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What Are The Top Three Mistakes People Make When They Start Working Out?

What are the top three mistakes people make when they start working out? Find out what people from our popular message boards think...

TOPIC: What Are The Top Three Mistakes People Make When They Start Working Out?

The Question: Everybody wishes they knew then what they know now. What three things do you see beginners doing over and over again and what can they do to prevent it? Why do these people make these mistakes?

What mistakes did you make when you started? How did you learn that it was a mistake, and what did you do to fix it?

The Winners:

      The best response will get $50 in credit to use in our online store!

1st Place - ravadongon

Everyone makes mistakes. It's important that you pick these mistakes up as fast as possible and come up with solutions, instead of repeating them and expecting different results. The problem is most people are afraid of change. They're afraid to get out of their comfort zone. This is an important thing to do in not just bodybuilding but also life.

Anyway back to the topic, here are what I believe to be the top 3 mistakes when they start working out along with the ways people can correct these mistakes:

1. No Strategic Plan In The Gym

This is easily the number one problem with people new to lifting. These people turn up at either any day they feel like it or every day, and pretty much do whatever strikes their fancy, on whatever equipment available or simply do whatever exercises they have become comfortable with.

Correction - Have A Strategic Plan (duh!)

    It is a well known fact that successful people always have a plan. The process of planning includes assessment (where am I now?), goal setting (where do I want to go?), creating a plan or strategy (How will I get where I want to go?), executing the plan (what action steps must I take daily to reach my goal?), and measuring results (how will I know if I'm moving towards my goal and how will I know when I've reached it?).

    How To Set Goals.
    Goal setting is an important part of successful physique transformation. Goals should not only be related to your physique. From personal experience...

    This can be done without any trouble by simply keeping your own journal, stating your measurements, fitness goals, everything you eat and all the work in the gym you do (including weights, sets and reps, and even comments on how you think the session went). You can even try starting one on the forums (, which can help provide motivation so you can reach those goals.

    Also learn to research, and use all available resources to you whether it be the internet or some recommended books. Always be looking to improve your strategies. is a great database of information as are the forums ( where you can ask questions pertaining to things you're having trouble with picking up or matters you are not sure about.

2. Bad Eating Habits

Another big mistake new 'gym-goers' make. These people seem to think that by just working out in the gym they will gain muscle or lose body fat rapidly. They don't pay attention to the things they eat, as they think it's all magic in effect and their dream body will be achieved without any real change needed in their diets.

Correction - Make Yourself A Diet And Make Yourself Stick To It!

    It doesn't matter whether you are trying to put on the pounds (muscle), or are trying to remove the beer gut (fat), diet is the key to all success in the bodybuilding world.

    It's important that you watch what types of food you eat, avoid all bad fats (saturated and trans fatty acid) and simple carbohydrates (excluding post workout, where simple sugars are good to have), eat foods rich in protein, complex carbohydrates and good sources of fat (e.g. monounsaturated fats, fish/flax seed oils, olive oil).

    And make sure you count your calories. If you are trying to get rid of body fat (cutting) make sure you are consuming 500 calories less than you burn during the day, and when you are trying to put on muscle (bulking) make sure you are consuming 500 calories more than you burn during the day.

    Supplements will also help if you use them wisely and have a well structured diet to accompany them. Good supplements include: Whey Protein (for use post workout - bulking or cutting), Creatine (for use when bulking), Multivitamin (for overall health), EFAs (for overall health). All can be purchased from at good prices.

    So, make sure you stick to good eating habits and I'm sure you'll be amazed how much more gains you will produce compared to before.

3. Focusing On Strengths, Favorite Exercises And Body Parts, And Neglecting Weaknesses

This is by far the most noticeable mistake observed by more experienced lifters that new novice newbies make. The type of people who make this mistake are those who you see training chest and biceps everyday.

They'll start the show with countless sets of flat bench, and then finally hit every variation of the bicep curl you can imagine: barbell, dumbbell, hammer curls, standing, sitting, incline... Then they'll repeat the whole process the following day.

