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Advice for a Total Beginner!


Hi Guys,

I am very much a newbie at this stuff but would really appreciate some input from people who know what they are doing!

I am 21 around 5'9 and roughly 63kgs. I have no background in weightlifting but was taught in school the basic compound lifts with an Olympic barbell(squat, bench, shoulder press and deadlift).

My goal is to have an impressive phyisque, nothing overly crazy mr.Olympia style though! My current training regime is in essence Mark Rippetoes Starting Strength program i.e Squat,bench,deadlift and squat,shoulder press, pull ups on the other day. Giving me three training days a week on non consecutive days. The current reps on my working weight is 3 sets of 5 for each lift except for the deadlift which is only 1 set. I am also increasing the weight by roughly 1.25kgs per session keeping with the suggested linear programming.

Is this the optimum way for a beginner to start off with my goals? Or is there any other methods/programs that you would advise?

Any input is really appreciated!

Thanks in advance.


Sounds like you're on your way! I've made my fair share of mistakes in only a small amount of time seriously training, but if I had to start over again I'd stick with one program for however long it was working (madcow for me) or 5/3/1 now.


Is your program "in essence" Starting Strength or it is Starting Strength? Starting Strength might not be the overall greatest program for beginners (there's really no such thing anyway), but it's certainly not the worst like some claim. It has a track record of solid results if you work at it and eat right.

Following Starting Strength to the letter (which would mean power cleans), while eating a surplus of high-quality calories from protein, carbs, and fats, would be a fine plan for you to follow for the next few months and should get you closer to your (vague) goal.

Eating too few calories, eating inconsistently/skipping meals, making up some training program on your own, half-assing your workouts, or some combination of those four, will lead to minimal results.

That program would be a fine start, if you eat enough. In fact, at your current bodyweight, your nutrition will absolutely be the make-or-break factor in any progress you see.

What, exactly, did you eat yesterday?


Thanks for the input guys, I appreciate it.

I have never learned how to do power cleans so I have been erring on the side of caution with that and been going for pull ups, that's why it's not exactly the Starting Strength program that he would prescribe.

In terms of daily intake I'm getting around 120 grams of protein and maybe 2400 calories a day. I have been drinking a lot of full fat milk too as I have heard it's quite good for initial weight gain, somewhere around 1.25 litres per day.

Apologies for the vague goal also, in retrospect it may be easier to quantify actual weight targets per lift? But I honestly have no idea what bodyweight I should be aiming for and what squat,deadlift,bench weights would constitute a good base for strength and size.

Thanks again!


I get that and a lot of lifters feel similar, but my opinion is that, if you learned to squat and deadlift without injury, you can learn to power clean without injury.

Approach the lift with the same level of respect and review your form as you go along, but pretty much anyone can teach themselves to clean good enough to build size and strength without increasing the risk of injury if they take their time, start light, and avoid failure. Exactly the same as any other big lift.

That's fine. Whole milk is an easy choice as a "weight gainer", but your total daily protein could still be a bit higher. 1 gram per pound of bodyweight is a rule of thumb, and you're hitting just under that.

Also, most important of all, your total daily calories should be as high as it takes to cause weight gain each and every week. 2,400 might seem high right now, but if the scale isn't moving up every week, your body simply needs more.


It's fine if your goal is "an impressive physique", but just try to have a general image in your mind. A target to shoot for. MMA fighter Georges St. Pierre, fitness model Rob Riches, and powerlifter Dan Green are all about your height and have "impressive physiques", depending on who you ask. After you've built a base, the training to look (and perform) like each of them is quite different.

As far as what strength levels to shoot for, there are a few schools of thought on that. Bodyweight bench, 1.5 bodyweight squat, and double bodyweight deadlift is one idea. "2-3-4" is another, as is benching 200-something, squatting 300-something, deadlifting 400-something. Or there are standards like Dan John talked about here, setting goals for reps as well as for singles:

I've been posting this article a lot lately, but it's a great way to think about setting and tackling training goals:


If they...?


Whoops. Brain moved faster than fingers. Or vice versa. Either way, edited. Thanks for the catch.


Thanks again Chris, I appreciate it.

So going forward spend six to eight months increasing my strength base to get to the aforementioned goals and then begin to specialise?

