5 crucial mistakes people make when trying to build strength, according to the UK’s strongest man

Adam Bishop 3
is the UK’s strongest man. Adam Bishop
  • Adam Bishop is the UK’s strongest man and can deadlift 440kg (970 pounds).
  • There are five mistakes he sees lots of people make when trying to build strength.
  • Not resting enough can hinder your progress, as can trying to increase your weights too quickly.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Building strength requires weight-lifting, a sufficient diet, and patience. A lot of patience. And no one knows this better than the UK’s strongest man, Adam Bishop.

Formerly a strength and conditioning coach for British rugby team the Harlequins, the coronavirus pandemic allowed Bishop to focus full-time on his own training and in 2020 he won Britain’s Strongest Man competition (placing sixth in the world).

Despite being 6’3″ and weighing 150kg (330 pounds), Bishop deems himself to be “one of the little guys” in the sport. He started competing in open Strongman competitions in 2012 in the under 105kg (231 pounds) class, and can now deadlift 440kg (970 pounds), squat 370kg (816 pounds), and log press 193kg (425 pounds).

Bishop, 32, told Insider that there are five main mistakes he sees people making when trying to build strength.

1. Not resting enough

It can seem counterintuitive, but training less and resting more could lead to the strength gains you want.

“People really underestimate the rest portion of getting stronger,” Bishop said. “You don’t necessarily get stronger in the gym. When you walk out of the gym, you’ll actually be weaker, and you won’t get stronger until your body is able to adapt to the stress that you’ve applied to it.”

For that adaptation to occur, you have to rest, which is why Bishop has three full rest days a week where he lets his muscles recover, helping the process with a massage gun.

A post shared by Adam Bishop (@adambishopstrongman)

“It’s really important to me to have those three rest days, to be able to recover and make sure I’m in prime physical condition ready to train again,” he said. “One of the massive problems I see with people starting out is they’re just trying to train all the time and never get adequate rest.”

2. Focusing too much on assistance exercises

The most efficient way to build strength is to focus on full-body, compound lifts, rather than assistance exercises such as single-leg movements and resistance machine work.

But Bishop sees the majority of people doing this wrong.

“We measure how strong we are based off a squat, a bench press, a deadlift, and maybe an overhead press, and if you’re not actually putting the time in on those movements to get better, then you’re not going to get stronger at them,” he said.

3. Increasing weights without the correct form

It’s normal to want to add more weight to your barbell and strive for new personal bests, but Bishop says you need to put your ego aside and resist increasing the weight if your technique isn’t on point.

Adam Bishop 2
was the 6th strongest man in the world in 2020. Adam Bishop

“If your form and technique is off and you’re leaking energy, not only are you not efficient in your lifting but you’re wasting your time in the gym because you’re always battling against your own body,” Bishop said. “Once you get your form perfect, that’s when you can start to ramp up the weights.”

Getting stronger at a movement requires coordination, so nailing technique will allow you to handle more weight and get stronger.

4. Not sleeping enough

Most people don’t get enough sleep, and it’s a crucial part of building strength.

When you’re sleep-deprived, you’re not going to be able to perform at your best in the gym. Plus, sleep is actually when muscle growth hormone is secreted and when the muscle tears that occur in our workouts are repaired.

“Good quality sleep has huge benefits not just in the gym, but for your mental wellbeing too,” Bishop said.

5. Trying to mimic what professional athletes are doing

A lot of us want to train like professional athletes, but we have to remember that we’re not them. Bishop trains seven times a week (twice a day on three days), and his lifestyle and regime are tailored to him.

He says he often sees people trying to replicate his program, which is a mistake.

“You need to gradually get better and not just jump in and try and do what the professional athletes are doing,” Bishop said, adding that he’s been training for 15 years.

A post shared by Adam Bishop (@adambishopstrongman)

Similarly, he says it’s important people don’t try and replicate his diet – Bishop is currently eating 6,500-7,000 calories a day, and consumes around 120 eggs, 2.5kg of steak, and 2.5kg chicken a week, plus lots of oats and rice.