Beginner, An Effective Start?

The picture attached is what I look like now without any real exercise to mention for the past 22 years of my life.

I’ve been blessed with a pretty good metabolism (I was listed at 8.6% BF, 130.1 lbs) and a great cardiovascular system naturally. On a whim I went to the gym with my roomate, who used to play baseball in high school at a pretty high level. We ran for about a mile and I was still able to go when he had to stop, and it was at about that point that I figured I should use some of my natural blessings to my advantage and try to unlock my full potential.

But I’m not sure how to start effectively. I was wondering if I could get some help here starting out. I know the basic terminology and theories, but what I don’t know are exercises to do. Every time I look for them, I see long, long lists of various exercises with tons of variables and never a “this is a complete workout, follow it to a T in the beginning and then make changes as necessary” style workout.

I currently only have access to dumbells, as it is christmas break on campus here, so I was wondering if there were some suggested programs for me. The best I’ve got are the long lists of various programs on sites like these and Bruce Lee’s program (which is several decades old by now), so I’d like some guidance.

Buy the book “Starting Strength” by Rippentoe. In the meantime you can search for the starting strength thread at bodybuilding.com and do dumbell variations, but the book will teach you how to do everything right. Also look for WS4SB on here - I think it is more dumbell friendly and it is a great program.

Also, what are your goals?

If you aren’t a Troll and you’re really interested in getting jacked…

I hate to break it to you, but you do not have excellent genetics. Your ability to run a mile on a treadmill and still have something in the tank does not represent a high level of fitness. Unless you were going 12 miles an hour. I think that’s about the max speed of treadmills these days. So if you were going the max speed on this treadmill, meaning you ran a totally untrained sub-6-minute mile, then you have pretty good genetics.

An example of someone who has good genetics would be Michael Jordan or Lebron James. Both never lifted seriously but were instead born with insane jumping ability and leg power that they needed very little effort to develop. I’m not calling these men lazy. I’m calling them genetically superior.

Second, Everyone on this site is tired of hearing how Bruce Lee has the ideal physique. Lots of skinny people claim Bruce Lee has a functional, perfect physique because they’re also 130 pounds. Lee was immensely skilled but he was not that strong. He suffered a serious spinal injury while doing Barbell Good-Mornings with 135 pounds. Once you start lifting, you’ll find out that’s not a lot of weight.

Third, your ability to run a mile has almost nothing with muscle strength. It’s safe to say that running a mile is 10% a test of muscle strength, and 90% a test of endurance and running efficiency. If you want to unlock your potential as a runner you have come to the wrong place. Testosterone Nation focuses mainly on being strong and looking strong.

I can say right now that unless your dumbbell rack goes up to 200, then you’re going to need to join a gym. I highly doubt your college gym doesn’t have anything besides dumbbells unless you go to a college with less than 200 people. Regardless, you will need to go to a gym with adjustable barbells in order to get strong.

Finally, you will need to Squat, Press, and Pull in order to get big and strong. If you don’t want to get big and strong, then go fuck yourself.

A Squat is a: Front Squat, Back Squat, Overhead Squat, Hack Squat, Zercher Squat, Trap-Bar Deadlift, Dumbbell Squat

A Press is a: Military Press, Bench Press, Push-Press, Push-Jerk, Dumbbell Bench Press, Incline Bench Press, Incline Dumbbell Bench Press, Weighted Dip

A Pull is a: Deadlift, Snatch, Clean, Barbell Row, Pull-up, Dumbbell Row, T-Bar Row, Rack Pull, Snatch-Grip Deadlift

The Most Basic Program MUST include a Squat, a Press, and a a Pull. Machines CANNOT be used as substitutes. Just do this workout every other day. So you workout on day, then you rest one day, and you repeat this cycle until you want a more advanced routine. These are the least technical lifts to perform but they are arguably the most effective.

The Workout:

Barbell Squat
[Sets and Reps Don’t Matter]

Dumbbell Bench Press
[Sets and Reps Don’t Matter]

Barbell Row
[Sets and Reps Don’t Matter]

Dorian Yates did 4 warm-up sets and 1 working set of 8-15 reps. Mike Metzner did 1 warm-up set and 1 working set of 6-8 reps. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbo did 10 sets of 10 reps. Jay Cutler does 4 sets of 15 reps. Bill Pearl did 4 warm up sets and 1 working set of 5. Chad Waterbury reccomends 10 sets of 3 reps. Tom Platz 1 set of over 50 reps sometimes. Andy Bolton does 3 working sets of 1 rep. Louie Simmons does 1 working set of 1 rep. All these men were big and strong. They all used a variety of reps and sets.

