You and I can both agree that....
Everyone starts from the very beginning of the weight rack.
Like a baby taking its first steps.
Except you're not a baby, and you can easily avoid the common mistakes that most beginners make.
And these mistakes are common and they can be noticed with a trained eye.
I'm like you; I want to make progress now. I simply can't wait.
The process can be a pain in the butt but as a beginner, you’ll make the best gains (if you do things right).
These are the times where you'll look back in the future and think "That was me, and look at where I am today".
I wouldn't mind starting over with what I know now, I would make progress so much faster.
So take action on this, don't just read it and walk away...
1. I Want Everything -- Now.
Yes we know.
- You want to start working out from tomorrow and for the rest of your life.
- You want to gain 42lbs of muscle by the end of the year.
- You want to look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club.
Easy there cowboy, you can't jump on the horse without knowing how to ride it.
No one jumps in the gym and successfully overwhelms themselves with ambitious goals without even getting into the habit of training.
Start with putting on your gym shoes and make your way to the gym.
You can think about how jacked Brad Pitt was in Fight Club when you actually get yourself in the habit.
And believe me, it's a fun habit.
2. No journal (how do you keep track?)
While you may think journals are for wussy's, how do you know what you did last workout, let alone last month in the gym without recording it?
How do you measure what you don't know?
In my opinion, tracking your workouts (whether it be with a workout journal, a fitness app, or something else) should accomplish 3 goals…
- It should be quick and easy, so that you can spend your time exercising. Your time should be spent doing the work, not recording it.
- It should be useful. Our modern world is overflowing with data and most of it is never acted upon. I prefer a system that records the essential information of what I have done (so I can see my progress), that reduces errors while I am working out (so that I can be more effective with my time), and that helps me make informed decisions about what to do during my next workout.
- It should be versatile. I don’t want to have to find a new app or develop a new system every time I want to do a different style of workout. I should be able to adapt my current system to any style of training.
As you can see by what James has said, there's no need to go super serious and write down every single detail or you'll probably stop keeping progress all together.
- Just write down the highlights, write down your best of the day.
- How long it took you to complete the workout, and what you ate beforehand.
- If you feel pain, you should especially write this down and pin point where you feel the pain.
Journals are a great way to keep training while reducing risk of injuries. You also don't want to screw up your shoulders as it's a great way to keep note of ongoing pain in certain muscles.
3. Not planning
Oh that's great. You're going to workout, but what are you going to do? You're just going to walk in, hop onto a Willy Wonka ride and let it guide you through the gym?
Sorry, but there are no Oompa Loompa's in the gyms to tell you what to do next. You've got to do that yourself. And if you ask some jacked guy what you should do, he probably isn't going to give you the best advice.
Give yourself a little plan in your journal.
Here's a quick example:
Day 1: Chest and triceps (bench press flat, incline bench press, dips, ez bar for triceps, tricep pull downs) 60 second breaks, and working sets of 8 repetitions.
Day 2: Off
Day 3: Back and biceps (back rows, pull ups, machine rows, dumbbell curls, barbell curls)
Details: 60 second breaks, and working sets of 8 repetitions.
Planning will give you what you should do next. This will give you the mental edge to visualize the workout ahead of time. Try it!
4. Supplementation Obsession
Supplements man, what's the best out there? I need something that will give me magical wings and gains.
The only thing that will give you gains is training. When you train, you'll eat. And when you eat, you'll recover. And when you recover, you grow.
You only need supplements to SUPPLEMENT your diet. Don't buy something without reading the reviews. There are tons of great reviews here on Gym-Talk.
5. Training Without Warming Up
You can't expect to simply walk in the gym, turn into the hulk and start lifting to your ego's delight. You need something that's called "warm up".
A proper warm-up routine should bring blood to the muscles that are about to be trained, increase suppleness, raise body temperature, and enhance free, coordinated movement. The best way to do this is to move the muscles repeatedly through the expected ranges of motion, which does reduce the risk of injury.
It's something simple that helps your body get warmer, your muscles primed for destruction, and your central nervous system prepared.
The first 5 to 10 minutes of any workout should involve only the empty bar, or something that will prepare your muscles for the workout. A simple 5 minute cardio session won't prepare you for a heavy squat session. Your warm up should be the ultra mini-version of your workout.
Let's pretend you bench press 135 pounds, that's your max.
- 1st set: So you start with the empty bar. That's 40 pounds, a little less than half your maximum. Perform 10 to 12 reps with that.
- 60 second rest, and keep rotating your arms in a circular motion thoroughly
- 2nd set: Add 10 to 25% more weight to the bar. So now it should be around 60 pounds, perform 6 to 8 repetitions with it.
- 60 seconds rest; keep rotating your arms to warm up your shoulders
- 3rd set: Add 10 to 25%, that's around 100 pounds. Perform 3 to 5 repetitions.
- 60 seconds rest
- 4th set: 1 to 3 reps of 135lbs. This is your working set. You can perform as many working sets as you plan to. This is where the action begins.
- You're ready to perform your working sets
6. No leg day
Mondays are internationally known to be famous for chest days.
Who doesn't love that gorging pump? Bouncing them can be pretty fun when someone is throwing cherries at you. But legs.... Oh you run for your legs?