Correction - Training For Functional And Aesthetic Balance (Not Neglecting The Weaknesses)

    All exercisers must train all groups of muscles for functional balance to prevent injury and maintain optimal function and range of movement in every joint and muscle group. Every plane of movement and angle of movement must be taken care of. Flexors must be balanced with extensors. Both push and pull type exercises must be included and balanced.

    Compound exercises should make up the large majority of your exercises, while few isolation movements should be included. Prime movers, antagonists and stabilizers must all be strengthened. Weaknesses should be looked upon and steps should be immediately taken in order to bring these up to par.

My Experience

Mistakes I Made

    For 4 months I wasted my time training. I didn't eat properly, the exercises I actually did do in the gym were mostly on machinery and a large percentage were isolation, and all I was interested in was improving my favorite body parts, biceps and abs.

    I was not interested in improving my weaker body parts however, I enlisted the help of a free trainer who showed me some equipment and wrote me up a quick and quite shabby program. For those 4 months I saw very little results and a lot of work for nothing.

How I Corrected Them

    In July last year I had a break from school, so I decided it might be worth my while going on some websites and learning a bit more about some exercises I saw people doing in the gym that I hadn't been doing yet. I did a search on Google and the first result that came up was at

    I had a good browse around the website and looked at some more exercises I had been doing and realized I was doing them wrong. At this point I realized I was probably doing a lot wrong so I continued looking through the databases, looking at articles which went through the basics. I found it hard to accept the fact I was doing so much wrong, and it took some time for me to accept this and be able to change.

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    When I went back to the gym I continued to do the same things I was doing before. I refused to accept some of the concepts people proposed on the forums, which I look back on being very good and valid advice.

    However, after a while I started to realize that maybe I should listen to what these people on the forums are telling me and do such and such, because these people have most likely been through what I was going through at that time and are really going out of there way to help me.

    So I took all advice on board and gradually made small changes. I improved my eating habits. I changed my split eventually, and included more compound exercises than before and made sure I learned the proper form on good mass-building exercises that I hadn't done before e.g. Dead lifts, Bent Over Rows, Lateral Raises.

    Slowly but surely I improved in all these facets and I reaped the benefits. I put on 20 kg with very little fat gains in the space of 18 weeks, and added a good 2.5" to my arms and 5" to my legs.


The moral of the story is learning from your mistakes. The quicker you do it the better. Take advice from knowledgeable people; use all free sources of information wisely and well. Research methods in which you can improve the way you train, read up on topics that may help you do this, and I'm sure at the end of the day you will be a lot more pleased and satisfied with yourself and your own hard work for it.


For you critics in the "Article Review section," who don't like the fact that I don't label my sources, well for the record, I have no specific references, just everything I have learnt from:


2nd Place - Ifrit

Beginners Mistake #1 Frequency Of Training

I see it every day, people come in with a "I'm going to beat my muscles until they rip" attitude and decide early on they will workout six days a week and grow into this massive freak like they see in magazines in no time. What they don't realize is that they are not growing in the gym but rather at home, in the kitchen, and while they sleep.

Muscle growth takes time and does not simply grow upon your demand. The average "beginning" trainee can gain 15 pounds of muscle in one year if all things are in place.

Beginners should be happy to hear that when you make the greatest strength gains from your current strength levels your muscles will grow at the greatest possible rate. You should take advantage of this by having a planned week in which you will hit each muscle group once a week and train the muscle groups in such a way that nothing is hit indirectly more than two times, such as hitting chest one day, shoulders the next, and triceps on the third.

You wouldn't make a trip and not look at a map and just drive in one general direction so why should training be any different. More is not better in the iron game, its consistency and progression in resistance.

Beginners Mistake #2 Relying 100% On Supplements

I take a lot of supplements myself but that's because my training is in such a planned way that I can tell the strength gains and mental effects I get from things such as caffeine and creatine. Beginners rely on supplements as a crutch to their training and if a certain supplement doesn't work the first day they take it then they get easily frustrated and want to quit completely.

