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Want to be strong this year? Strength training is key. Whether you use free weights, weights, braces, or machines, if you do it correctly, you will strengthen your muscles and become stronger.

Here are some common mistakes to avoid on your strength training journey (and what to do to reap the rewards).

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Mistake 1: Too soon, too soon. To build muscle, challenge yourself, but within reason. Running too hard or too fast can cause serious injuries and keep you out of the gym for a while. When you have mastered your form, start with light weights. When you know your form is stable, start with light weights.

Mistake 2: Not Taking Breaks When it comes to fitness, there's often a "more is more" attitude, but strength training is not. When you lift weights and challenge yourself and your body's defenses, it can cause small tears in muscle fibers. When you rest, your muscles repair and get stronger. Not taking breaks can interfere with this process and hinder your muscle growth.

Mistake 3: Lifting things too lightly (not aware of progressive overload). In order to become stronger, you have to challenge yourself: your body will adapt to the resistance placed on it and become stronger over time. This process is called progressive overload. If you weigh too little, you won't generate enough stimulation to induce adaptation. Using a weight, you can do a good form 10 to 12 times and find it challenging at the end.

Mistake 4: Always confusing exercise. Your muscles need constant overloading. If you keep changing the way you move, you're not giving your body the chance to adapt and get better with each exercise. The goal is to stick to a structured strength training program for 4-6 weeks. Before changing your movements, focus on increasing the amount of weight you use over time.

Mistake 5: Not eating enough food to achieve your goals. You need to get enough protein and calories in your diet to build muscle tissue. If you eat too few calories or too little protein, your body may break down muscle tissue for energy -- not what you want when you're trying to build muscle. Eat a serving of protein with each meal and snack, and consider tracking your calories or macros to build your awareness of how much you're eating.

Strength training is an excellent way to improve your fitness, endurance, and fitness levels, but it must be done deliberately and correctly to be effective. Pay attention to your posture, eat enough, and make sure you have a structured plan to achieve progressive overload for best results.