7 Rookie Mistakes That Could Slow Your Gains

Looking back to when I first started training makes me feel a little embarrassed.

Most sessions ended up becoming extended bouts of bench pressing and biceps curls.

If I couldn’t see the muscle it didn’t exist and therefore didn’t need working.

Even after I discovered that your back also contained muscles the exercises I performed were, in hindsight, probably not the best ones to kick start the growth I was looking for.

Now you’ve probably read ‘beginner mistakes’ articles before and the advice is often the same – ‘using too much weight’ or ‘bad form’ – but GymTalk is here to give you some workout tips to jump start your growth that you may not have thought about before.

If you’re relatively new to lifting or even if you’re an intermediate lifter these tips could help you ignite some new growth in your muscles.

Hopefully you can look at your programme, workouts and exercises with fresh eyes and become bigger than the moon in no time.

1) Too much isolation

Calf raises, rear delt flys and wrist curls are all examples of pointless exercises that have no place in your workouts if you’re just starting out.

willy wonka new gif

Even if you’ve been lifting for some time, unless you plan on stepping on stage these moves are not going to be as beneficial as performing another big compound movement.

Let’s face it, if you’re walking along the beach with arms two inches bigger than the next guy but he has well shaped rear delts, who do you think people are really going to be looking at?

These isolation exercises are great for bringing out the detail and improving weak points of a muscle, but if you have no muscle to start with you’d be better off packing on some solid mass before throwing these exercises in.

2) Inefficient exercise selection

This follows on from the last point but it’s still something to think about when planning your workouts.

Does your chest day look something like this?

• Bench press
• Incline press
• Dumbbell Flys
• Cable Crossover
• Pec Dec

If it does look anything like that, take a fresh glance at it with your isolation goggles on.

It’s made up of 60% isolation exercises which is far more than most of us need to be doing for a relatively small muscle group.

Having an entire day dedicated to the chest might even be overkill for a beginner, but more on that later.

but it's chest day meme

Try filling you workouts with AT LEAST 50% compound movements.

As a beginner or intermediate lifter the more compound lifts you’ve got in there the most muscle and strength you are going to build.

Don’t shy away from hard work.

3) Missing out on crucial Big Lifts

Again, following on nicely from the last topic, how many of you started your muscle building journey without the big hitters like squats, deadlifts, pull ups and dips?

I have to admit I didn’t.

Everyone throws in the bench press but other than that few people add in any of the other, what I call, ‘Big 7’ exercises to begin with.

This is probably due to some of the exercises having a certain degree of difficulty but with practice they come naturally.

The Big 7 exercises of muscle building are:

• Bench Press
• Bent Over Row
• Overhead/Military Press
• Pull Ups
• Dips
• Squats
• Deadlifts

You should have all of these in your programme somewhere, even if you’re an advanced lifter.

Look at any pro bodybuilder’s programme and you’ll find all of these in there somewhere.

squat bench dead

Even if you find the bodyweight movements difficult to begin with, even doing one or two good reps will eventually lead to three which will lead to four and so on.

Everyone has to start somewhere!

4) Starting off with typical bodybuilding splits

The five day split with 20 sets for each muscle group may work well for the Jay Cutlers and the Dennis Wolfs of this world but someone who has been working out for a decent amount of time will get better results from a more conservative programme.

The reason these kind of splits work for the pros is that they have become so conditioned to training at that intensity that that is what they need to grow.

But if you’re new to training that kind of split will fry your system and could even lead to injury.

The temptation is, when you first start training, to locate the biggest guy out there, find out his programme, and copy it set-for-set.

However, just because it works for them does not mean it will be the best option for you.

5) Not having a plan

On the opposite side of the last point comes not having a plan.

I have seen many people who are new to the gym walk in, sheepishly glace around, before hitting some bicep curls, then moving to a chest press machine, going into some upright rows, and finishing with some rope pull downs.

Worse than following the wrong plan is following no plan.

i have no idea what i'm doing gif

Before you enter the gym you should have a clear idea in your mind of what you’re going to be doing that day.

A great starting point for anyone would be to do the Big 7 lifts mentioned above three times per week.

That’s going to pack on more muscle than endless sets of flys and curls.

6) Not including a good nutrition programme

A fairly standard one that I’m sure we can all relate to at one stage or another.

We start going to the gym and in three months’ time we expect to be the size of the Hulk without really doing anything about what we’re eating.

Aside from adding a protein powder to your diet, most gym newcomers don’t change anything about their nutrition.

Remember that to add mass you need to eat massive amounts of food, as Henry points out in our 10 Old-School Commandments For Building Muscle.

So make sure you eat to fit the physique you want.

If you’re currently weighing in at 60kg and you’ve had a steady diet, hitting the weights won’t increase your size unless you up your food intake a little bit.

Download a calorie tracking app like My Fitness Pal and try and get a handle on how much you’re taking in.

Most people are very surprised to find they are actually eating a lot less that they thought.

7) Having unrealistic expectations

This is a mistake that happens to a lot of people.

They start lifting with huge excitement and enthusiasm but after a couple of months they go from showing up four times a week to only making two workouts a week.

Before long they might only make it once a week before calling it a day and cancelling their membership all together.

This is usually because they don’t make the progress they want as quickly as they would have hoped.

To any beginner reading this who might be hitting this point in their gym experience I urge you to stick with it.

Only by being committed and consistent will you see any gains, so don’t give up too soon!

Another psychological issue is that we often don’t see the change in ourselves until other people mention it.

So just because you think you’re not making progress it may just be that you can’t see it in the mirror just yet.

Stick with it!

arnie quote

Signing off

So there you have it.

As mentioned above, if you’re a beginner or a fairly advanced lifter you can take a lot of these points and use them to get some massive gains going.

Put your ‘training anxiety’ to one side and just give some of this advice a try for a month and see how you get on.

If any of you long time lifters have any tips you can think of or maybe you have made some mistakes that other can learn from leave them in the comments below and let us know how you get on.

As always, lift big, get big!