I’ve been training for a few months, and I’d like to avoid the common pitfalls that derail others. What are some of the biggest mistakes to avoid in the gym?
You already avoided one of the most common errors, which is thinking only in terms of “dos,” without any regard to the “don’ts” that can sabotage training efforts. The possible pitfalls awaiting you could fill volumes, so I’ll cover some of the best general rules to keep you on track.
1) Don’t be radical. I stuck with the basics and kept things simple. I barely changed a thing for 20 years — and even now, I won’t be making alterations until what I do stops working for me. Bodybuilding’s foundations are determination, consistency and persistence. You may want to graduate from a beginner’s full-body workout to an upper/lower regimen, as in the chart, but I don’t suggest being any more radical than that.
2) Don’t get discouraged. It might take a year before you’ll see a change in yourself, but that doesn’t mean you’re not making progress. If you’re lifting more than you were a year ago, you’re growing.
3) Don’t use a mirror as your guide to progress. Although it’s helpful for competitors pre-contest, a mirror can lead the average bodybuilder off track rather quickly. Don’t be tempted to change up your workout to suddenly attack some minor flaw instead of focusing on the major goal: during growth periods, that should be the next weight you’ll be lifting, which
should be heavier than the one you used last time.
4) Don’t keep revamping your workout. I know that’s the current fad, but it’s popular only because it’s the easy way out. If you find what works best, then do more of it, time after time, day in, day out. If it works, why would you want to change it?
5) Don’t train every bodypart the same. This will become obvious as you gain more experience. Some of your muscle groups will naturally grow faster than others in response to weight-training stimulus. Prioritize lagging muscle groups, hitting them with more intensity and volume to help them keep pace.
6) Don’t let your ego dictate your training loads. Bodybuilding isn’t about how much weight you can lift; it’s about challenging your muscles for optimal growth. Lift heavy, but make sure every working set builds a pump and burn in the target muscle.
Considering those six rules, here’s an important caveat: just because someone at your gym, or even a pro bodybuilder like me, tells you to do something, that’s no reason to follow his every move. Analyze the advice you receive as you apply it to yourself, and don’t follow a routine or diet endlessly if you’re not seeing tangible results. That’s not to say you should haphazardly switch directions at every sign of a plateau — far from it. But be ready to tweak your approach while evaluating its effects.
That’s the only way to discover the path that will yield the best gains for you. - FLEX