My 5 Biggest Diet And Workout Mistakes And Regrets

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again: I think one of my best “qualifications” as some dude giving diet/workout advice on the internet is that I’ve done a lot of things wrong and screwed up quite a bit.

Basically, I’ve been a dumbass when it comes to most of this stuff at some point and I’ve made a lot of the common mistakes most people end up making.

The good news is that I’ve fortunately been able to overcome my, uh – dumbassedness – and learn from those mistakes. And, even better, move past them.

That’s awesome for me, but my vast “I-used-to-be-a-dumbass” experience also puts me in a wonderful position to help prevent you from making those same mistakes or maybe stop you from making them now if you already are.

So, here now are the 5 biggest diet/workout mistakes and regrets that come to mind. If I could, these would be the first 5 I’d go back and change…

1. Training Like An Idiot As A Beginner

With the exceptions of steroid use and a situation where you’re regaining lost muscle, the best progress you’ll ever make in your life will be when you first start working out.

That’s the best part about being a completely untrained beginner. Progress is capable of happening at a faster and more consistent rate than it will ever happen again in your life.

Unfortunately for me (and MANY others), I never fully took advantage of it. Granted, I did make SOME progress during that beginner period. That’s part of the magic of being a beginner… damn near everything will work at least a little no matter how poorly designed it is and how stupidly you execute it.

But, the more intelligently it’s all designed and the more correctly you put it into action, the better it will work.

And let me tell ya, if I could go back and do it all over again, my first 6 months would have been spent using a basic 3 day full body routine comprised of a few big compound lifts and a huge focus on learning proper form and making progressive overload happen as often as possible.

You know, something like my beginner routine.

But alas, that didn’t happen. Instead, my first couple of months in the gym were spent with no real plan or routine of any kind and mostly involved randomly walking around doing a bunch of chest and biceps exercises.

And the next year or so after that? A typical low frequency, high volume, blast-the-crap-out-of-your-muscles bro split style bodybuilding routine.

In the end, the 1-2 years when I should have been maximizing my body’s ability to make “beginner gains” in strength and muscle were spent training in a way that very obviously minimized them. If you’d like some more specifics, I actually go into better detail about these laughably ineffective workouts right here.

2. Training Like An Idiot As A Teen

This is somewhat related to the previous regret, but it gets even worse. See, many people start lifting in their 20’s and wish they started in their teens. Others start in their 30’s and wish they started in their 20’s. Some start in their 40’s and wish they started in their 30’s. And some start on their 50th or 60th birthday and wish they started on their 40th birthday instead.

Wishing your started sooner is a regret most people have when it comes to most aspects of diet, fitness and overall health.

But nope, not me. That’s not a regret I have at all.

I was somehow smart/lucky enough to start doing push-ups in my bedroom when I was 12 or 13. At 15 I begged my parents to buy me some cheap weight bench and equally cheap barbell/weight set (the plastic coated non-regulation crap you’d buy at Walmart)… which they did buy me even though you could no longer fit more than one person in my bedroom at a time.

At 16 I finally took the next logical step and joined a gym with a friend of mine.

So, as far as my timeline for starting to lift goes, I don’t really regret much at all. I started pretty much as early as I could have ever hoped to start. The problem, yet again, is that I just didn’t take advantage of it.

As we all know (or eventually find out), our body gets worse and worse at doing just about everything as we get older. Muscle growth is no exception. The prime time for building muscle during your life span is during your teens. Second best? Your 20’s. Third best? Your 30’s. And so on.

Hormonally speaking, training during your early/mid teens is almost like doing a natural steroid cycle. You just need to eat and train intelligently enough to take advantage of it. I didn’t.

3. Doing Stuff That Eventually Led To Injuries

I’ve been lucky enough to not have had any truly serious injuries during the years I’ve been working out.

What I haven’t been quite as lucky about are the less serious but still set-back-causing minor weight lifting injuries. I’ve had a handful of those.

Both shoulders have given me issues at different points. A variety of shoulder injuries really. An impingement here, a possible rotator cuff issue there, maybe some bicipital tendonitis over here, a partially torn labrum over there. Fun times.

I’ve also dealt with a surprisingly long lasting brachioradialis issue at one point, as well as medial epicondylitis (aka “golfer’s elbow“) which may very well have been the most stubborn injury of them all.

And looking back at each injury in hindsight, I think most (if not all) could have either been significantly minimized or avoided completely if I just made a few small adjustments and better decisions along the way.

