If you are new to lifting, you can do just about any program and get stronger.
However, when you run out of “newbie gains”, you will find that you may not be progressing in the gym like you want.
Pick a program that can get you to your goals.
Experienced lifters will often tell you they made mistakes in their programming and wish they had done things smarter early on.
Make solid choices now and you will get stronger, faster and avoid errors that hold back making bigger gains in the future.
Do not make these mistakes in the gym:
1. New lifters OFTEN USE high volume, body part splits.
This style of lifting encourages you to be in the gym up to five times a week hitting individual muscle groups on separate days. Which beats down your muscles.
While this may be effective for experienced bodybuilders who are looking to fine tune muscle definition and are "enhanced". For a natural lifter new to working out, this scheme is overkill.
Body part splits are a terrible idea for new lifters because the volume is too high.
Your muscles get hammered every time you hit the gym. By hitting the same muscles repeatedly in a session, those muscle become overworked, which affects your ability to recover.
Older lifters are especially susceptible to over training and should avoid body part splits.
Remember, you break down muscle in the gym. You build muscle through recovery.
Typical Body Part Split
Instead of using body part splits with too much volume, use a smarter method. Hitting the gym three days a week is enough volume to make gains and allow recovery. Master compound exercises like squats, bench press and deadlifts with a bit of isolation work.
2. Lifting on Weight Machines
Beginners are often encouraged to use machines because they are easier to learn than free weights.
While this may be true, free weights build more strength and recruit secondary muscles that develop coordination.
It’s best to learn proper technique with free weight exercises while you’re still in a novice stage. As you get stronger and your technique becomes dialed-in, you will be less prone to injury.
A strong lifter with terrible technique is asking for injury.
3. Lifting to Failure
Do not lift to failure.
Going to failure on your lifts is unnecessary and is not advised. You should leave one or two repetitions in reserve. Stopping each set one or two repetitions shy of failure means you’re less likely to use improper form, reducing the likelihood of injury.
When lifting heavy weight, especially when doing deadlift or squats, going to failure is dangerous. You could blow out your back or injure yourself in some other way. Also, you can damage expensive equipment if you do not rerack the bar under control.
The heavier and more complicated the exercise, the further you should stay from failure.
While performing lighter single-joint exercises like bicep curls, you can train to failure with less risk. Although, by training to failure you may hamper your performance on following sets.
A 2016 study by Davies T showed that "non-failure training resulted in a 0.6-1.3% greater strength increase than failure training. Furthermore, it seems unnecessary to perform failure training to maximize muscular strength; however, if incorporated into a program, training to failure should be performed sparingly to limit the risks of injuries and overtraining."
4. Not Lifting with full range of motion & Control
Cheating on your repetitions is - cheating. If you do not lift weight under control and using a full range of motion you are not getting the most out of your lifts.
- Swinging dumbbells or other weights does not make you stronger.
- Doing half rep lifts does not work.
- You must feel the muscle being worked and target that muscle through strict form.
There is a guy at the gym that does bicep curls with wrist straps, knee wraps and a weight belt. I'll call him "The Pirate". Every time I see him lift, I think of a drunken sailor doing a jig. All of his lifts are animated. Anyway, he loads up 55 pound dumbbells and swings them up like doing a bicep curl, and drops them without control. He might be doing a cardio workout with weights? Who knows?
No matter what, he not isolating and targeting the muscles properly. Don't do this. It looks silly and does not build muscle correctly.
Choose weight you can handle and do your reps with proper form.
I would rather see people lift appropriate weight, like a robot, than see people swinging weights and injuring themselves.
5. Lifting without a plan
Lifting without a plan is planning to fail.
I have had several gym memberships in my lifetime where I went for a month or two and gave up.
The reason I quit is I did not have a plan.
If you decide to go the gym and start lifting without without a plan, you will fail too.
You need structured program that you can easily follow and execute, and in the long run it delivers results.
Winging it when lifting will not bring results. Results are what motivate you to continue doing something that is challenging.
An easy way for new lifters to see results is to follow a plan that focuses on getting stronger using compound lifts and has days off for recovery.
You may want to consider doing a Push / Pull Split as a new lifter or someone looking to get back into the gym.
On Push day you target pressing movements that build the front half of your body. Pull day hits your back half.
The advantage to this routine is you stress complementary muscles allowing you to get better gains.
Let's say it's pull day and you hit pull-ups and bent over rows.
Though not directly involved in those exercises, your biceps are worked.
By the time you get to the end of your workout to do bicep curls to isolate and stress those muscles further, your arms should be already fatigued. The result is you efficiently breakdown the muscle which will build size.
You will not be lifting as heavy as when fresh. But, nobody ever asked, "Bro, how much do you bicep curl?". If they do, flash them a double bicep pose and smile.
These workouts are shorter, target building strength as quickly as possible using progressive overload, and burn more calories allowing you to lose fat faster if you are trying to lose weight.
This workout style is ideal for novices and works well for experienced lifters too.