We all make mistakes when we first start working out.
That's part of trying anything new and learning.
The important thing is that we learn from those mistakes so we can train more effectively, limit the risk of injury, and see better results.
To help you speed up that learning curve, I'm sharing 7 of the most common workouts mistakes that you should avoid.
And if you realize that you are, in fact, making some of these mistakes...
Don't feel too bad about it or take it personally. Just try to have an open mind and realize that we all get better at this with more years of experience.
I've personally made all of these mistakes in my first few years working out.
Here is a photo of me when I was 2 years into working out where I was training 1.5-2 hours per day, for 6 days a week....
Yea, I don't exactly look like I lift.
So let's get into these common mistakes and understand why that can hold you back.
1. Neglecting Certain Muscle Groups.
In my first few years working out, I mainly just trained the muscle groups I liked.
Which happened to be chest, arms, and abs.
And I rarely trained my weaker areas, which at the time were my back and legs.
We all have lagging muscle groups and it can be less fun to train them since they are generally weaker areas.
But it's still important to have a well structured program that is balanced and ensures you aren't neglecting any muscle groups.
Because after a few years of mainly training the areas I wanted, I developed some serious muscle imbalances, tightness, and even postural issues.
My shoulders were rounding forward significantly from overtraining chest & undertraining back and rear delts.
So my posture was more slouching forward instead of standing up straight and confident.
My legs and hips were extremely tight and I would often cramp up or hurt myself when playing sports.
And my flexibility and mobility was very limited.
I couldn't touch my toes for years and just raising my hands above my head was uncomfortable.
These things took years of hard work to improve through proper training, stretching, and warming up.
So, if I could go back and tell myself one thing to prevent this...
It would be to make sure my routine is balanced from day 1 and addresses each muscle group.
Not only will this help you prevent injury & imbalances, but it will help you build a more symmetric physique as the years progress.
2. Not Training Close Enough To Failure.
Learning how to do this effectively is a skill that often takes months, if not years, to master.
But not getting close enough to failure is one of the most common mistakes in beginner and intermediate lifters that holds their results back.
We've all done it before...
We finish a set at 10 reps because it's a nice round number.
When we could have very well did 15 or even 20 reps with that same weight if we had a gun to our head or to save a family member's life.
Not sure why a family member might die if you don't complete 20 reps of an exercise, but you get the point...
People are finishing sets with 5 or 10 reps in the tank. Which is just way too far from failure to make it a challenging and effective set.
Let me be clear, you don't need to train until absolute failure in order to build more muscle and see more results.
But you need to be VERY close to it.
This will ensure that each set is a challenging one and you aren't leaving plenty of energy in the tank.
Research suggests that finishing each set only 1-3 reps away from failure is ideal for making each set challenging enough, yet still allowing for some recovery.
So if you're aiming for those same 10 reps, complete failure should be around 13 reps.
This is the intensity you need to bring to each and every set if you want to see the best possible results without getting burnt out.
3. Only Training 1 Muscle Group Per Day.
Many of us got started working out on a typical "bro split" workout routine, which might look something like this....
Friday: Arms + Abs
And the main idea behind this type of setup is that you go into the gym and just demolish one muscle group for an hour or so with 5, 6, 7+ exercises.
I used to train like this for a few years myself, but as I became more experienced as a Personal Trainer and started to compete in Men's Physique competitions...
I learned that it's not necessary to absolutely demolish one area with that much volume in one workout.
And I came to the realization that if you're doing 5, 6, 7+ exercises for just one muscle group in a workout,
you're likely not giving 100% effort in those first 2-4 exercises. And most likely, you're saving some energy for later exercises.
Because if you're training like I recommended above (only 1-3 reps away from failure),
you really shouldn't have much left in the tank for that muscle group after 3 or 4 exercises of 3+ sets each.
Not only that, but training a muscle group with more frequency than once a week has shown to be more effective for building muscle, getting stronger, and building a better body composition overall.
So generally, I recommend my clients train each muscle group around 2 times per week for optimal results.
But each time they train a muscle group, they're usually doing 2-4 exercises rather than 5+ exercises.
This way they have to give 100% on those exercises and know they shouldn't be saving their energy for later on in the workout.
So they're making each and every individual set count.
Now, let me be clear...
