If you want to know the 4 biggest gym mistakes that I made when I was just starting out that will put you years ahead of others, then continue reading on.
But first, why should you listen to me?
– I have abs
– I have a fitness blog
– I write in English
For those who are new to this blog, and before I tell you about the 4 biggest gym mistakes that I made, let me first introduce myself…
My name is Cho, and the beautiful people on social media may know me as The Lazy Lifter who does intermittent fasting (IF), loves to eat junk foods “If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) style“, often into parties and raves, lifts heavy 3x a week (and no more), and post funny captions that almost no one takes me seriously. My family knows that the place to find me is always around a heavy set of weights or in front of a laptop somewhere around the house, reading or writing about fitness and self-help.
I usually spend my time answering nonstop chats and emails from people who want to achieve their fitness goals, and many of them have become buyers of my ebook, my clients, or simply a friend. I love helping people and I love talking about fitness. Whether they buy my program or not, whether they apply for my online coaching or not, whether they subscribe to my email newsletter or not, either way, I am happy.
So, that’s the snippet of my life. It’s obviously full of fitness stuff if you haven’t noticed, and that’s because fitness is my passion. It’s been the mission I’ve been dedicating my life to not only for my benefit, but more on to contribute to a lot of people — and I think I am doing a good job!
The thing that separates me from other fitness gurus is that I teach fitness for the purpose of improving people’s lives, not taken over by it. I want people to live an enjoyable life on their own terms and let fitness be an addition, not their sole focus in life.
I want them to confidently go on with their day carrying their fitter body, but without having to live in the gym. Sure I can make them work out every day and make the gym their life and look insanely awesome, but what about their other hobbies? What about doing other fun things?
I know I sound like I have a high opinion of myself here like I’m all this super fitness guru… but the truth is, just a few years ago, I was definitely not the same person. Frankly speaking, I was far from looking like a fitness guy and I knew nothing about the subject.
In fact, I used to be 40 pounds lighter than I am today!
For most of my life, I was underweight, unhappy, and insecure with myself. I tried almost everything to get the weighing scale going up, but nothing ever worked.
“Do you even eat?”
“You need to take your vitamins, bro.”
“You should sleep early.”
“Don’t forget to drink your milk at night.”
These were the things I kept hearing when I was growing up, and I grew tired of it. I changed the topic whenever muscles, hunks, gym, and fitness would arise in conversations because those were my frustrations and it felt like I was cursed by the weight gaining fairy.
To give you a better picture, I will tell you a little bit of my story and background.
5 foot and 10 inches tall, weighing at a staggering 130lbs.
This was the time I graduated from high-school, and also the time I started and got consistent with working out. I promised my ex-girlfriend before we broke up (yea it sucked) that someday, I will have my own billboard showcasing my hard-earned physique like those hunks on TV. Looking back, it was kinda funny, and I just want to apologize to her that until now my billboard hasn’t yet to be found. Well, who knows. Maybe I will just have to print my own tarpaulin for that.
Despite the consistency of my workout, I still didn’t notice any result (isn’t it obvious? duh). Maybe because I was just doing random things at the gym and I was already away from my Dad so no one supervised me.
And since this was the time that the Internet got faster and a lot cheaper, free information was now within my reach. I began researching, reading, and studying anything I could see about fitness.
I devoured every article I saw on the internet, bought a lot of books, ebooks, and magazines that talk about fitness, and applied every strategy and technique that promised to “deliver fast muscle gain” in my teenie-weenie frame. The long-sought answer to the question of, “How can I build muscle in the fastest possible way?” became my primary goal.
The reason? To build my confidence and get girls to like me. Yes, insecure people have these kinds of goals.
4 years following those bodybuilding magazines’ advice, consuming tubs of supplements, and devoting almost my entire life to the iron world, this was the “new” me:
No one will understand how terrible it feels whenever these words are spoken:
“Nag ggym ka ba? Parang wala namang ngyayari eh.”
It’s a huge slap in the face.
At this point in my life, I know it’d sound smarter if I had just quit, but it didn’t come as a choice for me. Despite all the years that seemed wasted trying to reach for my goal, I still persisted. I clung on to the idea that one day, I will find the answers.
After searching for more resources offline and online, I found another fitness book and bought it. Despite it being the 100+th fitness product that I purchased, I thought to myself, “Wala namang mawawala eh.”
Lo and behold, what I found in this book was a different approach to training(at that time) but it’s a lot less hype than the conventional bodybuilding programs. I could say, this was one of the resources that really helped me in the beginning stages of my fitness journey. This wasn’t because it had different techniques and magic tricks, but because it pointed out to me my 4 biggest gym mistakes that were keeping me from seeing results (which you will also learn later on).