If only I would have never done stuff like dips or heavy straight barbell curls. If only I would have focused just as much (if not more so) on training my back as I did on training my chest and shoulders from the very beginning. If only I would have taken a week or two off at the first sign of pain rather than continuing to work through it and make it worse. If only I would have been smart enough to realize that certain supposedly “required” exercises just weren’t ideal for my body (for example: 6 Good Exercises I Will Never Do Again) and stopped doing them completely in favor of others that were.

4. “The Bulk We Shall Not Speak Of”


My least favorite subject of all time.

I’m pretty sure this was my first real attempt at bulking and cutting. Not the smart way, of course… but rather the old school “eat whatever isn’t nailed down,” GFH (get fucking huge) approach you commonly see recommended to super skinny ectomorphs and hardgainers.

So, being someone who fit that description perfectly (5’11, 120lbs), I followed all of the advice that was supposedly ideal for someone like me.

I ate a ton (only “clean foods” too). I aimed to gain 1-2 pounds per week. I drank a bunch of milk despite not really liking milk (or digesting it well). I did low volume ‘anti-bodybuilding’ style training focused entirely on a few basic compound lifts (pressing, squatting, deadlifting, etc.) and nothing more.

And I just got fat… as… hell.

I’m honestly much too disgusted and embarrassed to even go and look at the pics now (those pics were put on an external hard drive years ago and thrown in the back of my closet in hopes that the hard drive fails or I accidentally lose it), but let’s just say I easily ended up above 20% body fat. Let’s just say an even 25%. Maybe more.

Just fat and gross and bloated and horrible looking. And horrible feeling too. Turns out there’s a direct correlation between looking like shit and feeling like shit. Who knew?

I’m still not sure exactly how I let it happen and continue long enough to reach that point. I mean, I was definitely getting bigger and stronger pretty quick (which, on paper, was nice), but I should have clearly been able to see that it was mostly just me gaining a ton of fat.

This one might not just be my biggest diet/training regret of all time. This one is up there as a potential biggest overall life regret. Seriously.

Just to waste that much time and effort doing something so stupidly and end up with nothing to show for it. Hell, if I only ended up with nothing to show for it, that wouldn’t have been so bad. To try to improve something and fail is one thing, but to try to improve something and end up going so far in the opposite direction… that’s a whole other level of fail.

I’m gonna guess this was about 12 years ago. And if you think it would bother me a lot less by now… you’d be wrong.

(By the way, I created Superior Muscle Growth to be the exact opposite of this terrible “bulking” experience. I highly recommend it.)

5. “The Cut We Shall Speak Of, But Only A Little

Guess what happens when you reach the end of the bulk I just described and are in that physical and mental state I just described? You want to get the hell out of it ASAP and lose all of the fat you stupidly gained.

And I did.

Along with most of the muscle I built.

If I remember correctly, it went something like this. My joke of a bulk ended and I immediately switched to a low carb diet and dropped my calorie intake by about 1000 calories. I also added in a bunch of fasted steady state cardio 4 times per week on top of that as well (speaking of regrets, I regret the treadmill I bought specifically for this purpose… getting that thing up the stairs in my house was torture… my dad still brings it up).

And best of all, I switched to a lighter weight, higher rep weight training program. You know, because light weight/high reps is for toning and cutting. Right?

And from there I proceeded to lose almost all of the fat I gained bulking like a moron right along with most of the muscle I had gained during that previous bulk (which wasn’t much to begin with) and the entire “beginner” period before it.

And where did I end up after this lovely chain of events? I’ll tell you.

I went from small and skinny… to fat and disgusting… to finally reaching that perfectly ideal end point we all strive for… skinny-fat.


Or non-sarcastically, the complete opposite of success.

Don’t Make My Mistakes

This is by no means a list of every diet and workout mistake I’ve made over the last 14 or so years. Nah, we’d need a much bigger list for that.

These are just the 5 most significant and the 5 that still annoy me the most to this day.

My advice? If you’re someone who…

  • Wants to maximize their beginner gains, or…
  • Wants to take advantage of training while in their teens, or…
  • Wants to prevent injuries, or…
  • Doesn’t want to gain excess fat while trying to gain muscle, or…
  • Doesn’t want to lose muscle while trying to lose fat…

Then I’d highly recommend learning from these mistakes and doing the complete opposite of everything I did. I was an idiot. Do everything you can to not be one.

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About Jay
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.

97 thoughts on “My 5 Biggest Diet And Workout Mistakes And Regrets”


  1. LOL. I did #1…. #2….. #3…. and #4. Luckily, I am using some of your advice and am avoiding #5 (slowly but surely)……

  2. Numbers 1, 2, 3 and 5 were my mistakes for 10 years. I would vaguely recognize when something didn’t seem to be working, so I’d hit the ‘all-knowing’ internet for the latest and greatest advice. I only learned when I stumbled onto your site. 42 years old and I’ve never been stronger or looked better. Thanks!