If I want to have a physique like Rob Riches would that require me to a lot of isolation type exercises or is it possible still using compound lifts with a barbell? Or is it more to do with changing the rep ranges and frequency with the current lifts? (squat,bench,shoulder press, deadlift, cleans)



I would say that, for now, get to a level where you can comfortably bench your bodyweight, squat 1.5 bodyweight and deadlift 2x bodyweight as well as do at least 10 pull ups. After that, you can think about the next steps.


^ Pretty much this. Eat plenty and get the strength up. That'll help develop that base and get you started.

I'd bet a week's pay that you, me, and everyone else who posted in this thread would not look like Rob Riches by avoiding isolation work. "A lot" is pretty vague but the bottom line is, if you want to make all your muscles bigger, you need to give all your muscles at least some direct attention.


Hi Guys,

Just thought I would come back here to say thanks. I have been training consistently for the last two/three months and am really enjoying some good progress. My exams got in the way for a while but back on track now!

Numbers wise, my last session was;
Squat 85x5x3
Bench 57.5x5x3
Deadlift 100x5
Press was 37.5x5x3 (but not in the same session)
I have also put on about 2kg since the start of January.

Nothing ground breaking I suppose but its enormously gratifying to keep the weights going up.

A few quick questions;
1. How long should I rest in between my heavy sets? I usually go for like 60 seconds but it feels pretty tough!
2. My left leg seems to be slightly stronger than my right, but its nothing major. Should I do anything to try and adjust this?
3. Lastly, not so much a question more an observation and wondering if the senior guys could shed some light on the subject! How few people do the big compound lifts? Most of the guys in the gym I go to stare in the mirror at their huge arms and massive shoulders but rarely venture over to the squat rack!!

Thanks for the encouragement and input guys, It's most appreciated.


  1. 60 is fine. Rest as long as you need to get the other set. I let my body dictate that. I don't wear a watch and I don't wear my glasses in the gym, so I can't read the clock.
  2. Dont worry. if you break the 400 lbs and it is still an issue, we will talk then.
  3. Im 48. Get used to it. It has been a running gag for ages. Just work out for you, nobody else.


For #3


You know, I've been looking for an "every day is lower body/squat day" but haven't found a good one.


I would be a good fit for it. At this rate I'll be squatting 315lb before I bench 175lb.

My upper body is practically nonexistent in comparison to my lower body, and it becomes more noticeable as I regain muscle on my legs while I'm losing fat overall.


1- Depends on what you want. In general though, rest as long as you need unless you're intentionally keeping the rest period short.

2- Pay attention to how you're squatting and deadlifting. If you notice one leg is more fatigued/definitely pulling more weight, then deload and pay close attention so that the weaker leg takes up the slack.

3- Squatting and deadlifting is hard. People don't like to do things that are hard. It's also why you rarely see people bench over two plates, if anything close to that. That's when it gets hard for them, and they don't want to do hard things.


1 - some people will rest as long as 5 minutes on starting strength. I find that a bit excessive, but there is nothing wrong with resting 2-3 minutes after a really tough, heavy set.
2 - you will always have minor imbalances, believe it or not. As long as it is nothing major, don't worry about it for now.
3 - most people avoid hard work and prefer to get fast results. big shoulders and arms will get you noticed on the dance floor - which is what many people train for anyway. I'd much rather be the guy with the smaller arms but the bigger deadlift, to be honest.


What happened to doing upper body a couple days a week and doing lower body a couple days a week to develop in a balanced way? What? You're telling me it's only cool if Jim Wendler suggests it? I'll go back to my corner now...


Did you decide to follow Starting Strength? (Just curious)

You're not eating enough. Gained weight is gained weight, but "about 2kg" in two months is slow for a dude your size.

What, exactly, did you eat yesterday?

For heavy sets of 5, you could certainly push the rest longer. You shouldn't feel rushed or like being out of breath is a factor. You don't need to watch the clock necessarily, though glancing at it wouldn't hurt, but you should feel 100% ready to go. No burning in the muscles, breath all caught back, and mentally re-focused and ready to attack the bar again.

Eventually, yes. Right now, probably not.

Yep, it's definitely a long-running gym joke. The light bulbs, the ostriches, the Tasmanian Devils, whatever we want to call them. Really nothing you can do and it's not worth any mental energy dealing with them.