Beginner mistakes in strength training
Beginners are potentially my favourite group of lifters to work with. They have no bad habits to break, are super keen to train, and have a great passion/motivation.
Done correctly, your ‘newbie gains’ during your beginner phase when training will be the most rapid progress you ever see. Unfortunately, that same passion and keenness that is a great benefit, can also be a beginners undoing.
Here are a few common beginner mistakes we come across.
1. Training too much
Most people getting started with strength training are super excited (which is great!). This often manifests itself into training five or six times a week, with minimal rest. Especially once you start to see some progress – if three times a week was getting me those results, how good would five times a week be?!
It takes time for your muscles, ligaments and tendons to adapt to new stress. Going from 0-100 in terms of training frequency and volume is a recipe for injury, either through overuse or simply as a byproduct of a new lifter not being particularly good at keeping their technique dialled in.
We start beginners out on a three day per week program, and will add a fourth day if and when they stop progressing. This may be 6+ months down the road – you can get a lot of bang for your buck with smart training and good recovery. Which leads us to…
2. Ignoring recovery outside of the gym (nutrition / sleep etc)
Nutrition and sleep are the biggest factors in how you respond to your training. If you eat like shit, and run on 4-5 hours sleep on average, your training is going to suck and so will your results. Beginners can generally get away with the best of both worlds in regards to dropping fat and gaining muscle, but more importantly, you should be setting up good habits for the future. These are the two aspects I look at when assessing if someone actually truly cares about their training and their goals.
Training at the gym is the easy part. It’s fun, it only takes 1-2 hours, awesome. Putting the effort into your diet and maintaining a reasonable sleep schedule takes real work. Food/meal prep, making healthy choices despite peer pressure or cravings, getting to bed at a reasonable hour because you know it’s better than Netflix until 3am… that’s where your true colours shine.
3. Overthinking things
Finally, many beginners have a thirst for information. They want to know if 5×7 is better than 6×5 reps, they want to know if they should be squatting 3x a week and not 2x a week, they read an article about hip alignment and think they should change their squat technique because it really feels like they have an abnormal femoral head position.
Above all else, training hard and consistently for a really long time is what matters. There is so much access to information nowadays, and so much being thrown at you from all directions, that it can be hard not to get caught up in things. One of the best things about training for me is the simplicity. Pick it up, put it down. Repeat. Try and do more the next time. That’s about as complicated as it ever needs to be.
Now, telling people to just trust you and never read an article again because it doesn’t matter would be ridiculous. But take a step back and realise that strength training is a journey of years, not months or weeks. There’s a long, long time to figure out all the things that work best for you. You have to start at point A and give it time, evaluate, adjust, and try things again. So, give it time. Evaluate after each training cycle. Keep a training log with any pertinent details. But learn to not sweat the minutia… most of the time it’s just keeping you from focusing on your actual training.
If you’re a beginner starting out, enjoy the ride! Don’t let that passion for training die out. Keep it fun, keep it consistent and you will make progress. And if you need a hand, come see us at Black Flag Barbell Club – we’d love to help you.