I'm not saying that you can't or shouldn't train a muscle group only once per week.
You definitely can and I have many training phases where certain muscle groups are only trained once.
Because I would argue that training hard and making sure each and every set you do is a challenging one by coming very close to failure....is what will ultimately lead to better results, regardless of what type of routine you're following.
But generally speaking, if you're goals are physique-focused and you want to look better by having a bit more muscle mass and less fat,
training each muscle group with a bit more frequency throughout the week (like 2 or even 3 times) and giving 100% effort on those exercises will be more ideal that crushing a muscle group once per week.
4. Changing Your Workout Routine Too Frequently.
If your goals are based around building a better physique, looking better in the mirror, and improving your overall body composition....
Switching up your workout program every few weeks is not going to be in your best interest.
And that's because your body doesn't have enough time to make progress on key movements and progressively overload.
I'm not saying you have to keep the same workout program forever and never try something different...
But it's going to be in your best interest physique-wise, to stick with a program for at least 6-8 weeks on the low end before changing to something else.
This will allow you to improve on the movements you're doing and the rep ranges you're aiming for
by increasing the weight from what you were doing in the past, improving on your form, and more.
This is why I generally keep my client's training phases to 6-8 weeks before changing it up.
It's a nice happy medium of allowing them to actively make progress on their current routine over time, while also looking forward to some program adjustments every couple months or so.
When it comes to changing up your workouts, it doesn't need to be drastically different from one training phase to the next.
In fact, it probably shouldn't be.
A good way to change up your workouts while still being able to include the most important foundational movements in your program,
is to try different variations of them.
For example - instead of doing a Barbell Bench Press in every program forever, swap it out for a dumbbell chest press for 6-8 weeks or a seated Machine Chest Press.
All 3 examples are the same flat chest pressing movement, they're just different variations.
Same goes for some other important movements like a row, pulldown, squat, deadlift, etc.
A single arm dumbbell row
an incline chest supported dumbbell row
a neutral grip seated cable row
a seated hammer strength machine row
a barbell bent over row....
Are all examples of similar rowing movements, just in different variations.
There are many variations of each of these exercises that will allow you to continue improving on that movement pattern, but have a slightly different way of executing it.
Other good ways of adjusting your workouts without changing up the whole program are by manipulating variables in the workout.
Like the amount of sets or reps you're doing. Or the tempo you're using for each rep.
This is one of my favorite ways to help my clients progress from one training phase to the next.
For example - in one phase you might be doing a bench press for 3-4 sets of 10 reps with the goal in mind to improve the weight you can lift for those 10 reps over many weeks.
In the next training phase, you might still be doing a bench press. But instead, it might be 4-5 sets of 5 reps.
So, although it's the same exercise, the reps you're aiming for make it challenging in a much different way.
The weight you should be using to get 5 reps of bench press should be VERY different than the weight you would be using to get 10 reps of that same exercise.
So, rather than looking to follow a new program every few weeks...
Look for these variables in your workouts that you can adjust over time and continue trying to progressively overload.
5. Not Going Through a Full Range of Motion.
This is something most of us know we should be doing....going through a full range of motion when we're training.
Yet, if you walk into any gym on earth, at any time of day...we're likely to see at least one person doing half reps of an exercise.
And that's because this is a mistake that we generally aren't aware of when we're doing it. Yet, we'll be the first to notice someone else doing it.
It's for this reason that I always recommend you record some of your sets on your phone from time to time just to see how your form looks.
90% of the time, my clients will see themselves on video doing an exercise and know themselves what tweaks or adjustments they need to make with their form.
Without me even having to tell them.
But going through the full range of motion is important for a few reasons...
1. More time under tension
There's literally more seconds that your muscles are working for each rep if you're going through the full range of motion compared to if you're not.
And if your muscles are working more in each set, that adds up over time. And you're likely going to see better results.
2. Building that Mind-Muscle Connection
It's often easier to build that mind-muscle connection when training if you're going through the full range of motion and have even just another second or two in each rep.
It's another couple seconds for your mind to mentally focus on squeezing the proper muscle group.
And you'll be more likely to feel the muscles contracting in each rep and this allows you to make sure you're moving the weight with the muscle group that you're aiming to train.
Rather than recruiting secondary muscle groups or using momentum to move the weight at all costs.