That's awesome I guess. But when you realize that legs are an important foundation for any physique, you'll realize that it's also important for overall strength and muscle.
Don't skip out on leg day. Start with squats if you can do it without hurting yourself. It has to be one of the best exercises. And plus, all your lifts will increase if you have strong legs.
As a beginner, it's easy to get all energetic and ambitious about the gains.
You want to make the most out of it, we get it.
But you might have to learn the hard way that you actually grow outside the gym, not while you train.
You actually shrink your muscles when you pound them out, but they might appear bigger because of the pump.
Don't take every single set to failure. Even the most elite bodybuilders take a workout or a week to just deload and take it easy. It's essential for maximum growth and recovery.
If you workout today, and again next week. And skip out on the following week, and expect some kind of progress, you're really not on the right track.
Getting to the gym whether you want to or not, even for a short appearance, a salute or a bow is vitally important to the health of your fitness lifestyle. A break in consistency leads to the erosion of your training foundations, and without sound foundations no structure will stand.
Stay consistent, follow the plan, and get it over with. Training should enhance your lifestyle, not take over it.
9. Not listening to their bodies
You step under a barbell, you load up the plates, and suddenly you feel a snap in your shoulders but you keep going to impress your buddies. The pain is not slowing down, sounds like you?
If you feel any sort of pain, have a plan b and switch to a different exercise. If all else fails, call it a day.
The kind of pain I'm referring to is not when you drop a sweat. It's when you feel something sharp, or nagging especially in the shoulders.
Listen to your body and you'll continuously make gains. If you get injured, you may have to take anywhere from a few days to a few months off to just recover!
10. Bad form
With bad form, you'll be more likely to injure yourself. Focus on the muscle that needs to be worked, use your mind to connect. Don't sacrifice form to make your wang look bigger.
You want to work out to look good right? You won't look very good with your shoulders slumped over with a rounded back on the beach if your form is off.
Watch YouTube videos for people that give out great instructions for exercises.
Everyone's lifting heavy, so why can't you? Right? Wrong. Everyone starts somewhere, no one is born a hero. Start from the light weights and work your way up. You want gains right?
Even the strongest person in the gym started as a weakling. So drop your ego, and start building your body, 'brick by brick'.
12. Copying someone else's routine
He's jacked, he must be an expert, right? Not really. The best bodybuilders can be the worst trainers.
You might get ideas from another routine, but you shouldn't copy it rep for rep, and set for set. Everyone is different and reacts different to training styles.
And plus, you don't know if the routine you're copying is meant for roid heads. And even if it is, they may have great genetics for recovery and muscle growth.
Are you Dora the Explorer? Walking around is great for resting, but not clueless people. The worst thing you can do is walk around without knowing what to do next. That's why you should have a rough plan of what you're going to do.
If you find yourself lost, just stop and refocus on what you went there to do. Put it in your mind that you're going to conquer your workout and that NOTHING will stop you.
14. Poor Hydration
The body is made of 80% water or more.
Being slightly dehydrated will result in a 10% decrease in mental and physical performance. How's that for good old water? Stay hydrated throughout the day, especially if you're taking creatine.
You need water to stay mentally and physically fit. Keep a bottle near you, and if you're not in the habit then just keep drinking a little more water than you did yesterday.
15. Not Training
....someone who TRAINS has a sense of purpose and conviction. They have a PLAN; or better yet, a goal. They arrive to the gym on a mission and don’t waste any time pitter puttering around trying to figure what they should do that day.
Going to the gym to post your Facebook status of "Going to workout" isn't helping anyone. Train like you've got no other choice.
Go in there like rambo. Rambo didn't have to update his status, why should you?
Make it a habit to workout.
Keep going to the gym consistently, that way you are constantly forcing your body to stay in shape and in the habit of exercise. T
he only time you need motivation is when you're hurting and you feel pain, but that's when your motivation should kick in.
16. Negative Mindset
Not believing in your self is one of the worst things you can do. Everyone has doubts in their minds, it's natural.
But beating those thoughts with positive ones like "I know I can do it" is something you need to practice. Believe in yourself and don't set limits.
Next time you workout, think of the amazing feeling of being able to constantly get bigger and stronger. Know that you have given your body no other choice but to grow and adapt.
17. Afraid to Fail
Failing is what leads to success but that doesn't mean you should train to failure every time. It just means you should challenge yourself.
Take one or two sets to failure but avoid overtraining. If you fall over, it doesn't matter how hard you hit the ground. It's how you get back up!
18. Focused on Biceps and Chest
These two muscles isn't going to make you jacked. It's such a common mistake to see a beginner focusing on these two muscles.
It's what I did and it didn't get me very far. When I started training my back and legs, my gains truly took off.
I think the fact that we treat the body as a whole while we train is giving us way more results than just training two muscles.
So don't neglect your other muscles.
It's your turn.
What mistakes have you made as a beginner?
If there's one thing you would teach to other beginners, what would it be?
No matter what level you are at, you're going to have tons of questions. Whether it's training, nutrition, habits, whatever, ask it.
The worst thing you can do is keep your mouth shut.
So go ahead and leave your comment below...