As somebody who has been training at the gym for nearly two decades (admittedly on/off for the first half as I was a minor), the number one mistake — and this isn’t going to shock you — is undertraining.
While you are sometimes treated to form so atrocious you feel like you have to intervene, the greatest gym sin witnessed regularly has to be undertraining.
Obviously, the number one reason why most people fail to grow is poor nutrition and rest, but that’s another ramble for another time.
The Number 1 Gym Mistake: Undertraining
But it’s common knowledge that curling in the squat rack, doing Smith Machine quarter squats, and 5lb tricep kickbacks are anabolic AF.
Dudes who come to the gym year in, year out, under the age of 35 and make no progress — well, it’s no surprise since they’re doing the same “routine” (how I hate the usage of that word since it implies stagnation) for several years.
And by “routine” I mean the exact same workouts, weights, rep schemes, rest times, order, you name it.
Maybe their diet is on point, but they train like sissies.
This is why they’re not getting anywhere.
If you’re a genuine ectomorph/hardgainer, you have my sympathy, but dudes who respond well to training, want to grow, and continue the same repetitive programs with no progressive overload, do not.
I remember once seeing some guy at an empty gym come in and do 3 sets of strict curls before leaving. He wasn’t a big guy, either. I couldn’t fathom the logic behind spending $50 a month on gym membership fees to undertrain so criminally.
I understand some people’s objectives are to be toned, and, that’s fine, but, if you’re trying to get jacked, you need to put in the effort.
Progressive overload is such a simple concept to follow; simply add more weight/reps every time you workout.
However, some undertrainers might make their training programs so sophisticated in the name of “shocking the body,” it becomes impossible to determine whether you’re actually progressive overloading.
And this is very much avoidable.
GOAT bodybuilders such as Ronnie Coleman and Dorian Yates would stick to the same exercises that yielded optimum results for the entirety of their careers — and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. GOAT powerlifter Ed Coan offered similar adviced when asked at what point somebody should change their accessory movements — the answer was whenever what you were doing wasn’t working anymore.
Overall, the majority of people who undertrain do so for a couple of reasons: 1) lack of confidence 2) lack of knowledge.
I had a friend who could comfortably squat 2 plates for 10 reps, but had never attempted 3 because he was scared, lacked confidence.
I offered to train with him and spot him.
Within a month, he was repping 3 plates — unsurprisingly!
A lot of lifters scare themselves into believing they can’t do it, out of fear of injury, or whatever other phony reason they can hammer into their head.
Most modern gyms offer safety pins and mechanisms to protect you if you botch a lift.
And the other reason comes with a lack of knowledge — you don’t have to pick 4 exercises for 3×10-12 ad infinitum!
People get themselves mired in suboptimal rep schemes.
Any rep range above 4-5 that brings you close to failure is good for building muscle.
While an 8-12 rep range and 30-40 seconds of time under tension and a 2-3 minute rest period may be prescribed, it isn’t the be all and end all of muscular development.
Take for example one of my bench press days for when I did powerlifting:
Bench Press 5×2
Incline Bench Press 4×6-8
Dips 3×20-30 (not a typo)
Face Pulls 3×15-20
Lateral Raise 3×12-15
Hammer Curls 3×8-10
Tricep Press Down 2xAMRAP
And contrast it with one of my current Chest Days:
Reverse-grip Bench Press 3×8-12
Floor DB Press 3×10-15
Floor Flyes 3×10-15
Weighted Dips 2xAMRAP
Although the rep ranges are higher, since I am using lighter weight loads, both sufficient volume and training to failure are staples in my training.
And both types of training were effective in reaching my goals.
And while overtraining is quite common, the number one reason why you’re not growing in the gym is because you’re not training hard enough.
“Train harder than last time.” — Greg Doucette.
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