Especially during summer gyms begin to be crowded with those who want to slim down and shape up so that they could show up on the beach and improve their mood. Sorry, there are no shortcuts and rapid achievement, and those who wish for a dream figure within a couple of weeks will have to face some surprises. Here are the most common training mistakes made by beginners.
Mistake # 1: "make up the lost time with volume, intensity and number of trainings!"
This is the approach of those who have not been physically active: suddenly, within 8 weeks they want to transform their bodies. Sorry, if your body has maintained a "dormant mode" (very limited physical activity), it is unable to switch suddenly to 6-8 training sessions a week. The most ambitious ones plan three-four times more intense trainings than they organisms can bear! (including the hardest workouts of advanced type like TABATA, VO2 max intervals, repeated runs for 400 meters, strength training + intervals, etc.). If you have led a sedentary lifestyle (computer, TV, driving everywhere by car), and your sport activity has been neglected, limit the number of weekly strength training to three sessions (each lasting no more than 60-70 minutes). Only after several weeks of continuous trainings, taking into account your physical condition, you might think about including a fourth workout. If you want to combine strength training and running, you should start from 3 workouts per week, eg. 2 power training plus 1 speed training. With time, slowly, you can increase the volume and the number of training units.
How do I choose a strength training?
Any wisely planned strength training based on free weights (barbell squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench press, dumbbells press, pull-ups, rowing) should be good for you.
Workouts based mainly on machines (lat-pulldown to chest or neck, cable crossover or rowing on a machine) - are not suitable for you. It does not matter that you received a similar scheme from a "gym instructor". In 95% of cases you get a ready made plan which does not take into account your level of advancement or your needs.
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How do I choose a running training?
Also, you canot start running from 5-6 trainings a week, 40-60 minutes each, or 30 minutes every day. Very soon you will experience a knee-joint or ankle injury (especially if you're overweight or obese). If you haven't jogged regularly so far, three running workouts a week lasting 20-25 minutes is still sufficient load (including warm-up, cool down and static stretching at the end of your training). Very slowly increase your training making it a minute longer step by step (eg. 1-2 minutes longer every session) - thereby increase the distance. Equally slowly increase the pace. If you start training from the "zero level" of a physically inactive person, perform low-intensity interval training (in the aerobic zone), for instance: one minute of running at a moderate pace, two minutes of walking - for 20-30 minutes, three times a week. With time increase the running time, shorten the active rest, and after a few weeks you will run 30 minutes without stopping.
To sum up: follow the principle: more is not always better. More than three sessions per week (running or weight training) are not a good option for the novice. If you're going to combine running with a gym, do not perform more than 3-4 workouts per week (eg. 2 strength ones and 2 jogging). If you are going to run right after weight training, limit the duration and intensity of the extra aerobic session.
Mistake # 2: "You have NO training goal"
...or in other words: I'm trying to increase muscle mass, strength, and improve the shape and "density" of my body, as well as improve jumping, break personal record on the 3 km distance and a number of pull-ups. It won't work. You have to choose ONE training goal.
Let me quote a usual, similar approach:
"I'm 17, 180 cm tall, 70 kilos. I have worked out at the gym for about 6 months. I have just started to supplement myself with creatine [...] (3rd day now) and as a dietary supplement Mutant Mass. I want to lose some weight and sculpt myself or reduce or something like that only I need to have it before SUMMER VACATION. I need to look great on vacation :) You know, I don't want to be like thin straw, I want to build some body. I know there's little time, but you surely can recommend something to me."
You are not able to simultaneously build muscle mass and definition. Usually beginners (as the one cited above) have to build 15-20 kg of muscle mass. What does it mean? Assuming you would gain 1 kg of muscle mass per month, this means approximately 1.5-2 years of regular training. You are not able to quickly build muscle mass. You can dramatically increase your weight - saturation of muscles with glycogen, fat gain, water retention in the body - but all these processes do not mean increase of muscle percentage! (similar phenomena occur for example by creatine supplementation.) In addition, the faster you increase the weight, the worse is usually its quality; for example it contains a lot of fat. The final effect is rather negative: as a result you get a thick layer of fat.
