Quick tip #11: Five Rookie Mistakes

By: Jonathan Byrd

I have been around lifting and training for a long time. For every good piece of advice out there, there are about ten bad. Even with all the bad advice, you know who your worst enemy is? It’s YOU; yes, you as a beginning lifter are by far your own worse enemy. I see it time and time again for beginners, they start with the best of intentions, but they let these 5 things simply get in the way!

1. Do not sacrifice form for false improvement. Of course your numbers will look better if you squat high, or if your ass is off the bench, or if you are bouncing deadlifts off a rubber mat, but did you really get stronger? Those numbers are simply an illusion of being stronger. The key is to take your time! You need to develop the proper form and skill to do the lifts properly. Poor form will lead to injury and eventually that will lead to losing strength, motivation or maybe stopping lifting.

2. Let’s go MAX OUT BRO! Stop that nonsense, and do some reps! Too many beginners get to the gym and want to simply max out, go “beast mode”, or whatever the term the BRO’S use now. When you are just getting started you have to build your base. There is much more value in moderate rep ranges and more sets than there is in a few singles and then missing a lift. As a beginner your form is nowhere near ready to push the limits of your strength with singles. That is not to say you don’t push yourself in the gym, but working to failure, especially on very low reps, will simply lead to your failure as a lifter. Form break downs lead to injuries, injuries lead to downtime, downtime leads to TV time, TV time leads to you not coming back to the gym and that leads to sitting around wondering how strong you could have been. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

3. You can’t get stronger if you are inconsistent. Coming to the gym one time every few weeks, or even once a week, is not going to get you the progress you want. We are in an immediate gratification society, but I am sorry to tell you the gym does not work that way. It is going to take time to make improvements, and it will require you to work your ass off! Life happens, there are times where it’s nearly impossible, making it to the gym, but if it is important enough you will find some time. It does not matter how well your training program is written, it won’t work if you don’t show up!


4. Most beginners either don’t have a program, or pick up something from an internet guru who never really lifted a weight in his life. There are lots of ways to get stronger, but honestly some are just better than others. Find a program that fits what your goals are, and stick with it for an extended time. Beginners make the mistake of jumping from program to program, only to find that the grass isn’t always greener, and that they were the problem. We come from all walks of life, and sometimes it is hard for us to sit back and take advice. You may have a vast knowledge in one area, but odds are if you are a beginner in the gym, your knowledge there is limited. Do what any smart person would do, and seek advice from people who know how to help you get stronger. The key here is to avoid the internet gurus, I described earlier. Brian wrote a great article about how to identify a good coach, my suggestion to you is read it and absorb it.

5. The last and often most critical mistake I see beginners make, is their inability to check their ego. It is hard to take a step back and face the facts. When you start, you will not be the strongest guy in the gym, you will not have great form, and you will have a lot to improve on. I am 15 years into this now, and still have more weak points than I care to admit. As a beginner, you have to select weights that are truly what you are capable of doing. Don’t let your ego force you into bad form.

The road from a beginner to an intermediate lifter is a long and painful one, but it is very rewarding. It is an amazing feeling when you start to gain strength and notice a change in your body, but there will be bumps in the road. It comes down to this; develop your form, do more than just max out, stay consistent, select a good program, and check your ego at the door. If you manage to pull that off, you will see consistent, steady progress, and you will be building strength the right way.


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Jonathan Byrd

Jonathan Byrd is a competitive powerlifter, with over 16 years of training experience. Byrd has been ranked nationally for the past 6 years under multiple categories. His total has ranked as high as second nationally in the 275 class. He currently has a best total of 2500lbs. Best individual lifts include a 1040lb squat, a 750lb bench press, and 735lb deadlift. His 1040lb squat ranks him 26th all-time squats at the 308 class. Jonathan currently trains out of Team Samson Gym in Jacksonville, FL. Before powerlifting Jonathan was a college athlete at Methodist University as both an all-conference football player and track athlete. Following graduation he played four years of arena football in various leagues.

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