As a beginner (after training 6 years, yeah, I was still a beginner), I made astounding results following that guide and my lifts shot up through the roof.
These were my progress so far:
Still skinny af but the weighing scale was already moving.
And then after a few months to a year…
Yes, I got fat, but who cares? This was my dream for years and I got muscles now hihi.
At this point, after mastering the art of gaining weight, I was now set for another goal… to get ripped and be called a “legit” macho.
A couple of years have passed since that turning point in my life and here I am, reaching my weight and body fat % goals from 10 years ago:
In these past few years, I was able to try different workout programs — from P90x to DC training to Shortcut to Size to Leangains — just to name a few. And what I’ve found are the common grounds amongst all these programs that make them effective when they are effective, and I’m going to teach you those things in this article and the next ones.
Also in these years, I was able to learn a lot, I mean really a lot. Since I had the time, I really immersed myself in the fitness world and tried my best to learn everything I could about my own body.
After years of just wishing and hoping, the time came when I had to make a bold decision. At age 27, August 31, 2016, I gave birth to the most precious thing in the world, The Lazy Lifter (this blog).
This was the time I started applying all the lessons I’ve learned to other people by:
1. Publishing free articles and blog posts
2. Giving a free workout routine to many people
3. Providing free consultations and answering a long list of questions on my Facebook page
4. Writing a fully-structured, step-by-step program to build muscle and lose fat (version 2.0 will be available on the 31st)
5. Accepting online coaching clients that want my supervision
Within a short period of time, these were the results that they’ve gotten so far…
They’re amazing, aren’t they? (Over the next few days, you will learn about the workout and nutrition program they are using to get in the best shape of their lives while doing less in the gym.)
I am telling this story to impress upon you that ever since I reached adulthood, my life has been revolving around fitness. And I hope this story answers the question, “Why should you listen to me?”
Reflecting on my journey, transformation, and the lives of the people I’ve touched still amazes me today.
This story is the reason for my passion for helping frustrated and insecure guys get back on their feet again. I share this deeply personal experience in the hopes of inspiring you to make the decision to change your life for the better.
And since New Year is just around the corner as I write these words, I think the timing is just so perfect, isn’t it?
My goal in writing this article is not just to inspire you (though that’s one big goal I have in mind), but to also teach you about the 4 biggest gym mistakes that I made which were the culprit for my very slow gains. After finishing this article and learning from my mistakes, you will be equipped with the right set of tools that will skyrocket your success in the fitness game.
So, enough of the storytelling and let’s get down to business.
My 4 Biggest Gym Mistakes When I Was Starting Out
If you’re a beginner just starting out with a muscle-building or fat loss plan, you’re likely to feel slightly intimidated. Add to that the overwhelming feeling you have because you’re receiving conflicting information left and right.
Luckily for you, I will provide you with some basic knowledge that will put you in the perfect position to get going. The great news is that as a newbie, you will experience results at a much faster rate and will notice differences in how you feel and look in as little as a few weeks.
The tips I’m going to give here may also be beneficial to most lifters, intermediate and the likes, as the majority of them don’t comply with the basics.
In reading this article, even if you think you’re not a beginner anymore just because you’re lifting for years now, set aside that feeling and just for today, think that you are someone starting out again. Forget everything you’ve learned for a while and absorb the things I’m going to teach you here.
Remember, fundamentals are everything. If you don’t master the basics, you won’t get far ahead.
So here are the 4 biggest gym mistakes I made when I was just starting out.
Mistake# 1: I copied bodybuilding programs and workout routines
Mistake # 1.1: I randomly followed high-volume workout routines from other people
I get it, yes, you want to look like this or that bodybuilder and copying exactly what they’re doing would probably be the best idea. Yes? Absolutely not.
This was my first biggest mistake when I first stepped foot in the gym; I had this workout program written on a piece of paper which I copied from Muscle and Fitness (bodybuilding magazine). It’s from Arnold if I’m not mistaken, or maybe from another bodybuilder. The only thing I am sure of is that I copied it from a professional bodybuilder whom I learned later on that for them to handle those amounts of workouts, they had to rely on drugs a.k.a steroids… and that’s not the route I wanted to take.
This is the mistake that most beginners make when they’re starting out; well, even intermediate lifters do this most of the time! They randomly copy workout programs thinking they will get the same results…
Most of the workout routines that you will see in bodybuilding magazines, on the internet, or even from an average guy who transformed their physique in as little as 3 months, they are routines from people who are without a doubt on steroids or on any other drugs that enhance their physique. This is not your typical bodybuilding supplements — these drugs put you at a risk of long-term health issues if you don’t know what you’re doing.