  3. This is awesome. My mistake is that I stopped over 30 years ago had major surgery on my knee. Last year started weight traing looking for trainers and always going home hurt (knee or shoulders in pain). I stopped for a year and said there has to be something better and I found you. I would like to thank you because of the routines and guidance of sorts I have worked out right and proper now I just need to know how to put the meals together. That has been the most frustrating thing for me is the meals. Any suggestions? Thanks

      • I have and that was a complete eye opener for what I was doing wrong but I am having trouble with putting the meals together and what I mean with that I just do not know how to put everything together. Its a great guide of how to figuring out what you need as far as protein, carbs, and fat but I need how to plan out the meals correctly. I have always struggled with for some reason. I just do not have an artistic view of the culinary arts.

  4. Like many commenters, your newsletters are brilliant and hilarious. I do the beginners really like it and yet still sometimes think ” I should do more!” Of course I resist. Really!

    Let me sneak in a question. Any substitutes for dead lifts? You have mentioned you do leg presses instead of squats, if I recall correctly.

    Looking forward to the next letter.

  5. Very great article, as usual! 🙂

    But I have a question regarding the dips: why do you wish you’d never done them? Are they bad?

    And: I am two months in your Beginner Workout Routine and feel GREAT (I mean beforehand I did #1,2,3,4,5 AND then 3,4,5 and then 3,4,5 and so on T_T)

    • Ha, glad to hear you broke the #3,4,5 cycle.

      Dips? Bad? For me they are. Depends on the person. For me and many other people, dips are the most common shoulder destroying exercise. For others, they can do dips just fine for decades without any issues whatsoever.

      • I am glad someone asked this. I did attempt for a short period to do “chest” dips (forward lean). But I quickly learned that the stress on my shoulders was going to pose a problem. And then I had a conversation with another gym member who had shoulder surgery, and (granted, third hand) his surgeon said the top two causes of the weight room related shoulder surgeries he does are (1) heavy decline bench and (2) forward lean dips.

        So I went back to vertical dips, almost always using gymnast rings. This creates a more shoulder-friendly exercise and allows for a more natural range of motion. It’s also the reason I use the rings for pullups/chinups and inverted rows.

        • Everything I’ve ever seen/heard from doctors, surgeons, shoulder specialists, strength coaches, etc. fully supports what that surgeon said about dips being the biggest cause of shoulder injuries. This is one of the very few damn near universally agreed upon things in the training world. Decline presses surprises me though, as that tends to be a more shoulder-friendly press. I’d wonder if it was incline presses and something got confused along the way.

          But you’re right, dips on rings performed staying more vertical AND also not going below parallel will definitely take a lot of stress off the shoulders. But even then, it will still be an issue for a lot of people.

  6. My mistakes was doing excercises wrong… especially deadlifts… it seems no one at my gym do deadlifts to help me with my form and i did hurt my lower back doing it…

  7. Love the descriptions!! Been-there-done-that. I’m just trying to get in better shape now that I’m retired. Less fat & more muscle, so any advise is appreciated.

  8. I’ve been dealing with a sore, clicky left shoulder for coming up to three months. It hurts most when I do overhead presses with dumbbells (I actually worry my arm is going to collapse and I’ll drop the weight on my head). Should I just stop doing them and see what happens? I thought maybe pushing through the pain might strengthen my shoulder but clearly that’s not working out too well. My shoulder hurts to a lesser extent with upright rows, lat raises and dips but it’s tolerable. Any ideas what the problem might be from my description of hurty exercises? It definitely strikes worse when I raise my shoulder up and back. I already know I’m an idiot and should see a doctor, so no need to tell me that 🙂

    • Stop being an idiot and see a doctor. 😉 It’s impossible to say what the issue is over the internet based on your description alone. This is the kind of thing you need to be examined in person for. And even then they might not know for sure without an MRI.

      But I can tell you pushing through the pain will not only NOT help, but will very likely make things a lot worse. Don’t do that!

      • Being an idiot is my default state but I shall heed your advice and go see a doctor. (I hate doctors.)

  9. Oh man,
    also guilty of the 4+5 combo. Back at the time, I considered myself a typical hardgainer who couldn’t gain any muscle, so I followed the typical nutrition advice thrown at us ectomorphs: “Just eat more”. At the end of the bulk, I had gained A LOT of fat around the waist and love handles. Huge arms though? Nowhere to find. I freaked out and immediately started the dumbest possible cut: a keto diet with a huge caloric deficit. I managed to lose most of the fat and ALL of the muscle I had gained and ended up looking even worse than before.

