For all the reading, watching, studying and practicing I’ve ever done on muscle growth – the times where I’ve learned the most have been when I’ve made mistakes. Nothing teaches you the right way of doing things like experiencing the wrong way of doing them. Running head first into brick walls might hurt at first but you’ll soon realise not to do it again, if you’re smart.


So in this article, I’m going to tell you about the 3 biggest muscle building mistakes I’ve made in the gym over the years in the hope that you don’t do the same stupid sh*t that I used to.


Muscle Mistake #1: Lifting Too Heavy With No Regard For Technique

OK, I admit it. I was a typical ‘gym bro’ in my early days of training. All I cared about in the gym was how much weight I could move from point A to point B. My thought process was quite simply “more weight = more muscle”. How wrong I was!


I was the guy in the gym doing 1 rep maxes on deadlifts before every session. I wanted more and more weight on the bar and I got pretty strong – but my physique still looked like shit.


Here’s the thing: It’s very important to be strong if you want to develop your physique. But the context should never be lost in translation – we’re trying to build a physique! We’re not explicitly going into the gym with the sole aim of getting strong. So the point of training should be to contract muscle as hard as possible against a resistance in an attempt to break it down. Yes, heavier weights can be a tool to increase that resistance but if you lose sight of the fact you’re simply trying to contract muscle and get sucked into the throwing weights around way of thinking, you’ve lost the game before it’s even kicked off.


Muscle Mistake #2: Lifting Too Light With No Regard For Intensity

Paradoxically, once I’d realised that the 1 rep maxes weren’t getting me bigger my training swung back too far the other way. I became obsessed with technique, the ‘stretch and squeeze’ mentality and while my form, movement patterns and capacity to contract muscle was absolutely spot on, I wasn’t lifting heavy enough weights to really make an impact on the way I looked. Sure I made some progress, but it wasn’t anywhere near what I would have liked.


Although in my gym bro days I trained with the intelligence of a sea lion with dementia at least I had some intensity. I’d leave the gym knowing I gave absolutely everything. When I started implementing some intelligence to my training I lost that intensity and it’s probably the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. I got weaker and without a doubt wasted hundreds of hours in the gym.


As annoying as this is, it taught me valuable lessons. From the years of studying exercise science I now have an incredible understanding of how the body works and how we should move when we’re in the gym. But the many months I spent lifting like what can only be described as a f*cking wet wipe taught me the value of intensity in your training.


The take home here for you is to always lift as heavy as you can for the rep range you’re trying to achieve, but lift intelligently. Don’t throw weights around like a mindless monkey trying to attract a mate, and don’t be a form Nazi trying to perfect things that don’t need perfecting. Train hard, and train smart.


Muscle Mistake #3: Having a Big Ego 

It’s taken me far too long to learn from most of my past mistakes. The reason being – I was too stubborn to admit that I was wrong in the first place.


Many people tried to tell me where I was going wrong in my muscle building efforts but being a bloke obviously I didn’t listen, because I always knew better.


So most of my mistakes have been learned the hard way – by failing. This is an awful way to learn you’re wrong as it’s a massive slap in the face from reality, as one of my previous clients called it, a ‘metaphorical frying pan to the face’. It sucks.


I don’t want you to waste any more time in the gym doing dumb sh*t that doesn’t work. So do yourself a favour and drop the ego. Realise that actually, you don’t know everything. Take some time to study, learn, ask questions. Remember that success leaves clues, and the people you look up to because of their physiques likely share a similar set of characteristics when it comes to training. Two of them, as outlined above, will likely be intensity and technique.


And finally, realise that we’re never done learning. We always have more to learn because we’ll never know everything. I know more now than I’ve ever known about the world of building muscle but the more I learn, the more I realise I haven’t even scratched the surface of what this is all about. But that’s all part of the process – relish it. Learn as much as you can about your own body and have some fun trying to improve it. After all, we do this weird weight lifting thing out of choice – not because anyone’s forcing us to do it.


Hope that was useful

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PS – Enjoyed this article? Why not check out The Role Of Strength in Building A Physique?