The 3 Mistakes Beginners Make When Training for Strength and Body Composition

Jun 28, 2019

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that strength training, as beneficial as it may be, can come across as a seven-headed monster to a lot of women, especially those who have never stepped foot in the gym before.

Amongst all the female clients I have worked with, the number one concern they first expressed when it came to tackling weights is fear.

Fear of being embarrassed in crowded weight rooms primarily dominated by the male sex.

Fear of not knowing what to do.

Fear of hurting themselves in the process.

Working with a trainer has a lot of advantages, one of which is the knowledge and guidance you get from someone who has been in the trenches for a long time and has worked with many others in a similar position.

However, taking on a positive training experience does not solely depend on having appropriate coaching.

When that’s not possible, women are quick to discard the rewards of consistent and tactical strength training and instead opt for easier, more accessible and less intimidating ways to exercise: hopping from one group class to another, copying someone else’s workouts from social media, or even worse, not doing any strength training at all.

Let me preface by saying I am not at all against group classes (you can check out our group training options here), and I believe they can be beneficial to certain individuals depending on their specific goals, circumstances and abilities.

But if your goal is to learn how to train for the best possible results, within your current limitations, based on your uniqueness as an individual, it’s going to take more than a few sessions per week of random workouts chosen on a whim.

Here are some of the areas beginners can improve on when the decision to strength train has been made.

1. Lack of Consistency

I wish I could say this problem is unique to beginners, but the fact is that even more seasoned lifters fail to acknowledge their inconsistent habits, which often means they don’t make progress as steadily as they could.

Consistency simply means sticking to the plan. The plan may be an actual training program or nutritional strategy, but it can also mean having an unchangeable, fixed goal.

As Coach Dan John has so beautifully put it, “the goal should be to keep the goal the goal”.

It is only through repeated practice that we improve on anything, and this applies as much to strength training as any other skill in life.

If you want to squat heavier, focus on squatting heavier, and stay married to that process until you’ve reaped the fruits of your hard work.

Beginners often are marvelled by training variability, which is understandable, but that’s where the difference between training and working out comes in.

Training means having a specific goal in mind; it means engaging in the steps needed to get to that end result. 

It is often less varied, more repetitive, and involves building upon previously-learned skills, thus requiring a high degree of consistency.

Working out, on the other hand, not so much. It typically implies breaking a sweat, exercising to have fun, get some movement in, and feel better as the post-workout endorphins hit you. (Which are all valid and reasonable motives, mind you. I am not above anyone to determine whether your goals are less worthy than mine, I am simply trying to draw a distinction here so you can understand where I’m coming from).

Once you’ve figured out which camp you’re in, it’s easier to correct your mistakes so you can move confidently in the right direction.

If you’re training for a specific goal and not seeing results due to a lack of consistency, well, the answer is right in front of you.

2. Lack of Direction

The only thing better than having a goal is having a well thought-out plan. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case for most new lifters.

Having a plan, for most people, will come in the shape of a training program to follow (or a class that you regularly attend, which hopefully is built on the principles of progressive overload).

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there”. Lewis Carroll hit the nail right on the head with that one.

If you don’t know what you want, how can you possibly figure out what you need to do to achieve it?

Goal setting is the first step in most people’s fitness journey. Putting together a sound, actionable plan should be the second.

3. Copying Someone Else’s Training Regimen

Uniqueness doesn’t only pertain to anatomical features – every one of us has different goals, past experiences with training, injuries, strengths and weaknesses.

This is the main reason why copying someone else’s workout that you see on the ‘gram might not necessarily be the best route.

Of course, social media provides us with tons of creative content that can serve to both inspire and motivate. But, if you want to take your body to the next level, you need to learn what works for you as an individual.

This is a process that takes time and experience, so working with a coach is the best way to ensure you’re doing what’s best for your specific goals and circumstances.

Your other best option would be to constantly assess and reassess your own abilities and limitations, by filming your training, keeping a training journal and learning about the best methods of injury prevention and rehabilitation (if needed).

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Which of these mistakes have you found yourself guilty of doing? If you’re learning to train on your own, chances are you will encounter a few of these obstacles along the road. Being aware of where you could do better is a massive step towards self-improvement, whether you’re a beginner or not.

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About The Author

Barbara M.

At Barbell Strength, Barbara is a strength coach for females looking to get stronger, both online and in person. Her primary focus is to help clients increase general strength and improve body composition through coaching that is individualized to each person and in line with their current abilities. Click here to find out more about working with Barbara.