All this being said, "partial reps" are a real thing that do have their place in training.
Partial reps are basically reps where you AREN'T going through the full range of motion.
They're usually used at the end of a set where you've already maxed out the amount of reps you're able to do while going through the full range of motion in an effort to fatigue the muscle even more.
Almost like a 'burnout' at the end of the set.
So to recap, going through the full range of motion for most of your reps will lead to seeing better results and getting stronger....But adding in partial reps from time to time can add some value.
6. Poor Order of Exercises.
Some people don't realize how import the order of your exercises really is for optimizing your training.
They might go into the gym and immediately start with curls, or tricep extensions, or some other very isolated exercise.
But the truth is that starting with more isolated movements could hurt your ability to perform the more compound lifts to train the larger muscle groups later on.
Because many of the movements we do in the gym actually incorporate multiple muscle groups. For example - a bench press is primarily working the chest, but the delts and triceps are also being worked to a lesser degree too.
Another example is the Lat Pulldown - of course it's training the lats and that's what we do it for.
But it's also going to hit the rear delts, biceps, and many of the smaller muscle groups in the upper back too.
So my point here is that if you walk into the gym and start with biceps, then move on to a Lat Pulldown later on...
You might not perform as well since your biceps are already pretty fatigued from the bicep work you did earlier.
And if you walk into the gym and start fatiguing the triceps and then move on to bench press...
You probably won't perform as well on the bench press since one of the secondary movers for that exercise (triceps) are already fatigued.
This is why we generally recommend starting your workout with the larger muscle groups & compound movements first,
and then moving on the the smaller ones and more isolated exercises.
And why your order of exercises plays a big role in your ability to get stronger, improve certain areas, and build muscle.
7. Not Enough Rest In-Between Sets.
Many guys try to limit their rest periods to 30 or 60 seconds because they think that resting longer is being 'lazy' or that they shouldn't rest too long if they want to lose body fat.
But the truth is that losing body fat is going to be created through nutrition, by consistently being in a calorie deficit.
Regardless of if you rest for 30 seconds, 60 seconds, or not workout at all....You will still lose body fat if you are eating in a calorie deficit.
This is why they say "You can't out-train a poor diet".
Because no amount of exercise will overcome poor nutrition.
And resting for 30 seconds in between sets instead of 2 or 3 or 4 minutes is NOT going to make any significant difference in your ability to lose more fat.
Simply because, of what I said above - the amount of calories you eat daily is going to do the heavy lifting in losing fat.
And also because, most of the calories we burn in the day, are not from our workouts.
Our workout sessions equal a very small portion of the total calories we burn in a given day from moving around and doing everyday activities like walking around, standing up, fidgeting, etc.
Now that that's out of the way - how long should you be resting in between sets then?
Well, if you're training only 1-3 reps away from failure - resting only 30 or 60 seconds generally won't allow your muscles to recover fully to be able to perform the next set to the best of your ability.
What I tell my clients is to rest as long as they need to in order to be fully recovered for the next set, so they can use as much weight as possible and still reach the desired reps I've told them to aim for.
Now, I totally understand that we don't have all day to be resting in the gym for 5+ minutes in between sets.
So what I've found, is that resting somewhere in the 90 seconds to 3 minutes range is ideal for fully recovering, having the highest quality sets, and not spending too much time in the gym.
And studies have shown that resting longer is best for building more muscle and getting stronger as well.
One study separated 2 groups and gave them the same exact workout routine for 8 weeks.
One group rested only 1 minute in between sets and the other rested 3 minutes.
All the participants also had similar training experience - about 6 months of working out and had similar levels of strength to start with.
And what they found, was that the group which rested 3 minutes in between sets gained noticeably more muscle, strength, and endurance.
So again, if your goals are physique based and you want to improve how you look, try resting a little longer to ensure you can complete your next set to the absolute best of your ability.
And there we have it, the 7 most common workout mistakes that men often make in their first few years working out.
I hope this was helpful in some way.
And if it was, feel free to check out some other articles here on my website or my YouTube Channel
for more in-depth videos on fitness & nutrition.
If you ever have any personal questions for me, don't hesitate to shoot me an email (info@RoseFitnessNY.com) or a msg on social media.
Thank you for reading!