Maximize your results by lowering stress levels, learning to be patient, being persistent, finding balance, and avoiding ego training and overtraining.

I find commonalities in all walks of life.  I take what I learn in the gym and cross them over to other areas of life to be successful.  The principles of success are universal.

And if the principles of success are universal, so are the mistakes.  The seven deadly sins allow us a great glimpse not only in to the spiritual world, but into the bodybuilding world – if you know how to look at them.

So in this article, I’m going to point out 7 deadly mistakes that guys are making in and out of the gym that are crippling their bodybuilding goals.  Some of them you’ve heard of before and some of them you haven’t.  Prepare to open your mind.

Sin #1 – Wrath – Anger/High Stress Levels

Wrath has always been an Achilles' heel for a lot of guys.  They get angry and fly off at the handle.  I’m sure you’ve seen “roid rage” before.

I have a motto that I live by when I train.  “Never carry what’s outside the gym, into the gym”.  It’s more of an attitude adjustment.  I’m sure you’ve been there before. You have a fight with the girlfriend or boyfriend right before a workout.  Then, when you get in the gym, you can’t get your head in the game.

High stress levels can be dangerous when you’re in the gym because your mind is elsewhere and you may make a mistake.  I recently dropped at 55 lb dumbbell on my toe and broke it while exiting an exercise because I was careless.  When you’re working out, it’s just like any other sport.  Your head has to be in the game or it might get taken off.

The other big reason you need low stress levels is because of a catabolic hormone called cortisol.  Cortisol, like all other hormones in your body, has a reason.  Its reason is to block the pain response.  Its other function is to catabolize muscle tissue for energy – not what we want if we want to build muscle.

So you need to take as many steps as possible to minimize this hormone, especially on your workout days and around your workouts.  Your body needs to stay anabolic. Here are a few tips to minimize wrath in your life.

If you had a high stress day at work or with a spouse, eat a bit of chocolate before you go to the gym.  Chocolate will release endorphins to make you feel better and counteract the effect of cortisol.  Get enough sleep the night before.  When you’re fatigued, your stress levels will soar.

Establish a proper meal cadence.  People get grumpy when they’re hungry.  Avoid that high stress person at work on your workout day if you can.  Actually, forgive that person in your life that made you mad or did you wrong.  Just let it go, get on with your life, and build new muscle to make them envious.  Which leads me to my next point.

Pull  Ups

Sin #2 – Envy – Judging Yourself By The Next Man

How many times have you gone to the gym, seen a guy and thought “wow, that guy is huge!”  Apart from going to the gym to check out the ladies, we go to the gym to have one big comparison fest.  It’s a judgmental environment.   But this can be dangerous.  When looking at the next guy and comparing yourself to him, there are a number of things to consider.

  • How long has he been training?
  • What’s the purpose of his training?
  • Does he have any past injuries?
  • What’s his somatotype?
  • What’s his diet like?
  • What supplements is he taking?
  • Is he taking other “recreational drugs”?


The list can go on and on, but you get the picture.  The point is that you have no idea of what his story is, so how can you compare yourself to him?  The worst thing to do is to do something because you saw someone else doing it.  Again, you don’t know their story, so just stick to what you’re doing.

In the end, find your own goal and your own path to that goal.  Everyone’s journey will be different.  Don’t get caught up in comparisons.  They’ll just hold you back.

Sin #3 – Greed – Wanting it all right now

Time can be your biggest companion or biggest obstacle when you’re in the gym.   If you understand that a great body takes time to build and that there are NO shortcuts (unless you want steroids) then time will work with you.  However, if you want that comic book body right away, you’ll end up frustrated and leave the gym before you ever give yourself a chance.  I’ve seen it happen too many times.  PATIENCE really is a virtue you need in the gym.

The biggest mistake guys make in their haste is jumping from program to program.  If you’re on a 12 or 24 week program, finish it.  Chances are, if it’s not working, it’s probably not the program, but you.  Feel free to make some adjustments, but stick to the program.  If not, you’ll keep switching and switching and never make any progress.

Sin #4 – Sloth – Being Lazy

I’m sure you know that it’s going to take work to build muscle.  But being a sloth goes beyond just dragging your butt to the gym.  My question is, what are you doing once you get there?  Are you lazy in your reps?  Are you lazy in your sets?  Do you leave a little early or shoot the breeze when you’re there?  Just showing up isn’t enough.  You have to push it on every rep, every set, and every workout.

I said before that the gym is a metaphor for life.  If you’re a lazy person in life and you make excuses, chances are you do the same in the gym.  The good news is that you can change that in your next workout.  Catch yourself being a sloth and push past it.  That one little trigger will carry over to the other areas of your life before you know it.

Sin #5 – Lust – Obsession

Now, I don’t mean looking at the girl at the front desk (why are they always cute) or the lean girl doing bicep curls next to you.  This sin is the opposite of number four in that you’re obsessed with working out and “getting bigger”.  Passion is good.  It drives us in life and without it, nothing can be accomplished.  But unbridled passion is obsession.  Obsession to the point where you sacrifice everything for that one goal of putting on muscle is unhealthy.

You need balance in your life.  Working out and getting in better shape is only one part of your life.  I believe in the five F’s.  They are faith, family, friends, fitness, and finance.  If you get all of those in shape, you’ll achieve a great balance in your life that will breed success in each one of them.

So don’t obsess over which foods to eat or not, or is this a good program, or nit pick every little thing.  Just get it done and move on with your life.  Life does happen outside of the gym.

Sin #6 – Pride – Egotripping

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “check your ego at the door”.  Pride can get you hurt in the gym very quickly.  Boasting to your friends, trying to have “who can lift the most” competitions where your pride is on the line will get you hurt.