    Lesson I learned: I am not an ectomorph, but rather a skinny-fat ectomorph.
    My guess is that if you are like me (skinny frame, but easily gaining fat if not careful) bulking and cutting, even if done right, won’t work too well.

    • Yup, that sounds awfully familiar.

      As for the last part, I think all forms of traditional bulking/cutting are definitely out of the question for people who are genetically below average and/or predisposed to being skinny-fat. But, I do think it’s still the right idea… just that many adjustments need to be made to how that bulk/cut is done.

  10. When it comes to the injuries portion of this very good article, you hit MY nail on the head with the dreaded: Golfer’s Elbow !!!!! Almost every other “minor” injury I’ve been able to get rid off with some rest and SLOWLY coming back. NOT Golfer’s Elbow. At the end of last year I ended up resorting to something I had never done before, a cortisone shot. I took about 3 weeks COMPLETELY OFF then I came back SOOOO slowly, just so carefully. Literally 2 months of slowly inching upwards to previous poundages. And you know what ? Even though I felt no pain, and I was back to doing some things pretty effectively, my elbow NEVER felt like my other non-injured one. And then one day, I decided to try chin ups again and bada bing !! PAIN. Thankfully it was not as bad as last year. So I am back going slowly……Were you ever able to get rid of yours 100 % ?????? Advice PLEASE !! Thanks.

    • It sure is one annoying and unsolvable injury, isn’t it? And if you search around (which I’m sure you already have) you’ll find thousands of people all reporting the exact same thing.

      The funniest part about it is this was the first injury where I was smart enough to say “alright, I’m going to take time off right away to let this heal” but ironically enough this is one injury that doesn’t heal with rest. So the 2 months I completely took off for this purpose was completely useless. Didn’t help at all.

      But yes, after trying just about everything and talking with various doctors, sports medicine people, rock climbers (it’s a common rock climbing injury) and reading every single word that exists about this injury, I was able to get back to 100%. No pain whatsoever for a couple of years now. I do still completely avoid certain things because of it (all underhand grip exercises like chin ups/rows, straight bar curls, etc.), but it’s been completely gone.

      And I apologize in advance for how douchey this will sound, but at this point I consider myself an expert on it. Like to the point where there’s a handful of people on the planet that I feel know as much/more about it than I do.

      I definitely plan on writing a TON about it in the future. Not sure if I want to make it a massive article or possibly a book.

      One thing I can tell you right now though is that a cortisone shot is a bad idea for this injury. It may temporarily help mask the symptoms (e.g. no/less pain for a little while), but it’s doing absolutely nothing to fix the problem (which by the way are tiny tears in the tendon that connects at the medial epicondyle… cortisone treats inflammation which is not what golfer’s elbow is). In fact, everything I’ve seen leads me to believe a cortisone shot only makes things worse.

      This is actually a little test I used to get an idea of how clueless a doctor was before wasting my time with them. I’d mention golfer’s elbow and see if they’d recommend a cortisone shot. If they did, I instantly knew that had no idea what the fuck they were doing.

      This describes 99% of the doctors I talked to.

      • Hi Jay,

        On the subject of golfers elbow, i’ve got it pretty bad at the moment. Just wondering what you did for biceps as i’m finding all the usual exercises i do very painful…should i just avoid all bicep training or is there specific exercises which you could recommend?


          • Thanks, will give them a go.

            What are your thoughts on thick bar training or ‘fat gripz’. Do you think they help or hinder the injury? I’ve been using ‘fat gripz’ for some curls and funnily enough that’s when i started to get a lot of problems with my forearms/wrists, it may just be a coincidence though.

          • Definitely makes it worse. You want to take as much stress off of your grip and forearms as possible during exercises like curls, rows and pull-ups/pull-downs, and thick bars and fat gripz do the complete opposite of that. Try to use the thinnest bars available, and consider using straps as often as possible too.

    • Here is what I did to heal my golfer’s elbow:

      1) Greatly reduced the amount of curls (biceps/triceps) and started to focus on compound lifts, using curl type lifts as finishers at a lower weight (if at all). This after taking time off completely from all curls.

      2) I took a 1 inch in diameter dowel rod and cut it to about 15 inches. Attached to it is a thin rope about six feet long. At the end of the rope is a 5lb weight. With the weight on the floor (rope fully unwound from dowel), I hold the rod out in front of me with arms parallel to the floor. I then roll the dowel rod until the weight hits the rod, and then unroll until it’s back on the floor. I usually do two rolls up/rolls down as one set. Trust me, it’s hard.

