What is the biggest mistake you see beginners make and what is the most important piece of advice you could give those starting a training program?
Colin: The biggest mistake I see beginners make is a fear of building too much muscle and thinking endless amounts of cardio is the only way to go for weight loss. I hear it so often “I don’t want to build too much muscle, I just want to tone” like building muscle is something that’s easy to do and if they start lifting weights suddenly they’ll have 20 inch biceps. Building muscle should be the staple behind any weight loss program, and it takes both strength training and cardio for the best possible results. I’ve told beginners before that if they want great results they should do everything they can to try to get big, and in turn they’ll get the body they want. That always gets laughs until I tell them I’m dead serious. After all if you really are worried about gaining too much muscle, couldn’t you just get to where you want to be and then ease back? My guess this is not something that will happen…
Other than that the most important advice I can give is to make sure nutrition is on track and to do their own research on what they should eat and not just assume they know what is healthy and what isn’t. There is a large misconception out there that for weight loss it’s all about eating fewer calories and starving yourself, when for a lot of people they just need to focus more on eating the right things. You really can’t outwork a bad diet.
Dara: I completely agree with Colin! I can’t emphasis enough how tired I am of hearing “I don’t want to get big, I just want to tone.” When I tell them that I AM trying to get (what they would consider) “big” and that I have been working hard at that for over three years I usually get blank stares or laughs until they realize I’m serious. But since just agreeing with Colin is the easy way out, I will add that I think another big mistake I see beginners make is being inconsistent and impatient. Results take time and too often people bounce from one “fad” to the next and don’t give the body time to respond. Just pick a program and do it consistently for at least 12 weeks. At this point you can expect to START to see changes! If it’s working, then stick with it! Stop chasing the easy way out (I’ll save you time, it doesn’t exist) and just realize that it’s going to take time and hard work to get where you want to go! Enjoy the process!
Colin: I very much agree with what you had to add Dara. I tell people quite frankly most programs out there work, so long as you do them the way they are intended and stick with it. If you’ve tried everything and nothing works, it usually just means no programs out there fit some fictional idea you would prefer to work for your convenience. The job then becomes convincing them that despite it being very hard at first eventually it will be well worth it and become enjoyable. Results can do amazing things to one’s attitude toward health and fitness. I don’t remember who but someone once told me they wished they could hand out free week long samples of the “fit feeling” so people knew what it was like. After a week feeling like that, nobody would ever want to go back. Unfortunately in the real world we have to get there to know what it’s like.
Matt: The number one thing I see at the gym with beginners is men lifting way too heavy loads and using atrocious form and women lifting way too light – either out of the fear of getting too big, or often because the trainer they have isn’t challenging them. (This is followed closely by guys who never work their legs and women who only work their legs) What I see from that point forward is either they quit, or they continue on as they are and never learn good form in the case of the men, or in the case of the women they never really discover what lifting weights can really do for them as they take a ‘fitness’ approach to weight lifting. Almost like doing cardio with very light weights.
In both of these cases the advice I would give to any new weight trainee is learn how to lift. Learn what it feels like when you execute the various lifts properly. It really doesn’t matter how much weight is on there if you are making a mockery of the lift or are lifting so light that your muscles are barely being challenged. You need to use a weight that you can work your muscles with.
Maybe it’s just those of us who are life long lifters, but there is a certain level of satisfaction that almost nothing else can meet more so than a perfectly executed set of reps. For me a perfect set of front squats or pull ups is almost artistic in its execution. I don’t know if that’s just me or not as I’m a form perfectionist. I’m never truly happy and constantly critique myself and strive for better execution. I think everyone should take this approach too. Always pushing for more weight or reps can be a pointless pursuit if your form isn’t great. If you got the same number of reps as you did your last workout, but your form improved and you felt more muscle engage then I think that is progress too.
Round 1: The best fat loss method
Round 2: Fasted vs fed cardio for fat loss
Round 5: The best 3 exercises
Round 6: The ideal training program
Round 7: How much protein for fat loss
Round 8: The last 10 pounds
Round 9: The ultimate training split
Round 10: Do carbs or fats make you fat?
Round 15: Are cheat meals good or bad?
Round 16: The fastest way to get six pack abs?
Round 17: The most effective exercise sequence
Round 18: Is cardio necessary?
Round 19: IIFYM vs clean eating