Starting out on your muscle-building journey can be a tough endeavor. From training to supplementation, getting the right balance can be difficult, but we’re here to make it easy for you. Here are 5 mistakes you should avoid if you want to build muscle without sacrificing your health.
I’ll see many new guys in the gym doing 10 sets of forearm curls for absolutely no reason. Overworking smaller muscles will take away your potential to perform the more important compound exercises. For example: say you’re doing an overload on the forearms, well if you try and deadlift tomorrow, your grip will most likely give out and not allow you to perform the exercise.
Solution: Focus on the main muscle groups first and leave accessory exercises towards the end for 3-4 sets. It is also important to remember that compound exercises normally will work the smaller accessory muscles. For example: You perform a wide-grip pulldown for lats, but you’re also working your biceps and forearms.
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Not Warming Up
A huge mistake I see is beginners in the gym not treating weightlifting as a sport. Warming up is essential in weightlifting just as it is in football, soccer, basketball, etc. Improper or inadequate warm up is the number one way to get yourself injured—especially when lifting heavy.
Solution: Always warm up on a cardio-machine for 5-10 minutes and using lighter weights for that exercise before starting your working sets. If you choose not to hop on a treadmill, make sure that you warm up using lighter weights and that your joints are moving around to get warmed up.
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Training for Soreness
This mistake can go hand in hand with the mistake involving heading to the gym without a plan—except I’ve seen this mistake made both with athletes using programs and athletes not using programs. As you’ve probably already learned, the way muscle-building works is: you go and break the muscles down in the gym then they recover in a larger and stronger state in your time outside of the gym. As with anything, there’s a certain limit of muscle strain which is beneficial to you, then once you work the muscle to complete exhaustion it actually can be counter-productive as it may take you a lot more time to recover than usual.
Solution: By no means am I telling you to undertrain. I am simply saying to be smart in training and to not go 150% every day. For example: if you decide to do a AMRAP (as many reps as possible set), limit to one set of AMRAP a workout and don’t burn-out on every single set you perform that day. This will allow you to train that muscle group more frequently and open up the door to more muscle growth.
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Training Without a Plan
Training just to train might be a little counter-productive if you ask me. A big mistake many beginners make is heading to the gym without a plan, and proceeding to hit every muscle in the upper body with no real purpose. While technically this is still considered a workout, if you don’t have a plan to progress, you’ll always be that guy in the gym who looks the same today as they did in 2012.
Solution: A structured training protocol will ensure that you grow in both strength and muscle. So don’t make the mistake of going to the gym just for the sake of it—go in with a plan and be ready to crush it from the beginning.
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Not Sleeping Enough
Sleep is the third key staple of what you need to grow muscle—right next to nutrition and training. But again, as with diet, many forget that our muscles recover as we sleep and then wonder why they’re not growing with 4 hours of sleep every night. Sleep is crucial not only in lifting but for general health, so try your best not to stay up too many nights.
Solution: Program 7-9 hours of sleep every night and try your best to get a good night’s rest every night.
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Being a Supp Addict
Another huge mistake with beginner lifters is putting too much stress on supplements. Yes, a good pre-workout, protein powder, and some BCAAs will help you out, but nothing is more important than your training and diet.
Solution: Use supplements as exactly what they are—supplements. This means they are an aid to your core needs to grow. Don’t think if you skip breakfast and go into training on an empty stomach that your preworkout will provide you with the main nutrients to have an effective workout. Focus on diet and training—THEN worry about your supplements.
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Taking Too Much Advice
This is a big problem with beginner lifters coming across so much “bro-science” out there. I might see someone doing a certain exercise which I don’t really deem beneficial. When asked why, some will say something along the lines of “so-and-so told me to do it”. Taking advice from the wrong people and not doing your own research could end up holding you back from your goals—so when someone tells you something, take it with a grain of salt, go home, and look how it holds true in the professional realms.
Solution: Like I mentioned before, take everything with a grain of salt. It’s real easy to believe everything you’re told, but that is a major reason why some don’t progress as they should. Instead of trying everything someone tells you, go online when your get home and see how effective whatever they told you really is.
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I’ll get beginners who ask my why they’re working hard in the gym but not seeing results. Almost 95% of the time, their workout routine is spot on—but their diet seems to be far off from what it should be in order to see solid results.
Solution: Treat your diet just as serious as your workout routine. Track your intake and make sure that your carbohydrate, fat, and protein intake reflect your goals—whether you may be trying to lose weight or put on mass.
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Many of the newer guys focus far too much on the smaller muscles rather than working on gaining overall mass from the legs up. Not focusing on compound movements will not allow you to grow to your full potential and will also open up the door for an unsymmetrical physique.
Solution: There’s no exercises which give you more bang for your buck when it comes to muscles targeted than the big three—bench, squat, and deadlift. The best training programs to gain mass will generally compound movements such as the big three combined with accessory exercises to help you target every muscle group with adequate volume to grow.
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Going Too Heavy
This is the most prevalent mistake I see—especially on a college campus with new lifters just starting off every day. I’ll often go into the gym and see beginners squatting down an inch with 315, deadlifting 405 with a rainbow-shaped lower back, and pushing 225 on bench with their spotter doing all the work. Overloading the bar and forgetting form will not only puts you in a position to get injured, but also will not activate any muscles associated with the movement—and without muscle activation, you can throw the idea of putting on muscle right out the window.
Solution: Start off using lighter weights and perform each exercise with the proper range of motion and technique. Once you begin to break form, lighten the load a bit—especially when starting off. Once you gain a little experience, begin to test heavier weights and you will see progress in both strength and muscle mass.