T Nation

Advanced Beginner: Ready to Stop Dicking Around

Hello T-Nation,

I’ve come to an important part of my lifting “career”. I’ve realized that doing my own stuff, like 95% of gym goers, is not working anymore. I’m ready to take the next step, meaning actually training intelligently/in a manner I enjoy

Here’s my background. Started “training” shortly after my 15th birthday. Initially I wanted to stop being a chubby kid. It worked, but I took it a little too far and went down to 120lbs at 5’7. Once no longer fat, I started eating “normally”, although my training wasn’t the greatest. Fast forward TWO years later, me shortly after my 17th birthday…and I’m 130lbs. Not the best progress, and I only have myself to blame. From not eating ENOUGH, to not committing to a mass gain phase, I never really made any substantial progress. It shows in my lift numbers too, which are weak as hell. To make matters worse, I lost a couple of months of strength progress this summer when I fell into a bout of depression and couldn’t be assed to lift. I know this is a “manly” site, so laugh at me all you want, I should be laughed at.

So here I am, and I think I’ve learned my lesson…what initially worked for me doesn’t work anymore, and to be quite frank, I’ve lost interest in the style of training I used to train in; a laundry list of exercises that I made up on my own. I’d like to do actual routines now, as I am actually motivated to do them; stuff like 5/3/1, Westside, whatever I may read about.

When I say I’m an advanced beginner, I mean that my numbers are poor, but I can’t add weight every session; maybe I can add reps.

So the main gist of this post, I’d like recommendations about a training plan. I’d like a training plan that has structure to it, such as percentages of a max. “Well, that’s powerlifting” you may say. My goals aren’t purely powerlifting oriented or bodybuilding oriented…but I’d like a mix of the two, hence why I’m asking here. I just want to get bigger and stronger.

Here are the types of routines that I have read about that interest me

  • 5/3/1 (someone gifted me the books, sorry Jim)
  • Westside for Skinny Bastards
  • Anything written by CT, Paul etc.

So if anyone could recommend routines that they think would be appropriate, I would appreciate it.

An underlying question I had was, and this may sound stupid I have no doubt routines like 531 will probably make me stronger, but will they still add muscle? I understand it might not be optimal for muscle mass, and even BAD (at least that’s what I’ve heard from the other corners of the internet, so feel free to prove or disprove this)

Yeah it will put muscle on. Most guys on the internet don’t know shit about how it truly works or don’t get it or don’t do it correctly. Which book do you actually have?

I have all of them. Saw something called 5/3/1 for beginners in forever. I like it because it doesn’t go below 5 reps, don’t really like lifting below 5 reps (this is my learned dogma that below 5 reps doesn’t build muscle, unless I’m wrong)

if you got the books than you know most true working sets will very rarely be below 5 unless your Tm is too high or your not pushing pr sets.

now that i think about it…you are right. I guess I was placing too much emphasis on the “3” week

5/3/1 is for the squat, dead, bench, OHP. Are you doing assistance exercises as mentioned in Jim Wendler’s original texts? They are intended to supplement the strength side of the workout, for hypertrophy.

You can do 3 sets of 8-10 on the compound exercises, either after the strength sets or on another day, later in the week. Alternatively you could do another similar compound or isolation exercise instead.

Do Boring But Big original template from the book(not the challenge) for 3-4 cycles then can move to template from Forever or as mentioned run through programs by CT, Paul Carter

eat big and get plenty of good fats and omega 3s. High strength vit D3 also.
-Depression obviously very complicated but lack of nutrition/low level malnourishment really doesnt help and will make the best of us feel flat

Once a week say deadlift day really pound the calories/have cheat meal until hit around 155lbs

Drop that attitude quickly. It will not help.
Depression is both real and not somehow “unmanly”.
Accept that you will struggle where others won’t. But embrace the fact that this means you’ll have success other people won’t.


I saw a YouTube clip recently that had both Eddie hall and Larry wheels talking about mental health whilst log pressing 185 kg.
We all have mental health and it goes through good and bad times like our physical health.

Don’t shame yourself it’s part of being human. But I know when I was 17 I was surrounded by many people who didn’t know how to talk about it.

Also check out stipe and GSP on the Rogan podcasts. Most long term successful people have long term mentors, coaches or therapists.

You are making the right steps. You’ve set goals, you’ve reflected and brought up what isn’t working for you. Well done.

I don’t have any real advice to offer, but you don’t have to stick yourself with a stigma around any mental health issues… or any emotions really.

You are where you are and you get to prioritize what’s important to you. At some points that will be lifting, at others it may be getting into a better place. What you can’t do is “wish” yourself into a different reality.

I think once you embrace that concept, it’s pretty freeing and you give yourself “permission” to have both successes and failures in multiple facets of your life.

Any of those programs can add strength and muscle mass so long as your nutrition is in check. You’ve already indicated you haven’t really followed any structured programming so the best advice I can offer is to choose one of the many beginner/intermediate programs available online, follow it for a considerable period of time and consume enough calories. If you’re a later beginner any of beginner/intermediate programs will work for you. Where most people screw up is constantly changing programs, constantly changing goals or being off the mark nutritionally speaking. So my advice to you is to set your endpoint (gain muscle and get stronger), choose a proven program that centers around the big lifts (squat, bench, deadlift, etc.), and eat enough food to support getting bigger and stronger. Cheers.