Common Beginner Mistakes - Part 1

Today is a great day.  The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, it finally looks like we've gotten past the disgusting winter we've had to endure over the past few months.  On top of that, I get to deadlift today!  Life is good. With that, here's a couple of videos of some of our athletes picking up a couple hundred pounds. No big deal.

Now, on to the blog post at hand.  Today will be the beginning of a series of post, all centered around some common mistakes that beginner lifters tend to make.  I've fallen for a few of these myself.  Life, and lifting, is all about making mistakes, learning from them, and coming back stronger and better than before.  Making mistakes is completely normal, and we all make them at some point in our lives.  What you should be focused on is what you can take away from each mistake that you make, and how you can use that experience to turn yourself into a better person, and a better lifter in this case.  Let's get started...

Mistake #1: Body-Part Split Training

Most beginner lifters, myself included, fall into that "body-building" mindset when they first start out.  They read an article on, which oftentimes splits up workouts based on body-parts, and adopt that program as their own because the guy who wrote it sports 16-in biceps and chisel abs.  Monday becomes chest day, Tuesday gets assigned back, Wednesday shoulders, Thursday legs, and Friday is arm day.  There's a number of issues with this methodology.

Taking the above example week, let's say we have a lifter performing bench press for Monday's main lift, OH Press for Wednesdays main lift, and some triceps extensions/skullcrushers on Friday's arm day.  Right there, you're hitting triceps 3 times a week, with probably about at least 75 reps of total volume, on only those 3 exercises.  I haven't even really dug into the accessory work you'll be performing.  On top of that, only 1 day devoted to legs is simply not enough. Why are we targeting a relatively small muscle, such as the triceps, 3x/week, while only devoting 1 day a week to our back and lower body musculature.  It's inefficient, will almost certainly lead to muscle imbalances, and it's simply a poor way to go about structuring a training week.

Here at SAPT, we prefer to program movements.  The squat, hinge, push, pull, and loaded carry/crawl are all critical human movements that everyone needs to be able to perform properly.  Picking a heavy box up off the ground?  You need to know how to hinge at the hips, not the spine, and lift the box with proper form. Do you have a small child who you're constantly holding while performing daily activities?  We'll teach you how to organize your spine in order to properly disperse that weight.  The SA rack squat is a wonderful training exercise that teaches you the proper way to squat down and pick something up off the floor with a child in your arms.

Mistake #2: Using 3x10... FOR EVERYTHING!

Thankfully, this mistake pops up less often than it used to.  Occasionally, we'll get the client who has weight lifting experience, but they've been using the same 3x10 set/rep scheme for every exercise in their program.  Now, I love a client with prior training experience, but they don't realize how much they're limiting themselves.  3x10 is a perfectly viable rep scheme, but there's so much more out there and these people are missing out on targeting the other muscular attributes.  As you can see by the below diagram, the're focusing solely on hypertrophy with very little regard for strength, power, and muscular endurance.  When you periodize a program with a certain goal in mind, you focus on all their properties to varying degrees and they work synergistically to increase performance no matter your goal.


Coach Kelsey wrote a fantastic piece on why 3x10 is not the king of rep schemes.  Also, check out my article on the repetition maximum continuum, which dives into why you should use a certain rep scheme over another, and will give you a better understanding when deciding what to use for a given exercise or cycle.

Mistake #3: Thinking that the only way to progress is to add more weight to the bar.

This is a pretty common mistake, and it tends to creep up on you.  Adding more weight to the bar should be the end goal of almost any programs, but there are different ways to go about it.  At the end of the day, your programs should revolve around increasing the volume (sets x reps x weight) of a particular lift.  As you can see by that equation, you can manipulate the number of sets, the number of reps, or the weight.  I'll go ahead and list a few other methods below.

- Increasing the number of sets - Increasing the number of reps - Slowing down the eccentric portion of a lift - Adding a pause at the bottom of a lift - Slowing down the concentric portion of a lift - Moving the bar faster each week - Performing the same amount of work in a shorter period of time - Increasing range of motion - Reducing the stability (Don't break out the bosu ball... this means narrowing your grip)

These are all perfectly viable methods to gain strength and increase volume.  Let's take a look at a 4 week cycle focused on the squat and demonstrate a few of these methods.

Increasing the weight each week. - Wk 1: 4x4 w/ 200#, Wk 2: 4x4 w/ 210#, Wk 3: 4x4 w/ 220#, Wk 4: 4x4 w/ 230#

Increasing the number of reps each week: - Wk 1: 4x4 w/ 200#, Wk 2: 4x5 w/ 200#, Wk 3: 4x6 w/ 200#, Wk 4: 4x7 w/ 200#

Performing the same amount of work in a shorter period of time: - Wk 1: 4x4 w/ 200#, 3 min rest b/t sets, Wk 2: 4x4 w/ 200#, 2.5 min rest b/t sets, Wk 3: 4x4 w/ 200#, 2 min rest b/t sets, Wk 4: 4x4 w/ 200#, 1.5 min rest b/t sets

Increasing the range of motion each week: - Wk 1: 4x4 w/ 200# stopping well above parallel, Wk 2: 4x4 w/ 200# stopping slightly above parallel, Wk 3: 4x4 w/ 200# hitting parallel, Wk 4: 4x4 w/ 200# dropping below parallel.

As you can see, there's obviously more than 1 way to get stronger.  I don't want to dive into why you use certain methods over others in this post, as this post would get extremely long and detailed.  I'll save those ideas for a blog post in the future, and if you have a particular question, post it below in the comments section and I'll respond as soon as I can.

That's all for today, folks.

These are just three of the mistakes that beginners may make.  I can say that I've personally made every single one of these at some point in my lifting career, and I'm sure I'll make more as I go along.  The key is to recognize when something isn't working, find out why, and try and improve during your next cycle.  I'll be back next week with a few others, but until then, make sure you check out the rest of the articles on the SAPT blog.  We've been writing for almost 5 years, we're currently posting fresh articles 5 days a week.  There's a ton we can teach out, you just need to be proactive and utilize the search feature!