5 Big Mistakes ALL Noobs Make in the Gym!

If you want to avoid being called a "noob" in the gym then you need to figure out how to not make these 5 big mistakes. It starts with first distinguishing between a noob and a beginner however. People often think that all noobs are beginners and that is just not the case. Someone who is stuck in a stage where they get little results, especially when they have a lot of hours logged in the gym, is where we need to intervene and identify the biggest reasons why.

The first reason is that they rely too heavily on machines in the gym. This often starts out of insecurity and a lack of comfort lifting dumbbells and barbells in the more visible areas of the gym. It's normal for a newcomer to the gym to be a bit self conscious in a room surrounded by guys much bigger and experienced.

The machines provide a comfort level that just isn't there when you first start. The problem with this however is that they remove a lot of the important building blocks from the equation when just starting to work out. They limit the proprioceptive awareness that you'll need when you start to lift dumbbells and barbells. They also limit the development of coordination that is often needed for the bigger compound lifts. If you do wind up building some strength here, it can actually be a detriment since, when taken back to the more classic weighted lifts you don't have the actual strength and neurological skills listed above to execute the lift properly and safely. This winds up becoming dangerous and sets the stage for injury as you attempt to lift upon a cracked foundation.

The next big mistake is a lack of body awareness. Building off of the last point, when you don't know where your body is in space you can also not be able to appreciate which muscles are supposed to even be performing the lift you are doing. If you aren't aware which muscles are supposed to be firing to perform a lift it is easy to substitute momentum and limit the effectiveness of the exercise.

It's also very hard to learn how to recruit the proper muscles fully. Even if you knew which muscles were supposed to be working but didn't have an ability to contract them fully then you would be limiting your results due to a bad mind muscle connection with the muscle.

Thirdly, when the strength is lacking the range of motion suffers. This is common since we tend to want to perform the portion of a lift that we are confident we have the strength to perform in. Rather than lowering the weight to accommodate our strength in even our weakest range, we just either lift the weight that is too heavy or we limit the range to allow for what strength we do have. Either way, this is not an ideal strategy since it is one that will eventually be exposed down the road in the form of injury or unimpressive gains.

The next thing you want to be aware of is the order of the exercises that you are performing in your workouts. Most noobs randomly attack their workouts, opting to perform them in whatever order they feel like at any given moment. This is not ideal if you are looking for maximum muscle gains. Instead, you want to be sure your biggest lifts (the compound exercises) are performed not only when you have the most energy but before allowing any isolation exercises to fatigue your performance in the gym on those big lifts.

If you start off your workouts with small isolation exercises and then start to perform your big lifts (and the ones that require often times the most coordination and freshness) then you will likely never lift the type of weight that is possible here due to fatigue that was avoidable.

The next big mistake is not knowing when to switch things up. This can come in the form of switching it up too early or not switching it up enough. The issue is just not having enough experience to know when a change is necessary. And here we hit upon a very important point. It's not uncommon to hear that minimalism and just a few exercises is all you need to get bigger. That's true. But if your exercises are devoid of progressive overload in any form then you are better off just switching up your exercises instead.

The very fact that the new exercise can provide a novel stimulus is often enough to provide some reason for adaptation and response in the form of muscle growth. Of course, change for the sake of change is not the ultimate goal, learning how to progressively overload is.

If you want to remove your noob status once and for all, you're going to want a plan. You can find them at athleanx.com via the link below. Start training like an athlete today and remove all the guesswork from your workouts so you can make steady, impressive gains year in and year out.

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41 thoughts on “5 Big Mistakes ALL Noobs Make in the Gym!

  1. ATHLEAN-X™ says:

    “FAST ACTION” Q&A* – Leave your most burning question about this video or any other training, PT or nutrition question within the first 2 hours of this video’s release (AS A SEPARATE COMMENT!!) and I will pick 8 to get a detailed reply from me right here in the comments. Answers will be posted within the first 24-48 hours of you leaving the question. Good luck!

    • Rocky Balboa says:

      Would love Jeff’s insight on training legs with. Painful bakers cyst. I cannot squat to parallel even just body weight squat. I cannot do any variation of squat due to pain. I can deadlift no problem. Jeff your advice would be amazing

    • Mario Dally says:

      What to do after completing your workout plan ? And if I do what month can I redo ? Do I have to redo 90 days Or can redo the last month ? Can you help please thank you Jeff!

  2. Lydia says:

    This video couldn’t have come at a better time than now – I just watched this at the gym after feeling a little stuck and plateaued! Jeff, you never disappoint; thank you so, so much as always for sharing your knowledge and tips with us!!

