Common Training Mistakes

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Common Training Mistakes

Jeremy Fein


You can train whatever and however you want.

You can also choose to sign up for newsletters from pompous coaches who think they know everything.

And because you’ve chosen to do so, you’ll get to learn about things that I consider mistakes this month! Like with most advice anyone gives, I’m talking to myself as much as you. I’ve done all these things, and even continue to do most of them to some extent. I don’t think that makes me a terrible person, and I hope you don’t either.


Training Mistake #1: Adopting Someone Else’s Goals

Do you want to lose weight or did the writers of that commercial want you to?
Do you want to become a lawyer or did your parent want you to?
Do you want to run a marathon or…sorry, I still don’t get why people do this, haha. #notarunnerAnd we’ll never really know. We don’t want things in a vacuum. We can’t really find PURELY intrinsic motivation, right? To understand where our desires come from would be to understand the universe a lot better than we do…but maybe we can do a bit better.I could ramble on about philosophy for a while, or you could watch this example from Gabriel Colby. He talks about his relationship with the goal of Back Squatting, and I bet you can relate it to a goal of yours.


Training Mistake #2: Overemphasizing the WHAT

It would be reasonable to want a list of the exercises that you need. A list that cuts through all of the fitness commercials and blog posts to give you just what you need.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist.

You can get stronger with or without squats, more flexible with or without splits, and change your body composition with or without running.

What if instead we ask “how much?”

This question of volume applies to everything we do. One squat won’t be enough to get stronger, and 1,000 will likely be too many to recover from.

Try this, if you’d like!
1) Think of a goal you have–any type of goal.
2a) What could you do more of in order to improve?
2b) What could you do less of in order to improve?


Training Mistake #3: Not Enough Intensity

First, what I’m NOT saying: “you aren’t trying hard enough.”

We can understand intensity as a technical term through example. Let’s say at your absolute best, you can squat a 100-pound barbell once.
Option 1: 1 squat with 99 pounds.
Option 2: 40 squats with 20 pounds.


These are probably both incredibly challenging and require a lot of effort. But only #1 is “high intensity.” #2 is low intensity by definition because each rep is done at a low percentage of your maximum ability.  We often measure the success of exercise as fatigue, sweat, and breathlessness. This would be like determining the success of downloading files by whether your battery dies. What happens if we choose to focus on what we’ve been able to download?


Super simple advice for getting really strong:
Use a combination of low, medium, and high intensity exercises.
LOW: an exercise that requires 13+ reps to get close to failure (unable to do more)
MEDIUM: Approximately 7-12 reps will bring you close to failure
HIGH: 1-6 reps is just about all you’ve got.


Training Mistake #4:  Expecting Linear Progress

“I could lift this weight last week, why does it feel so heavy today?”

“Where did my handstand go?!”

A Simple Proof:
Progress isn’t linear. If you could add 5 pounds to your squat every week, then you’d go from novice to world champion in 5 years. If you could lose a pound every week, you would disappear…

To expect progress to be linear is to dramatically underestimate how cool life is. LINEAR? Really? I’ll take spirals, zig-zags, and fractals any day…

And yet, we ALL do this. This is one of the many lessons where knowledge isn’t enough to keep us from the pitfalls. When training is going well, that little voice keeps creeping in: “this is great, you’re gonna be even more amazing tomorrow!”

A Simple Framework for Training:
1) Accumulate Stress
2) Recover
3) Repeat

If you try to gradually accumulate more and more stress to force progress to be linear, you’ll run into a wall when you can’t recover from that stress. Instead, try picturing these WAVES. As you’re riding a wave of some great training, recognize that you’ll have to come down into recovery mode on the beach before catching the next wave.

Again, we ALL make this mistake. For me personally, the more I’m able to visualize these waves, the better things go. Does this make sense for you? Does it help?


Training Mistake #1: Adopting Someone Else’s Goals

Training Mistake #2: Overemphasizing the WHAT

Training Mistake #3: Not Enough Intensity

Training Mistake #4: Expecting Linear Progress


There’s no magic or comprehensiveness to this list.  They’re four things I’ve seen in myself and others.


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