By following these high-volume, high-frequency workout programs while not on drugs, you will continue to spin your wheels. You will overtrain yourself and you will waste a lot of time and energy. I guarantee you, you won’t see any progress.
The people who preach these training-until-you-die schemes, be it athletes, models, fitness instructors, or coaches, their main goal is to market themselves or sell something — whether it be fitness products, coaching services, apparels, or anything of their brand. They will flash their incredible physiques without telling you that they’re using something to get those results, and will give you these marathon-like workouts that will make you feel so dead and beat up so you will think they’re effective even when they’re not.
And as months go by and you notice nothing is happening aside from just feeling tired and burnt out, you will hear them talk about their supplement stacks to make you think that you need those to make progress. You, in turn, will buy all those. Profit for them.
Or for some dishonest fitness instructors, they will ask you to extend your contract with them so they can make more money, and then, later on, sell drugs to you so you can get the same results that they had. Again, profit for them.
This is a good example of that. A friend recently chatted and we had a good talk regarding the subject:
It sucks, isn’t it?
The truth is, my friend wasn’t making any gains not because he lacked this and that supplement, but because he’s doing too much in the gym — as instructed to him by his “trainer.” What these people do when they suggest buying those supplements and drugs, is they’re masking the symptoms of overtraining. It’s like putting many band-aids on top of the wound hoping it will heal faster when you’re scratching it over and over by doing high volume workouts. It’s ridiculous.
The feeling of being tired, unmotivated, and burnout due to doing high amounts of workout volume in the gym — this, my friend, is how pre-workouts were born. Masking the symptoms sell like crazy, don’t you think?
Let me ask you this, would you still follow a workout routine given by someone if you know it would only work when you’re on steroids? If you know what you’re doing, I doubt you would. Rarely you will hear someone tells you (unless they’re honest) something like this:
“This workout routine will only work when you’re using this and that amount of drugs.”
It always goes something like this:
“This is the workout routine. It’s challenging. It requires you to weight train 5-6 times a week and do cardio 4x a week. You should only eat chicken breasts and broccoli, lots of eggs, and you should avoid rice because carbs are evil. If you endure it for 12 weeks, you will see crazy gains.”
Then, when results are nowhere to be found even after killing yourself:
“Try buying these supplements. You will recover faster. You’re not gaining because you’re not taking these. Or you’re not eating enough. Why don’t you add a mass gainer, creatine, and amino acids?”
“It’s our last week next week, I’d suggest that we extend our contract. That’s just how it is, gains are slow and we have to be patient. Slow and steady wins the race (even when things are unreasonably slow).”
You either waste more money, time, and energy by continuing to work with them, or you quit all throughout because you think it’s not worth it. Confidence also takes a hit because you might label yourself as a quitter, or you’ll think that you’re not as great as those who endure these kinds of things. It’s always a lose-lose situation.
– Don’t just blindly follow what others are doing just because they look good. How they look is not a basis of how knowledgeable they are when it comes to workout and nutrition.
– Don’t be the hardest working person in the gym. Forget the “work hard, train hard” approach. Instead, be the smartest and the most consistent. You will get ahead of them. I promise.
Mistake #2: I didn’t focus on the basics
The second biggest mistake I made in the gym is I didn’t focus on the basics.
What I mean by basics here is using basic compound barbell movements, with moderate-heavy weights, and with a moderate amount of sets for the majority of my workouts.
In the program that I was doing back then, apart from the many sets and exercises, I was also doing lots of cable crossovers, Smith Machine presses, and loads of isolation exercises. I didn’t even know what Back Squats and Deadlifts are at that time.
In my book Minimalist Fitness, I highlighted the Big 5 exercises which are:
Pull-ups or Chin-ups
I said that these are the 5 exercises (and/or their variations) that you need to get strong at if you want to build as much muscle mass as possible. These and their substitutes are enough to build your overall physique.
Aside from doing a bunch of complicated exercises, I was also incorporating lots of drop sets, forced reps, pyramiding sets, supersets, giant sets, and plenty other unnecessary stuff that an ordinary lifter shouldn’t be doing.
Imagine a guy lifting pussy-ass weights and doing drop sets after sets in a cable machine and sweating like a skinny pig — yes, that’s me. I looked like a marathon runner challenging weights for the first time.
My advice is, forget those fancy machine exercises and techniques for a while because not only you don’t need any of those yet, but they could also be counterproductive to your progress.
The basics are all that you need to grow.
– Substitute all machine exercises to their barbell or dumbbell counterpart. If you’re using a machine for your chest, try learning Flat Barbell Bench Press and focus on getting stronger at it before going back to machines.