  3. Christoph V says:

    1:09 over-reliance on machines
    2:36 lack of use of full range of motion
    4:23 lack of body awareness/ no desire of learning the why behind exercises
    5:56 wrong order of exercises in a workout
    6:58 don’t know when to make changes to your workouts/ switch it up

  4. Adam I says:

    Hey Jeff, I’m definitely still a noob but am trying… Everytime I do bench press the biggest limiting factor is my shoulder starts hurting. This is the same with standard, decline, incline bench press… Any tips? Do I just need to workout my shoulders more? Thanks

  5. Nick Cole says:

    Great video, Jeff! I love how you know exactly where your audience is… New Year coming, heading back into the gym… this video gold to fight inevitable discouragements. Thank you

  6. Steve Montgomery says:

    Hey, Jeff: for us older guys on high dose statins for cholesterol, how do we avoid having testosterone production be affected? What supplementation should we try?

  7. Sir Loin says:

    I’ve been an Athlean X member since 2016. I have been the best version of myself every year to date because of this. All I can say is trust the process and the science behind it. It is a humble journey with endless rewards. Fortresses take time and skill to have a strong foundation and to move beyond.

  8. WEALTHY LIFESTYLE says:

    Hello jeff!! I always appreciate the amazing contents you provide for all of us. My question is about balancing. I have a muscle imbalance in my traps and even a strength imbalance in my left and right arms and it is limiting me when i perform bench presses, dead lifts and squats. I would appreciate it if you could show me a solution. Thank you.

  9. Vatsal Dave says:

    A video on general sequence of different AX programs to address the issue of ‘switching it up’ would be super helpful (for different goals)

  10. That Guy says:

    Jeff’s our man! He hits on the point that I believe is the most important for safety and gains; lose your ego. Nobody cares how much weight you’re pushing and what does it matter if they did?

  11. DashoC says:

    Burning question – Former highly competitive athlete who started training again recently (30yo male). My goal is to build back general athletic performance, i.e. both strength and conditioning (not particularly concerned about hypertrophy or body comp). I feel confident programming individual workouts/programs for S&C goals individually, but I’m not sure how to combine them. From a macro perspective, would I be better off focusing first on (say) strength, then on some aspect of conditioning, and periodizing like that; or can I mix strength and conditioning workouts (as some mix of high-intensity circuits and longer, slower efforts) in my programming without progress stalling, and if so, how? Any pointers much appreciated!

    • Double Vision says:

      IMO, you answered your own question. How you train is how you perform. If you think of general athletic performance as an S&C goal, then you train accordingly and combine both. After you recover from a workout or event, you start to lose gains almost immediately. I forgot the exact numbers but an athlete can maintain their level of performance for about 2 weeks while exercising at a lower intensity. I don’t remember what the percentage of intensity is though. In a way, it doesn’t matter if you’re working within time, energy, & money constraints. If you focus on one type of fitness at a time, it’ll be like rolling a rock up & down a hill for the other aspects of your fitness. Of course, you will be dealing with a time & energy budget. So the more exercises you incorporate, the less of each exercise you will do and so the slower the results for each. The more exercise you do in general, the more you will have to eat & rest which comes at a cost to the other aspects of life including time & money. For some time, I used to run for an hour or do a cardio circuit and burn 1,000+ calories ~ as a warm up ~ AND THEN lift weights for 2 hours – well past the 45 minute mark where catabolism overtakes anabolism… AND, yes, I still DID get consistent results in both departments – upping the reps and/or sets _every_ workout… BUT I had to rest, eat, & supplement a LOT more. There was one summer, I gained 20+ pounds of muscle in about 10 weeks *without* steroids/drugs and I tripled my strength. I went from a sort of lean 160 pounder to a 180 pounder with veins branching every which way and muscle striations that would twitch with even the slightest move that I made. I trained harder with the weights than anyone else that I have ever witnessed in person or in any video before or since, regardless of amateur or professional, plus I ate 6,000+ calories a day with a 40 gram protein shake every 2 – 3 hours which included setting an alarm to get up twice in the middle of the night to drink protein shakes… BUT I didn’t do much of anything else other than food-related or basic house chores. I incorporated periodization into the intensity of the various body part days with low, medium, & high intensity workouts. And the rest per body part was proportional to the intensity where higher intensity workouts for a body part equated to more rest for that body part where intensity was measured in the volume of training & number of exercises. Some days would be odd combination body part days. It was tricky to figure out on paper but I actually made it work. _But that is absolutely no way to live._ It is not practical. I got hella strong but it was almost useless because I got nothing else done. Note: ALL training I do – even now – is a non-stop superset unless it’s a heavy compound movement like squats or deadlifts and I have to catch my breath before the next bout. Otherwise, it’s bench press, bent over row, bench press, bent over row… pull-up, shoulder press, pull-up, shoulder press, NON-STOP. If I train for 2 hours, then it’s a 2 hour superset. I don’t fart on the bench and stare for minutes on end while waiting for the next set. Wherever I go in the gym, it is continuously raining sweat on the floor, mirrors, equipment, etc… Once again, going back to budget, if you combine cardio and weights, you will do less of either in a workout or in a day. Energetically, it’s best to split either into separate workouts and space them as far apart as you possibly can in the same day. One day, you can do less weights and a long run. Another day can be more weights and a short run. If you’re running on pavement, don’t run more than twice a week. Allow you’re smallest muscles at least 3 days, i.e., 72 hours (NOT the BS textbook 48 hours) to heal. Rest & eat properly and accordingly to your effort. As long as you’re doing something… AND WATCHING THE NUMBERS, slightly increasing the performance expectation every time (assuming that you meet them every time), you will get results. But it will never get easier because you’ll be upping the numbers unless there’s a plateau you want to reach & maintain. Yes, periodize, but remember, the tortoise beats the hare. Make it a long-term plan and lifestyle. Maintain balance in your life and you’ll still get your results.