If you want to know how much you should weigh, use the formula: height in cm - 90 = desired weight in kilograms. This is only indicative calculation for a person wishing to obtain a strong, noticeable, sporty silhouette. A person who is 185 cm tall makes the following calculation: 185 - 90 = 95 kg. A person who is 170 cm tall should weight appx. 80 kg. A two-meter male must gain weight of around 110 kg. Of course, this rule may be waived, it all depends on your actual figure, bone thickness, muscle mass and fat content and so on. Weights over the calculated above are for bodybuilders. Some people need to reach the level of appx. 110 kg at the height of 183-185 cm in order to achieve a good look! It's years of work. You are not able to achieve it in a year or two.
If the calculation shows that you have to build 10 or 15 kg of muscle, forget about "sculpture & definition oriented training". You have a huge shortage of weight. Achieving a six-pack on your belly or larger chest and arms themselves will make your figure will look ridiculously.
AIM: MASS. How much do you weigh? "I have to build 5-15 kg muscle". So? You need a proper diet, weight training (initially: 2-3 times a week) and plenty of rest. If you are chaotically trying to build a mass gobbling down sandwiches with Mutant Mass and creatine, you won't achieve much. 80% of your results depend on what you do in your kitchen, not at the gym. Dietary supplements are not necessary for the first several months of trainings. If you have a proper diet, after a couple of months you might start to consider supplementation with creatine for instance, and addition of WPC protein or gainer (that is carbohydrates and protein powder). But the additions should be placed only if you have a deficiency in protein or carbohydrates.
AIM: DEFINITION, "DENSITY". How much do you weigh? To deal with improving the look you need to gain strength and muscle mass. We are talking about the following parameters, eg. a young man, about 180 cm tall, reached 85-90 kg. Surely you're not able to do that in a few months. Think about the definition next season or in a few years. Compaction, density - it means years of strenuous weight training in all ranges of repetitons (5,10,15). In addition, it is necessary to do interval aerobic training (fat reduction). Here, too, the diet is the key to obtaining a lean body. You do not have to use multiple supplements.
AIM: REDUCTION. It applies to persons with a high percentage of fat tissue. What is necessary? Diet with a negative calorie balance, strength training 2-3 times a week and aerobic training (eg. jogging) - initially 1-2 times a week. The diet provides 90% of the effect in this case. Little will you achieve when eating chaotically and with no plan. Also the use of dietary and nutritional supplements is not necessary.
AIM: STRENGTH. It makes sense only for people with 1.5-2 years regular training experience, for a person who can for example deadlift 170 weighing 90 kg themselves, or perform a squat (full) with the weight of 140 kg or bench press 120-130 kg. If you are just starting, heavy athletic workouts are not a good choice.
To sum up: Specify your one goal and take at least 6-12 months to achieve it.
Mistake # 3: "Copying a training plan of an advanced athlete"
What works well for a person with 5 years of experience weighing 100 kg does not necessarily have to work for you! How many times have I seen beginners trying isolated, specialized exercises for example face pull, triceps dumbbel extension or Bulgarian split squats. What sense will advanced exercises have, aimed at a single muscle group, for a person who has to build 15 or 20 kg of muscles? None! Focus on the basics: instead of Bulgarian split squats (which involve more butt than quadriceps) do classic squats, not only incline flyes - but dumbbells press, instead of back extension: the deadlift, instead of isolated rowing on a machine - heavy rowing with dumbbells or barbell, instead of lat-pulldown - pull-ups.
To sum up: if you have done basic exercises for every large muscles group (legs - squats; chest - dumbbell bench press, shoulders - shoulder press, back - deadlift, rowing and pull-ups), you can then search for additional isolated exercises. It doesn't work the other way round!
