As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I have been training with weights now for 25+ years. I don’t regret all those hours I’ve spent in the gym. I’ve never joined a bodybuilding or powerlifting competition, but I’ve built and maintained a decent physique. Being bigger, stronger, leaner, and healthier than the average person has enhanced my life tremendously.

But I did make quite a few mistakes along the way. I’d like to share three of these with you so that you can learn from my mistakes:

1. I had unrealistic expectations


I grew up watching Arnold on the big screen. It made sense to invest in his Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding in order to learn more about building muscle (I’m sure my copy is still in the basement somewhere). I remember flipping through the pages, awestruck at pictures of him and other bodybuilders. One of my favorite photos was of him doing curls on an incline bench.

Pictures and videos of professional bodybuilders did inspire me to work harder in the gym. But here’s the problem: I was completely naive regarding the significant role anabolic steroids had in building their physiques. If Arnold could build 19-inch arms, surely I could build 17 or 18-inch arms naturally–right?

I would later learn that steroids are the ultimate game-changer, and comparing myself to someone using gear is an exercise in futility. These drugs do make a big difference, and anyone who says otherwise is delusional. Don’t believe me? Well, consider this study in which subjects gained more muscle by sitting on the couch and taking steroids than those who trained without them.

In other words, I had unrealistic expectations about what a genetically typical, drug-free trainee could achieve naturally. Looking back I see two problems this caused:

It made it more difficult for me to celebrate my achievements

There’s nothing wrong with pursuing goals and challenging yourself to be better. But I had a tendency to constantly compare myself to my before-mentioned idols. If I had it all to do over I would have just enjoyed what I had accomplished (which is what I do now).

It gave me an obsession with being bigger

Here’s one other thing I should mention regarding getting big: women like guys who are lean and muscular, but only to a point (research backs this up, by the way). Most women aren’t looking to date a 250-pound bodybuilder, and none of them care how much you bench press. Let that sink in before you spend too much time obsessing over your one-rep max.


2. I spent way too much money on supplements


I graduated college and became gainfully employed in the early 90’s. This era was pretty wild as far as the bodybuilding supplement industry goes. Just to give you an idea, GHB (the “date rape” drug) was once widely available online. The deep sleep it induced was thought to help with growth hormone secretion.

I should point something out before I go any further: not all the supplements I discovered during this time were worthless. One of the first I learned about, for example was the “EC Stack” (Ephedrine and Caffeine) for fat loss. This was back before the meth epidemic, and you could buy ephedrine over the counter at any convenience store. Creatine monohydrate and whey protein also came out in the 90’s, and both of these turned out to be worthwhile.

But most of the other stuff I bought was a complete waste of money. I was all too eager to buy the latest pill, powder, or potion that promised new gains. I’m not sure exactly how much money I wasted, but I’d love to have all that cash back in my pocket.

3. I didn’t invest enough time and money in solid training information

Much of what I learned in the weight room came through trial and error during the early years. I mindlessly threw around weights without really putting much thought into how heavy I should lift, how many sets and reps I should do, how I should cycle my intensity, etc. This is unfortunate, because there was already a plethora of information available during that time.

I eventually learned about periodization, deloading, and other training methods that powerlifters have been using for decades. I would have reached my goals much more quickly if I had been more intentional in learning what works.

Now there’s really no excuse to be ignorant of effective training methods. There is plenty of good training information available online (both free and in the form of books and digital products).

Hopefully you can learn from some of my muscle building mistakes. Use your mind when you build your body.

Read More: The Truth About Anabolic Steroids