T Nation

Things You Wish You Knew When You Started

I was thinking about how much good advice I’ve gotten from this site that I wish I knew when I first thought about lifting weights and figured this might be a good resource for a lot of people.

I’ll start by saying I wish I knew to focus on getting stronger with compound movements instead of doing things like four different exercises for biceps. Also that what you eat is a huge part of the results you get and good habits will go a long way.


I wish I’d followed a good program consistently in my early years of high school instead of the garbage we did in the weight room. My only leg training was leg press and hang cleans with lots of momentum.

I think I missed out on some early strength development and would be stronger now if I’d squatted and deadlifted then.

I developed good size and strength when I was 17 lifting 6 days a week on a bodybuilding split. Luckily it was balanced and worked well but again, no squats or deadlifts.

So here I am 15 years later still struggling to put up a decent number on both lifts. I wonder what might have been if I’d done them properly from day 1.

I’m pretty strong in the real world (sports, moving, etc) but it’d be nice (for my ego’s sake) if I could move more in the weight room.

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I wished I knew what 4000 calories actually looked like.

Spent years thinking I was eating loads but barely ate 2000 cal a day.

Also the importance of a slow eccentric for growth. Simple but often ovetlooked.


This is a great thread idea. A lot of people are going to point to nutrition, and mine is going to fall in that as well. But the part i wished i understood was that there are different body types and metabolisms out there and people will not react the same way to food.

We all knew those guys in the high school that ate shit, trained half assed, and still were the most athletic and strongest guys on the team. I wish i understood that them eating 5 burgers at Wendy’s and me eating 5 burgers at Wendy’s might have different results! the dirty bulk does not work for everyone.

Essentially, I wish i had the knowledge back then so that i would eat steak and rice instead of garbage thinking i was “getting in the calories”. Still trying to get over those mistakes!

The value of hardwork and consistency over following the world’s best program.

A clear understanding of accumulation vs intensification to better appreciate the role of volume in getting stronger and focus less on just always adding weight to the bar.

Not listening to beginners on the topic of how to not be a beginner.


I should have started wearing lifting gloves.


What basic progression looked like, and the idea of one step back to make two steps forward (see: maxing out every time I felt fully refreshed) as @JMaier31 said, consistently following a tried and true program, would have made a mighty big difference.

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Wish I knew that a mentor in the gym is a killer asset. I had a jacked buddy who did personal training offer to coach me, but I turned him down because “I read enough magazines and knew what to do.”

Also wish I knew that food was more important than supplements. I skipped breakfast most days, but hey, at least I made sure to take my HMB.

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The other things you said are absolutely great too, regarding eating and habits, but I don’t include those for me because I figured that out very quickly. I did not, however, figure out how to lift early on. And I didn’t train legs at all to start. I also overvalued programming early on.

There are 2 lessons I’ve learned in the past few years that I value quite a bit. One is the value of training directly for competitions. It’s a great way to force yourself through plateaus, and it helps tremendously with motivation when that’s something that’s lacking. If I have weights I have to hit in competition, and a bodyweight I need to make that, I’m going to give my training and diet more specific attention than I would have otherwise.

The other lesson has been that training with things other than barbells and dumbbells is not to be underrated. Building my base of strength through basic barbell training was important, and it’s still what counts for 75% of my work. But handling strongman equipment opens up an entire world of strength that I wasn’t previously familiar with. It’s humbling, and really exposed my weaknesses. I would say that I should have introduced carries into my programing a long time ago. It makes sense to include them regularly after your first year or 2 of training, if not sooner.

I wish someone told me 200mg is actually enough to look impressive if everything else is on point…

I wish someone told me to eat steak, eggs and vegetables, focus on compound lifts for the most part and use the preacher bench exclusively for all direct bicep work


I wish I would have listened to people stronger than me from the beginning instead of thinking I was smarter than them.

I wish I would have spent more time lifting than reading articles/forums on lifting.

