Top 6 Novice Lifting Mistakes

by Robert Maxwell

Just about everyone picks up a barbell at some point, some only once, others thousands of times. For those who make training a lifestyle, enthusiasm often runs too high. It’s important not to let it get the better of you. This usually leads to setbacks, particularly when you first start lifting. Controlling enthusiasm helps avoid mistakes. Here are 6 mistakes often made by novice lifters.



Ego has no place in the gym. Unfortunately it’s often there anyway. It takes many forms, but one of the most common is guys loading weight on the bar they have no business lifting. More plates look impressive, and ego says safety doesn’t matter. Neither does good form, or length of recovery afterwards. Risk of injury is another danger novices ignore. This attitude is why gym rats have a reputation for stupidity. Some deserve it. One of the first things I tell my personal training clients is to get rid of their ego. It won’t take them anywhere good. Lift weights that are challenging, not dangerous. Stop caring what other people might think.



Almost no one in a gym for the first time thinks about programming. I sure didn’t. But if you plan to make lifting a habit, a properly structured program is crucial. Without one the average gym newbie will do whatever exercises they feel like, and end up too sore in some places and not sore enough in others. Uneven training is one risk of lifting program-free. Lack of consistency is another. If you feel like benching today but prefer the flye machine next week, you won’t get any stronger in either. You also won’t grow much. Muscle growth depends on progressive overload, not constantly changing exercises. For more details read this article on basic programming for strength and muscle. 



A proper program is vital, but it won’t do much good if you don’t record your workouts. It might seem like a pain, but tracking every exercise, set and rep has lots of benefits. You’ll know exactly how much weight you should lift, based on how much you lifted last session. This is surprisingly hard to remember without a written record. You’ll also enjoy the satisfaction of looking at past workouts and seeing how much strength you’ve gained. This is very motivating. Don’t be lazy and skip the writing. Bring a notebook and pen to the gym. Record everything. You’ll be glad you did.



This is another problem for which ego is usually to blame. If you’ve never deadlifted, starting light and learning proper form is essential. Go too heavy too fast and you risk injury. This is what I tell every new lifter I coach. When they first pick up a barbell, most of my job is reining in their enthusiasm, stopping them from adding more weight before they’re ready. They always want to. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t lift the weight with proper form, don’t lift it. Risking your back with a too-heavy deadlift or doing half-depth squats does no good for your strength or physique. It only feeds your ego. 



The average person doesn’t suffer from too much training enthusiasm. Quite the opposite. Most people find even light exercise a chore. But for those of us dedicated to building our bodies in and out of the gym, enthusiasm can become very powerful. When we want to train so badly that even a savage barbell workout isn’t enough, it’s time to curb that enthusiasm. The biggest reason is recovery. Muscles only grow if they’re given enough time and fuel between workouts. If you’re constantly breaking them down with more training, growth won’t happen. Check out this article on moderation versus extremes.



When you’re a novice, gains usually come fast. If you’re eating and training properly, you’ll build size and strength faster than guys with more experience. This is known as “newbie gains”. Trouble is, it doesn’t last. If you’re adding 5 kilos to every lift, every week, you’re going to hit a wall eventually. Such rapid improvement isn’t sustainable. The bigger and stronger you get, the more difficult it becomes to add more size and strength. When gains slow down, it’s important not to fight the inevitable. Don’t keep slapping on 5 kilos because it worked before. You’ll risk poor form and injury. Just keep progressing as quickly as you can, and the results will come. 


Robert Maxwell is an online strength and fitness coach and founder of The Man Factory. Are you a man 50 or older? Become your best self at www.manfactorytraining.com/strength-north-of-50

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