There are many mistakes that a lifter can make in his/her training. It is often said that if you can avoid these mistakes early on, you will experience the best gains in the fastest amount of time possible. I believe this to be 100% true. You see, there’s a massive difference between training for 10 years but not knowing what you’re doing, versus two or three years of proper training. Although the second option includes less training experience, the fact that everything was set properly ensures better muscle and strength gains.
That said, in this article I will discuss my top 5 training mistakes. I have made hundreds in my life, but I believe these to be the most crucial. Had I not made these errors, I would have been much bigger and stronger today. One may call these regrets, however they are a blessing in disguise for you. Without me going through these fatal flaws, you would not be reading this article. So without further ado, let’s break down these top 5 training mistakes.
Mistake #1 – Following Minimalist Programs
This is the single greatest mistake I have EVER made in my training. I am 100% convinced that had I ran a more maximized approach, I would be much bigger and stronger today. I’d probably be benching 405, deadlifting 700, rack pulling 1300, and a whole lot more! I’m sure I’d be much more jacked, being lean 190s rather than 180s. I believe minimalist training robbed me 5-10lbs of quality size, and hundreds of pounds off a multitude of different lifts.
Now some of you are probably asking, what is minimalist training? In simplest terms, it includes low exercise selection, and small management of volume/intensity. The ultimate example of this would be a straight novice program, where there are few exercises and set/rep parameters. This definitely works for beginners, but for intermediate/advanced lifters this is a complete disaster. Coincidentally, this basic form of linear progression is what most gym goers use nowadays. And people wonder why they have plateaus?
At any rate, I’m sure that intermediate/advanced lifters have enough common sense to move away from these programs. The problem, however, is that they still have that minimalist mentality. They continue to run the “big 3”, they avoid special exercises, accessory work, mobility drills, etc. All these people do is modify percentages relative to their one rep max, and keep things simple…the basics in other words.
What you’ll hear from these guys is the same shit over and over again. “If you want a bigger bench, just bench more. If you want a bigger squat, then squat more. if you want a bigger deadlift, just deadlift more! If you want to get better at baseball, play baseball!” You’ve heard this stuff a million times. Unfortunately, in the real world getting results doesn’t really work that way. When you practice the same movements over and over again, you eventually plateau in strength. In running, this is called the speed barrier, where you no can no longer go past a certain speed. To tell the sprinter to continue doing sprints would be a waste of time, and is guaranteed not to work. The same applies in weight training, by which the speed barrier is called the “biological law of accommodation”. This is when an organism ceases to adapt to its environment, in this case you adapting to weight training.
Now the problem with minimalist systems is that it attempts to override the biological law of accommodation through manipulating percentages, sets, and reps. The reason why this will eventually fail is because this approach DOES NOT WORK FOREVER. This is well understood in the exercise science world. You see, there are two ways to overcome a plateau.
1) Change the parameters of the exercise (sets, reps, percentages, etc)
2) Change the exercise
Minimalist training only works with option 1, and this is the fatal flaw in this system. You can only use option 1 for so long before option 2 is MANDATORY. This is why higher exercise selection is an absolute must. On top of that, what people fail to understand is that special exercises are supposed to build your main lift automatically. As long as the movements are specific to the competition exercise, it should have direct carryover. For instance, if one wanted to improve their deadlift, they should incorporate deficit pulls, stiff-legged deadlifts, band deadlifts, block pulls off various heights, and direct posterior chain/ab work. This way, you are still training the deadlift, but with variety.
Introducing special exercises in your training is far superior than sticking to the basics over and over. These movements a) correct muscular imbalances that the basics miss b) strengthen different joint angles and sticking points c) prevent injury/overuse and d) override the biological law of accommodation and e) BUILD THE MAIN LIFT AUTOMATICALLY.
In simplest terms, if you don’t use special exercises you’re plain fucking stupid.
Another feature of minimalist training is how it is constantly rotating between phases, blocks, and percentages. This, my friends, is how you end up with low as fuck work capacity and plateaus. When you’re in the hypertrophy phase, you lose maximum strength. When you’re in the strength phase, you lose work capacity and a ton of muscle. It’s always riding the roller coaster of volume and intensity. Fuck that!
Instead, run a more maximized approach. Concurrent periodization is the name of the game. High exercise selection, combined with volume AND intensity work. With this style of training, you maintain volume and intensity throughout the yearly cycle and never encounter plateaus. Rather than regressing, you are constantly moving forward. This is the way training should be, not you going through a bunch of phases with low exercise selection, followed by endless deloads and plateaus. You should be able to go balls to the wall year round. There are no off-seasons in this bitch!
Mistake #2 – Not Training Neck
This is one of the mistakes that I will regret for the rest of my life. I’ve been training for almost a decade, yet it’s only been about 1.5 years I am training my neck. Man, if I would have known about neck training earlier I would be stupid yoked today.
When I first began neck training I was 14.5 inches flexed (see the picture on the left). At my peak which was October of 2016 I worked up to 19 inches flexed. That said, can you imagine what all those lost years would have done to my neck? I would easily be 20 inches and above today! On top of that, my traps and upper back would be even bigger than now because they are directly connected.
Guys, do not repeat the mistake that I did. If you’re a beginner to lifting, start training the neck NOW. Do not even think twice about this, or you will regret it! If you don’t listen to me, you will have a pencil neck which will make your entire physique look like shit. Just look at Scooby1961, dude has a massive body but because of his small neck everything becomes off putting.
Never become victim to having a small neck! Instead, train it like it was life itself. The neck is an ESSENTIAL muscle for looking yoked. Treat it like you would your chest and arms, and you will reap the rewards later.
