5 Unforgivable Muscle Building Workout Mistakes Beginners Make


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Muscle is great.

It keeps us young.

It makes us look better.

It makes us more confident.

It improves sports performance.

It boosts our metabolic rate (although not significantly).


So we want muscle, we want it bad.

Many of those seeking to grow it end up making some unforgivable mistakes that can be easily avoided. Sure we learn from our mistakes, and trust me when I say this I have made many, but today I want to help you leap-frog my errors and grow muscle more effectively than ever.

Today we are going to go over 4 unforgivable muscle-building workouts mistakes beginners make, and how to avoid them all together.

1) Following a ‘Bro Split’

OK so we want to get jacked, big guns, a large chest, wide back and killer quads. We’ve read the muscle mags and so set up an arm day, back day, chest day and leg day or something similar. Each time we go to the gym we smash our session, take everything to failure, get a massive burn. So after our chest day we ache for a couple of days, but 7 days later we’re well recovered. — Which is good?

Being recovered is good, but you were fully recovered well before chest day came again, that’s the problem.

Your workout frequency is too low.

The INSANE MASS programme missed out all the other essential things you must do/take for it to work.

You see when we train a muscle group we raise our muscle protein synthesis (MPS) levels, that is a sciency term that just means we jack up our muscle-building potential [1]. These do not remain elevated forever and certainly not for a week, so by only training muscle groups once a week you aren’t keeping your MPS maximally elevated. — You’re leaving gains on the table.

Now if we’re well recovered after a couple of days, why not train again? Thus stimulating MPS and therefore raising our muscle-building potential.

Furthermore, have you heard of the term practice makes perfect? Of course you have. Now if we’re doing deadlifts, bench press, squats etc. all only once per week we’re going to have a hard time perfecting our technique. With good technique we can prevent injuries, shift more weight and these both help to improve our muscle-building chances. Thus performing these movements multiple times a week is going to allow us to nail the technique, and with that improve our muscle growth.

[bctt tweet=”Leave the bro splits to the bros, train with higher frequency”]

The benefits of higher frequency training were clearly seen in a study by Brad Schoenfeld that compared two 3 day per week training programs in well-trained men with different frequencies per muscle group. The exercises, sets and reps and relative loads were the same across the week in both groups:

  • Group 1: Split routine (Day 1 chest & back, Day 2 legs, Day 3 shoulders & arms)
  • Group 2: Full Body everyday

Group 2 saw significantly larger increases in muscle growth than were observed in the group using the workout split [2].

Plus overtime as you become more advanced you will need to do more in the gym to produce a large enough stress to keep your body needing to adapt, so the likelihood is the number of times you will need to train will increase to allow for more work to be done.

Forget splits in which you train muscle groups once per week and aim to train muscle groups 2 to 4 times per week.

2) Curling Before You Squat

Ever entered the gym and started your workout with bicep curls? I bet you have, I sure have, or maybe you’ve seen others do it. If not what about doing leg extensions before squats? We often as a beginner start with exercises we enjoy, or we don’t realise the importance of having an order to our workouts.

See also  Podcast 087: James Hoffmann - Enhancing recovery for the physique athlete

Compound exercises are very important

They use multiple muscle groups, they can therefore be heavily loaded and thus can provide a large growth stimulus. So why would you ever put these anywhere but first in your workout? As a beginner using pre-exhaust methods or anything similar is not necessary, or beneficial, you need to focus on progressive overload on the compound movements, these are your best muscle growing tool.


[bctt tweet=”Compound Movements > Isolation Movements”]

Lets look at what happens when we place leg extensions before a squat, we fatigue our quads, the prime mover in a squat. Thus when we go to squat not only do we have less energy, but our quads cannot contribute as much force as if they were fresh. Your performance will be lower, you’ll get less reps or use less weight and probably have worse form. This diminishes the growth stimulus and increases your injury risk.

Both kill off our muscle growing potential.

Better would be to place your compound exercises first in your workout, these are going to provide the foundation for your physique and so should be the base of your workout.

3) Lack of Focus & Planning

When I first trained I’d have a leg day, so I would go into the gym and do anything that used my legs. Leg press, hack squats, lunges, leg curls, squats…if it used my legs I would do it. Now if the leg press was taken I’d look around and maybe squat, no worries, it still uses my legs right? To a certain degree this is right, but the problem is this can easily lead to a lack of focus.

You see I would use the barbel some weeks, machines others and if they were taken dumbbells, this led to me stalling out. Plus I didn’t track my workouts, so didn’t know how much weight I used last time, so I would just go in and do whatever exercise it was till it was hard. This didn’t go well, and it is a common problem for a lot of beginners. We need some focus, to make sure we are either increasing the reps or weight we are using, otherwise we won’t provide a growth stimulus.

Overtime you MUST be doing more

Now I assumed because I was going hard I would progress by default, but it isn’t as simple as that. You see because my movements changed quite a lot every time I came to do them they felt a bit new, fresh, and my form wasn’t quite right. I’d never give enough time to bench pressing with the barbel to really nail the form, allowing me to then add load or reps, so every time I came to it I’d be on the same weight (or maybe less, I didn’t even know!).

[bctt tweet=”If you are not progressively doing more in the gym, you are not going to grow.”]

