You’ve decided to focus on your gains and join the bodybuilding world — welcome. You’re one of many that strive to build their best physique possible. While the sport of bodybuilding can be a great place to be, it’s also easy to make mistakes. Especially if you’re new here.
As a newbie, you want to start your journey off on the right foot. But everyone makes mistakes. Even if you’re as well-seasoned in the sport as your meal-prepped chicken fajitas, it’s always good to check in on yourself to make sure no errors have crept their way into your habits over time.
Maybe you’re striving to start your sport with an approach free from flaws. Or you might have hit a physique plateau and are searching for any cracks in your foundation. Either way, you’ve come to the right article. Here, you’ll learn all about the most common beginner bodybuilding mistakes to avoid — and how to correct them.
Editor’s Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. When starting a new training regimen and/or diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a trusted medical professional. We are not a medical resource. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. They are not substitutes for consulting a qualified medical professional.
Common Beginner Bodybuilding Mistakes
- Program Hopping
- No Rest Days
- Inadequate Protein Intake
- Not Drinking Enough Water
- Skipping Vitamins
- Ignoring Stretching
- Not Tracking Macros
- Ego Lifting
There may be any number of reasons why you may find yourself constantly changing up your training style. You might get bored after two weeks of hitting the same accessory exercises. Or your favorite social media influencer might have dropped a new workout or program and you slam on the breaks of your current regimen to hop on board.
Even if you’re not bored or chasing the next new thing, you might just get nervous that your current program isn’t giving you the results you want. While switching it up all the time may feel like the right move, it’s generally hurting your progress rather than helping it.
When you’re constantly changing up your training program, you’re not allowing your muscles to adapt to your current training stimulus. Muscles need time to get used to the repetitive movements in an exercise over time. That time and adaptation are what allow you to progress in each exercise and become stronger and more muscular.
If you skip out on your program prematurely — program hopping — you may not be giving your body enough time to show you the benefits of what you’ve been doing.
What to Do
Stick to the same training program for anywhere between six to twelve weeks.
To ensure you’re sticking to your program, start off by identifying your goal. Select exercises — or a program — that allow you to reach it. For example, if your goal is to grow a wider back, you’ll likely want to add wide-grip lat pulldowns to your training program twice a week.
Your body needs enough time to successfully adapt to the exercises, volume, and load of each program. If you abandon ship before you give your body a chance to respond properly to a program, you’ll likely be disappointed.
Make sure your program uses the principles of progressive overload. You shouldn’t be doing the same exact thing each week. Though some things will stay the same — the exercises, for example — there should be gradual shifts in intensity, volume, and technique to keep your body adapting and improving throughout the program.
These techniques will also help keep you mentally engaged in your program long enough to reap results.
No rest for the wicked, right? Not when it comes to bodybuilding. If you’re new to the bodybuilding world, you may think that training seven days a week is the best way to put on muscle. That’s where you’re wrong.
Not implementing rest days into your training will do you more harm than good. By not giving your body the rest it needs to recover, you’re setting yourself up for plateaus, disproportionate soreness, a bigger chance of injury, and an eventual decrease in performance.
What to Do
Implement one to two rest days per week.
To allow your body to recover to its fullest, implement one to two rest days per week. Make rest a structured part of your program to let you train at your best. You’ll be giving your body time to relieve your muscles of excess lactate, replenish its glycogen stores, and prepare itself for your next workout.
To help with the potential emotional or mental difficulty of feeling like you’re missing the gym, incorporate low-intensity active recovery strategies into your program. Consider gentle yoga, long walks, or even getting a massage. Although it may be hard to take a rest day in the beginning, you’ll soon be thanking yourself you did.
Protein contains essential amino acids that your muscles need in order to grow. If you’re not consuming enough of this crucial macronutrient, your body may break down muscle you already have to provide itself with said amino acids. This is why it’s so vital to consume enough so you can continue to put on that mass you’re seeking.
What to Do
Calculate your needed protein intake for muscle growth.
The first step in getting enough protein is figuring out how much you need. A simple way to do this is by using BarBend’s protein intake calculator. Input some information like how physically active you are and what your goals are and it will help you figure out what your daily intake should look like.
Protein Intake Calculator
You’ll want to space your protein out throughout the day, perhaps putting an emphasis on consumption post-workout. This will fuel your muscles and begin the process of recovery and building.
If you’re going to join the bodybuilding world, you’re going to need to get used to drinking water — and lots of it. If you’re training hard in the gym, but not replenishing your body with some much-needed H20, you can experience a number of negative side effects.
If you’re not drinking enough, you might experience increased soreness, lack of energy, and reduced recovery. Keeping up with your daily recommended intake of water can help you stave off these negative consequences and reap the benefits of maximum hydration.
What to Do
Prioritize hydration throughout your days.
The amount of water you need on any given day varies from person to person. Still, a common rule of thumb is that you should drink at least eight glasses of eight ounces each per day.
First thing in the morning, start the day off right by drinking a glass of water when you wake up. You may also opt to drink a glass before you eat a meal. Consider getting yourself a large water bottle with measurement labels on the outside so you can keep track of how much you’re drinking.
If you know you tend to forget during the day, you may want to set yourself regular reminders on your phone. Throughout the day, these glasses will add up, and you’ll reach your hydration goals in no time.
