Weight training: 8 mistakes to avoid as a beginner


Whether you are new to the gym or a veteran, you are sure to have seen some people, usually teenagers, grouping around the bench press area and trying to lift weights too heavy for them. These are classic beginner’s mistakes. Here are a few more so you can avoid them.

#1 Poor form

This is where most beginners go wrong. How can they be expected to know the right technique just by picking up a barbell or dumbbell? So make it your duty to learn it correctly before increasing the weight. Inform yourself. You don’t want to be one of these teenagers ending up working their legs as much as their biceps when swinging the weight up in a standing barbell curl. Have a look at this article on lifting safely.

#2 Over-enthusiasm

As the newbie, you are sure to be very eager to train in this new discipline. New gear, new gym, new sport. And if you are young, you will have plenty of energy. So you end up visiting the gym everyday and training in marathon sessions for 2 hours straight. Most of the work growing muscles is done outside the gym, when you eat and rest. See the beginner’s guide to bodybuilding. Your training sessions serve to stimulate these muscles into growing and should be short but intense. 30 minutes for a novice is not too short. Don’t overtrain.

#3 Not warming up

I have skipped warming up and so do many who should know better. You rush into your workout without taking the time to prepare for it. Again, if you are young, your muscles are supple and ready for action at any time. Why warm up? Well, you are not young all your life and in order to keep your muscles in top condition when you’ll be old, you need to show them some TLC from day 1.

#4 Following the pros workouts

We have all been guilty of that at one point or the other. You see them big and well-conditioned and they reveal their workout which got them into this shape. If it worked for them, why won’t it for me? Copying a champion is the best way forward, right?

Even advanced trainers shouldn’t do that, unless they live the same sort of lifestyle: being a professional and getting paid to train and do nothing else daily. Most importantly, if you do not take the supplements and drugs of the pros, you will never be able to keep up with their training.

#5 Lack of goals

See this bunch of guys, all grouped around the same bench and larking about, chatting, laughing and using their phones? What does this have to do with working out? Often, people join the gym just because their friends have. They go there to socialise, have fun and end up doing little serious training. Or even not being a member for long. Go to the gym for the right reasons and pick and stick to your own workout, not what your friends’.

#6 Working the vanity muscles

Or in other words, working just the chest and biceps, not training all the main muscle groups for a balanced body and especially not working the legs. This is more than a beginner’s mistake because if you are one of those with a big torso and toothpick legs, you have been training for a while but have eschewed leg workouts. However, it is true that most beginners will start their workouts with biceps or chest exercises and the vast majority will not train the legs because it is too hard. There is nothing wrong with targeting the vanity muscles but if you don’t want to look like this guy with a big chest and skinny legs, don’t forget you have other bodyparts!

#7 Avoiding compound exercises

Beginners don’t have much to do: squats, deadlifts or rows and benchpresses are more than enough and are a complete workout. So why are they using lots of machines (in addition to the permanent barbell curls and benchpress)? Do not get lured by these sophisticated and shiny-looking apparatus. As a beginner, and for everyone else too, the basics are the best.

#8 Scared of working hard

Working hard means ramping up the intensity, using heavy weight, doing low reps and cutting rest time to a minimum. All the while keeping perfect form throughout the exercise. Putting on more weight than you can handle, mishandling the bar to get it up and getting a friend to help by lifting half the weight don’t count. Concentrate on your exercise and keep it brief but hard and really push these muscles to their limits. That’s what bodybuilding is all about.

Not all beginners do all these mistakes; in fact that would be pretty bad! But if you can identify yourself in a few of them, you are already on the right path. Being aware of a problem is the first step to solving it.

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