To solve this we need to focus on progressively increasing our performance on a handful of movements, take a note pad and actually track your performance on a key number of lifts, I recommend you pick one pull, press, hip hinge and squat.

4) It’s All You Bro

Ever had a personal training session before you entered the gym?

I bet you didn’t, I sure as hell didn’t.

What was worse is that I went about doing exercises without having any clue how to do them

I didn’t even look on YouTube. What ends up happening is you train with incorrect form and you end up progressing with this bad form. So you’re half squatting with your heels way off the ground, your elbows are so flared on your bench press they’re pretty much in your ears, so if you accidentally push too hard or go to full range of movement (ROM) then your fellow ‘bro’ comes to ‘spot you’ when in reality they’re doing all the work.

[bctt tweet=”It doesn’t matter how much they shout ‘it’s all you’ — it never is.”]

One sure-fire way to blunt your muscle growth potential is to train your muscle through a limited ROM. If you wanna really grow you need to focus on really feeling the stretch in the muscles you’re training, that way you know full ROM is being used and you’re not leaving gains on the table.

An even easier way to stop growing muscle is to get injured, if your form is abysmal you’re setting yourself for an injury.

Trust me when I say this; you REALLY do not want to get injured, especially early on in your lifting career. So avoid missing workouts because you strained a muscle due to incorrect form and learn how to lift, whether it be through YouTube, books or a personal trainer.

See also  How Applesauce Will Change The Way You Diet Forever

In a research study that compared full to partial squats they found that full squats lead to more muscle growth of the quadriceps than partials [3]. It’s not just been shown in the legs either, in a study that compared Scott curls with a full compared vs. a partial ROM, there was a trend for greater growth of the arms in the full ROM group [4].

[bctt tweet=”heavy half squats = injury not muscle growth”]

You might have to take two steps back now, but bite the bullet because you’ll be taking more than three steps forward in future (and keep stepping too).

5) Haphazard Training

The final mistake is the most unforgivable, because to be honest even if you are making the above mistakes you could still grow some muscle. As a beginner almost anything works, obviously some things work better than others and what works now won’t work forever but so long as you train you’ll grow some muscle. However, if you train one month and not the next, you will grow muscle, but you won’t keep it.

Consistency is literally the king of gains.

It can make or break you. It isn’t enough to train hard for a week, or even a month, it takes months and years to grow appreciable amounts of muscle mass. Too many beginners get motivated for short stints of time and then give up, and lose their gains. Summer is coming so we rush down the gym to pump the guns in an attempt to get a respectable beach body. Winter comes and we hide away in our hoodies. — This is no good for those interested in developing muscular physiques.

I worked with Sam for just 3 months and we transformed his physique and this was down to his consistency.

[bctt tweet=”Consistency is the king of gains.”]

Now you can still be consistent in the gym and lack ‘proper consistency’.

What’s ‘proper consistency’?

This is having an actual workout plan, so you’re in the gym training and not exercising. Exercising is great for burning calories, but training is what is required for getting stacked. What’s the difference? — Someone who trains goes in the gym knowing what they’re going to do; the exercises and to some degree reps, sets and load. Now someone who exercises is probably making the four mistakes above, they really do not have any plan to speak of.

All that is required to get round this is to make sure you’re not committing the above mistakes and then stick to it, week in week out, make the gym a habit.

5 Unforgivable Mistakes & Their Fixes

  1. Insufficient Training Frequency –> Fix It –> Train Muscle Groups 2 to 4 times per week

  2. Incorrect Workout Order –> Fix It –> Always start with Compound Movements

  3. No Plan –> Fix It –> Pick some main movements & track your progress

  4. Bad Form –> Fix It –> Learn how to perform each exercise safely & correctly

  5. A Lack of Consistency –> Fix It –> Make the gym a habit


Do you need any help with the above? Do you have any questions you need answering? Hopefully it gave you some ideas about how best to approach your training.

Join my free facebook group or add me on snapchat (revivestronger) and ask your question there, I will respond asap. Or if you’re after a fresh training programme I have a free 4 week plan using DUP that you can download for free here.

If you want to learn more about how to set up a successful training programme be sure to check out: Full Guide: Building Muscle for the Teenage Bodybuilder

One more thing…

Do you have a friend who is making one or more of the above mistakes? Share this article with them and let me know what they think.

[bctt tweet=”5 Unforgivable Muscle Building Workout Mistakes Beginners Make”]

  1. A Review of Resistance Training-Induced Changes in Skeletal Muscle Protein Synthesis and Their Contribution to Hypertrophy, by Damas, Phillips, Vechin, and Ugrinowitsch, in Sports Medicine (2015)
  2. Schoenfeld, B.J., et al., Influence of Resistance Training Frequency on Muscular Adaptations in Well-Trained Men. J strength cond res, 2015. 29(7): p. 1821-9.
  3. Influence of squatting depth on jumping performance. Hartmann H, Wirth K, Klusemann M, Dalic J, Matuschek C, Schmidtbleicher D. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Dec;26(12):3243-61.
  4. Effect of range of motion on muscle strength and thickness. Pinto RS, Gomes N, Radaelli R, Botton CE, Brown LE, Bottaro M.J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Aug;26(8):2140-5.


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