Common Beginner Weight Training Errors

Updated June 17, 2020

Weight training is like sex. Most everyone has done it, and most everyone will tell you that they are experts. And the odd thing about these experts is that so many new trainees take their advice, and run with it.

It is more common to step into a gym and see someone wasting their time, then it is to find a beginner who looks like they know what they are doing.

Well, I’m not here to put you down for following your buddy’s advice. But what I want to do is point out common mistakes, so that you can take corrective action. And if you don’t believe me, consider this…your best friend probably can’t squat more than his girlfriend weighs. If he has a girlfriend.

Overtraining. Overtraining is the single biggest mistake that weight training newbs make. Either they have picked up a bodybuilding magazine, believed the advice of the “pros,” and hit the gym for 2 hours a day…or they have a friend who has been lifting for years, and he has always followed a routine like Arnold’s.

How do you know if you’re overtraining? A good place to start is with the clock on the gym wall. Your workout should never last over one hour, from your first stretch to your last rep. If you’re training longer then an hour, you’re either spending too much time BS-ing, or you’re performing way too many sets.

My bet is on the latter.

Diet. Walk into any gym in the world, and you will find guys that have been training their balls off for years, but have made squat for progress. If you saw them on the street in jeans and t-shirt, you’d have no clue that they were hardcore lifters.

So what’s the problem? Generally the issue is twofold…they eat for crap, and they never push for progression of weight. We will talk about progression later.

Many of these lifters believe that a good diet consists of a post-workout Gatorade, and a chicken salad from Hardees. They aren’t getting anywhere near enough protein and vital nutrients to grow muscle.

If you want to maximize your muscle growth, you have to eat at least 150 grams of protein a day. Start by drinking a protein shake or eating a protein bar in between meals. And make darn sure you’re eating enough protein for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Milk. Cheese. Chicken. Eggs. Beef.

Progression. Why is it that Joe Schmoe has been training for 16 years, and can’t do reps with 200 pounds on the bench press? For the same reason that Joe Schmoe doesn’t have an impressive physique. He’s not pushing for progression of weight.

Every time you workout, you should be pushing for more weight. If you’re not, you will not make noticeable muscle gains. Progression is the king of the iron game. How many muscular guys have you seen that can’t rep out on the bench press with 200 pounds? Zero? I thought you’d say that.

And have you ever seen a guy that can bench press 350 pounds, or squat 400 pounds, who looks like a weakling? Odds are he has a body that you wished you had.

Beginners must be pushing for more, more, more at all times. With good form, of course. If you don’t, you won’t grow.

Supplements. Check the cupboard of any beginning trainer who owns several bodybuilding magazines, and odds are you’ll find a stash of muscle growing pills and powders.

I want you to focus very hard on what I’m about to say…there are no shortcuts. There is no (legal) supplement in the world that can take the place of a good diet and progressive training. If you’ve listened to, and believed, the claims that Powder Omega X can give you 20 pounds of muscle in 30 days, then you’re pissing away your money.

Outside of creatine, which does help with strength gains (while you’re taking the supplement), there is no pill or powder under the sun that can help you. Shy away from any product with elaborate claims, and stick with the quiet supplements.

You don’t see a bottle of vitamins claiming that it can boost strength by 50% in 7 days, now do you?

Heavy compounds. The last mistake beginning trainees tend to make is over-using machines and isolation exercises. While these forms of weight training can be beneficial, it is best for a new trainee to lift with primarily heavy compound movements.

Perform the following exercises each week…squats, deadlifts, bench press, barbell or dumbbell rows, pullups, dips, and overhead presses. If these exercises are not the staples of your workouts, you might as well buy an aerobics DVD and an orange sweat band, and flail around your living room.

Summary. While this is not an exhaustive list of training errors, it is an effective one. By avoiding the five fatal lifting mistakes in this article, you will save yourself years of frustration, and grow faster than a weed.

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