Lessons From Lifters: 4 Mistakes You Don't Want To Make

 Lessons From Lifters: 4 Mistakes You Don't Want To Make
When you're new to lifting, you want to get huge right away. But many new trainees make these common mistakes. Learn how to build size the right way!

It’s good that you’re chipper. If you clicked on this link you’re probably young and fresh, or you train someone who is.

Talk to any experienced trainee and they’ll all remember the stark contrast between how they train now compared to the when they were starting out. How obsessed they were about getting bigger NOW, without any delays.

Unfortunately, sustainable muscle growth doesn’t work that way. Novice lifters need to be aware of the truth behind training for size.  In my own experience and with clients, I’ve noticed a few common themes that are worth clearing up.

If you’re a newbie, take note – don’t make the same mistakes.

1. Isolation and Split Training Right Out of the Gates

There’s nothing wrong with using machines for bodybuilding style isolation training.

There’s nothing wrong with setting up a body part split routine as your program.

There’s plenty wrong when you do that when you’ve barely set foot on the gym floor.

Size Mistakes New Lifters Make: Too Much Isolation Work

Here’s the thing. As a young, new lifter, you need to develop a foundation to set yourself up for long term size gains. That’s best done by focusing on the primal movement patterns like deadlifts, squats, overhead presses, pull ups, lunges, and rows. 

These movements require the strength and coordination of many muscles simultaneously and have a great effect on the nervous system to help release Testosterone and HGH.

It’s something that hitting a leg extension or biceps curl machine just won’t deliver as effectively. As a result, you won’t get as much bang for your buck and your gains will suffer. To bodybuild, you need to first develop a foundation and baseline of strength.

Spend a prolonged time making the primal movements the hub of your training. Once you have that down pat, go to town with intermediate split training programs.

Focus on big lifts for your foundation

2. Believing in the "Clean Bulk" Myth

If you try to maintain your razor sharp abs as you try to put on size as a young guy in a bulk, prepare to remain skinny for a long time.

I’m not saying bulking while staying track star lean is impossible. I’m saying it’s probably going to lead to plenty of frustration due to a lack of speedy results.  Especially if you’re a younger lifter, you have to take advantage of the fact that your body needs carbohydrates just as much as it needs protein during a bulk.

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Low-carb diets used to get or stay lean won’t help much if your intention is to get bigger and stronger. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but during a bulk phase, there should be a full expectation to add some body fat in the process. In truth, doing so can actually make it easier to build more muscle. Let me explain.

As you lift heavy and eat calorie-dense meals, you’ll add body fat and overall size. All things equal, with more surface area, your body will be able to produce more force – that’s physics. That means you’ll be able to get stronger and put more weight on the bar, potentiating more muscle development and a greater CNS efficiency.  The cycle continues to repeat itself as you go forward.

As I mentioned before, a foundation of strength is of quintessential importance when looking for size gains. Doing the above ensures that you’re creating an atmosphere for that to be possible.

3. Lifting with Bad Technique

This one should go without saying, but it’s an epidemic that hasn’t lost any steam since I’ve been in business. You’re not going to get many gains if you don’t know how to lift.  What you will get is injured, mighty quick.

Squatting, deadlifting, and pressing with poor form will lead to plenty of joint stress and untapped muscle development. Pull ups with bad form can help develop the arms, but will leave the back deprived of the serious gains the exercise can deliver.

Do your homework and study good technique from trusted sources. If you have the means to do so, of course, the gold standard would be to hire a good personal trainer to give you 1 on 1 instruction. You’ll be glad you did.

Size Mistakes New Lifters Make: Lifting with Bad Technique

One more thing: always underestimate yourself before you overestimate yourself. What does this mean? Master movements with perfect technique using weight that’s too light before attempting lifts with weight that’s too heavy. Not only will it ingrain the right motor patterns, but it will set the stage for a much smoother progression where performance is concerned.

4. Doing Too Much

Training to make muscles grow is a product of two things: volume and intensity.

People often get that notion wrong and think that “volume” refers to a workout’s overall capacity and duration. This may be true of conditioning workouts, but  when it comes to size training, volume refers to the amount of time (or sets) spent on one particular movement.

A novice lifter goes wrong when he decides that on chest day he’s going to tackle:

  • 4 sets of bench press
  • 3 sets of pec deck flies
  • 3 sets of cable rips
  • 3 sets of ring pushups
  • 4 sets of weighted dips
  • 4 sets of plate loaded chest presses
  • and, finally, 4 sets of high incline dumbbell presses.

That’s a lot of training for the chest! The problem is that no specific pool of motor units got particularly exhausted, since 3 or 4 sets generally isn’t enough to do that.

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A better solution would be to look at volume from a perspective of exercise specificity and add sets to 1 or 2 lifts. Then throw in 1 or 2 more accessory movements after for lower volume.

It’s the reason why systems like German Volume Training or Gironda’s 8x8 method work so well for size trainees. Take the following example:

Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press 10 8-10
Dumbbell Incline Fly 5 10
Bodyweight Dips 5 AMRAP
Push Ups 3 AMRAP

Get it Together, Noob!

Taking a cool, objective look at your program and training approach is the first step towards a sound mind and a great looking physique with the strength to match.

If you want gains that last, then it’s important to take an ego check, and train smart – and lose the six pack. Don’t worry. When you’re moving mountains, you can still show off.