Every talented person was once utterly crap. Serena Williams once couldn’t hit a tennis ball. Michael Jackson couldn’t always dance. Kim Kardashian wasn’t always… Whatever she is.
Ok never mind her. You get the point.
Everyone’s got to start somewhere. But you can start on the right road, or you can waste a few years barrelling full speed into a brick wall. To prevent that from happening, here are our top five newbie mistakes, and how to avoid them.
1 – Program Jumping
You’re super keen to get results and always looking for ways to improve. That’s a good thing. The trouble is, the internet is an infinite sewer pipe spraying your face with advice. And just like a sewer pipe, it’s mostly full of shit. If you keep looking you’ll find plenty of great training programs, but you’ll never give the one you’re currently doing a chance actually work!
Stick with a program for at least six weeks before moving on. Track your progress and learn what works for you.
2 – Too Light/Too Heavy
These seem like two contradictory points but the common denominator is inappropriate loading. On the one hand you’ve got the wannabe Dwayne Johnson getting himself all psyched up before wobbling out of the rack with an overloaded bar, performing a “squat” so shallow it can only be detected with an electron microscope, and shuffling back in to a roar of applause that only he can hear.
On the other, some use a weight so light they can do the whole workout with the dead-eyed expression as a US border inspector. Unless you’re fatally allergic to sweat, your sets should be a struggle, not something you could feasibly do whilst reading a eulogy.
Pick a weight you can do with proper form, through a full range of motion, for the right number of reps, but make sure the last few reps put some hairs on your chest, otherwise it’s all wasted (lack of) effort.
3 – Isolate Every Muscle
Isolation exercises are exercises where just one joint moves; think of bicep curls, where the elbow bends while the rest of the body is static. Compound exercises use more than one joint (squats and bench press for example), and so typically they involve more than one muscle group.
Isolation exercises, by virtue of concentrating on one small area, tend to give a better “pump”, which can fool some into thinking they’re superior. But big compound movements build more strength and size, both via mechanical load (since you’re lifting more weight) and through stimulating the release of growth hormone and testosterone.
Isolation exercise are useful, but you’re not supposed to be in a monogamous relationship with them. Build a life with squats and deadlifts, then see bicep curls on the side (Sorry this analogy got weird).
4 – Lack of Intensity
This goes beyond the earlier point about load. You can bang out an eye-bursting set of bench press, but if you’re back to Angry Birds between sets you’re failing. (Is Angry Birds a dated reference these days? Would any kid reading this think “lol alright grandad, and I won’t play the cup and ball game between bicep curls either, you old fart”? Well, if so I don’t care, so do one).
What was my point? Oh yeah. You need to bring the right mentality to the gym. The world will survive you being offline for an hour, so leave your phone in your locker. I’m not one of those people who talk about training like you’re going to war, but you’re not buying an ice cream either. You need a decent level of intensity and mental focus.
Think about what you want to achieve with this workout, get that goal in your mind before you start. Listen to inspirational music if that’s your thing, but do whatever you need to do to get in the right mindset.
5 – Incorrect Post Workout Nutrition
This is such an easy fix, and the research behind it is so solid that screwing it up is unforgivable. You need bricks to build a house. When it comes to muscle, protein equals bricks. 30-40g right after your training session is a good guideline.
Whey protein shakes aren’t magic, but they’re quick, easy and portable. If building muscle is the goal (and why wouldn’t it be?) you want some simple carbs in there too. 40-50g of dextrose is a good option. You wouldn’t want to ingest that much simple carbs any other time of day (unless diabetes is your idea of a good time. No judgement here), but post-training it’s going to aid recovery and help shuttle the protein into your muscles ASAP.
Don’t wait till you get home. Smash in a protein shake right after training. This is why we offer shakes to all clients on our 12 week transformations. We basically force it on them, that’s how important this stuff is.
For info on our programs, a personal trainer London, and our brand new Four Week Summer Shred, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Words by Zack Cahill