  12. Daniel Mulero says:

    After watching this video I realize how helpful your advice is to overcome all the mentioned mistakes.
    I love the concept of taking the fitness journey as an investment and the learning process as the best weapon to make improvement!
    Thank you Jeff, as always!

  13. Ryptoll says:

    I’m definitely guilty of relying too much on machines and in certain exercises avoiding full range of motion. That be particularly the squats. I’m admittedly afraid of injuring myself, dropping the bar, or both. When I just started doing squats I progressed with dumbbells, but only did half squats, which I didn’t know was a problem until much later. With bench press and overhead press I have the same fears, but additional problem there is that I’m too weak to even just lift the empty barbell. It’s some 45 pounds, and I can only really lift 20-30 pounds above my head/face, and that’s my 10 rep max. I’m also still extremely wobbly with my such lifts, no matter how light the weight, which feels like an accident waiting to happen. Not sure if I should try it with a lighter bar, although they might be too short to fit the rack, or if I should stick to machines and dumbbells until I’m strong enough to lift a regular barbell. I never understood how you’re supposed to start with those heavy compund lifts as a beginner, when you’re so weak you need to progressive overload for months to even get to the point of being able to lift the empty bar lol.

    • A Houghton says:

      My advice, for what it’s worth is if you are struggling to lift using a barbell for squats, maybe try dumbbells held by your sides – think picking up shopping.

      And I would say, for any exercise, focus more on the mind/muscle connection – how you move the weight from point a to b, rather than focusing on the number of reps or weight you’re trying to lift – your muscles can’t can’t count but they do respond to stimulus.

    • Ryptoll says:

      @A Houghton Thanks for the advice. Squats (other than deadlift) is the only compound exercise I can lift the barbell for, and sometimes even stack on a couple of pound plates, but yeah I think I need to practice the lower range of the motion with dumbbells instead for a while. I’ll try switching out some of the machine sets for dumbbell sets instead.

      I do slow reps, so 10-12 reps is around 50 seconds time under tension for me. That rep range doesn’t exhaust me too much and don’t make me lose my form even more, so that’s why I stick with it. Sometimes 9 reps is okay, sometimes I grind it out to 15 if I took a too light weight. I know my muscles can’t count but I think time under tension matters and I don’t always stare at a clock for every set I do.

      I focus mostly on my form and not speeding through my reps, but you’re right I should pay more attention to mind-muscle connection. Especially for chest. I have trouble feeling the tension in the right muscles for chest exercises, for some reason. Or not just some reason, it’s because I have to work my lower arms a lot for those, so they steal the attention.

  14. daddymay says:

    I’m attempting to better understand morphology ie bone structures. My particulars are probably the worst long forearms short clavicles. Perhaps a video or any advice or cautions on this would be helpful. Thanks!

  15. Cody says:

    As a very very long time AX viewer, I’m proud to say that I really don’t make these mistakes in my training. Thanks Jeff!

  16. sleepyhead7391 says:

    It’s been a while since we’ve seen Jesse! I was starting to get nervous lol. Jeff give great advice, but Jesse is the everyman who motivates me to work harder

  17. Nom Nom says:

    0:25 Distinction between Beginner and Noob
    1:10 Over relying on Machine
    2:02 Why Strength from Machine could be bad
    2:45 Lack of Full Range of Motion
    3:53 Exception for Abbreviated Range of Motion
    4:35 Lack of Body Awareness
    5:00 Not just what you do, but why you’re doing it
    5:57 The order of Performing exercises
    7:05 When to Switch it up
    7:55 Simple or Variety?
    9:05 Mustache

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