Beginning Bodybuilding: Supplement Basics.
This article is meant for the newer lifter that isn't sure what supplements to take, when to take them or how to take them...

It's fine to get all the popular supplements out there but you have to realize they are only going to work their best if you are training your best. Read about the supplements you buy and realize why you are getting the ones you are getting because if you are loading up on caffeine you are going to have a little harder time bulking.

Read reviews on different supplements on and share your experiences with the things your are trying and search for articles on how and when to take them. Some people just don't react to certain things as well as others and the only way to find out is to experiment.

Take the supplements consistently and not just two days out of the week. I know I didn't respond much to creatine monohydrate but respond well to CEE (Creatine Ethyl Ester) and I know a lot of jacked guys out there that love the stuff like I do.

Beginners Mistake #3 Diet

I hate to be so cliche but diet is definitely all beginners' mistakes. Too many simple sugars, not enough protein, eating fast food you name it and 95% of beginners will do diets wrong.

I think most people know what bad food is and what good food is but don't really understand how it affects the body in a positive or negative way. Having a soda with as much simple sugars as it has in it sends your insulin levels sky high and high insulin levels allow fat to be stored more easily.

Saturated fats are high in the average person's diet and should be replaced with monounsaturated fats such as almonds. Protein is very important and without it the muscle tissue your are breaking down will not rebuild. You can eat good foods and still gain weight because no matter what kind of diet fad you may be following, calories are the determining factor if you are going to maintain, gain, or lose weight.

The more junk food you eat the more you are going to want because high insulin levels caused by the simple sugars in the junk you eat will cause you to be even hungrier. Find acceptable foods that you like and will stick with because not everyone likes the same foods.

Always have a post workout shake with high glycemic carbs to offset the catabolic hormone cortisol that is released directly after training. Make sure to have a cheat meal every once in a while but realize if you are trying to gain size just eating everything you see will get you big and fat.

If you are concerned about money being an issue buy in bulk. Diet is 80% of the results you will get in the gym so the sooner you start watching it the better and what better time then the beginning of training.

Mistakes I Made When I Started

I made everyone of these mistakes when I was 12 years old and in my dark basement working out by myself for hours and days upon days. I worked out 6 days a week for two hours and no certain rest in between sets or no set rep scheme or weight.

I was confused as to what rep range was best and whether to go for the pump or lift heavy. I wanted to workout all the time and wanted to get big fast because getting made fun of for being skinny was getting old fast. My strength actually went down because I worked out too much and didn't understand I needed rest to grow.

I wasted two years training like this and because I didn't have many friends no one told me I was doing it wrong. There were so many magazines saying so many different things I had no idea what would work best. My diet was lunch at school which was maybe 500 calories a day and that was it. I had no energy for lack of carbs and was overtraining from lack of protein.

The supplements I got were weird ones to say the least. I had some type of pill that a guy at a health food store told me to take because my bones were small and wouldn't allow me to gain any mass until I took it. I had a shake that tasted like melted butter and looked like it too.

I stopped working out after those two years because I got nowhere. I got back into it when I was 21 and didn't change much at first because of the same reasons, so I decided to read books, talk to people, and read websites such as over and over. I started to understand how muscles react to training and how diet and supplementation are very important.

I got certified by the I.S.S.A for personal training because I wanted to show people how to not be like me and waste time and do all of these wrong things. I am never done learning and make sure to leave my ego at the door when I go to the gym because you never know when someone can show you something or put a new prospective on things for you.

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If you are a beginner you really have the right to ask questions because you are just starting and most guys that have been working out will be flattered that your are asking their advice. If you put all of these pieces together it will make a huge difference and make the things you do in the gym well worth it.

3rd Place - twinposedown

Do you remember when you first started working out and all the mistakes you made? Whether it was training, diet, supplements or just doing something that only a goof ball would do it is probably something that you remembered your whole life. In this article I will touch on the top 3 mistakes people make in the gym and for those just starting, hopefully provide you with some much needed information!

