One of the biggest mistakes I see being made in the gym over the years is people getting ahead of themselves. In one sense, it’s great! Everyone is eager to progress and achieve more, train at a higher intensity and train like the professionals. But, the big thing to remembers is these professional athletes (regardless of sport) do not train now, as they did when they were beginning their career.
Admittedly in some sports, local and amateur level training is simply below par, and if athletes have the ability and access to train at a higher level, then great. But in general with health and fitness and gym training plus a large number of sports, both team and individual, the level of training which top athletes undertake is simply too much for a beginner. It will actually have a detrimental effect on their progress.
Whenever I meet a new client for a consultation, one of my first main questions is in relation to their training history. I always try to establish how many years of solid, consistent training a client has undergone (if any) before deciding what training methods will best suit their goals. Forget any team sports for the moment and look at plain and simple gym training, weight lifting, bodybuilding, whatever you want to call it. The rise in numbers of gym’s, personal trainers, fitness social media accounts and of course gym goers has been nothing short of phenomenal over the last 1 or 2 years. Whether these guys or girls are competitive or not as bodybuilders is irrelevant. Essentially the vast majority are never going to compete on stage as a bodybuilder, however they do still train like one, and make improvements like one (gain lean muscle and lose body fat). Herein lies the problem….
The huge amount of fitness magazines and on-line information giving access to the pros is an incredible way to gain insight into their daily regimes. However any of these pros, male or female will tell you that this current regime, is not the regime that built and shaped their physique in the early days. Far too often I see aspiring athletes following the same pre contest routines as their experienced idols with 10+ years of competitive experience. These pros will have spent year after year with solid beginner workouts. Lifting heavier and heavier weight over the years as they add more muscle and strength. Often a professional athlete’s current regime might neglect certain body parts or aspects of training. They may have suffered injuries and can no longer squat for example. If a professional does not do squats, does that mean that you shouldn’t?? They have incredible size and definition on their legs after all, and they don’t squat. So, I guess you don’t need to do squats either…… WRONG.
I have seen and heard girls saying they won’t deadlift as it will “thicken their waist” but they have no problem eating chocolate cereal and Ben & Jerry’s for a “re-feed day”. Just as the amount of fantastic information and insight into the ways of the pros is available to us all, there is also a massive amount of detrimental and inaccurate advice and testimonials out there.
Let’s just look at other examples from other sports to back this point up…. If someone wants to begin a career, or even just a hobby, of playing tennis. Literally never swung a racket before. Should they fall in alongside Roger Federer for his training plan? Of course not, they can’t even hit a serve, never mind carry out his vast repertoires of shots. Same goes for a young golfer looking to become the next Rory McIlroy. What about the talk a few years back regarding multiple Olympic Gold Medallist Michael Phelps, who was apparently consuming a 12,000 calorie per day diet. What if a beginner swimmer applied that level of food intake and still hadn’t mastered the back-stroke. It doesn’t make sense. It wouldn’t work.
If there was one thing I could advise anyone out there as a beginner, it would be to stick to the basics. Squat heavy. Press heavy. Deadlift heavy. (All with proper and safe technique of course) And not only that, but constantly progress so you are lifting heavier and heavier weight. No fancy training split, or new technique, no supplements or “If It Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM) diet will ever beat progressive overload for gaining muscle and gaining strength. I recently read a quote from an experienced bodybuilder, which I would consider to be very very accurate and true, which was:
“The bodybuilder that gains the most strength, will also gain the most muscle”
Now as we know, strength is relative to each individual and everyone has different starting points. But if you analyse the comment and look at one person who walks into a gym day one and can bench 60kg, no problem. He gets to 100kg very easily in a short space of time, but instead of trying to continue and get to 140kg, he is doing 7 days splits, and trying new exercises, new tweaks, higher reps, etc, etc and never having any consistency in his training whereby he can measure true progression…. Now let’s say on that same first day, another guy walks in and he struggles to bench the 20kg bar on its own. But that doesn’t deter him. He trains hard and heavy (for him heavy is 20kg to begin with). He eats high quality meals with a high protein content and allows his body to rest, recover and return stronger. He sets new personal bests virtually every session, constantly thriving off the increases ins strength. Now all of a sudden this guy is also benching 100kg, same as the first guy. But he has added 80kg’s to his personal best, rather than just 40kg. You don’t need me to tell you that the 2nd guy has gained double the strength and therefore most likely has gained about double the muscle mass as well.
So I implore you, start simple and basic. Keep a workout log. Eat well and get bigger, simple as that! Lastly, if you are wondering and consider to yourself whether you are a beginner or not….. A beginner, in my opinion, is anyone, male or female with less than 12 consecutive months of consistent weight training a minimum of 3 times per week. If you miss a month, take a break, get a long term injury, get a new job and have no time to train…. then unfortunately, you’re a beginner again.
Strive for progress, not perfection.