There’s nothing worse than making a big effort to get back into shape but then failing to build a better body because you’re making some basic training and eating mistakes, says New Body Plan editorial director Joe Warner. And he should know, because he’s made them all. Here’s how you can avoid them to fast-track your fat loss
Last week I finally got back into the gym after it re-opened its doors after four months of closure.
It was fantastic, but I’ll be the first to admit it wasn’t the most structured of sessions… barbell back squats with some pull-ups and dips between sets, then the overhead shoulder press, the wide-grip seated row, and cable crossovers, finishing with a few sets of EZ-bar biceps curls and cable rope triceps press-downs.
I basically did all my favourite moves that I’ve not been able to do at home during lockdown. And while there’s nothing wrong with that as my first session back, I did make me realise just how many of my early years in the gym were exactly like that: only ever doing the moves I liked, week in and week out, and never trying anything new or that I didn’t immediately enjoy. No wonder I lifted weights for ages without ever really seeing any improvements to my physique!
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While a serious error that severely limited my physique and performance progress for far too long, doing the same moves over and over again is far from the most serious gym mistake I ever made.
And looking around the gym in the last week – and it’s hard not to take more notice of what your fellow gym-goers are doing now we all have to maintain a certain social distance – I saw most of the guys committing those basic errors that will stop them from ever achieving their better-body goal.
So, if you want to avoid the mistakes I made – and the ones so many people are still making – here are the quick and easy ways you can fast-track your progress towards the leaner, stronger and fitter body you want!
Mistake! Never doing bodyweight moves
I was guilty of thinking that because bodyweight moves, such as press-ups, didn’t require fancy kit they were “too easy” and would be ineffective for building muscle. How wrong I was!
I now recommend everyone masters the key bodyweight movements – squat, lunge, press-up, pull-up and dip – before even looking at a barbell. Not only do these kit-free moves work your muscles in the way they are designed to move, they also work all the small and stabilising supporting muscles to a much greater extent than with weights and machines. The result is a functionally-fit physique that can advance to lifting heavier with the least risk of injury.
Still don’t believe me? Look at any male gymnast. These athletes have arguably the best physique of any professional sportsman, yet they’ve never done a dumbbell biceps curl or barbell bench press in their lives. And then try my 15-minute feel-good bodyweight workout to torch calories the fun and fast way!
Mistake! Never asking questions
I can’t think about this mistake for too long because I hate being reminded of all the things I got wrong because I was too afraid to ask for help! I think it’s a “male pride” problem that prevents us from asking questions or seeking advice because it proves we don’t know something, and that’s could be perceived as a weakness.
But I wasted hours and hours of training time doing things badly or incorrectly that scuppered my progress. Doing long treadmill runs before lifting weights was something I foolishly did for months – before I learnt how to get clever with cardio to torch belly fat – as was lifting the heaviest barbell possible for biceps curl, even though smarter exercise selection would have helped me build bigger arms, rather than bash up my elbow and wrist joints, which is what inevitably happened.
So if you have a training or nutrition question don’t stay in the dark – ask me instead! You can reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember, there’s no such thing as a stupid question: the only stupid thing is not to ask the question at all!
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Mistake! Never having a plan
I’ve written before about the critical importance of following a fat-loss plan when you want to build a better body – and I’d go as far as too say that without a blueprint you’re destined to fail to get the results you want.
It’s why for my first few years in the weights room I never built any real muscle, nor burned half as much body fat as I hoped I would. Why? Because I never did anything in there to challenge my body to force it to adapt and change.
I never trained legs, for example, so therefore missed out on the huge muscle-building and burn-burning benefits of a solid lower-body session. I never tracked the weights I was lifting, so every workout was a guessing game of what I should lift and for how many sets and reps.
It was a masterclass in mistake-making, which is why I now tell anyone and everyone who’ll listen to find a training plan designed for their goals and experience, and then keep a training diary, which really is your secret weapon for the fastest-possible results.
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Mistake! Never thinking about food
Actually, I was always thinking about food but not in a way that was helpful to building a better body!
At first I neglected nutrition entirely, believing I could eat what I wanted, when I wanted, because I’d worked out out that day. I was ignoring the fact my session probably wasn’t very effective, then “refuelling” with pizza, crisps, chocolate and whatever else took my fancy. And I was scratching my head at why I was getting fatter, not leaner!
My next mistake was just as bad. I did a complete reversal and starting religiously tracking every single gram of food and every last calorie that went into my mouth. I had spreadsheets, notebooks, cups and scales, so I could be meticulous in my calculations.
Guess what? I did lose weight, but I was utterly miserable in my new obsession. I lost my love of eating and starting foods in terms of their nutrient content rather than how much I enjoyed the simple act of eating, especially with friends and family. It simply wasn’t worth it.
If only back then I’d followed the New Body Plan 90% Nutrition guide, which involves eating well for 90% of your meals, and having whatever the hell you want the other 10% of the time. It’s the stress-free way to eat for fat loss. And how I wish I’d used our Perfect Portion approach, which allows the quick, easy and hassle-free to know how much you need to eat, and of what, for each meal to burn fat and build muscle to transform how good you look and feel!