10 Training Mistakes You Should Avoid
- DAN NORTH
Hindsight is 2020.
It’s easy to reflect on the last 15+ years of lifting weights and think, “what the hell was I doing?”
Alas, time is the best teacher.
While I can’t turn back the clock and change the error of my ways, I can at least try to help you train better (and smarter) than I did.
Avoid these ten training mistakes and you’ll be well on your path to a stronger, leaner, and healthier body.
MISTAKE #1: TRACKING HOW MANY CALORIES YOU BURN EVERY WORKOUT
Training with the intention of burning as many calories as possible is akin to opening a book with the intention of reading as many words as possible.
Instead, focus on building strength while prioritizing your nutritional habits.
Muscle is metabolic, causing you to burn more calories after your workouts and throughout the day.
So, if your goal is to lose fat and keep it off...get strong.
MISTAKE #2: NOT HAVING A PLAN
Eliminating decisions is one of the best decisions you can make when it comes to your training.
Take meal prepping for example. You don’t have to decide what to eat. You just eat it.
So, why not do the same for your workouts? You have enough shit to worry about.
Get on a plan and get after it.
MISTAKE #3: NOT SCHEDULING YOUR WORKOUTS
Schedule your workouts as nonnegotiable meetings. Do it every Sunday for the week ahead.
Don’t let anyone interfere with that time.
If it’s in your calendar, it gets done.
MISTAKE #4: DOING “BRO” SPLITS
You don’t need to train “arms”.
Instead, prioritize movements that provide more bang for your buck and utilize multiple joints and muscles synergistically.
Sure, throw in some vanity stuff if you want. But only after the real work has been done.
MISTAKE #5: NOT KEEPING A TRAINING LOG
Write down the weights you use.
You’ll be amazed at how effective and motivating this is.
Think of it this way…you can’t improve what you don’t track.
MISTAKE #6: SWITCHING PROGRAMS TOO OFTEN
A program is a recipe.
Imagine you start cooking a Bolognese and halfway through switch to making pancakes. The concoction you end up with would be a disaster.
Too many lifters don’t follow the recipe.
Stick to the damn recipe!
MISTAKE #7: DOING THE SAME WORKOUTS ALL THE TIME
Conversely, don’t follow the same recipe forever.
Most of my clients do the same workouts for 3-4 weeks at a time.
Each week, we make the workouts progressively more challenging by:
- increasing the amount of weight lifted from the previous week
- increasing the reps and/or sets performed from the previous week
- adjusting the tempo or speed of the exercises being performed
- adjusting the range of motion of the exercises being performed
- or changing the tools or implements we use for the exercises being performed
After 3-4 weeks, we’ll adjust the program with new workouts and repeat the process.
Keep in mind, this is drastically simplified but gives you an idea of how you might want to structure your training program.
Just remember: nothing changes if nothing changes.
MISTAKE #8: DOING TOO MANY MACHINE EXERCISES
Machines put you on a predetermined path, making it “easier” to perform the exercise.
They’re not bad, they’re just overused.
Free weight movements are the main course.
Machine exercises are dessert.
MISTAKE #9: ONLY TRAINING YOUR “MIRROR MUSCLES”
Most people would benefit in training the muscles they can’t see in the mirror more often, including the glutes, hamstrings, lower back and upper back.
Your posture will improve and you’ll just look and feel better.
MISTAKE #10: DOING THE SAME REP RANGES ALL THE TIME
Lifters are often quick to look for new exercises, but rarely consider new rep ranges.
If you’ve been stuck in the rut of the same 3 sets of 10 for as long as you can remember, try something different.
Personally, I like to use what’s called an “undulating” approach. This is a fancy way of saying the reps go up and down…either day to day, week to week, or month to month.
Here’s a sample undulating program.
- Weeks 1-3: 8 reps
- Weeks 4-6: 12 reps
- Weeks 7-9: 6 reps
- Weeks 10-12: 10 reps
Don’t get caught up in the minutiae. The idea is to vary your rep ranges so your muscles are forced to continually adapt and you avoid deviating too heavily into one direction of training.
BONUS MISTAKE: DOING EXERCISES BECAUSE THEY LOOK COOL
Sigh. Honestly, I’ve fallen victim to this.
In moderation, it’s ok. I’m a firm believer that training should be fun.
With that being said, don’t choose exercises based on their aesthetic appeal.
What works, works.
It’s the simple (often boring) stuff that works, and the “pretty” (often pointless) exercises that get a ton of likes.
Learn to differentiate the two.
I hope this helps.