Top Beginner Fitness Mistakes

By Mitch Davis

The first mistake, generally speaking, is being happy. This brings with it a sense of accomplishment and pride, which means next to nothing, as in the end, we all die anyway. Beyond that, over-thinking crushes us all. Many of us have heard of the phrase “paralysis by analysis”. We get so caught up in the “do’s and don’ts” that we never even begin. The fitness industry is plagued with “experts” who convince us that we absolutely must train a certain way. Some fall into the biomechanics camp, where they will show you, via fancy graphs and charts, how lifting with a dumbbell is far less mechanically efficient than lifting with cables. Then, there is the mobility camp. They’ll inform you that if you don’t train for mobility, you’ll somehow wind up hurt. There is the tempo gang, who believes you absolutely must train with a required time-under-tension, the correctives group, who is convinced your body is not aligned properly and only specific exercises will lead to improved posture, balance, or performance. The list goes on and on.

I believe that most of us simply need to train. If you don’t have access to cables, I promise that the slight decrease in biomechanical efficiency won’t hinder your performance gains. If you’re short on time, you can ditch the lengthy warm-up and simply start at a reduced weight of whatever exercise you’ll be doing as your “warm-up”. If you are worried about flexibility as a limiter, ask yourself if you can get into the positions you wish to get into while working out. If so, chances are, you’re flexible enough for training and for life.

Many novice lifters will experience a rapid increase in performance, followed by what they believe is stagnation in performance gains. They’ll hop around from program to program, wondering why they don’t seem to be improving. Now, the typical answer here is that you must stop program hopping. Stick to a program and ride it out for a few months. Quite honestly, I believe that is a lazy answer. Most of us, especially beginners, will improve with almost any type of stimulus. Where we’re probably falling short is in our effort. You need to train hard enough so that you can apply the stimulus necessary to force adaptations (Hans Selye has entered the chat). Train hard, have a ton of fun, and mix things up when you’re feeling bored. If you’re tired of back squatting, switching to the front squat won’t destroy your gains.

Don’t overdo it, but also, make sure you’re not under-doing it. Many beginners are very weak. This isn’t meant to be an insult, but simply, you’re weaker now than you will be 5 years from now if you start training. Make sense? With weakness comes a very challenging task of actually over-training. So, as many coaches tell you to be mindful of overtraining, I’d say just go to the gym when you’re feeling up to it. As you get stronger and the years go by, then we can start to manipulate things like frequency of training. My most successful younger athletes train six days a week with only one rest day. My more advanced lifts seem to thrive on 3-4 days of training (our PR department told me I shouldn’t get into the boring science behind why, as they don’t feel like reading all of that nuanced information as they check for typos and curse words).

When in doubt, ask yourself if you’re having fun. If you are, chances are, you’re doing the right things. If you find yourself truly stuck or simply need someone to hold you accountable, hiring a coach is a great first step in breaking through those barriers.

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Mitchell Davis is the Director of Remote Coaching at Power Train Sports & Fitness.  He is a PhD candidate at Liberty University where he is pursuing his doctorate in Health & Exercise Science.  He has been a coach and educator for 13 years, serving in roles such as collegiate strength and conditioning coach, high school strength and conditioning coach, adjunct professor, personal trainer, and fitness consultant.  

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