After working as a personal trainer/strength and conditioning specialist for all of my adult life, there are a lot of things I would do differently if I were to start over. Here are a few mistakes I’ve learned from.
1I didn’t check my ego
I wanted to be the strongest now. If that meant putting proper form on the back burner and lifting the heaviest weight possible, so be it.
Looking back, I didn’t truly appreciate how much time I needed to develop my size and strength. Your early years in the weight room should focus on establishing a base level of strength, not trying to show off how strong you think you are.
2I never warmed up
I wanted every moment in the gym to be spent attacking the weight room. Little did I know that if I had taken the time to warm up before I started lifting, my workouts would have been far more productive.
Warming up prepares your joints and ligaments for the weights. It can be as easy as performing some mobility drills to start, working on opening up your range of motion in the hips, ankles, shoulders, and upper back. Then getting into some movement-specific drills to prepare your body for heavier weights. I guarantee you will feel better, be able to push more weight and will add more muscle over time because of how much volume you are accumulating with your warm up sets.
3I focused too much on machine work & sprinkled in free weights
I thought that by isolating my target muscles with machine work, I was making them bigger and stronger. And I was getting bigger, but only when I first started.
When you first start lifting weights, as long as you do it consistently, you’re going to see a difference. However, that doesn’t last forever. Too much of anything is going to be detrimental to your progress, so try to have a balance.
4I skipped leg day
I didn’t skip every leg day, but when I did work on legs, it would be easy stuff like leg extensions, curls, and leg presses. Your legs make up half of your body and consist of the largest muscles you have. So, if you want to be strong and jacked, you need to work on your legs.
5I focused on testing rather than building
Unfortunately, I did not see my workouts as building blocks to create a bigger picture. Instead, I wanted to see how much weight I could lift. If I did 150 lbs on the lat pulldown last week, I had to get 160 lbs next week or I failed.
In hindsight, it would have made more sense to work with weights I could handle for multiple sets, to accumulate long-lasting strength and muscle over time. If you’re focusing on testing your strength every time you lift, you’re not building anything. You’re simply seeing how strong you are (or how strong you aren’t) every training session.
6I ate like crap
When I was a teenager I would literally be finishing a cheeseburger as I hit the gym floor. Eating high quality protein and more vegetables would have been healthier and helped me add way more muscle. Don’t focus on restricting your diet, focus on adding healthy options.