So much can hold a person back from improving, why add to the mix by making avoidable mistakes in training and diet? What's funny about the business of bodybuilding and working out is, the mistakes people make are most often a mixed bag of both science and common sense.
#1 NO INTENSITY - Training without fire (resistance workout mistake)
Intensity is quite simply elusive to most people, but when you've felt intensity in workouts, you'll certainly know that it feels different than anything else. Going through the motions isn't worth your time or effort. If you're going to spend an hour a day in the gym, five days per week, you may as well make it count. Change workouts to reflect intensity by adding weights, taking less rest in between sets, and changing apparatus, to find what gives you the burn and pump you need to take you from Point A to Point B. Whether it's supersets, giant sets, super-slow training sets, forced reps, drop sets, or any number of methods, employing intensity in workouts is much more important than almost anything else.
#2 NO PLAN OR DIRECTION - No assessment or thought about what to do, or when (resistance workout mistake)
Most people laugh at keeping a workout log. But without any record of what you have done and what of those things have worked or not worked for you, there is no reference for the future. Some people are admittedly more practiced at keeping track of their progress and are more instinctive. But if you aren't an instinctive person, you'll need to keep some records of what workouts you have done, and when, in order to move forward and plan ahead. Planning is key when it comes to progress, because without a goal, a way of getting there and a means of executing it all, you won't reach goals - ever. Keep track of workouts and plan them well ahead - finding workout partners, times of day and training aids that will help you make progress. Just remember, not planning means you could end up thinking it's okay to miss a workout here or there and end up on the couch. The more you do that, the more likely you'll end up not working out at all. A plan will keep you focused.
#3 NO POST WORKOUT FOOD PLAN - Failing to replenish after a workout (diet mistake)
Post-workout meals and shakes are something anyone serious about physique progress should understand and apply. Committing to meals and supplements that enhance growth makes workouts in the gym well worth the toil and soreness. PWMs should include a protein, a simple carbohydrate, and some fat, along with a surplus of branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine), and a recovery supplement such as L-glutamine. Find fast-absorbing proteins, simple carbs and supplements that agree with your system to enable you to get the most recovery and quick nutrition following hard workouts geared toward growth. It's the most important meal of the day.
#4 TRAINING INCORRECTLY - Whether poor form or overtraining (resistance training mistake)
Learning form is more important than any amount of weight you can lift. That's because without proper form, imbalances and injuries take over and cloud your progress. Injuries are the number one reason progress is not ongoing. Stops and starts because of rehabilitating muscles and tendons means inconsistencies are more than norm than growth. Take the time to learn the correct form, practice is for months, and then worry about lifting heavy. Read up on techniques that make sense, and incorporate them for variety. Avoid overtraining, and train more intensely, for less time, for the greatest progress.
#5 TOO MUCH CARDIO - Impedes progress and sets up metabolic issues (cardio mistake)
To peddle or not to peddle. Many experts, like Chris Aceto and others in our industry, tell us that doing too much cardio can actually hinder metabolism and can set up a cycle of insulin spikes and recessions that can damage our long-term goal of a sound metabolism, a hard body, and a muscular frame. It's important to work the heart, but not necessarily 60 minutes a day, seven days a week.
The low intensity - slow burn fat loss prescription of the 80s just doesn't hold water for anyone anymore. Optimal fat loss comes from interval training that is selectively executed, infrequently, throughout the week. Varying speed, incline, pace, difficulty, and many other factors featured on stationary aerobic gym equipment, can make all the difference in metabolic rate, body condition and fat loss. Thirty minutes of interval training - varying intensity and pace and difficulty, as well as apparatus type - for an average of three to four time per week, can mean more fat loss and greater muscle retention than five days of 60 minutes without varying intensity.
#6 POOR LIFESTYLE CHOICES - Poor choices can screw up hormones and growth potential (diet/ supplement mistake)
Some people say that making the choice to us AAS is a poor lifestyle choice, and of course they're right. However, we all know that top level bodybuilders wouldn't go the way of the natural man if their goals are to hit the pro stage. So, accepting that fact, there are many ways to minimize the damaging effects of AAS, including regular health checks, blood work, and intelligent approach to its use. Other lifestyle choices, such as avoiding booze, cigarettes, marijuana, and other party drugs, will mean that cellular damage is minimized. Progress can't be made when you're fatigued and trying to recover from hangovers produced by drugs and alcohol, and usually don't allow you the sleep you need to repair damage. Minimize use of toxins, take plenty of antioxidants, and eat and sleep well, and you'll get a good head start.
#7 COMPARING SELF TO OTHERS - No identity or sense of self can cause injury and unhappiness (mental/ emotional mistake)
No matter how you slice it, you're just a different person with different chemistry, body type, and just about everything else. Comparing to others is the most "out of context" thing you can do - and there is just no such thing as "apples-to-apples" between people. Even comparing yourself to yourself over time isn't fair because you are a different person chemically and hormonally all the time.
I think the reason people compare themselves to others is a "way out" - it's a kind of cop out that allows them to be depressed and say "I give up." If it weren't then it would be motivating, but it rarely is. Truth is, it's also that way when you compare yourself, from one year to the next. Research shows that you aren't even the same person from week to week, in terms of chemical makeup. That means that who you were last year at your contest is not who you will be this year. Try to clean the slate and look at who you are "today" and not who you were once. Accepting or just resigning yourself to looking at the "current" facts is what will give you a leg up. Pay attention to what is happening by keeping good records about "why" you were the person you were, and you'll be that again - it just might be through a more circuitous route this year.