ALL THAT MATTERS IS THAT YOU INCREASE THE WEIGHT AND/OR THE REPS EVERY WORKOUT. If you did 8 reps with 100 pounds, then next workout you can either do 8 reps with 110 pounds or 10 reps with 100 pounds or 10 reps with 110 pounds. The only way you get stronger is by putting more weight on the bar or moving the bar for more reps. A lot of people miss out on this idea.

Oh, and STUFF YOURSELF. Your metabolism isn’t a gift, it’s a curse. You are going to need eat A LOT of good food in order to get muscular. Steak, Eggs, Milk, Pasta, Brown Rice, Red Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Turkey, Chicken, Fruits, Vegetables, Beans, and other good, nutrient-rich high-calorie foods. You don’t have time for junk food. Every snickers you eat is another chicken breast you could have eaten and used to get strong. Drink lots of water and milk. Soda is for kids. Juice is for kids. Real men measure their manliness by their deadlift #s and not by how much they can drink.

[quote]HoratioSandoval wrote:
Buy the book “Starting Strength” by Rippentoe. In the meantime you can search for the starting strength thread at bodybuilding.com and do dumbell variations, but the book will teach you how to do everything right. Also look for WS4SB on here - I think it is more dumbell friendly and it is a great program.

Also, what are your goals?[/quote]

Definitely functional strength, overall.

Looks are nice too, but definitely functional strength. I’m not the type of person to have a lot of bulk anyway, so it’s probably good that I’m not looking for excess mass!

Squat, deadlift, bench and start eating more. You should work on gaining some weight.

[quote]overswarm wrote:

Definitely functional strength, overall.[/quote]

I suggest you define “functional strength”

In what ways does it differ from non-functional strength?

[quote]FightingScott wrote:
If you aren’t a Troll and you’re really interested in getting jacked…

I hate to break it to you, but you do not have excellent genetics. Your ability to run a mile on a treadmill and still have something in the tank does not represent a high level of fitness. Unless you were going 12 miles an hour. I think that’s about the max speed of treadmills these days. So if you were going the max speed on this treadmill, meaning you ran a totally untrained sub-6-minute mile, then you have pretty good genetics.[/quote]

My fastest mile to date was about 6:30 in high school; I weigh ten more pounds than I did then, and it is mostly muscle mass. I do not run on a treadmill, and I do not jog. I’ve recently become interested in interval training, but the mile I ran was a pretty decent pace. I didn’t time myself, so I’m not for sure though. I know I have a lot of work to do though.

Excellent genetics. They have excellent genetics, not good. Good isn’t enough!

?

I’m not sure that this applies. I didn’t really say anything about Bruce Lee other than that his training methods were 30 years out of date. i.e., not as good as the ones we have now. As in old.

Yeah, I know. I have a good cardiovascular system and am very flexible, all through natural luck. If I have to work for muscle mass, I’m more than happy to. After all, most people have to work for all three.

I have a pretty wide selection of weight levels at home and a couple of barbells, and I can substitue when I need to.

My gym has a lot of stuff that I’ll be using, but over christmas break it will be closed so I was looking for… supplemental workouts, I guess.

Don’t overdose on the testosterone. I want to get strong, but not big. I’m interested in functional strength; I don’t need muscles that can’t work together, I don’t need muscles that look impressive, and I don’t need to bench a ton just to look good.

[quote]A Squat is a: Front Squat, Back Squat, Overhead Squat, Hack Squat, Zercher Squat, Trap-Bar Deadlift, Dumbbell Squat

A Press is a: Military Press, Bench Press, Push-Press, Push-Jerk, Dumbbell Bench Press, Incline Bench Press, Incline Dumbbell Bench Press, Weighted Dip

A Pull is a: Deadlift, Snatch, Clean, Barbell Row, Pull-up, Dumbbell Row, T-Bar Row, Rack Pull, Snatch-Grip Deadlift

The Most Basic Program MUST include a Squat, a Press, and a a Pull. Machines CANNOT be used as substitutes. Just do this workout every other day. So you workout on day, then you rest one day, and you repeat this cycle until you want a more advanced routine. These are the least technical lifts to perform but they are arguably the most effective.

The Workout:

Barbell Squat
[Sets and Reps Don’t Matter]

Dumbbell Bench Press
[Sets and Reps Don’t Matter]

Barbell Row
[Sets and Reps Don’t Matter]

Dorian Yates did 4 warm-up sets and 1 working set of 8-15 reps. Mike Metzner did 1 warm-up set and 1 working set of 6-8 reps. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbo did 10 sets of 10 reps. Jay Cutler does 4 sets of 15 reps. Bill Pearl did 4 warm up sets and 1 working set of 5. Chad Waterbury reccomends 10 sets of 3 reps. Tom Platz 1 set of over 50 reps sometimes. Andy Bolton does 3 working sets of 1 rep. Louie Simmons does 1 working set of 1 rep. All these men were big and strong. They all used a variety of reps and sets.