– Forget the use of drop sets, supersets, forced reps and other exercise techniques as these can greatly affect your recovery. Focus on using simple yet effective straight sets and stop your set after completing a given rep range. You don’t need to go beyond.
Mistake #3: I didn’t give importance to proper form.
This is another important factor when beginning training, and it’s my third biggest mistake. Every lifter should learn from the very start the proper way of performing each exercise.
Not only to prevent injury, but to teach your body to adapt to the exercise form that will maximize muscle fiber recruitment and stimulate every muscle that should be involved in a given exercise. This will accelerate your strength and muscle building progress.
If you start your exercise with poor form, you will progress to heavier weights with poorer form. This risks injury and you won’t be able to progress as quickly as you could because other muscles are not trained to engage in the movement properly.
The sad thing is, you will have to cut back on a lot of weight and start over again to get your form right.
Another thing that constitutes proper form is lifting and lowering of the weight in a controlled fashion, not bouncing and using momentum.
A lot of people brag that they lift this and that amount of weight, but when I watch them do the exercise, like Barbell Curls, for example, I couldn’t help but cringe on how they perform each rep. Instead of doing bicep curls, they are doing whole body curls! Instead of just curling the weight using their arms, they use their body’s momentum by swaying back and forth to help them lift the weights up.
What’s the point of that? That’s called ego lifting.
Ego lifting doesn’t help you at all. Yes, you will be able to lift heavier weights, but without the proper use of the muscles using controlled reps, you won’t inflict enough damage to illicit growth response from the body.
All you’ll do is lift weights.
Well, what’s the purpose of it?
Another thing that hammers the importance of proper form is to practice a full range of motion to every exercise.
What’s more cringy than someone using momentum to lift weights is when people use half reps so they can load the bar heavier.
What’s the point of half reps? Again, that’s ego lifting. If you only do half reps, you will only have half results at best.
Lower the total weight and practice doing a full range of motion to stimulate every muscle fiber on each body part.
You will thank yourself later.
– Learn the mechanics of each exercise that you perform by watching YouTube videos. You’ll be surprised how technical most lifts are and that you’re missing a lot by not perfecting your technique.
– Do not use momentum. Lift and lower the weights in a controlled fashion.
– Use a full range of motion. Lower the weights to the extended position comfortably before lifting it back up.
Mistake #4: I didn’t focus on getting stronger
The most important factor in any type of training program or workout routine is the principle of progressive overload. No matter what training method you’re using, whether it be P90x, Arnold’s, CrossFit, or a bodybuilder’s workout program, the basis of its effectiveness lies in this principle.
If you are not getting stronger, you will not grow. Plain and simple. If you are not improving on any of your exercises, nothing will change.
I know there are a couple more factors in building muscle and losing fat like the best rep ranges, rest between sets, and optimal workout volume, but they’re all smaller factors compared to the progressive overload principle.
If you can get your Bench Press from 100lbs to 300lbs, even if Bench Press is the only exercise that you did for chest, that’s 100% guarantee that your chest will grow.
Don’t believe me? Get your bench to 300lbs and check if your chest hasn’t grown yet.
This was probably the biggest mistake of all mistakes that I did back then. Before, when I was going to the gym, my goal was to simply go to the gym and do random exercises. I just lifted and lifted to get a pump so I can take a selfie afterwards. Later on, it progressed to the other extreme — my goal then was to feel exhausted and beat up by doing lots and lots of exercises. This was also wrong.
The goal when trying to build muscle and lose fat is not to tire yourself when going to the gym. If it is, it’s a wrong goal. The goal is to follow the principle of progressive overload — by continuously presenting overload to your muscles by lifting progressively heavier weights so they have a reason to grow.
– Always log your workouts and jot down the exercise, weight, sets, and reps that you did.
– When going to the gym, make it a goal to beat your previous numbers (this is why it’s important to log your workouts). This should be your main goal.
– Don’t make it a goal to just go to the gym and sweat. You’re wasting your time if that’s what you’re doing.
– Don’t make it a goal to leave the gym feeling tired and worn out thinking that you need to feel that way to get results. No. If you beat your previous numbers by lifting heavier weights or lifting more reps, then you’ve done your job. No need to feel tired and beat up.
These are the 4 biggest gym mistakes that I made and learned to overcome that skyrocketed my progress and gave me continuous results. I do hope that you’ll apply everything you’ve learned here because I am confident that these will work for you 100% as they did for me.
I know they sound too basic for some, but like Vince Lombardi, the greatest football coach of all time said:
“Excellence is achieved by the mastery of fundamentals.”
Another quote from the legendary strength coach, Charles Poliquin that says the same thing:
“The rule is: Basics are the basics, and you can’t beat the basics”
So never, ever take the basics for granted.
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