I wish I would have known it takes years to build strength and not 12 weeks.

I wish I would have taken my conditioning more seriously.

Anything Dan John says is gold.

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That would be TRT, albeit a high TRT dose. Which is the same as natural for a healthy adult. I agree with this from that perspective, but I would have phrased it as ‘you can look impressive with normal testosterone levels’… your statement suggests a NEED for exogenous testosterone, which I do not agree with.

@isdatnutty agreed on the conditioning. I should have mentioned that. Early on I was so focused on avoiding activities that ‘kill gains’ like running and conditioning. That’s absolute nonsense. Eating more compensates for the added activity, and you get the benefit of cardiovascular health and increased work capacity. There is no downside to this.

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Hell yeah man. I avoided running for so long thinking my non existent muscle was going to disintegrate lol. Now that I do sprints and random shit, I find myself being able to workout harder and longer because I’m not gasping for air after every set of squats.

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All these replies are great to read. Funnily a lot of the things said are things I’m starting to implement or take note of myself currently.

Wish I had known that close-grip upright rows is a shoulder-unfriendly exercise. They were a staple of mine for years, and I’ve had (and continue to have) shoulder trouble my entire training life.

Wish I had followed a more sensible bodypart split, so I didn’t end up rupturing a biceps tendon from chronic overuse.

Wish I paid more (as in, any) attention to pre-habbing, especially with respect to shoulder flexibility and health.

Wish I had recognized early on that my rear delts never seemed to grow because I had zero MMC with them, and that I should have worked on developing that instead of simply going through the motions.

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Training fasted is a terrible idea and will destroy your sex life.

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the importance of diet

Oh man, I totally forgot the one that absolutely KILLS ME today. The thing that’s really hurt me long term, more than anything else, is the lack of mobility work over the years. I can’t put my arms straight overhead. It’s EXTREMELY detrimental to my pressing. It’s largely because I did absolutely no overhead work for years and years. Basically not until a couple years ago when I got into strongman. It’s a tremendously difficult hurdle to overcome. I haven’t yet, and I wish I had not put myself in that position.


Some duplicates from the great replies above, but here’s mine:

  • The perma bulk. It’s called getting fat. The answer is staying lean year around with slow controlled growth and cutting if necessary.
    -Self awareness to know when a deload is needed. It’s not when you’re run down, it’s too late then. It’s right after you have multiple fantastic sessions, or a ‘gym peak.’
    -Prehab. I failed and am paying the consequences. Shit is so easy too once you know what to do. One upper and one lower movement per day goes a long way, and takes less than 10 mins.
    -All forms of conditioning are great, and are a way to keep the PRs coming! I just PRd my 1 mile run time today.
    -Too much of anything is bad. Yes, even rear delt work.
    -Generally speaking, supplements are a waste beyond protein powder and creatine. The bang for the buck is just not worth it.
    -Hard work is the secret sauce.
    -Movement pattern overuse is a real thing in most of the population. Those with steel joints are the rare exception.
    -Help someone if they’re doing it wrong.

200mg will put most people over what their natural production is capable of achieving (which is was what I was getting at).

Personally I’ve experimented with doses from 70mg to 1500mg of pharmaceutical gear and found that the threshold (for me) where great things can happen doesn’t have to be a level astronomically higher than ‘in normal range’ - but it certainly is higher than 1200ng/dl. This means an exogenous source will be required

This really hits home for me because I’ve basically eaten the same thing each day and trained the same way for three years after dialing in diet, so the only variable is the hormone.

Comparing photos taken at 200mg vs 1200mg on the same diet show a better overall look at 200mg - it’s much drier with more vascularity. The scale weight is obviously less, but the look is unquestionably better overall, which to this day still surprises me.

I’ve found that little gear can go a long way if diet and training are on point (given a long enough duration). The fact someone not predisposed to health problems could probably get away with staying on 200mg for a long time is a happy coincidence = )