      3) I follow the dowel rod roll up/down with this: I have a 5-lb. protein powder container filled about 2/3 with sand and rocks. I stick my hand in and spread my hand wide open, and then hold the container at my side for 30 seconds.

      Those exercises strengthen the forearm muscles to help correct the imbalance in strength between forearm and other arm muscles.

  11. Haha oh man Jay. I can relate.

    I did the exact same thing. Put on about 20 pounds over one winter (extremely hard for me), heavy powerlifter type routine, stongest and fattest I’ve ever been.

    Spring came, I got the flu and threw up probably ten pounds of undigested food. Was so tired of binge eating and doing heavy squats that I started biking to the park for playground workouts and cardio crap and stopped focusing on diet altogether.

    Lost everything I gained.

    Never again.

  12. I’m 17. I started working out at the age of 12 and I found you amazing site when I was 14. Yay!! 🙂

  13. Awesome post, as always, Jay! I’ve always been quite endomorph -I was put on a diet at the early age of 11!- and found it almost impossible to lose weight. Started working out in 2009, and managed to lose a considerable amount of weight and keep it off. I bumped into your websites in May 2013, followed your advice, and lost a lot of weight. My muscles were starting to show a very significant degree of definition, but I was subject to counting every single calorie to stick to my daily allowance. BodPod measurements before and after showed a significant reduction in body fat, but also in lean tissue, which put me down a little bit. I’ve a lost a bit of my initial motivation, although I keep going to the gym, but my diet is out of whack at the moment. Any comments/suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • I’m not really sure there is much advice to give here beyond “solve the problem.” In your case that problem appears to be your diet. Get it back on track, and your results will get back on track along with it (and likely your motivation will improve as your results improve).

  14. hi men! This part really got my interest…”As for the last part, I think all forms of traditional bulking/cutting are definitely out of the question for people who are genetically below average and/or predisposed to being skinny-fat. But, I do think it’s still the right idea… just that many adjustments need to be made to how that bulk/cut is done.” there any more info on this subject on the site ? It would be really helpfull! Thanks men!

  15. I’m beginning to have problems with #3. Those dips are killing my goddamn wrists and I’ll have to stop doing them even though they’re one of my favourite exercises and I am able to go up on weight almost every time…. Gonna have a minute’s silence every time it’s Upper Body day now sigh.

    Awesome article nontheless haha!

  16. Holy **** were so similar! I’m 5″8 130lbs. I’ve had problems with both shoulders, tendinitis, something or other in my tricep, rotator cuff issues and back problems. I started sit ups when I was 13, bought a couple of DB when I was 15 and me and my friend recently joined a gym after just turning 16. Only thing I gotta do now is be a dumbass 😉 Anyway.. Besides all that, great site! I’ve found all the most reliable info here when I’ve compared it to other sources. Keep it up! 🙂

  17. Hi Jay

    Hope you are good. Your articles are an inspiration – Just wondering what are your thoughts about “Shoulder Packing” which is pushing shoulders back and down while doing any kind of lat, chest and shoulder exercise in order to avoid injuries .

    Looking forward to hear your response
    Many Thanks

  18. Hey Jay! Great article as always. 🙂

    You mention you had a shoulder impingement at one point. I recently found out I have an ankle impingement after going to the doctor. (I sprained it a few months back and have had problems with it since then). Their recommendations on what to do to treat it weren’t overly helpful unfortunately – The doctor basically stated to try some physical therapy (which I have been doing – on my own for now), and if that doesn’t work, it may come to surgery (which I want to avoid if at all possible).

    What did you do to treat/recover from your shoulder impingement? Were you able to recover from it on your own? Or did you have to get surgery or anything?

    Thanks for your help!

    • Nope, no surgery. But this was an injury years ago that eventually resolved without me even knowing what it was. I just avoided certain exercises for a while, adjusted certain things with form and programming, maybe took some time off… it was honestly too long ago to remember for sure exactly what I ended up doing.

  19. Ouch…for the first time after reading one of your articles I’m depressed… Didn’t work out in my teens, so there goes the prime beneficial gains, I am 43 now so that shipped long ago sailed. Working out to prevent injuries? Since I have had both rotator cuffs operated on, 2 cortisone injections in my lower back, tennis elbow, and an assortment of other minor injuries, I guess I missed that boat also… Dude, where’s the good news?!

    Actually I stumbled across your website about a year ago, and after reading the article on Why muscle building workouts suck for muscle building, I was hooked. I started the beginner routine, and was making decent gains, unfortunately I also wanted to bulk before I cut and thought I could do that just by eating whatever I wanted…I proceeded to gain almost 20 pounds while progressively overloading. I then herniated my L5 disc doing a dead lift incorrectly, took some time off, had a second injection and re-read some of your stuff.

