My Mistakes Series, Part 2: The Ten Biggest Training Mistakes You Must Avoid

Take your training to the next level with these insights.

Akash Vaghela Akash Vaghela · 05 Nov 2019

Training Beginner
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If you haven’t read part one of the ‘My Mistakes’ series, you check it out here.

In part two, we’re going to continue talking about the training mistakes I’ve made over the years, and how you can learn from them.

Training Mistake No.6: Training To Failure


I’ve learnt this the hard way far too many times. Whether through injury, burnout or stalled progress, I’ve learnt that when training to failure, it should always be technical failure, not absolute.

Technical failure is when you can’t perform another rep with perfect form. This is much better than mechanical failure, which is when you can no longer physically move the weight, your form goes out the window, and the weight starts falling back on you. You never want to do this.

Training Mistake No.7: Doing Too Much


More sets, more reps, more sessions.

If 3 sets are good, surely 6 will be better?

If 6-8 reps is the optimal rep range for building muscle, won’t 15-20 be even better?

If 3-4 days a week of training works well, 6-7 days should work twice as well?

We’ve all been guilty of this ‘more, more, more’ mentality. It’s so easy to slip into. It’s not surprising either, given the message spread by many of the muscle magazines and social media ‘gurus’.

Rest is underrated, and thought of as weak, which is completely wrong. Before steroids became popular in the late 60s and 70s, three days a week was the norm. All the biggest and strongest guys were training three days, and making great gains.

Once steroids entered the picture it changed the game. 6 days, twice a day with super high volume focusing all on the pump became the standard. For the normal person with average genetics like you and I, training like this is a disaster.

I’ve fallen down this road many times. Each time I head down there I make zero progress, and quickly find myself cutting back and settling on four days a week.

You can set it up in a number of ways, with my favourite being a variation of an upper/lower split.

If you prefer three days, you can either go full body, or rotate an upper/lower split.

Both systems work great, and I’ve never failed to see a client not get incredible results on that set up. 

Training Mistake No.8: Obsessing Over Every Little Variable


This one pains me to write it. It brings me back to the memories of staying up late at night obsessing over whether I should execute 3 sets or 4 sets, or whether I should use a 3010 tempo or 4010 tempo, or whether I should aim for 6 reps or 8 reps.

I used to be completely paralysed by all the information surrounding me. And for years I didn’t know how to filter what was useful, and what I was wasting my time thinking about.

I had no training philosophy, so instead would stress myself out over every little variable. As a coach, this is a rite of passage that has been tremendous for my development. As a lifter, it meant no gains for years.

My training now is all based on three key principles:

  • Progressive overload
  • Perfect form
  • Finding your ‘big three’

Anytime I now think about trying something new, I ask myself three questions:

  • Why?
  • Does this align with the key training principles?
  • Am I just trying something out of boredom?

Having this mindset can save you a lot of time and stress and allow you to focus on what matters. 

On a similar note, something I’ve come away from in the past few years is the prescription of specific tempos.

I know the value of them, but implementing counted tempos into your training can quickly create a distraction and diminish the intensity of your lifting. Instead, I tell our members to control the weight down, briefly pause at the bottom, and then explode up under control. For most exercises, this works perfectly. 

Training Mistake No.9: Warming Up, Stretching & Foam Rolling Excessively


Between 2012 and 2015, I was known as the ‘warm up guy’. I’d spend a solid 30 minutes every session foam rolling, stretching and “activating” before any lifting would begin.

If it was squat day, I’d bump this to 45 minutes to try to get my body in a state to be able to perform a full squat. I got there in the end, but the alarm bells should have been ringing much earlier. If it’s taking me that long to just get into position for an exercise, it’s probably not right for me!

What’s funny is that all the ‘bullet-proofing’ I thought I was doing prior to training wasn’t stopping any of the injuries I was accumulating. 

Looking back, it probably made it worse.

When I drastically cut this down and focused only on what mattered, that’s when I reaped the benefits of a proper warm up.
I’m far more minimalist in my approach now, and it pays off.

If you’re spending more than 8-10 minutes warming up, you’re doing something wrong.

Training Mistake No.10: Listen To Your Body 


This takes time to learn. We all need to make this mistake repeatedly to be able to truly understand this.

Knowing when your body is at breaking point is a skill that can only be learnt if you take it to breaking point multiple times. You need to learn your symptoms.

This is especially applicable to late intermediates and advanced trainees, where the hardest part of training is knowing when to push, and when to pull back.

It’s easy to step on the gas all year round. The problem is it’s a matter of when, not if, you’re going to burn out.

It was only last month I missed the signs again. I’m getting better each year, but this time I was stubborn. I was getting ready for a video promo and was pushing on all fronts as hard as possible. Despite all the warnings, I didn’t listen. And then my body came crashing down. Strength tanked, joints started hurting, my eyes were twitching, and I just couldn’t get enough sleep.

The more advanced you get, the worse it is when it happens. And this most recent state of ‘overreaching’ made me feel like death all week.
What’s annoying is that it was completely avoidable. But it highlighted a key point: always, always listen to your body if it’s telling you something. If you’ve tweaked a muscle or a joint is acting up, don’t push through it. Try something different for the day. If you’re feeling constantly run down, back off. Think longevity. Don’t make the same mistakes as me. Train hard. Train smart. Grow.

Stay tuned for part three, which is all about nutrition.


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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