Mistake # 4 "spending too much time at the gym"
If a training takes you more than 60-70 minutes (includes warm-up and cooling down!), you do something wrong. Too many sets, to much chatting with buddies, 5-10-minute breaks between sets, watching exercising ladies? Remember: a long workout does not mean a better one! Leave long trainings to the advanced. A shorter, more intense effort = more growth hormone, more testosterone and lactic acid - and this means better results. Excessive muscle overload usually means performance decrease.
To sum up: if you don't increase weight in your basic exercises (squat, bench press, deadlift, pull-ups) for a longer period of time, this means that you train too long.
Mistake # 5: "excessive amount of exercises and sets, too low intensity"
You have watched a 120 kilos professional athlete with a dozen years of experience - who uses pharmacology. At the beginning you do not need to do 20 sets on your chest, 15 on the biceps and 30 on your back! Use minimal necessary volume - eg. 10-14 sets on large muscle parts a week, 7-9 on smaller. This will do in most cases.
To sum up: if you do not increase the applied load constantly (for example: progression of 2-2.5 kg per week), you use too large volume (amount of exercises and sets) compared to your needs.
Mistake # 6: "too frequent and intensive trainings"
You go to the gym every day, you train your chest and biceps 2-3 times a weekat the same time forgetting about shoulders, legs or back? You train your abdomen every day, 7 times week? Remember: more does not mean better, and muscles grow when you eat and sleep, not during training. In the beginning don't try to train your strength and shape more than 3 times a week for 60-70 minutes.
Mistake # 7: "depriving your body of time to recover"
You do ABS exercises every day (for example Weider's 6Pack training)? You "torture" your chest 3-4 times a week, each time 12-15 sets? On a no-strength-training day you do hundreds of pushups, pullups and squats? Or you jog every day for 30-40 minutes? Perhaps a day after a heavy leg workout you do a back workout? A day after a chest workout - triceps exertion? Swimming pool in the morning, gym in the evening? Every day you have a comprehensive martial arts training, and you're going to add a weight training to it?
You are inches from overtraining. The first symptoms include aversion to exercise, prolonged muscle pain, loss of strength, then loss of muscle mass. You sleep too short? You work out always at your maximum capacity? Don't eat properly? You yourself are killing your progress. This is a straight way to decrease in strength and muscle mass and deterioration of your appearance. Add some stimulans to it (eg. pre-workout geranium based stacks, caffeine or ephedra), but only disguise the source of the problem - lack of rest.
Mistake # 8: "treating your abdomen and calves as indestructible muscle parts"
A super-intense workout every day? It's a great idea to... overtrain. Your stomach takes part in every strength exercise, especially in squats, deadlift, bench press or shoulder press. If you train your ABS too often and too intensively, at best you will get lower performance in key exercises, and in the worse case, you will suffer injury. The fact that the abdominal muscles and calves have a lot of slow muscle fibers (type I), does not mean they do not need rest.
To sum up: do not exercise your stomach more often than 1-2 times a week if you do normal strength trainings. At the end of your strength training do 1-2 simple exercises with a limited number of sets. This is really enough. In order to get the 6-pack you have to jog and have a good diet. Hundreds of sit-ups will not produce any effect.
Sources (in Polish): 1. „Metody treningu i podstawy żywienia w sportach siłowych” M. Kruszewski 2. „Współczesny trening siły mięśniowej” wyd II, Adam Zając, Michał Wilk, Stanisław Poprzęcki, Bogdan Bacik, Remigiusz Rzepka, Kazimierz Mikołajec, Karina Nowak Katowice 2010 3. „Fizjologia człowieka z elementami fizjologii stosowanej i klinicznej”. Władysław Z. Traczyk, Andrzej Trzebski; Wydawnictwo Lekarskie Pzwl 2004 4. „Fizjologiczne podstawy wysiłku fizycznego”, J. Górski Wydawnictwo Lekarskie Pzwl.