.

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