    Since Jan 1, I started lifting again, cut back to about 60% of where I was at, and slowed down a bit. I started counting calories very closely, scaled back to 2000 per day, and 2250 on workout days. I’ve been progressively overloading the whole time, although it’s getting to where it takes 3-5 workouts to gain 5 more pounds, and with dead lifts and squats I do 3 sets of 10, 3 times before going up 5 pounds to try to strengthen my back. I’ve lost 20 pounds, and feel and look better than I have in years. I guess there is some good news in there 🙂

    If I had one question, it’s how can I strengthen my grip? I’ve gotten to the point in dead lifts where I have to switch to over/under at the end of the second set, and about half way through the third set, and I’m not dead lifting anything crazy for weight… I could use straps, but isn’t that kind of cheating like over/under?

    Thanks for your website, articles, and advice, you’re pretty much spot on!

    • Ha, my bad dude. Glad to hear things are going quite well, though.

      As for strengthening your grip, that would take a full article. But the quickest and easiest solution is to use straps. I use them all the time and fully recommend them. I don’t consider it “cheating” at all. I consider it a tool that allows my grip to handle the weight the rest of my body is capable of lifting. Additional details here.

  20. Enlightening article. I’ve been following your site(s) since late 2009, and while all of your articles are informative and helpful, few have been as humbling for me as this.

    Slightly luckily, I’ve only been guilty of #1 and 2 of this list, and I can see how these particular two can be related. While I didn’t fall into #1 quite as much for too long, #2 was a quite a big one for me.

    My biggest concern in high school was surviving the rest of high school in the first place. There was just too much going on and very little time for anything else non-school related. I also had a very different attitude towards weight training at that time. There were (and probably are) still many bad things attributed to the behavior of guys in general, and I thought if I started doing something that is associated with them, that I would also be frowned upon. I actually used to feel I would always be looked at badly, especially in high school, just because I’m also a guy. Many of the guys in my grade school were also delinquents, so that never helped my situation.

    For a few years even after my high school graduation, I just about never exercised at all, since I also came to associate exercise with my mostly negative experiences in my Phys. Ed. classes. It wasn’t until mid September 2009 that I happened to take a good look at myself in the mirror and decided that I was unhappy with the way I looked, and I wanted to do something about it before my youth passes. At that time, I was already 22 and 3 months; I was a senior in college.

    As they say, you can never go back to the past and make a new beginning, but you can always start now and make a new ending. Although I did wish I started even sooner, I know my particular high school experience was just never conducive to something like this anyway. Perhaps the only silver lining was that I got to focus on academics, which was the most important thing especially in high school. Who knows? Maybe many of those other guys who spent much of their time always just working out were only getting Cs, Ds, and Fs in their classes. But as you said, early 20s is not that late to have gotten started, and I’ve since made it a point to have exercise as a regular part of my weekly routine. In fact, my week doesn’t feel complete without my preferred training regimen.

    Had I never found you, I could’ve easily gone on to a worse version of #s 1 and 2, and maybe all the others. Your site (I think it was called A Calorie Counter in late 2009) was one of the places I stumbled upon in my desperate search for authentic information, and I’m glad I did, as this continues to be my main source for fitness tips to this day. And I’m quite certain it will stay that way for years to come.

    P.S. I’m surprised you’ve felt that way about yourself in #4 and 5 in your past. I’ve always imagined you to look like one of those numerous fitness models that appear as if they’ve been carved out of stone.

    • Glad to hear it dude. And don’t feel too bad starting at 22. There are plenty of people in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, etc. who wish they started at 22.

      And yeah… I do think I look pretty good now and have looked pretty good for a few years. But back then when #4 and #5 were happening? I looked like absolute crap.

  21. Jay,

    Your articles have been instrumental in guiding me to better muscle mass gains than I have ever been able to accomplish on my own. I’ve been lifting since I was 13 years old and am now 39. I accomplished lifting records in highschool and had moderate success when I was younger with muscle gain, but your articles have helped propel that even further after realizing I was simply doing too much in the gym, plus my nutrition sucked. I can’t thank you enough for that!

