Avoid Making These Rookie Gym Mistakes

Avoid Making These Rookie Gym Mistakes

By Mackennon Klink, BS, CSCS, PN1

   When you decide to begin your health and fitness journey, it’s a glorious time.  It’s always a great day when someone decides to better themselves and their quality of life.  Building the foundation of a fitness life takes time, effort, and failures.   Make no mistakes about it; you will make many mistakes throughout your journey. And you know what? Good.  This is totally normal.  Hell, even Arnold Schwarzenegger was a beginner once.  Every mistake you can possible make has been done a thousand times before. However, if we don’t learn from our past or history we are doomed to repeat those same mistakes over and over.  This is what separates the rookies from the veterans; learning from our mistakes.  

   To make maximum progress, there are mistakes that must be avoided.  It’s important that you have as much success as possible.  As a coach, I’ve seen these rookie gym mistakes being made over and over.  To help others avoid these mistakes, I want to bring to light a few common gym rookie mistakes that will derail your training and brings your gains to a halt.  

1) Not Using a Training Log 

“What get measured, gets managed.”  Peter Drucker, Author and Consultant 

   I see this every single day and I’m absolutely sick of it.  I’m tired of seeing hard working individuals busting their butts, yet not taking the few seconds to write down what they did.  This is a cardinal sin within the gym.  How do you know if you are making progress if you are unsure what you did last week or at which weight?  To make continuous progress, you must write your workouts down and what you did.  Write your weights, reps, sets, and even how you’re feeling pre/post workout.  Stop making this cardinal mistake.  Write down your damn workout! 

 2) Working out without a Goal or Vision 

“Don’t half-ass two things.  Whole ass one thing.” Ron Swanson, the Man, the Myth, the Legend 

   Have you ever strolled into the gym wondering what you’ll be doing that day, then basically just jumped on whatever machine, bench, kettlebell, or dumbbells available? A classic rookie mistake.  Those aforementioned training sessions are half-assed sessions. Not planning your workouts in advance always leads to mediocre results because there is no direction nor focus.  Plan your workouts in advanced, focus on the task at hand and go kick some ass.    

 3) Program Hopping 

“If you aren’t going all the way, then why go at all?”  Joe Namath, Hall of Fame Quarterback 

   Rookies are always switching up their workouts based on what they see or feel within the moment.  Rookies are always looking for the latest fitness tread or fad.  Gym veterans knows to ignore the “flashy” exercises and sticks to the essentials movement patterns – hip hinge, squat, lunge, push, pull, and carries.   Just because you saw an exercise on Instagram doesn’t mean you should do it.  Stay on the course, be consistent, and you’ll get great results. 

4) Ignoring Progressive Overload 

“Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general” Mark Rippetoe, Strength Coach 

   To build muscle, strength, and progress you must force change.  You need to push your body to work harder than it’s used to, otherwise it won’t change.  Progressive overload is the most basic strength training principles and goes hand in hand with using a training log.  Your training should be challenging yet should allow enough recovery between workouts so you can go back at it.   

5) Resting too much (or too little) 

“If you’re capable of sending a legible text message between sets, you probably aren’t working hard enough.” Dave Tate, Elitefts Founder and CEO, Powerlifter

   Rest periods are integral and has a huge influence to your overall progress. Unfortunately, most people don’t know if they are spending either 45 seconds or 5 minutes between sets. Instead, they are more focused on impressing that spandex cutie, than making actual progress (if that's your goal, then you're probably not reading this article anyways.) To build strength, you’ll need to earn your rest.  Your working set should be challenging, yet obtainable.  In short, earn your rest and you want to feel stimulated, not annihilated.   Here’s your guideline to rest periods: 

  • 0 - 30 seconds    ~50% metabolic recovery (circuit and metabolic conditioning) 
  • 30 seconds – 2 minutes    ~ 90% metabolic recovery (hypertrophy training) 
  • 2 – 3 minutes    ~ Near complete metabolic recovery (strength training) 
  • 3 – 5 minutes    ~ near complete neural recovery (pure, raw, unadulterated strength training) 
  • 5 - 10 minutes    ~ Complete neural recovery (idk…. Waiting for the world to end?) 

6) Sacrificing Technique for Weights 

“Don’t have $100.00 shoes and a 10 cent squat.” Louie Simmons, Legendary Strength Coach 

   While it’s important to track your weights, beat personal recorders and add weight to bar, it’s more important to improve the quality of each rep.  Otherwise, this is the fast track to becoming injury prone.   Focus on perfecting technique and mastering mechanics. 

7) Doing Everything at Once 

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States 

    Rookies always try to change everything overnight.  They want to go from being sedentary to working 5 times a week and completely overhauling their nutrition.  This is guarantee failure. No one can completely overhaul their life overnight.  You cannot go 0 to 100 with your fitness aspirations causing a complete burnout.  Instead, focus on your most important task and focus on being 80 percent consistent.  Don’t worry about the remaining 20% - hey, you’re only human.  Mistake will happen.  Accept your mistake and make the next best decision possible.   

   This isn’t an end all be all list of rookie mistakes.  There are hundreds of thousands of different mistakes individuals make within the gym, both beginners and veterans.  However, the biggest difference between beginners and veterans are beginners are discouraged by their mistakes, while the veterans used their previous experience and the wisdom of other coaches to get better.  Within the fitness world, there’s very little black and white, only shades of grey. 


What are some of your biggest rookie mistakes that you see within the gym?  Drop ‘em below.   

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