When you are just starting out as a beginner, there are a couple things you want to avoid that no one ever tells you. Some are obvious and some are less so. Today, I’d like to help you figure out what things to avoid when starting in the gym.
Increasing Weight Over Prioritizing Form
Slow down! When you are starting out, there is no need to keep adding more and more weight to the bar if your form starts to go out the window. The best way I like to describe lifting in the gym is like practice. Think of your lifts as you would practice in a sport. You wouldn’t go all out, but learn to master the drill or exercise. Your movements should be slow and controlled. Instead of thinking what is the most weight you can push, think of feeling the movement.
You should focus on having a strong mind muscle connection. Can you feel the intended muscles working for a given exercise? Can you lower the weight slow and controlled for 2-3 seconds rather than just letting it drop? All these factors will go a much longer way towards getting you the size, or progress in the gym over increasing weight. Consider hiring a personal trainer to help you learn proper form if you aren’t sure on how to do so.
Not Taking Proper Rest
Another factor to consider is taking enough rest. This isn’t a cardio session. You should be lifting to gain strength. Take as much rest as you need to bring your heart rate down, and allow the muscles to clear the lactic acid enough where you feel strong enough again to do another set within a set rep range. For bigger lifts this can be anywhere from 3-5 minutes, and for smaller lifts this can be 2-3 minutes.
Chasing the Soreness
I see trainers and lifters do this. They chase the soreness thinking that is THE indicator for a perfect workout. This is actually not true. In fact, in a lot of cases if you are TOO sore, it may be a sign of overtraining.
It is okay to be a LITTLE sore, but that soreness shouldn’t last more than a day or two. Other indicators of a great workout is seeing yourself do a little more weight and/or reps when you come back to that workout.
As I mentioned before, it shouldn’t take more than a couple days for your body to be back to normal. A common mistake among novice lifters is seeing workout programs that professional bodybuilders do and copy that. Those are advanced lifters, who are also likely on steroids. Extra volume is an advanced technique utilized for lifters that have trained for so long, and gotten so close to their genetic ceiling that they need that much volume just to stimulate gains.
This is the best part about being a novice lifter. The littlest amount of effort will yield the best results because the stimulus is so fresh. A novice lifter only needs 8-10 weekly sets per muscle. Split that over 2-3 full body workouts versus one body part split so you avoid overworking that muscle on a day and can hit it more fresh over the course of 2 to 3 days. This will allow you to hit more weight on the same exercises because you’ve given them ample rest.
Check out my article Weight Training for Beginners - Start with Full Body.
Can’t Outtrain a Bad Diet
My final point is outside of the gym. You can have the most perfect workout program. If you are not eating to feed that hard work in the gym you will find yourself spinning your wheels. If strength is your goal, shoot for .5-1g/lb of bodyweight for protein. Not only is protein good for repairing muscles, but it is an important nutrient for a ton of enzymatic processes in the body. Carbs and fats are also great macronutrients for providing fuel and energy to the body, but they won’t repair muscle like protein will. I’ve had a lot of clients who got stuck at a given weight and weren’t saying any progress on their physique. I didn’t even change their calories, but just made up the same exact amount of calories by upping their protein, and they blew through their plateau.
Check out my article How to Properly Bulk Without Gaining Fat.