    Now that I’m 39 years old however, I find minor injuries are a constant obstacle to avoid. I’ve run the gammit of issues with shoulder, back, and knees. However, I’ve managed to recover from all these injuries except one. I’ve been experiencing, like you did in your article above, long-lasting tennis elbow and a brachioradialis issue. It’s been a year now and it still hasn’t subsided. Being a guy who loves going to the gym, this is very frustrating, as I’m sure you can imagine. I’ve backed off completely from the gym for a month, tried various stretches, ice-packs, and forearm physical therapy-type exercizes. The pain has gone down over the year substantially, but it still persists enough that I can’t go full workout weight on any pull exercize (ie. rows, pull-downs, chin ups, etc), and I absolutely can’t do any bicep isolation work. Considering your experience with this, I thought you might have some insight. How did you finally manage to get rid of this injury?


  22. Does “skinny fat” mean low body fat but flabby and soft due to low muscle mass? I see a lot of skinny girls like this who appear to have great bodies with clothes on, but in reality they are just naturally petite without muscle so they are soft and flabby.

    So if I want to keep up with pushups while doing your beginning weight training regimen, do I need 72 hour rest between bench and pushups? I like doing athletic type of body weight exercises such as various push ups but I wasn’t sure if I bench on Monday, can I do push ups on Tuesday?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Pretty much. Skinny-fat is basically being skinny but not lean or muscular.

      As for push-ups, I wouldn’t recommend doing them in addition to the program. If you really want to do them, they’d really need to become a part of the program (in place of bench press).

  23. I’m guilty of all 5 as well. #3 has been minimized by consistent stretching, deep massage rolling, mobility exercises, and proper form work, however straight bar curls are no longer possible for me…hammer curls with a twist at the top are working well though. Been doing your 4 Day Split and following your diet recommendations for 6 months, recently added a 4-Rep max on a 4th set and a 2-Rep Max on a 5th set just for the compound movements, been making consistent gains every week while body fat is at an all time low, about 12% from 20%. I just want to say thanks for changing my life! I’m actually planning on my first powerlifting meet later this year.
    One last thing, I added or substituted some Trap Bar Deadlift/Squats for my secondary move to spice things up on Lower Body Days…I love it, legs are getting HUGE! Thanks again! 🙂

  24. Hi Jay!

    Very interesting to see a lot of people (myself included) mess up the same way. This might be probably because of the terrible/horrible/awful “informational” web sites that we have access to nowadays.

    I did all but #4 since i was already chubby when i started to care about diet and working out.
    Wish i could go back to those teens and take advantage of that hormone rage but heck… i did not and i want to stay natural…

    Btw, how old are you?

      • Cool!

        I realized you mentioned that you injured your elbow…
        Did that heal? If so, how did you make it through?

        I have always have a discomfort in my right elbow and no matter the therapy or product i try, i cant seem to make it heal. i just got used to it.

        I also hurt my shoulder and tried the rehab videos you suggested and that helped long go, so i was wondering if you could recommend something for the elbow this time 🙂

  25. Now that was the article I was waiting for!
    I stumbled some time ago on your website and followed your diet recommendations to the T. I’m 51 years old, 6′ 4” tall and on 20th of January this year my weight was a whopping 270 lbs. We are now three months older and my weigh at this moment is 239 lbs. My goal is to level out on 205 lbs, so I’m almost halfway. The three previous months I was following the P90X fitness program together with my wife and finalized it last week. My plan now is to continue following your diet plan (I even made my own excel daily calorie and macro nutrient counting spreadsheet) and to start your beginner work out routine. I never did weight lifting before in my life except for the parts in P90X but I think I found all the “DO’s” in your previous articles and now I’m equipped with the “DON’T’s”.

    Thanks again and keep ‘m coming!

  26. This kind of seems like a mix of a lot of your other articles put into one convenient place:P Anyway, why do you say the best age to build muscle would be your teens? Don’t test levels remains at their peak until at least age 25?

    • As far as I’m aware, test levels peak in the mid teens during puberty, still remain fairly high through the 20’s, and start to drop little by little in the 30’s.

  27. Duuuude, 4 months with the begginer workout and seeing great results! My body in general is getting progressibly bigger (slowy though), and i love going to the gym.

    The only thing this site lacks are videos of you showing proper form of all the different exercises. I’m currently having some issues with squats and my lower back, and there’s too much confusing info on the internet. On top of that my gym’s monitors dont have a fucking clue about weightlifting in general.

    People at my gym look at me all weird when they see me doing your begginer routine. I’m actually the ONLY one there doing free weight squats, overhead presses and deadlifts. So i feel pretty much alone in this since i cant ask anybody about these exercises, or any other, really.

    Thank you for sharing all this with the world and greetings from Spain.

    • Hell yeah! Glad to hear things are going well.

      As for videos of proper form… that’s a project that has been on my to-do list for years. One of these days I plan to eventually make it happen.