Mistake #3 – Not Using Bands
I used to be one of those guys who said that bands were only for geared benchers. I believed it was a marketing gimmick and that straight weight was the only to way to train. Boy was I wrong. You see, I was just ignorant at the time, and lacked actual experience with bands. I did not truly understand physics, nor had I used them to see actual benefits. It wasn’t until I came across the work of Louie Simmons that I really started to understand the power of bands. After studying his work, reading more exercise science books, more physics books, etc I understood that bands were like a gift from God. They revolutionized my training and made me extremely strong in a faster amount of time.
When I hear guys claiming that they don;t work for raw lifters, I can’t help but think to myself “THEORY BULLSHIT” because that’s what it is. Through using band deadlifts, I took my deadlift from 455lbs to 585lbs. I would rotate between strong bands, average, light, monster miniband, and minibands. When I got stronger at these variations, my regular deadlift improved automatically. Doing speed pulls also helped me tremendously, both in terms of explosiveness off the floor and lockout strength. The deadlift used to be one of my worst lifts (I’m short with a terrible anthropometry for pulls), but now it is one of my best. Bands are what got me there, not straight weight. I had similar experiences with the bench press too. In but a few months, my raw bench became strong as fuck and I was able to do over 345 touch and go. All I did was banded bench press (rotating tensions of course) both in terms of max effort and dynamic effort work. Yet you’ll have morons claiming that bands don’t work for raw lifters. Yeah…sure. If you want more info on bands, check out this video I made here.
In summary, bands will reduce bar deceleration, balance out the strength curve, initiate overspeed eccentrics, develop stabilization strength, and get you stupid jacked.
Mistake #4 – Not Enough GPP + Volume Work
If there’s one thing that natural lifters get preached on, it’s the fact that high volume is only for steroid users. You were taught to use few exercises in a session, and to keep the volume on the low-moderate side not to impede recovery. High reps and sets were discouraged, and pump work such as dropsets, supersets, rest pause, etc was seen as useless. And what has been the result? Shitty muscle gains!
Guys, volume work is ESSENTIAL to getting jacked. Doing 3 sets of 8-12 reps on 1-2 exercises is not enough to get big. You need higher reps and sets to truly maximize your work capacity and muscle gains. I’m talking 3×20, 4×25, 5×20, 5×10, 10×10, 10×3, 12×2, and doing 3-4 exercises for a given area. I promise you that if you start using high volume + high exercise selection, you will see incredible improvements in size gains.
And remember, if you look at periodization, you’ll recognize that ALL of the models include volume work. This should immediately prove to you that volume training is important. Strength athletes and bodybuilders require it, non-debatable! This is also why I’m a massive fan of concurrent periodization. You have the volume day for maximum muscle growth and work capacity gain, and the intensity day for absolute strength. Both of these days criss-cross and give you real results.
Lastly, I’d like to mention that you should be doing more GPP work. Why is it that only athletes are doing GPP? If you’re a recreational lifter, get your ass on a sled/prowler and start doing some work! Or better yet, start doing some 30 minute boxing rounds, calisthenics, and general conditioning circuits. Get that heart pumped up, and learn what it means to push through immense pain and fatigue. I’m telling you guys, conditioning/GPP work is MANDATORY if you want to develop the best possible work capacity. It will allow you to recover better and have incredible weight training sessions because you won’t be fatigued or run out of breath all the time.
So in short, never neglect your volume work. Volume is what’s going to drive your muscle gains to the next level.
Mistake #5 – Not Using Cheat Reps
Oh boy, this is the mistake that caused me to have the WORST traps and upper back in the fitness community. Had I corrected this problem earlier, I’m convinced that my following would be much bigger than it is now, and of course I would be far more yoked. Today, people know me as “TrapsDestiny” or “Traps King” but little do they realize that I used to have ZERO traps. They were so terrible that I didn’t even look like I lifted weights. This was the result of doing slow and controlled bullshit reps for many years. I would grab 55lb-100lb dumbbells, and slowly shrug while squeezing my muscles. Same thing for the barbell version. For rows, I would use 120lb dumbbells and slowly row while tucking in the lats and squeezing hard. And what was the result? NO YOKE GAINS!
My back had literally no thickness. I would float in clothes as a result, and because of my puny neck, traps, and upper back I looked skinny as shit. All of these negative issues came from doing slow and controlled perfect form.
That’s why in late 2015, I knew things had to change. I did tons of research and came to the conclusion that fast, explosive reps while using body momentum was the way to go for shrugs + rows.
I began doing power shrugs like Bill Starr recommended, and my traps blew up. I started using body english on my rows and using a very fast tempo, and BOOM my upper back god mad thick. The reason I acquired so much development was due to the weighted stretch, which I believe is the key to getting jacked. And if I am wrong, I would like to ask you one simple question. If weighted stretching doesn’t work, why do farmer walk and deadlifts build the traps to a magnificent extent? Last I checked, there is zero shrugging component. As far as the fast reps go, why are Olympic lifts known for building the yoke region? There is ZERO slow and controlled shit. It’s all very fast, explosive movements. This is what really works for building the upper back and traps, not your light weight slow tempo bullshit.
At any rate, cheat reps changed my life. I became very strong by doing them, and acquired an insanely impressive yoke without using drugs. If you want to maximize your total body thickness, it would be wise to incorporate them (only for intermediate/advanced lifters). For more info, see this video.
I hope that you learn from my training mistakes and do not repeat them. You will save many years of time-wasting, and will acquire gains in the fastest amount of time possible. Trust me on this one!
Until next time,
PS: What are your top 5 training mistakes? Give me your feedback down below!