When I started training years ago, my goal was simple: I’m too skinny, let’s build some damn muscle!
As it turned out, the learning curve was a lot steeper than I had thought.
Everyone had an opinion…and I listened to nearly all of them.
Most of it was unscientific garbage, or “broscience” as we say these days.
Some of it was actually pretty good. Nevertheless, as you can imagine, I made a whole bunch of mistakes as a noob.
Today I’ll tell you what they were, so that you don’t go down the same road…
(1) I JUST ATE TOO DAMN MUCH
I personally think that the idea that “You have to eat big to get big” is the single most destructive and poisonous belief in the bodybuilding industry. It’s not making people muscular, it’s making them fat.
You do not need “surplus” calories, you need “sufficient” calories and protein to reap maximum gains. Use my free calculator here to work out how many calories you need per day to build max muscle. It’ll put you around 200-300 calories above your maintenance requirements. For more on not needing a “surplus” of calories, see my post, ‘Want To Build 12lbs of Muscle This Year?‘
Why on earth anyone trains so hard and devotes so much time and money to this game just to end up looking like a fat guy is beyond me.
We’ve all heard the popular, “Do you even lift?” But this doesn’t just apply to skinny guys. It also applies to guys who’ve trained for years, eaten big, and simply look overweight. What a shame.
It also makes it that much harder and longer to cut fat when it’s time to get ripped.
I also drank too much at the weekends. These days I hardly drink alcohol at all. Shannon Clark states in her bodybuilding.com article ‘6 Mistakes That Are Killing Your Gains‘…
“Even if you just go out and “let loose” one evening each week, you can seriously set back your physique goals—especially if alcohol is involved.
A drink or two is one thing, but let’s be honest: Getting straight-up drunk on a regular basis has no place in a serious athlete’s life.”
(2) DIRTY CALORIES
Following point 1, I ate way too many “dirty calories”. What I mean is that I thought it was ok to have a pizza, fries, and treats/sweets, especially after training because well…I’m bulking!
So many guys take this approach – they think it’s fine to eat whatever they want because they’re on a bulk. They think they need those surplus calories to maximize muscle growth and that it won’t make them fat. Wrong.
You’ll get fat. Just like I did rocking a fat gut because I listened to people who advised me that it didn’t matter what it ate so long as I was bulking and it was in the ‘post-workout’ period.
Hunter Labrada also makes this point about “dirty calories” in point 4 in his article on bodybuilding.com…
“We all know [that guy] who pounds pizzas, burgers, and ice cream until he could be mistaken for a fat person—if not for his incredibly developed forearms and calves.”
(3) I USED 4-6 REPS PER SET – ALL THE TIME
4-6 reps per set are simply not optimal for size gains. I was using the Max-OT training routine, which while it does have many good aspects, fails in regard to using a rep range not optimal for hypertrophy.
In my critique of 5×5 training, I demonstrate why guys on such a plan cannot possibly be maximizing gains in size.
One of those points is the following on rep ranges:
- 1-5 reps 85-100% Neural Strength & Power, Little Hypertrophy
- 6-8 reps 75-85% Neural & Metabolic Strength & Hypertrophy
- 9-12 reps 70-75% Metabolic & Neural Hypertrophy & some strength
- 13-20+ reps 60-70% Metabolic local endurance, some hypertrophy, little strength
So if your goal in this game is primarily about size, low rep ranges are not going to cut it.Anywhere from 6 up to 12 reps per set is considered optimal for increases in muscle size Click To Tweet
If you want a program that takes all this into account, you can download my Targeted Hypertrophy Training workout for FREE and start with the 3-day plan in the 8-12 rep range. Once you click the button below, you’ll be taken straight to the download page 😀 MuscleHack operates a ‘Strictly Zero Spam‘ policy.
(4) I HAD NO IDEA HOW MUCH PROTEIN I WAS GETTING
I just ate. Now clearly I was hitting my targets on some days (since I grew) but no doubt there were times when I wasn’t even close.
This means all my efforts in the gym were for nothing.
Don’t make this mistake. Getting your daily protein can be a breeze.
Find out how much you need a day here. Also check out my free high-protein recipes and my Buff Baking cook book for more delicious ideas.
(5) I THOUGHT IT WAS ALL ABOUT THE NUMBERS
If on week 1 I could curl 30lbs, I wanted it to be 35lbs by week 4. Having goals IS IMPORTANT. But thinking that it’s all about the poundages will actually RUIN your progress.