  28. First off, thank you so much for everything you post! I do have a question for you and hopefully you’ll have an answer. My boyfriend is taking “stacker” (i’m not sure if that’s exactly what its called) but basically he is hungry all the time and eats everything in sight most of the time it’s clean food but lately it hasnt been, all the while gaining tons of weight and I guess you can say getting a little puffy. I think he’s finally reached his limit and is upset at all the weight he’s gained. What would you recommend for him to do to lose the fat and keep the muscle? He weight trains alot and doesnt do much cardio. Would you recommend any cardio and if so,steady state cardio or HIIT training? and how many times per week? He’s 6 ‘1 and 220.

  29. My biggest mistake was doing ”magazine” type bodybuilding workout for almost 6 years. I’ve gain some good muscle during the process but since i’ve discovered this website and changed my workout routine i’ve made some insane gain. I’ve pass from 275×4 rep to 315×5 rep in 1 and a half year, all natural. When people ask me what i do to have arms like that I tell them ”3 set of straight barbell curl, 2 time a week” and they look at me like i’m some kind of stupid.

    • Awesome progress dude!

      And I get that exact same look when people ask me when I do for biceps.

      “Like 4-6 sets per week.”
      “Wait, you mean 4-6 sets per exercise?”
      “Nope, 4-6 total sets per week for biceps.”

  30. Hey man. You mentioned you got pretty fat after a bulk and to you it was disgusting and felt like shit and then said ” turns out there’s a correlation between looking like shit and feeling like shit” . Meaning what? I know friends who’ve done that who felt fine after bulking up to being fat they don’t perceive the fat are being disgusting and they didn’t feel disgusting. I have fatter friends who are very happy and I don’t personally see them as disgusting. It’s very subjective but I think your point was you were disappointed with yourself for that when your goal was something else. I don’t understand your correlation part? That is very subjective on how someone feels and if they do feel disgusting for putting on fat it’s usually a societal thing not a causation matter. Or were you saying you think it’s a cold hard fact to get like that for every single person on the planet. I mean that sort of thing is not objective like say a calorie deficit causing all people lose weight . Just wanted to know what you meant with saying it turned out there’s was a correlation! Thanks Jay

  31. Hey Jay, firstly your writing style is brilliant. It really allows readers to connect with the information that you are trying to convey.

    I’ve just started following your 4 day split routine. I’ve been lifting wrongly I’m sure for about 1 year. In comparison to other routines that I have used, which I have had moderate success with, the 4 day split seems to have less excercises in it. If I follow this to the letter will I eventually see good gains regardless of the amount of excercises that I am excecuting. I also want to optimise my beginner window by doing all that I can to avoid mistakes and I am just worried that I am not doing enough! Especially when others in my gym are going at it like they are a kid in a sweet shop! Thanks for all the information you give us,


  32. Sorry to read about all these mistakes Jay, but they surely made you stronger in every way and you wouldn’t be of such help to thousands of people otherwise. A question I have is not entirely related but I am convinced you had issues with it and don’t know where else to ask it. How do you manage travelling? That is when you cannot cook due to lack of facilities or time. I started by bringing everything precooked but it is such a pain in the ass when it is for more than a day. Nowadays I bring portions of simple high protein meals (casein and cottage cheese as main ingredients) and eat one improvisational meal, hopefully within caloric aim. It’s entirely personal, but still I would like to know your way as it may further improve mine. Thank you!

    • It mainly comes down to controlling as much of your diet as you realistically can (so you know exactly what the calorie/macronutrient content is) and maybe setting your diet up in a way where more of the eating takes place during a time of the day where that control is more available to you… and then using various apps (like MyFitnessPal) and/or taking your best guesses when you can’t.

      Then combine this with trying to make better choices during these less-controllable situations and continuing to track progress (body weight, measurements, etc.) so the worst case scenario is that you can see the early signs of things moving in the wrong direction and adjust before it becomes a problem.

  33. This website and program with all of your information looks too good to be true… I’m very interested in this low priced but compact/complex book full of what seems to be wisdom.
    What is the difference between the downloadable workout plan and the free strength training how to article?
    Will I get much more when I pay for the book?
    How do I know this isn’t a hoax?
    Pls answer, thx

    • The main difference would be that the majority of the stuff on the site is aimed at showing you how to to design your own workout program, while the book contains a bunch of proven programs that are already fully designed for you.

  34. I’m 23 so it’s too late for me to take advantage of the high levels of testosterone that puberty brings but my brothers are 13 and 14. I want to tell them about this and get them to take advantage it but I heard somewhere that lifting during your early teens is bad because it stunts your growth or something. Pretty sure this is bullshit but I’m not sure enough to go ahead and tell them to start lifting. What do you think?

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