It’s funny to say it, but getting over how much weight you can lift is a grown up way of looking at things.  Immature lifters get caught up in how much they can bench press or squat or curl.  It’s not about how much weight you lift, but how you lift it that produces stunning results.

So the next time you’re in the gym and someone asks you “how much can you bench?” tell them “I don’t know.  I left my ego at the door.”

Sin #7 – Gluttony – Overtraining

I know this is a controversial topic but I’ll touch on it anyway.  This sin stems from obsession because you want it all and you want it all right now.  So you spend hours in the gym day after day.  There’s nothing wrong with training, but everything needs to be in moderation.

Your ligaments, joints, nervous system, hormonal system, and muscles all need a bit of a rest after an intense workout.  These other systems require longer to regenerate than your muscles, so give them some time.  The general guideline is 24-48 hours before you hit the gym again.

Overtraining can lead to stress, poor performance, lack of motivation, and injury.  I like to take a few days off every three weeks and a full week off every three months just to keep my body primed.  Of course the frequency and length of your rest period will be up to you, but you will need time off.

More is not always better.  Less done right is better than more done wrong.  Moderation is the key.

So I hope you took some great lessons from this article.  Use this as a reference whenever you see one of these sins creeping in your life.

David Foster
Posted on: Thu, 12/24/2015 - 19:41

What a lot of nanny sh@#. Man up and lift.

Posted on: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 12:04

Great article...I'm approaching my 4-month anniversary in the gym and can relate to much of what is pointed out above. To avoid pitfalls and ensure quality workout sessions, below is how I approach some of the areas to maintain the highest level of discipline.
#2 Envy - Learn from those who look good (Technique, routines, supplements). I can't put a price on what I've learned from those who already have a successful formula for making significant gains. This has helped me to fine tune what exercises work for me and don't work.
#3 Greed - I chose not to look in the mirror for 3 months to prevent unrealistic expectations. At the beginning of month #4, I compared Day 1 to Day 90 and couldn't help but be pleased with my progress.
#4 Sloth - Eliminate distractions. I maintain a solid routine by keeping my phone in my pocket and minimizing conversations. This keeps me focused on the reps and sets and prevents wasted time in the gym.
#5 Obsession - Commitment not only involves gym time; but life time. When I work out, I go hard and leave it all in the gym. On my off-days, I focus on family and activities that help maintain a healthy brain. My approach of gym-life-gym-life-gym-life-life helps me keep a productive balance.

I'm not sure if and how this will help anyone, but thought I'd offer it up just the same.

Posted on: Mon, 03/10/2014 - 18:19

I liked this read. One thing; comparison to other individuals is a natural part of the human experience in life. It's literally unavoidable. If you tell yourself you don't care about other people, their accomplishments vs. yours, or expectations they have of you then you're lying to yourself. Managing this sort of competition is important, but it can be good motivation. Knowing how much you can bench or squat or deadlift, knowing how many wide grip pullups you can do or knowing how many weighted dips you can get before hitting absolute fatigue isn't just building ego, it's giving yourself benchmarks which keep you motivated. I think egotripping can be awful in excess, but a healthy dose keeps you engaged and focused.

Ahrenstein Bene
Posted on: Mon, 05/14/2012 - 12:05

Learn from it!

Posted on: Sat, 05/05/2012 - 08:43

thanks for putting my mind at rest. I would have to say my worst problem is wanting it all right now. the last time i actually trained or lifted was in highschool 10 to 12 years ago and i was a 3 sport athlete up through high school. after i had kids i stopped and got fat, literally. so now that im starting back up again, its hard for me to be content. i want it all back right now and so i need to teach myself some patience. its hard to go from work out warrior in my younger days, and now being all the way back down to beginner. thanks for the motivation.

Posted on: Mon, 12/05/2011 - 22:58

Sir I tip my hat in gratitude to you. I must say it is definantly the one of the best writen articles or posts I have seen in along time and I would like to know if I can show this to my lift partners/after school lift group. I am 17 and I must say I am very impressed the guys at Harvard have nothing on the philosophy you talk about.

Posted on: Fri, 09/16/2011 - 12:57


Stratford Henry
Posted on: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 17:51

Well, ten years working for broadcast ministries and this is the first time some one has put the deadly sins in a perspective I understand. Would you mind if I used this in a Bible study? I think it would resonate with some of the guys I work out with (gym is actually at the church).

Posted on: Sun, 09/11/2011 - 21:59

Excellent read! I kinda already knew most of this, but reading it from a seasoned pro reaffirms it.
I struggle most with ego; i still place too much concern on how much weight im doing as opposed to how well im doing. As the saying goes - admitting the problem is the first step to change.

Posted on: Wed, 09/07/2011 - 15:46

Great article. I especially like number 1. However, I've often looked at it more from a being depressed stand point rather than anger--but the principle is the same. Some days are just crappy (for whatever reason) and it's really hard to get motivated and even if you're working out, it's almost impossible to push yourself because of some personal problem that lingers. But you're right. I like what you said, keep stuff outside the gym--outside the gym. We need to stay fit to fight another day so we can battle and eventually overcome those problems.

Posted on: Tue, 09/06/2011 - 22:31

sir, i started bodybuilding in september 2010, and for some reason, i quit it in march 2011 . now again i am going gym. Should i start from the beginning or you suggest something. I'd also like to know that which diet should i get.

Ahrenstein Bene
Posted on: Mon, 05/14/2012 - 12:09

I'm not the author but I would start with lower weights and few reps. Make sure to get the breathing right. And the posture and execution right. This you do so you avoid pulling the muscles thevwrong way. It's been a long time since you last been o the gym and does get some getting used to.