Yes over time you must be getting stronger and lifting more. But this this is a gradual, incremental process.
On the way there, understand that it is your primary job to STIMULATE the muscle tissue to grow, not use the heaviest loads known to man.
Your job is “muscle stimulation” not “ego lifting”. In my article, “Feel the muscle, not the weight” I say…
“Stimulating a muscle to grow is all about HIGH QUALITY MUSCULAR CONTRACTIONS. You hear that? I hope you are really getting this.
When you train, are you “moving weight” or “feeling the muscle”? It makes all the difference in the world, my friend. You must…FEEL THE MUSCLE, NOT THE WEIGHT.
Listen to my very first MuscleHack Podcast here for more on what it really takes to build muscle.
BUT what I always DID have right was the mindset. With less than great genetics for building muscle, I knew I’d not just have to do better than others, but WAY BETTER.
I’d have to bust my ass and NEVER miss a workout – a mindset that I keep to this very day. I said in a previous article that the distance between your dreams and reality is called discipline.The distance between your dreams and reality is called discipline Click To Tweet
It takes discipline and commitment. If you’ve got these, there’s not a lot you cannot achieve in this world.
If you’ve got the mindset, I’ve got the workout.
Download my free Targeted Hypertrophy Training now. Get results like these guys. I recommend you begin with the 3-day plan in the 8-12 rep range. You don’t have to go to your email to confirm anything. Once you click the button, you’ll be taken straight to the download page 😀 I operate a ‘Strictly Zero Spam‘ policy.
How about you? What mistakes did you make?
Please share with me below. Others will be able to learn and benefit from your comments.
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Man I also wish I had known about point 1. I’ve still got that fat gut and I find it hard to get rid of it 🙁
In 2010 when my journey started i had no clue about nutrition and the way it worked. I lost 80 pounds in 11 months doing 2 to 3 hours of cardio a day, barely lifting any weights and eating between 800 and 1500 calories a day, no macros counted, spending way too much on supplements. When i got down to a weight i wanted i told myself, i’m small enough now, let’s muscle up and i started reading on how to acheive muscle growth that’s how i found musclehack, and reading it was just a big facepalm for me…How much muscle did i loose in those 11 months, how much money and time did i loose, i was still fat, just weight less, was probably still around 25% BF (5’9 28yo 160 pound man, adds up to not that much muscle left!) Wich i had found musclehack before i started all this.
first of all great thanks for sharing your knowledge with us selflessly. I was trying to be muscular since I was a teenager. I was listening to any muscle freak I met in the gym but without results. I have done everything in my life but without results. Now in my 40’s I realized that I have not done everything. The most important tool that I was missing for years is the ability to listen to my muscles during the movements. I was listening to the weights and not to my muscles. Now I am listening to my muscles and to my body. My body guides me about what to do what to keep what to reject how to do and how much. A gym dianabol freak at the gym told me that I have a “gay” body cause my body responds positively in methods which are abnormal for him. For example my muscles want me to move weights slowly and to stay for 5sec at the highest point of the movement where muscle contraction is maximum something abnormal for that guy. The weird thing for him is my body transformation with my abnormal methods 🙂 and that’s why he called my body “gay” and my advice to anyone when asked is listen to your muscles and to your body and to Mark McManus if you want.
Great thanks again Mark for your assistance.
Tasos from Greece
P. S. Your knowledge has been rejected as sissy methods by that gym dianabol freak when I gave him your links. These guys’ university kept me away from being muscular.
Thanks a lot. You are giving us so much information. Very useful.
Excellent article. I’ve been preaching all of this for years, long before I stumbled across your awesome website. Thanks for helping us attain our goals!
Biggest mistake I made…and I know I speak on behalf of millions of well intentioned lifters….reading Muscle and Fitness and Flex magazines. The garbage written by Joe Weider and his chemical ”champs” robbed me of 10 years of my life. Publications like this are evil beyond measure
@Yohann. Well I’m also so glad you found MuscleHack, buddy 😀
@Tasos. Wow, that gym guy is a weirdo. Keep doing what you’re doing 😀
@Kizhedath @Tina THANK YOU!
@Darshan. Yep. The only motivation those guys have is financial. People should just stay away from such publications.