ALL THAT MATTERS IS THAT YOU INCREASE THE WEIGHT AND/OR THE REPS EVERY WORKOUT. If you did 8 reps with 100 pounds, then next workout you can either do 8 reps with 110 pounds or 10 reps with 100 pounds or 10 reps with 110 pounds. The only way you get stronger is by putting more weight on the bar or moving the bar for more reps. A lot of people miss out on this idea. [/quote]

Thanks.

I drink only water as a primary drink. Occasionally gatorade. I’ll have milk with cereal, and I don’t eat junk food very often. Thanks for the list of food though, that’s very helpful.

Functional strength being muscle that works well together in everyday life activities, as well as the not-so-often activities. I don’t plan on beating people up or competing in body building tournaments, but I’ll be using my body a lot in life and I’ll like all the parts to work together. No mirror muscles.

What is not functional about Squat, Press and Pull? You’re really breaking my balls here. What are everyday life activities? Getting out of bed, sitting, driving (more sitting), standing, occasionally placing light objects overhead, and bringing food to your mouth.

Barbell Training is Functional Training. It is the expression of weighted human movement. What other exercises would you perform that are more functional and provide you with more functional strength that will not disappear once I leave the gym? Really. Answer this. Are they done on swiss balls? What is not functional about barbell training?

The Goodmorning Barbell Exercise Bruce Lee injured himself on is not an outdated exercise.

All the exercises I listed are functional exercises that demand the lifter to use multiple muscle groups together.

[quote]FightingScott wrote:
What is not functional about Squat, Press and Pull? You’re really breaking my balls here. What are everyday life activities? Getting out of bed, sitting, driving (more sitting), standing, occasionally placing light objects overhead, and bringing food to your mouth.

Barbell Training is Functional Training. It is the expression of weighted human movement. What other exercises would you perform that are more functional and provide you with more functional strength that will not disappear once I leave the gym? Really. Answer this. Are they done on swiss balls? What is not functional about barbell training?

The Goodmorning Barbell Exercise Bruce Lee injured himself on is not an outdated exercise.

All the exercises I listed are functional exercises that demand the lifter to use multiple muscle groups together. [/quote]

I didn’t say they weren’t functional; I was just looking for exercises that brought about functional strength. You were telling me to get “big and strong”, and, while a big muscle is a strong muscle, I don’t need (or really want) to get huge. Bigger, but not big.

Someone telling me to do tons of crunchs, bench presses, and curls would create strength in those respective areas, but it would not be functional or well rounded. In everyday life, you use all your muscles, not just a few. Everyday life activities can be anything from running to lifting boxes to taking out garbage. Basically anything other than excercises meant to prepare you solely for olympic lifting and bodybuilding shows. Gotta work on all the muscles, all the connections, together; otherwise it isn’t worth the effort. Having big arms is great, but if you can’t lift a box without killing your back, you’ve not done a good job.

The stuff you guys have given me is great though; hopefully I’ll be able to bulk up a bit, but we’ll see.

[quote]overswarm wrote:
FightingScott wrote:
What is not functional about Squat, Press and Pull? You’re really breaking my balls here. What are everyday life activities? Getting out of bed, sitting, driving (more sitting), standing, occasionally placing light objects overhead, and bringing food to your mouth.

Barbell Training is Functional Training. It is the expression of weighted human movement. What other exercises would you perform that are more functional and provide you with more functional strength that will not disappear once I leave the gym? Really. Answer this. Are they done on swiss balls? What is not functional about barbell training?

The Goodmorning Barbell Exercise Bruce Lee injured himself on is not an outdated exercise.

All the exercises I listed are functional exercises that demand the lifter to use multiple muscle groups together.

I didn’t say they weren’t functional; I was just looking for exercises that brought about functional strength. You were telling me to get “big and strong”, and, while a big muscle is a strong muscle, I don’t need (or really want) to get huge. Bigger, but not big.

Someone telling me to do tons of crunchs, bench presses, and curls would create strength in those respective areas, but it would not be functional or well rounded. In everyday life, you use all your muscles, not just a few. Everyday life activities can be anything from running to lifting boxes to taking out garbage. Basically anything other than excercises meant to prepare you solely for olympic lifting and bodybuilding shows. Gotta work on all the muscles, all the connections, together; otherwise it isn’t worth the effort. Having big arms is great, but if you can’t lift a box without killing your back, you’ve not done a good job.

