My Mistakes Series, Part 1: The Ten Biggest Training Mistakes You Must Avoid

Follow these training tips and accelerate your gains!

Akash Vaghela Akash Vaghela · 22 Apr 2018

Training Beginner
8 Mins

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When I first started training, I was a skinny fat 128lbs. Over the past ten years during my quest to be bigger, stronger and leaner, I’ve made just about every mistake possible.

While it’s been frustrating for my own progress, it’s made me a far better coach. Through the mistakes, I’ve been able to relay the lessons learnt to our clients, and be able fast track their results to the next level. From this perspective, I don’t regret any of them, and I’m glad I made those mistakes.

In this four part series, I’ll cover the biggest mistakes you must avoid in your training, nutrition, and overall approach to achieving an outstanding transformation.

We’ll kick it off with my favourite topic, training, which I’m going to split into two parts.

Training Mistake No.1: Always Using The Same Weights


I must sound like a broken record on this, but the single most important factor in building muscle is, and always will be, progressive overload.

Nothing else will build muscle and improve your physique more than adding 20kg to your 5 to 10 rep max on any exercise.

I know it’s popular now to squeeze the weight, to add intention, to work angles, to add resistance profiles and to ‘forget about the weight’, but think about it for a second.

If you took two identical twins, and had one squeeze the weight with intention on an angled resistance profile while increasing weekly volume, and you had another who focused on adding 20kg to his squat, press, chin up and deadlift, who do you think will build more muscle?

The answer should be obvious.

I get it, it’s too simple. I thought this too many times as well. I fell for the ‘squeeze’ BS more than once, and made zero progress.

Remember, if you’re lifting the same weights as you were a year ago, you’re going to look the same.

Training Mistake No.2: Not Using Perfect Form


There’s always a caveat to progressive overload: it must be done with perfect form.

If you’re adding load but your form goes out the window, that’s not progression. That’s an injury waiting to happen.

I know this too well, and I still have vivid memories of what turned out to be the ‘last straw’ for my lower back.

I was doing RDLs, and decided to go up in weight. Instead of maintaining a neutral spine and neck position, and focusing on a hip hinge, it turned out to be a set from hell where my spine ended up resembling the letter C.

To make matters worse, I then proceeded to leg press a new weight. With my ego high off the RDL ‘PB’, I went for it, not knowing until later that with each rep I was lifting my hips off the pad and essentially ‘crunching’ my discs.

The next day, weeks and months were extremely painful, and nothing has quite been the same since. Which is why I’m so anal with my clients when it comes to their form, especially on the big compound lifts. It’s also where the concept of ‘milking the weight’ was born from.

Training Mistake No.3: Not Using A Log Book Or Having A Plan


I’m obsessed with log books. If you’re not tracking your workouts, how do you know if you’re applying progressive overload? You don’t. Which is why most people end up spinning their wheels and using the same weights all the time.

This is something I’ve always been good at, but have at times fallen prey to just ‘winging it’.

Unless you’re at an advanced level, or you’re extremely in tune with your body, training on the fly doesn’t work.

You need a plan, and you need to know what you did last time, and how to beat it.

If you got 60kg for 6 last time, you’re either going to go up to 62.5kg, or you’re going to add another rep.

Or, if you wrote down that the 60kg was shaky and could have been done better, this week your aim will be to make the set cleaner.

That’s the power of the log book; it allows you to implement progressive overload with perfect form.

Training Mistake No.4: Programme Hopping


This is the one mistake I’ve made more than any other.

I’ve done a complete 180 on this. I used to think you needed to change your program every 4 to 6 weeks, and that your body had to be constantly ‘shocked’ into adaptation.

I remember a period back in 2011 when I ran four completely different programs in four months that still has me scratching my head as to why.

It went as follows:

Month 1: Smolov Junior Squat Program (if you’ve never heard of this, Google it – it may be one of the hardest programs I’ve done!)

Month 2: 6-12-25

Month 3: 5/3/1 (the fact I ran this for one month only at the time makes no sense, when it was designed by Jim Wendler to be a long term plan that grew with each successive month!)

Month 4: 5×5

As you can see, no rational thought behind it. Just random programs sequenced together that I hopped between and made no real progress with.

Now, this isn’t to say the programs weren’t good, it was more my mentality. I had training ADD and always thought the grass was greener on a different program.

I’ve learnt from this mistake, and now rarely change my program. If it’s working, I keep going. If it’s not, I’ll make small tweaks.

Once you find something you enjoy, you don’t need to overhaul your program. That’s a lie you’ve been told. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!

Training Mistake No.5: Being A Slave To The Big 3


From the years 2010 to 2014 before bodybuilding became my focus, my training was influenced heavily by powerlifting.

Back squats, conventional deadlifts and bench presses formed the core of my training, and rightly so, given my powerlifting ambitions.

When I made the switch to focus purely on bodybuilding, I made the mistake of continuing to train with the same exercises.

What I didn’t realise was that unless you’re a competitive powerlifter, no exercise is indispensable.

Instead, you need to find the exercises that work for your body type, and allow you to apply progressive overload with perfect form with no pain and consistent muscular tension.

I’m not a natural squatter, but I persisted with back squats in the belief that they were the best exercise to build bigger legs. It wasn’t until a few injuries that forced me to try different alternatives that I realised I’d been selling myself short all these years.

The lesson I learnt here was to pay attention to my body’s feedback with an exercise, and if something doesn’t feel right, no matter what it is, look for a better alternative.

Stay tuned for part 2…


Akash VaghelaAkash Vaghela

Akash Vaghela has spent 10+ years transforming bodies and lives around the world, and in May 2017, founded RNT Fitness to serve this purpose. His vision is to see a world transformed, where ambitious high performers experience the power of the physical as the vehicle to unlock their real potential. He’s the author of the Amazon best-sellilng book Transform Your Body Transform Your Life, which explains his unique and proven five-phase methodology, is host of the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, has been featured in the likes of Men’s Health and BBC, whilst regularly speaking across the world on all things transformation.

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