9 Fitness Mistakes Everyone Makes When They Start To Workout

Just starting working out in the gym? Fast-track through the newbie stage so you can hang with the regulars.

9 Fitness Mistakes Everyone Makes When They Start To Workout

Walk into any gym in the world and it's easy to spot the newbie lifters. They're the guys (and sometimes girls!) who are making classic mistakes. But there's no need to be that guy. The truth is, you can bypass those common mistakes from your first gym visit. Step one is awareness (you're reading this article: tick!) Step two is knowing what to do instead. We've got you covered!

Read on to discover the classic mistakes everybody makes when they first go to a gym and how to avoid them.

Setting Inappropriate Goals

#1 Setting Inappropriate Goals

You do NEED a goal (otherwise you might fall foul of #3 below!) but make sure it's right for your background, fitness levels, and strength. And be realistic: you might like to gain 5kgs muscle and lose 3kgs fat but stuff like that just isn't possible. Make sure your goals are realistic, attainable, and suitable to you as an individual.

Even if you achieve mini-goals along the way, setting one unachievable goal straight out of the blocks is a bad plan. It might leave you feeling demotivated, or make you give up altogether.

Do this instead: Think about your fitness levels and strength. Talk to a Personal Trainer about your biomechanics and history of injury. How much time can you devote to the gym? What about anything else you'll need to do (planning food, tracking your diet, doing cardio, getting extra rest)? Then set a goal that's personal to you. Don't worry about anyone else!

Track your workouts

#2 Not Tracking Your Workouts

See those folk in the gym who walk round with a spiral-bound pad and pen, jotting down every weight of every set? They know what they're doing. They're boosting their chances of success. After all 'what gets measured, gets managed'. Be a clued-up newbie by getting a training log (a simple notepad will do) and taking it to every session.

Do this instead: Note your exercises, sets, reps, and weights used. Record rest periods. Note how you felt, and record PRs as they come along. At home, track your measurements (if body recomposition is your goal), sleep, mood, recovery, and food if you are focusing on diet. Consider setting this up with a smartphone app so you can analyse your data whenever you have time.


#3 Not Having A Plan

People with no gym plan are easy to spot. They wander the gym floor aimlessly, jumping on the bits of kit that are free. They'll do a couple of sets of something, then move on to a total unrelated exercise. Or they'll follow the strongest-looking person in the gym and copy them from a distance. Don't be like that.

Do this instead: You need a plan if you're going to reach your goal. Pick a beginner's programme, keep it simple and stick to it for at least two months. Then you can reassess and make your next step.

Worrying about supplements

#4 Worrying About Supplements

They're called supplements for a reason. They should be supplementary to the basics. Focus on a good healthy diet, solid training plan, consistent approach, and enough sleep. Before you worry about protein powder, BCAAs, pre-workouts, and recovery shakes, make sure you are giving your body the energy it needs.

Do this instead: Get the basics right and make progress with your nutrition and training. Then, if you feel you need basic natural supplements, ask advice from a source you trust.

Never Skip Leg Day

#5 Not Training Legs

There's a reason so many gym memes poke fun at people who don't train legs. It's not just lazy, it will also result in an unbalanced physique and potential injury. Your legs make up a huge percentage of your body's muscle mass. It's about more than just your quads (thigh muscles). Leg training will also strengthen your hamstrings, lower back, glutes (buttocks), and calves. If you use barbells, it will also work your upper body. And it's great for calorie burn and fat loss. Playing sport at the weekend, or doing cardio on the step mill is NOT enough to train your legs!

Do this instead: Train your legs at least once a week with basic exercises like a squat variation, a deadlift variation, some single-legged work, and a lunge.


Leaving the gym exhausted

#6 Leaving The Gym Exhausted Every Time

Training so hard that you can't do another rep has its place. But training to failure should be one part of a structured approach to training. Spot the gym newbie - they're working so hard (often with bad form) that they're at risk of injury. As a beginner you haven't yet built the strength in your connective tissue or core muscles to cope with high-end training.

Do this instead: Work with your body, not against it. Work hard, but leave space for recovery and growth. Encourage your body rather than bashing it into the ground. Remember, the weights will always be there. You're in this for the long haul. Consistency and form are key.


#7 Only Training Your Favourite Things

Beginners will often train their favourite body parts (biceps, chest, or endless cardio). They won't make progress. Over time they'll build an unbalanced physique that has significant weaknesses. Don't be that kind of beginner. You're smarter than that! A good training programme works all muscle groups for function and balance. This will help you avoid injury and built that balanced and athletic physique.

Do this instead: Make sure you train every part of your body by using a well-rounded approach to training. You could use a full-body workout and repeat it a few times a week. Or maybe you'd prefer to use a body-part split approach. Just be sure you don't always skip certain body-part days! Base your training around compound exercises for the large muscle groups, then add isolation movements. Be sure to strengthen prime stabilising muscles and movers, and address your specific weaknesses.


#8 Doing Too Much, Too Soon

The smartest beginners know how to manage their enthusiasm to avoid burn out. If you do too much, too soon, you risk injury, over-training, or exhaustion. Or you could fall out of love with your new hobby. Don't become one of the countless people who let their gym membership languish. Become a gym regular!

Do this instead: Have a plan, and work consistently. But don't add extra sessions, or push yourself beyond your capabilities. If you're sensible now, it will repay you with fast results, and you'll be able to push ahead before you know it.

Read more: Ideal Workout Length

Bad Eating Habits

#9 Having Bad Eating Habits

Not everyone who goes to the gym does it to lose body fat or add muscle. But eating a good healthy diet will boost your chances of success with any gym goal. You can't out-train a bad diet. Give your body a better chance by supporting your training efforts with the right kind of eating plan. Are you still relying on takeaways? Not got a clue where your next meal is coming from? Often finding that you've run out of food at home?

Do this instead: Design yourself a simple healthy eating plan, and stick to it. Don't copy hardcore body-building style diets out of magazines. Just stick to the basics, and make it something you will enjoy and can stick to. Remember the rule of thermodynamics (calories in vs calories out) for muscle gain or fat loss. Base most of your food around lean protein sources, natural carbohydrates sources, fruit and veg, and small amounts of healthy fats.

Read more: The Best Foods To Build Your Summer Body