3 BIG Intermediate Lifting Mistakes

While I’m not going to try to put any arbitrary descriptors on what “makes an intermediate lifter“, this tends to be my favorite archetype of a lifter and what many lifters themselves identify as.

Training ambition is usually at an all time high, the work ethic of those in this phase is outstanding, there’s a constant drive to learn and improve. I love absolutely everything there is about “being an intermediate“.

However, this same ambition and drive is what I believe runs intermediates into their most common training pitfalls. These are mistakes made with good intentions at heart, and I believe once you are made aware of them, can easily be sidestepped.

(Looking for more intermediate related tips? Check out this video!)

1. Training Too D*mn Hard

If there’s one thing I can say about intermediates, it’s that they tend to be the hardest working group in the gym.

Beginners tend to undershoot workouts, advanced lifters have training dialed in to a near perfect exertion level, intermediates are just about that #GRINDLIFE

Unfortunately, that badass work ethic which should be a plus can also run intermediates into trouble with their programming. Intermediates are the most likely group to overshoot on their intensity levels. RPE 6 sets turn into RPE 8s, RPE 7s are moving like 9s, and god forbid you actually give them an RPE 9 and get to witness the fabled RPE 11.

Not every training session has to be a PR session. Intermediates tend to fall into a trap of trying to make progress by the session, instead of focusing on their program in it’s totality.

You’re not going to make daily progress like you used to. Instead of focusing on performing well in singular sessions, consider how you performed over the course of a whole training week, over the course of a whole training block, and over the course of an entire program. Consistently performing well every single week is going to be much more beneficial to your training progress as an intermediate compared to a singular god tier training session.

Training super hard and hitting multiple PR sets during one session is cool…but not if you can’t recover from it and your next 3 sessions for the week tanked. Your training can be intense, you can still work hard, but start to consider the impacts of constantly overshooting workouts. Those intensity limits be it RPE or percentages are there for a reason.

2. Paralysis by Analysis

Learning comes with consequences. One big one being you may begin to realize you don’t know nearly as much as you thought you did. Bummer.

This is okay, however, so long as you continue to learn and move forward with life. Unfortunately, what happens to most is taking in all this information at once can lead to what is referred to as “paralysis by analysis“.

Basically, you’re afraid to make a training decision because you’re worried you’ll miss out on a different “superior” training decision, leading to you making…no decision. 

Paralysis by analysis can manifest itself in a few ways for intermediates. A common issue being the “program hopper“. They are unable to stay on the same program for even a block at a time, constantly jumping to the next “newer and better” program.

Likewise, a lot of intermediates become so dialed in focusing on technique that they never end up adding any load to the bar. They are stuck in a constant loop of analyzing and overanalyzing their form and identifying mistakes that probably aren’t even there in the first place, instead of focusing on simply making progress.

Stop worrying about making the 100% #sciencebased #optimal #peakperformance decisions and start focusing on simply making forward progress. A lot of the learning in lifting comes from actually doing it, and you can’t be doing it if you’re still stuck making a decision.

Not making a decision is a decision and ironically it’s always the worst one you can make. Stop focusing on perfection. All that matters is that you’re making forward progress. Not everything you do has to be perfect right out of the starting gate, nor will it ever be and that’s okay.

3. Failing to See The Bigger Picture (Training for the Long Haul)

Sliding out of the “beginner” phase of training can be a bit jarring.

Going from experiencing progress on an almost daily basis to now seeing progress on a weekly basis or even a bi-weekly basis is rough to say the least.

Seeing that “immediate gratification” from lifting begin to fade is a big moment in any lifters career and can be the turning point to if they’ll continue to train or not.

Unfortunately, this seeming “lack of progress” can leave lifters heading in search of the quick tips, tricks, and hacks of how to make their progress FASTER. Speed, speed, speed, how can I be jacked…by tomorrow, how I can I be the strongest powerlifter there ever was…yesterday. 

Intermediates can often become so obsessed with becoming the best they can be, as fast as they can, that they never lay any sustainable groundwork for themselves for the long term. This can lead to fatigue/burnout, injury, questionable life decisions, and worst of all potentially ruining your love for lifting for the rest of your life.

Rate of progress should not be your only determining factor for any lifting related decisions. I don’t care if you are seeing amazing results currently, if you’re only able to lift the way you are for 3 months before burning out, your process sucks.

How can you progress yourself over the entirety of this year? What about the next 5? How about a decade? Start enabling those decisions which will allow you to make lifting a part of your life…for the entirety of your life.


Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.