Micronutrients, minerals, and vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin D, and zinc all play an important role in your body’s recovery. For example, vitamin A aids in maintaining a healthy immune system, so you can feel your best in and out of the gym.
However, you may be missing some vital nutrients from your daily diet. Bodybuilders who meal prep often eat the same foods day-to-day and even week-to-week. This may be great news for hitting your macros. But it doesn’t allow a lot of diversity in terms of getting all the micronutrients and vitamins you need.
What to Do
Diversify your food sources and invest in a good multivitamin.
Try to get in as broad a diversity of micronutrients in your food as possible. This might involve shifting your meal prep strategy from week to week, swapping in different veggies and fruits to ensure a greater diversity of micronutrients.
Still, you might not be hitting everything you need to maximize your overall health and success on the bodybuilding stage. Investing in multivitamins and other supplements — greens powders, for example — can help you reach your goals.
Stretch, stretch, and stretch some more. As a newbie, you may be missing out on the bodybuilding wonders of stretching. If this is the case, you’ll likely soon find your body feeling tight, sore, and lacking in flexibility.
Stretching allows your fascia — the connective tissue that holds your other tissues, including your muscles, in place — to lengthen. The main role of fascia is to keep your muscles in their given place throughout your body. However, when this connective tissue is not stretched, it will remain tight, and not allow room for muscle growth.
When you dedicate time and energy to stretching, you’re giving your muscles more room and the flexibility to grow. Not to mention, stretching may help decrease your risk of injury, as tight fascia may limit your range of motion and set you up for muscle strains.
Stretching is therefore a win-win for every bodybuilder.
What to Do
Incorporate stretching into your training program.
To ensure you’re making stretching a priority, incorporate it into your training program for at least five to ten minutes before and after you lift. You’ll want to warm up and cool down the muscles that you’re prioritizing in your workout.
You can also incorporate stretches and mobility work into your daily routine outside of your workouts. Maybe that means a few minutes of mobility training when you get up in the morning, or some stretches before you go to bed.
Try to prioritize your weak points. If you know you have limited shoulder mobility, for example, target your shoulders for dynamic stretches before your workout and longer static stretches afterward.
Learning how to track your macronutrients — carbs, protein, and fats — is arguably one of the best things you can do as a new bodybuilder. Tracking macros may seem confusing as you’re starting out, but the more you get used to it, the easier it will become.
Keeping track of your macros — even if you’re getting ballpark estimates — can help you keep your physique and performance goals on track. By not tracking, you could delay your progress as you aren’t aware of how many grams of carbs, fats, and protein you’re eating.
Without a well-reasoned estimate or specific count of your macros, you may not be optimizing your performance. For example, you might not be getting enough carbs to fuel your high-intensity training. Or you might not be getting enough protein to help you bulk.
It’s crucial to be aware of your intake so you can ensure you’re eating enough of these nutrients throughout the day to fuel your body.
What to Do
Calculate and keep track of your macros.
First, you’ll need to learn how many grams of protein, carbs, and fats you should be getting per day. Take advantage of BarBend’s macronutrient calculator to help you figure out exactly the right ratio for your goals.
To keep track of your intake throughout the days and weeks, consider using an app like MyFitnessPal to easily log and track your meals. If you’re unable or unwilling to track your macros specifically, you can get ballpark estimates from portion control methods.
Consider using the size of your fist to dole out carb servings, your palm to measure out a serving of protein, and the size of your thumb as an indicator of a serving of dietary fats.
At some point, you’ve seen someone — and maybe even engaged in — lifting something way too heavy for the sake of a social media post. While many bodybuilders are incredibly strong and can responsibly handle ridiculous amounts of weight, you want to make sure everything you’re lifting is something you’ve prepped your body for.
Have you laid the foundation of strength, mobility, and technique you need to squat three plates? If not, you might be falling prey to ego lifting — slapping more plates on the bar or hefting heavier dumbbells than you can handle with good form because it looks or feels good to lift that much.
In the bodybuilding world, ego lifting can be a popular thing, especially as many lifters try to build their social media presence. While it may look cool for the Gram, lifting more than you can handle can lead to serious injury, keeping you out of the gym and ultimately stunting your progress.
What to Do
Put your ego aside and focus on progressive overload.
The best thing to do as you’re starting out is to focus on progressive overload. Start out with a weight that feels slightly challenging, but comfortable with good form. Once that weight starts to become easy for the prescribed number of reps, then move up in weight. Continue this over time — and integrate other intensity-boosting techniques gradually — and you’ll see progress.
It can be tough to avoid ego lifting, especially when you’re working out next to some pretty well-developed folks. Focus on your form as much as possible to build a strong foundation and heavier weights will come.
You’re Ready for the Bodybuilding World
When you’re setting out as a physique athlete, identifying and fixing common bodybuilding mistakes is one of your number priorities. Everything from hydration and macros to proper lifting techniques and taking enough rest days will be important as you start your journey.
Even if you’re a more seasoned athlete, take a look at your program to make sure you haven’t carried over any rookie mistakes into your program. By eliminating these errors, you’ll be on your way to the symmetrical, bulging muscles you’re chasing.
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