You can feel lost in a jungle of misinformation when you're new to working out and exercise in general. As such, it's not that uncommon to make a mistake or two.
But what if you could shorten the course, so to speak? By knowing what the most common pitfalls are, you stand a better chance of avoiding them.
Let's see what the most common mistakes are.
Not Prioritizing Strength Gains
It's Called Strength Training For A Reason. If you're not making a sustainable base of strength for you to continually progress over time, you're not going to get very far. Regardless of if your goal is to forge an impressive physique, or take your performance to the next level, you will be hard-pressed to do so without a sizable amount of strength to work with.
Yes, there is such a thing as illusion training, especially when it comes to bodybuilding, in which the goal is to look like you can lift a lot, not necessarily do it. But of course, even with that argument, the foundation of hypertrophy is based on building your strength.
You don't need to overcomplicate things- start off by ensuring that you build on the big lifts; the fundamentals in the bench press, squat, and deadlift. Trust me when I say that other movements will have no choice but to fall in line and improve if you keep those movements in mind.
Program Hopping: Not Setting Or Sticking To Goals
Personally, when I started out this was one of my major sticking points and weaknesses. The latest workout in that trendy fitness magazine surely couldn't lie to you right? Wrong! This is the fastest way to derail your budding progress.
Yes, muscle confusion is a proven intensity technique amongst advanced lifters and athletes, after a difficult plateau has been hit, or the body fails to respond appropriately to training stimuli.
But when you're green to the game or trying too early on in your lifting career, you will benefit most from sticking with tried and true methods that have stood the test of time. The linear progression model popularized by Bill Starr is a perfect place to start, it is simple and very effective for beginners.
The key here is to not try and outsmart yourself by program hopping, and to make sure you have measurable goals that you can hit. This way you not only train with purpose but avoid the inevitable discouragement that comes from spinning your wheels without results to show for it.
If you are hellbent on trying as many trendy workouts as you can, at a minimum please stick to any given one for a 12-week duration before moving on. This will give you enough time to see if it is actually effective for you, as well as allow some sort of results to manifest.
Strangely enough, one of the primary driving factors in people over the age of 30 that have now started working out for the first time in their life is to compensate for a shoddy diet, either past or present.
You cannot fix a bad diet with exercise. Yes, you might be able to burn off some of the excess calories that you ingested, but that is not the same as eating a quality diet in the first place. The food you eat will be responsible for 75% or more of your results, with training being the other 25%.
If you want to look and feel your best it all starts with what you put in your mouth. Make sure you're getting enough protein to support muscle growth and repair, complex carbohydrates for energy and fiber, healthy fats for hormone production, and water to stay hydrated.
This is a very common problem amongst new lifters that can quickly lead to frustration and burnout. The idea of working out 6 days per week, 2-3 hours per day is very appealing when you're just getting started. And yes, some people can get away with this when they are younger and have fewer responsibilities (and better recuperative abilities!).
But for the majority of people just starting out, this is a recipe for disaster. The vast majority of people will do the best working out 3-4 times per week, for no more than 90 minutes per session.
The key here is quality over quantity. You can achieve much more doing just a moderate amount of work in the gym if you focus on quality reps, with good form and intensity, as opposed to just grinding out a ton of volume.
Relying Too Heavily On Cardio
While some level of cardiovascular conditioning is important for recovery and overall health, too much can actually impede your strength gains. When you're constantly putting your body through high-intensity endurance training, you're breaking down muscle tissue at an accelerated pace.
This can quickly lead to overtraining and a host of other issues, including weight gain (due to the release of the stress hormone cortisol). If your main goal is to increase strength and build muscle, then you should be focusing the majority of your training time on lifting weights, with perhaps 1-2 days per week dedicated to some form of low-intensity cardio.
Plus, cardio is a calorie-heavy activity, which means you might end up in a calorie deficit and further impair your muscle and strength accrual.
Not Tracking Progress
If you're not tracking your progress in the gym, then it's going to be very difficult to gauge whether or not you are actually making progress. This is especially true for beginners, who are typically seeing gains on a weekly basis.
But even if you're more experienced and aren't seeing the same degree of progress, it's still important to keep track of your workouts. This way you can ensure that you are consistently challenging yourself and making at least some small amount of progress.
There are a number of ways you can do this, but the simplest is just to keep a training journal. Record the exercises you performed, the sets and reps, and the weights used. This will give you a good baseline to work from as you strive to make consistent gains in the gym.
