9 Weight-Lifting Mistakes to Avoid for Beginners

weight lifting mistakes

9 Weight-Lifting Mistakes to Avoid for Beginners

If you are adding weight-lifting to your workout routine, this guide can help you start on the right foot. Here are weight-lifting mistakes you should avoid.

Lifting weights is one of the most beneficial forms of exercise the fitness world has to offer. It will increase your lean muscle mass and bone density, improve functionality, burn fat, decrease stress and anxiety, and even reduce your risk of cancer.

Unfortunately, however, many people look at famous bodybuilders or powerlifters and decide weight-lifting might not be their cup of tea. They associate weightlifting with “meat-heads” strutting around the gym, grunting, throwing weights around, and flexing every time they look in the mirror. They may also worry about making common weight-lifting mistakes that could lead to injuries.

However, lifting weights isn’t about getting huge or lifting as much weight as possible (unless you want it to be). Lifting weights is about improving your body, boosting your confidence, and increasing your overall health. However, you can’t do any of those things unless you know what you’re doing.

Common Weight-Lifting Mistakes to Avoid

Before you start lifting weights, you need to educate yourself about the art and science of weight-lifting. Just as importantly, you need to know what not to do. Common weight-lifting mistakes can lead to injury, excessive soreness, and a lack of progress toward your goals. 

We’re here to help. Keep reading for some of the most common mistakes beginners make when they start weight-lifting and how to avoid them.

1. Not Seeking Guidance From an Experienced Weight-Lifter

If you’re new to weight-lifting or are severely out of practice, make sure you start out by learning from someone with experience—even if it means hiring a personal trainer for the first few months. 

An experienced lifter, trainer, or coach can benefit you in many ways. For example, they can:

  • Set you up with an appropriate program
  • Demonstrate proper lifting form
  • Teach you about gym etiquette
  • Show you what exercises and machines target specific muscle groups
  • And more

When beginners start out on their own, they often end up neglecting certain parts of their bodies and stumbling their way through workouts. Men tend to focus on using heavy weights for chest workouts while skimping on legs. Women tend to avoid lifting to their full potential for fear of getting “bulky.”

2. Starting off Too Aggressively

One of the most common weight-lifting mistakes beginners make is starting out too aggressively. While we can certainly appreciate their tenacity, this mistake can have devastating results.

You probably know that lifting weights will make your muscles sore. Even veteran lifters get sore after workouts. However, the soreness you get from the first few weeks of weight-lifting can be intense. 

This is to be expected. It’s new to your body and it must have time to acclimate. However, starting too aggressively will lead to excruciating, if not debilitating, soreness. It’s incredibly important to start slow for the first few weeks and avoid trying to lift extremely heavy weights or overtaxing your muscles.

3. Not Using the Correct Lifting Technique

However, starting slow is also important because it allows you to take the time to learn the proper lifting form for each exercise. This is much easier to do when you’re lifting lighter, more manageable weights.

Learning correct lifting techniques early will set you up for success in the future. The last thing you want to do is to start off creating bad habits. 

A poor lifting technique will almost undoubtedly hinder your progress and your performance. It will also start leading to a decrease in your mobility and flexibility. Finally, improper lifting form may result in minor and major injuries, some that could last your lifetime.

4. Not Focusing on Compound Movements

One of the biggest weight-lifting mistakes beginners make is focusing on the wrong exercises. They work on isolated movements rather than compound movements. Compound exercises are those that use multiple joints simultaneously. 

For example, a barbell squat is a compound movement because it requires using the joints in your knees and your hips. While compound movements focus on specific muscle groups (squats focus on legs), they’re often full-body exercises that hit several muscle groups. Barbell squats hit nearly all the muscles in your legs, glutes, core, and shoulders.

Compound exercises are the most effective for building muscle and burning fat because of the number of muscles that are called to perform. Here are the most common and effective compound exercises:

  • Squats (legs, glutes, core, shoulders)
  • Deadlifts (legs, glutes, core, back, arms)
  • Bench Press  (chest, triceps, core)
  • Shoulder Press  (shoulders, upper chest, triceps, core)
  • Pullups/Chinups (back, shoulders, biceps, core)
  • Bent-over Rows (back, shoulders, biceps, core)

5. Neglecting Your Nutrition

When you start lifting weights, you need to think about food as fuel. If you eat garbage, you’re going to perform like garbage and feel like garbage.

