The BIGGEST Mistakes New Lifters Make


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Many people make the same errors when learning new exercises…

I also realized that I use the same phrases over and over from client to client to get them to make the technique adjustments necessary for safe and effective movements.  Below are my most common verbal cues that I give for maximum effectiveness when teaching the big lifts (press, squat, deadlift, pushups)

Weightlifting Mistakes


“Pull the bar to your shins.”

“Chest high and shoulders back.”

“Get your hips higher than your knees.”

“Put a death grip on that damned bar.”

“Pull the flex out of the bar.”

“Get tight.”

“Stand up tall – don’t short the movement.”

“Your back is all rounded up like a turtle.”

“I use bumper plates for a reason; don’t be afraid to bang that shit.”


Weightlifting Mistakes

“Eyes up and straight ahead.”

“Bend at the hip like you were sitting in a chair.”

“Pretend like I’m trying to pull a $100 bill out from under your heel – and you don’t want me to get the money!”

“Your knees are bowing in like your drunk uncle doing the chicken dance at your cousin’s wedding.”

“Go low – whoever said you shouldn’t squat below parallel has never watched Olympic Weightlifting.”

Overhead Press

“If you don’t scrape your nose or bust your chin at least once, you are not trying to push as vertically as possible.”

“Put the bar at your collar bone and push your elbows up.”

“Stick your shoulders in your ears at the top of the movement.”

Pull Ups

“I don’t give a damn how you put your hands or how much body English you use.  All I care about are arms fully extended at the bottom and chin over the bar at the top.”

Push Ups


“Keep your gaze focused about two or three feet in front of you.”

“Full range of motion includes chest to the floor, not chest ALMOST to the floor.”

“Keep your body ramrod straight.  There should be a straight line from your ankles to your hips to your shoulders.”

Part of being a good coach or instructor is the ability to maintain the attention of those learning from you.  Often the best way to do this is to entertain as well as educate.  I can tell someone that their knees are not tracking their toes in the squat and the might make the necessary adjustment.

Or I can break the tension a bit with my chicken dance line and usually get a faster improvement.

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What are some of your favorite coaching quotes that you use yourself or have heard from a coach, trainer, or mentor?  Leave your favorites in the comments.

The BIGGEST Mistakes New Lifters Make
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The BIGGEST Mistakes New Lifters Make
Many people make the same errors when learning new exercises...Learn The Most Common Weightlifting Mistakes
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Gym Junkies
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  1. “Fat loss is an all-out war. Give it 28 days — only 28 days. Attack it with all you have. It’s not a lifestyle choice; it’s a battle. Lose fat and then get back into moderation.” – Dan John

  2. Vic, doesn’t looking forward in the Push-Up take your spine out of neutral alignment – thus shutting down muscles? I’ve always been told to look down, in a neutral position.

    • You are correct in that a neutral spine alignment is what we are after. In my experience, having clients look straight down causes the neck to droop or worse – the client “chin pecks” toward the floor. Placing the gaze a few feet in front usually gets things aligned properly.

  3. Hi Vic,

    Thanks for all the information. The only thing I find difficult is deadlifts and mainly because of the fact that I am tall. I tried many different things in order to have the same starting position as yours but I think for tall people it is just impossible to have the shoulders above the waits and waist above the knees when doing deadlifts.

    Is it possible for you to have some extremely tall guy do deadlifts in any of your videos?

    Also does the bar need to be a certain height above the ground when doing deadlifts? The weights I use do not have that much diameter and thus it affects the height of the bar over the ground.

    Please advise.

    • You are correct, in that a very tall person will often be at a leverage disadvantage when doing the deadlift. Also, the diameter of the plates can be a factor. Ideally the bar should start at about the middle of the shin. You may be able to place the plates you are using on something (like other plates if they won’t roll off) to bring the bar up to the middle of the shins.

      The deadlift can be performed by taller people. But having a qualified coach check your form might be a good thing.

  4. At the gym where I train we don’t have the large plates with the Olympic barbells. As a result, one has to bend more to deadlift. This is actually an advantage: you get used to lifting from a greater depth, and is equivalent to lifting from a platform (though only a couple inches). When lifting, a couple inches is a lot!
    So even if you are tall, you can lift off the floor. Just do more lifts at 70-80% of your 1 RM, and get stronger. There are plenty of 6’4″ lifters who are very strong. IF you can’t do it (“impossible”), you might have mobility issues that need working on.
    (This was for ceem)
    Nice post, Vic!

    • Right on! The lower position will place more emphasis on the legs and less on the lower back, but this does not mean it is a wrong way to do the movement. It’s just another way to do the movement. 🙂

  5. For such tall people who are complaining of problems with the deadlift, I would think a trap bar would also be good, though I have never used one. In fact, I haven’t even SEEN one! 🙂

    • I haven’t used a trap bar for deadlifts, either. But I have used dumbbells, which I imagine will give a similar effect. Both the trap bar and dumbbells are worth a try.

  6. If I was only given 3 wishes… ONE wish would be to TRAIN IN PERSON WITH YOU! I hope your clients know how lucky they are! HA! of course they do… Thanks VIC as always… xoL


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