Here are the 10 most common rookie training mistakes for males (in no particular order):
1. Poor exercise selection
On almost a daily basis it is my general displeasure to find males of a young training age picking ‘show pony’ exercises over exercises that provide good balanced and sustainable growth.
The best example of this is the cable crossover. If you are looking to get bigger, and most of us are, then this is a poor choice. In this exercise, you have a reduced ability to isolate your pecs because you have to expend a reasonable amount of muscle energy maintaining a leant-forward position. All this takes away from your ability to isolate and fire your pecs.
Furthermore, why hit just your pecs when you can dip or bench and target 3 muscles instead of 1? As a trainer said to me about the cable crossover when I was first starting out – “This is a decoration exercise. You need to build a house before you can decorate it”.
Another is the leg extension, when someone with low leg mass decides to use this in their leg workout. John Meadows kindly refers to these as Leg Extinctions. Compound movements guys, use them!
2. Going too heavy
Another common rookie mistake is going too heavy at the expense of good technique. I watched a guy lift his pelvis 1 foot out of the incline bench on each rep the other day. Check the ego and drop the weight; correct technique should always be top priority, with load coming a distinct second. Injury resulting from poor technique can curtail development and even create serious, long term damage.
3. Lacking consistent range or range in general
When looking to increase the load, the jumps should be so incremental so that the trainee never compromises technique or range on the subsequent set. More often then not, new trainees attempt large increases in load and then lift the weight through a compromised range. If you start compromising range are you really getting stronger, or just lifting more weight through a shorter distance? You don’t know. Get good range and keep your range consistent.
4. Getting spotted for the whole set
I never understood why someone would spot a buddy (by actually providing assistance) for a whole set. A spot should be as minimal as possible, with the trainee being spotted for a maximum of 2 reps (unless the spotter(s) are doing forced eccentrics). If you get spotted for the whole set, how many reps did you actually do and how many do you write down on your program?
5. Training longer then 60 minutes
Whether you are doing high intensity or low intensity exercise, after 60 minutes your body will have a high spike in cortisol. At that point, your testosterone to cortisol ratio becomes unfavourable and you are no longer promoting muscle growth. Sure, high-level competitive bodybuilders train for well over an hour but as they are rarely natural, so this poses no issue to them. If you are natural and let’s face it most of us are, you should always be in and out in under 60 minutes (warm-up included).
6. Not eating enough food
You can train all you want, but getting bigger requires consuming more calories than you burn – plain and simple. Most rookies spend way too long in the gym and far too little time on meal preparation and diet. Nutrition is 60% of your gains, so give it the attention it deserves.
7. Not eating the correct foods
All calories are not equal. Eating crap might get you bigger, but the quality of the weight gain will be questionable. To get bigger and promote muscle gain you need to make sure you are getting the right ratio of macros and having these spread out over the course of the day with high GI carbs being utilised during and post training (considering that you have reasonable body-fat percentage, meaning you are not fat already).
8. Relying too much on supplements
“Drop the shake and have a steak” is a favourite saying of a GP friend of mine. Many new trainees choose to have protein and meal replacement shakes over solid foods. Whilst shakes help, they should not be the foundation of your diet. This goes for creatine and all the other supplements that rookies always ask about. The key is simple: good nutrition, training based on compound movements and adequate recovery. Supplements come second to these primary ingredients.
9. Listening to ‘bro science’
Everyone has heard the stories; you only have to train in the gym during peak hour without head phones and you will get enough ‘bro science’ to create a Home & Away episode. Cut through the crap, forget your mate and go read what tried and true experts are doing for growth and read about the science that underpins their methods. ‘Charles Poliquin‘ and ‘John Meadows‘ are two such people and are only a Google search away.
10. Not training your legs
Don’t make the mistake of only training your upper body, as this is one of the most frequent and biggest rookie mistakes. You only need to attend an outdoor electronic music festival in Australia to see example after example of this. I was not blessed with very good leg genetics and I have spent over a decade bringing mine up and they still lag. But nothing says good body like a nice set of legs.
Nothing else rivals leg sessions for training intensity and nothing can make you feel sick quite like a serious leg day can. Don’t skip leg day, plain and simple.
Keep an eye out for the “10 Rookie Training Mistakes: Female Edition”, which will be posted soon.