For example, doing what’s called a “dirty bulk” to get big by eating a bunch of high-calorie junk food isn’t going to make you healthy. Sure, it will feed your muscles and make them grow, but your overall health will suffer and you’ll gain excess fat. You can gain muscle fast, but using junk food as your primary source of fuel isn’t the way to do it.

Alternatively, there’s such a thing as not eating enough. If you don’t provide your body with enough fuel (ie. adhering to a low-calorie diet while lifting weights), your muscles won’t get the calories they need to grow, recover, and get stronger. Not eating enough will result in low-energy workouts, weakness, and a lack of motivation.

Finally, despite what “get thin quick” dieting tells you, carbohydrates are not the enemy. In fact, you need them to progress while lifting weights as they are your body’s preferred fuel source. To stay trim, focus most of your carb intake directly before and after your workouts.

Finally, don’t neglect using supplements to help you recover, gain lean muscle mass, or burn excess fat.

6. Not Using Progressive Overload 

One of the biggest weight lifting mistakes we see people make is failing to force progression. Someone can spend years in the gym going nowhere because they don’t understand the concept of progressive overload. Progressive overload is the art of slowly demanding more of your body over a period of time for big, long-term gains. 

Progressive overload can be accomplished by adding more reps, sets, or weight to the exercises you did the week before. For example, if you squat 85 pounds for 10 reps during the first week, you would try to squat 85 pounds for 11 reps or more the next. You could also add an additional set of squats or go up marginally in weight. 

The goal is to outperform what you did previously in small increments that your body can handle. Don’t force reps or weight that you can’t do with good form.

7. Not Keeping a Workout Journal

In order to progress slowly and steadily over time, you have to write everything down. Otherwise, you’ll only be guessing at the numbers you achieved in the past weeks. Make sure you note the following:

  • The date
  • The exercise
  • The amount of weight
  • The number of reps for each set

The next time you do the exercise, look back on what you did the week before to ensure you’re improving your performance in one way or another. Additionally, it’s always motivating to look back to when you first started to see how much you’ve grown and progressed. A few months down the road, you’ll be blown away at how far you’ve come.

8. Not Resting Enough

They say the best athletes have the discipline to rest. This is where many weight-lifters (beginners and veterans alike) fall flat on their face. 

During a workout, we create tiny micro-tears in our muscle fibers by placing strain on them. They regenerate and heal, becoming stronger and bigger to adapt to the demands we’re placing on them. However, muscles only heal while we’re at rest.

You need to make sure your program is designed to allow plenty of rest between workouts. However, this doesn’t mean you need to take several days off between workout days. Instead, focus on different muscle groups for each workout.

For example, you could incorporate a push/pull/legs routine. It would look like this:

  • Day one – Push (chest, shoulders, triceps)
  • Day two – Pull (back, biceps)
  • Day three – Legs (quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes)
  • Day four – cardio
  • Day five, six, and seven – rest

9. Using a Scale to Measure Success

One of the most frustrating weight-lifting mistakes (for trainers and clients) is trying to use the scale to measure progress. This applies to both those who are trying to lose weight and those consumed with gaining a lot of muscle. 

When we start lifting weights, our bodies do a funny thing. For the first few weeks, they retain a ton of water to hydrate and repair the micro-trauma done to the muscles. This can make your weight fluctuate five to 10 pounds in a single day. 

Additionally, when we lift weights, we’re adding to our overall mass. For people looking to lose weight, this can be disconcerting. However, it’s important to realize that body composition is important, not the number on the scale. 

Body composition refers to your total body fat percentage. For example, while the average person might cringe at seeing 200 pounds on the scale, if the individual being weighed is only 12 percent body fat, they’re insanely healthy and lean.

We recommend using body fat measuring techniques to gauge your progress. 

Looking for a Leg up on Your Fitness Goals?

If you’re ready to make a big change in your life and start weight-lifting, we think it’s a phenomenal idea. Just be sure to avoid the common weight-lifting mistakes listed above to ensure maximum results and minimal injuries. And if you feel like you need a little extra help, be sure to check out our supplement line before you go!


These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product.

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