top of page

Five beginner weight training mistakes

Updated: Dec 30, 2022

Beginning to workout can seem daunting. Not only do you need to go to a crowded gym with a bunch of complex looking equipment, but then you need to figure out how to use all of the equipment, and what kind of exercises you should do!

The best first step when starting at the gym is to hire a professional. The same way you’d hire a mechanic to fix your car, and a barber to cut your hair, you should hire a trainer to teach you how to exercise. These individuals are all professionals in their field, and know not only what to do, but what not to do!

Here are five common beginner weight training mistakes:

Mistake One - Not following a program

Think of weight training like building a house. You don’t just slap bricks together and hope it turns out structurally sound, you follow a blueprint. The exact same thing applies to weight training.

When you go to the gym you should absolutely, without question, follow a program. If you don’t have the ability to have a trainer make you a program, learn how to make one yourself. This can be as simple as writing down 4-6 exercises you’ll do, and how many sets and reps you’ll do on each exercise. Then take that program with you to the gym, and record how much weight you lift on each set.

If you don’t have a structure when you go to the gym, you simply won’t progress optimally. Each workout you should follow your plan, and push yourself harder than you did the past week (either by increasing the weight you used, doing more reps, or both).

Mistake Two - Using a body part split

A body part split looks something like this:

Monday - chest day

Tuesday - back day

Wednesday - rest

Thursday - leg day

Friday - arms and shoulders

Saturday and Sunday - rest

When you’re a beginner (or anyone for a matter of fact), you should train each muscle group at least two times per week. This will not only let you learn movements better, but it will let you progress far better as well.

Think back to school when you learned math, science, history, geography, and languages. You didn’t have one of them each day of the week and study it for 6 hours straight, it was spread out so you could get frequent, intentional practice. The same thing holds true when learning exercises. Doing 15 sets of squats one time a week is an extremely poor way to learn the movement, and it won’t be nearly as effective for leg development as doing 5 sets 2-3 times per week.

If you’re just starting at the gym, full body workouts, or an upper body / lower body split will be best. If you train full body 3 times per week, it gives you three days where you can choose a few exercises and practice/progress them. When you do this, it is completely okay (and recommended, actually), to do the same exercises multiple times a week. And that leads us right into mistake number three…

Mistake Three - Using too many exercises

Let’s go back to school again. What would be easier to learn, comprehend, and get good at - 5 subjects, or 15… Of course learning less subjects would be easier, because you can only process and remember so much information. Not to mention the fact that if you’re learning 15 subjects, the amount of time you can dedicate to each is quite small. Once again, the same thing holds true with exercises.

When you’re starting out in the gym, pick 2-3 exercises per muscle group and master them. Get comfortable with the movement, work on improving your technique, and get stronger. Do not make the mistake of trying to start at the gym and learn 10 different back exercises all at once. Not only will it limit your ability to reach the first two goals you should have when starting weight training (getting good at technique and getting stronger), but it will also be unnecessarily confusing and intimidating.

Mistake Four - Too little or too much intensity

For simplicity sake, we will use a scale to represent intensity (this scale can also be referred to in fancy gym jargon as RPE (rating of perceived exertion)):

RPE 1-3 - set was very easy, I could have done a lot more reps

RPE 4-5 - set was easy, I felt a little tired at the end, but still could have performed a lot more

RPE 6-7 - set was difficult, but I had more reps in the tank

RPE 8-9 - set was pretty hard, I could have only done 1-2 more reps before my technique broke down

RPE 10 - I couldn’t have done any more reps

When you start at the gym, you want to work in the RPE 6-8 range. This is for several reasons:

First, when we’re learning movements, we don’t want to push into RPE 9-10, as we want to get competent with our technique. This is easiest with moderate intensity. Next, you don’t want sets to be so easy that you stop when you could have done 5-10 more reps still. Building muscle and gaining strength is achieved mostly by pushing your sets close to failure (RPE 10). So being in the RPE 6-8 range is a great place to start when you’re learning form, but you still want to start getting stronger. Lastly, we don’t want to push to RPE 9-10 because it will make us very sore, and it just isn’t necessary for beginners. When you are new to weight training, you are very sensitive to intensity and volume, so you won’t need to do a ton to build muscle / gain strength.

Mistake Five - Making everything a circuit / not resting between your sets

It may seem tempting to make all your exercises into a circuit, or only rest 30 seconds between your sets. This is a huge mistake!

Pick an exercise, work on doing a set with good technique and pushing yourself, and then rest 1-3 minutes. This will ensure that each successive set can be done with proper technique, and you will be able to appropriately push yourself.

The goal of lifting weights isn’t to make you sweat or make you tired, it is to do quality sets of exercises, and push yourself so your body can adapt. Give yourself enough rest between sets so you aren’t out of breath, and you feel physically and mentally ready to do another. Not resting enough will not only hinder your progress, but it will make it much harder to maintain proper technique.


When you start lifting weights, don’t fall into the traps that millions before you have. Make yourself a full body program for 2-3 times per week, only choose 2-3 exercises per body part, and train with proper intensity and rest times. This will set you up for immediate success in the gym.

If you still feel apprehensive about starting weight training, send us a message to set up a free call and we will help you get started on the right path!

Kurtis Proksch, CSCS, CNC, PTS

Head Strength Coach

KPCC Coaching

22 views0 comments


bottom of page