1 - Training

Day in day out I see people performing endless sets of crunches in the vain hope of 'spot reducing', doing chest/biceps 3 times a week because more frequency means more gains (who the hell made this up anyway), doing full body routines for weeks and weeks thinking they are seeing results but are just at a plateau from doing repetitive work.

I bet all the readers of this article have been guilty of one of these, or are even guilty of them right now! I will discuss how to change these disastrous training philosophies!

Here's a handy checklist that can instantly improve the results you see and the benefits you reap!

  • Do you keep track of your workouts? Keeping a journal is a must if you want to make progressive gains!

  • Are you really pushing yourself? While full body routines are OK for beginners, after a few weeks you will need to get a split up that will allow you to hit body parts with more volume and intensity

  • Are you a machine junkie? Machines do have their purpose, but free weight exercises are far superior in adding mass.

  • Got compound movements? The bench, squat and dead lift are renowned for backing on slabs of mass

  • Do you pre plan your workouts? Going to the gym without a plan is like heading into battle without a weapon! Your training will not be fluid and timed correctly to have a decent workout

2 - Diet

There are people at my gym who start out training so intense you would think if you plugged them into the electricity grid they could power an entire city! But do they see gains that would usually accompany hard core workouts? No!

Poor diet is the main culprit in why many beginners (and even some intermediate and advanced lifters) do not see the gains they want.

Here are some good ideas to make you more anabolic than you have ever been

  • Do you get a sufficient amount of protein? 1.0-2g per pound of lean mass is a must for optimal results. has an excellent selection of high quality and affordable protein powders (Believe me I ship them from overseas and is still the cheapest!)

  • Carbohydrates. A bodybuilder's best friend and worst enemy. Are your carbs coming from processed sugar filled sources or are they fibrous and healthy? If you're not getting your carbs from vegetables, oats, sweet potatoes and whole grain sources then you are cheating yourself of gains

  • Fats are good. Yes you read it right fats are good. There are different types of fat but not to worry I made this handy checklist for you to read.

      Saturated Fats - Keep these under 10% of your daily fat intake and this does not mean get them from a cheeseburger.

      Monounsaturated Fats - Ah the good stuff! Try having about 60-70% of your fats be monounsaturated.

      Polyunsaturated Fats - The infamous Omega 3 and 6's. Try get about 30-40% of your fat intake as these. Also there are special rules to ingesting omega fats, namely try to get them in a ratio of 3:1, omega 3's to 6's. Omega 3's provide a lot more benefits to health while omega 6's on their own can cause horrendous damage! A great source of polyunsaturated fats is flax oil and I then supplement with almonds throughout the day to bring my ratio down to 3:1.

  • Water. 'Nuff said. Get plenty of it.

  • Post workout nutrition. This is the big baby here so make sure you nail this meal with the up most efficiency. Have some high GI carbs and a protein shake straight afterwards and watch your gains skyrocket.

  • There is no way in the world a person can get all the vitamins they need every day without taking in gigantic amounts of sugar. sells a wide variety of high quality vitamins that will keep your body running smooth as silk.

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3 - Vanity

Most people don't realize how weak they are when they start going to the gym and again they don't want to admit that to themselves. Grabbing numerous 25's and starting off with quarter rep benches will only lead to minimal gains and a higher risk of injury.

Make sure you go into the gym with your ego at the door, not walking beside you. Keep your form tight and your weights heavy but please do not fall into the trap of trying to impress people in the gym, more likely the experienced folk will think you're a jackass for trying to curl 100 pounds with 13 inch arms. The main page on has excellent articles on training!

My Mistakes And How I Corrected Them.

When I first started lifting the mistakes I made were numerous. Bad training, bad diet and thought I was the king because I could bench 85 pounds. But after a few weeks of mediocre results and seeing fellow lifters making way more progress than me I decided to log into and read all the training and nutrition articles they got. After applying the lessons I got from them to my training, diet and overall lifestyle my bodybuilding health was put into another dimension and I have yet to stop gaining.

I hope this article helps all you beginners out there and remember you can always join the forums to ask a question