Not Getting Enough Sleep
This is perhaps one of the most important, yet often overlooked, aspects of training. If you're not getting enough quality sleep, then your body will not be able to recover properly from your workouts. This can quickly lead to overtraining, injuries, and a host of other problems.
Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep per night, but this can vary depending on your age, activity level, and a number of other factors. The important thing is to make sure you're getting enough rest so that you feel refreshed when you wake up in the morning.
If you're just not getting enough sleep, or you think your sleep quality is poor, a natural sleep aide can help. Don't worry- they are considered safe and don't cause long-term issues like prescription meds might.
Not Staying Hydrated
Staying hydrated is crucial for athletes, yet many newbies forget to drink enough water throughout the day. This can lead to dehydration, which can cause cramps, fatigue, and even dizziness.
Plus, the negative impact it has on performance is well documented. So if you're not drinking enough water, you're going to be at a significant disadvantage when trying to build strength and muscle.
The easiest way to make sure you're staying hydrated is to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Carry a water bottle with you, and drink small sips every few minutes. You should also be drinking water with every meal.
And if you're going to be working out for more than an hour, be sure to bring a sports drink with you to replenish your electrolytes.
Not Warming Up
Many new athletes skip the warm-up, thinking that it’s not necessary. However, warming up is actually crucial for preventing injuries. It helps to increase your heart rate and loosen your muscles so that they’re ready for exercise. Make sure to do a quick warm-up before every workout. A few minutes just to get your blood flowing is all you need to remain injury-free.
Stretches serve a variety of functions, both before and after your workout. They help to improve your range of motion, prevent injuries, and even increase your power.
Dynamic stretches are best performed before your workout, as they help to increase your heart rate and prepare your muscles for exercise. Static stretches, on the other hand, are best done after your workout in order to help your muscles recover.
Doing The Same Thing Every Time
If you do the same workout every day, you’ll quickly get bored. Not to mention, your body will adapt and you’ll stop seeing results. Yes, we know that we just said you shouldn't be program hopping, but this isn't that.
Rather, you should stick to a plan for at least 12 weeks before trying something else. But even at that rate, doing the same thing daily does no favors for your body. It is a good idea to have two different sets of exercises and perform them once each over the course of 8 days. This is different from the typical once-week training split as the increased frequency can yield better results for your efforts.
Working Out For Too Long
You might think that the more time you spend in the gym, the better results you’ll see. However, this isn’t always the case. In fact, training for more than an hour can actually lead to diminishing returns. After about 60 minutes, your body starts to produce more and more cortisol, which is a stress hormone that can lead to muscle breakdown.
So, how long should you train for? It really depends on your goals. If you’re just looking to maintain your current level of fitness, then 30-45 minutes per day is probably enough. However, if you’re trying to build muscle or lose fat, then you might need to train for 45-60 minutes per day. Just make sure not to go overboard and end up causing more harm than good.
Listen, we know that getting the body of your dreams can feel like a fantasy if you don't see changes workout after workout. But instead, a change in perspective might do the trick.
Think of each session as the pieces of a 10000 count puzzle. Sure, you've got 12 consecutive workouts, but 12 out of that 10000 isn't really a lot when you think of it.
We're not saying that you need to wait well into the thousands to see results, but don't be too over-enthusiastic about it; commit yourself.
Within 6 months you should be able to see noticeable changes as long as you have been eating right and sleeping enough. The pieces will fall into position.
Not Focusing On Proper Form
If there is one thing that can set back your lifting career faster than anything else, it’s bad form. Not only can bad form lead to injuries, but it can also prevent you from seeing results. When your form is off, you’re not using your muscles effectively, which means that you won’t be able to lift as much weight.
So, how do you make sure that you have good form? First, start by studying the proper techniques. There are plenty of resources available online and in books that can teach you the right way to do each exercise. Second, make sure to warm up properly before each workout. Warming up helps to increase your range of motion and prevents injuries.
Third, focus on using your muscles, not your momentum. If you’re swinging the weights around or using momentum to lift them, then you’re not really working your muscles. Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re not sure about your form, ask a spotter or a trainer for help.
Don't lift with your ego- it's the fastest way to have a bad time.
It really doesn't matter if you start at 18, or 50. Getting fit and Improving your health isn't a sprint, it's more of a lifelong marathon. So take the time to cultivate good habits, build a solid base and you'll be reaping the benefits for years to come!