You wouldn’t know by looking at me, but I’ve been a lifting weights for four or five years now.
After I lost 60lbs of fat and got my weight down to 150lbs, I decided to level-up my body and build muscle.
But I’ve made many mistakes. Mistakes that I see others make all the time.
And hopefully this post can change some of that.
Here is a list of all the muscle-building mistakes I’ve made in my years of weightlifting:
#1. I Got Fat with Little Muscle
Count Your Calories & Track Your Macros
For some dumbass reason I thought diet and adequate protein intake was complete bullshit.
So I ate whatever was in front of me. I didn’t count calories and I didn’t measure my protein intake.
I have no idea what my caloric surplus was, but I overdid it and I got to a fat 180lbs.
But back then, at 180lbs I was able to rep over 315lbs on the squat and deadlift. I repped 225lbs on the bent row and I was also repping 257.5lbs on the bench press.
Here are some pictures of me lifting:
But clearly I didn’t have the muscle to show I had any strength.
And that’s because I was not keeping my surplus at a lower end of 200-500 calories a day
And I was lucky to hit 90 grams a protein in a day.
From this arc of experience, my advice to you is, when you bulk:
Cap your caloric surplus to 500 calories, excess will likely become fat
Eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily, otherwise don’t bother
#2. I Let Myself Take Month Long Breaks
I’ve only had two breaks from weightlifting and exercise over the years.
My first was for two months. I had just gotten into a relationship and I was investing a lot of time into it. But eventually that itch to lift brought me back to the weights.
My second break was when I left home. I was couch-surfing for about 3 or 4 months before things became stable again.
When I got back to lifting, I was at a fat 172lbs.
My bench press was now 155lbs, squat 170lbs, bent row 135lbs, deadlift 205lbs, and curl 62lbs.
Use it or lose it…
That was my new starting point after having taken a few months off from weightlifting. And no, I didn’t even eat 60 grams of protein a day during that hiatus.
From this arc of experience, my advice to you is:
Maintain a passion and a system to exercise consistently, even if you’re reduced to body weight movements.
Strength alone does not build muscle, I have more muscle mass now with lower strength and body weight.
Muscle growth requires a routine that contains strength training and ‘pump’ training.
#3. I Injured My Lower Back, Out for 7+ Months
Leave Your Ego Outside of the Gym
By this time, I had come down to a very lean 158lbs.
I was finally getting my diet down.
And I was eating enough protein every day while keeping my surplus at a 500 calorie cap.
Everything was going great.
But now I wanted to try out an actual gym.
I’ve spent most of my workouts using my bench press and squat rack equipment outside in solitude.
So back then my only competition was myself.
In the gym however, there were bigger guys who’ve been lifting for less time than I have.
And something I didn’t experience when I’d exercise solo was the possibility of people watching me.
Considering that I lift pretty heavy for someone my weight and composition, I would occasionally have a moment of social anxiety in the gym.
One day it got the best of me. Against my comfort, I began to doubt that my hips weren’t dipping below my knees, and when I got too low – I injured my back.
I had seen three doctors and the most they had done was give me prescribed pain killers. They were all convinced that I was just sore from lifting weight I hadn’t worked up to yet.
After months one doctor finally recommended that I get physical therapy. But I never went.
I still exercised my upper body during my injury, but I had to leave behind my love for squats and deadlifts temporarily.
I learned a few things from this time:
The gym is a no ego zone, lift safely (if you think lifting heavy is unsafe, then you’re doing it wrong)
It’s okay to work the same muscle group and exercises on consecutive days, make sure you maximize recovery
If you’re livelihood doesn’t depend on your physique, there’s no shame in focusing on your upper body a bit more than your lower body
So here’s the brief of my personal advice to avoid all of my muscle building mistakes:
- Make absolutely sure that your surplus isn’t more than 500 calories
- Eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight daily
- Lift consistently
- Building strength on its own DOES NOT build muscle
- Lift for strength and pump
- Leave your ego outside of the gym
- You can workout the same muscles everyday, just keep your workouts under an hour
- If you don’t care about big legs, there’s no shame in having more focus on upper body
You can lift for multiple years, but if you don’t follow the advice I’ve given you above:
I guarantee that you will never achieve the body that you want.
Save yourself the trouble and commit to doing things correctly, because as always-
There Are No Shortcuts
If you’re killing it in the gym, but find yourself too tired to go at least five times a week, check out this post to learn how to maximize recovery and beat soreness by tomorrow.