[/quote]

Hence why he recommended a variety of pulling, pressing, and squatting exercises. Moving around in life is just a combination of these movements. Let me just say that there is no possible disadvantage, that I can think of, to being bigger and stronger. Most likely you’ll be healthier (due to eating right), less prone to injury (if you deadlift 300lbs, your back can definitely handle a 50lb box), and you’ll feel good (also, picking up 110lb gf/wife and throwing her on the bed will be easy as to do as well)

focus on exercises that use more than 1 joint. the lists above by FS are good. use them.

sb

[quote]TKL wrote:
overswarm wrote:
FightingScott wrote:
What is not functional about Squat, Press and Pull? You’re really breaking my balls here. What are everyday life activities? Getting out of bed, sitting, driving (more sitting), standing, occasionally placing light objects overhead, and bringing food to your mouth.

Barbell Training is Functional Training. It is the expression of weighted human movement. What other exercises would you perform that are more functional and provide you with more functional strength that will not disappear once I leave the gym? Really. Answer this. Are they done on swiss balls? What is not functional about barbell training?

The Goodmorning Barbell Exercise Bruce Lee injured himself on is not an outdated exercise.

All the exercises I listed are functional exercises that demand the lifter to use multiple muscle groups together.

I didn’t say they weren’t functional; I was just looking for exercises that brought about functional strength. You were telling me to get “big and strong”, and, while a big muscle is a strong muscle, I don’t need (or really want) to get huge. Bigger, but not big.

Someone telling me to do tons of crunchs, bench presses, and curls would create strength in those respective areas, but it would not be functional or well rounded. In everyday life, you use all your muscles, not just a few. Everyday life activities can be anything from running to lifting boxes to taking out garbage. Basically anything other than excercises meant to prepare you solely for olympic lifting and bodybuilding shows. Gotta work on all the muscles, all the connections, together; otherwise it isn’t worth the effort. Having big arms is great, but if you can’t lift a box without killing your back, you’ve not done a good job.

Hence why he recommended a variety of pulling, pressing, and squatting exercises. Moving around in life is just a combination of these movements. Let me just say that there is no possible disadvantage, that I can think of, to being bigger and stronger. Most likely you’ll be healthier (due to eating right), less prone to injury (if you deadlift 300lbs, your back can definitely handle a 50lb box), and you’ll feel good (also, picking up 110lb gf/wife and throwing her on the bed will be easy as to do as well)

[/quote]

I agree with you, but while strength and speed will increase with the larger your muscle is (I hate it when people look at a big guy and think he’s slow), the one huge drawback is that the bigger your muscle is, the more oxygen it takes. That means you have to work even harder on your cardio training to keep going at full potential! While that’s great for a lot of people, for functional strength meant to make life fun, easy, and full of options, it’s better to have smaller-than-ginormous muscles.

Of course, working out is like a drug so I’ll probably be back here in a year asking you how to get really big, so who knows!

The logic behind bigger muscles being inferior because they take more oxygen is extremely flawed. I could go into glycogen storage, VO2 Max Numbers, and other concepts that prove that bigger muscles don’t detract from endurance but I’ll just say this. Dean Karnazes has pretty well developed legs, Lance Armstrong has big legs, and Eric Heiden had massive legs. All three men also have great endurance.

And while you may not be interested in getting Jacked or Squatting a Grand, that doesn’t mean you should follow an inferior training program to make sure you don’t get too strong.

And seriously, are you so concerned with your endurance that you feel you seriously need to watch out and make sure you don’t do a program that will get you “too big?”

[quote]overswarm wrote:
I agree with you, but while strength and speed will increase with the larger your muscle is (I hate it when people look at a big guy and think he’s slow), the one huge drawback is that the bigger your muscle is, the more oxygen it takes. That means you have to work even harder on your cardio training to keep going at full potential! While that’s great for a lot of people, for functional strength meant to make life fun, easy, and full of options, it’s better to have smaller-than-ginormous muscles.

Of course, working out is like a drug so I’ll probably be back here in a year asking you how to get really big, so who knows!
[/quote]

If you’re thinking this way you’re going to have trouble reaching the goals you are trying to achieve. You have to understand that even people who put on weight easily will not accidentally get so big it interferes with their cardiovascular system. It takes a lot of dedication, hard work, and years of effort specific to getting that big. You really need to erase the possibility of getting too big out of your head unless you’re trying to get that big.

[quote]overswarm wrote:
Having big arms is great, but if you can’t lift a box without killing your back, you’ve not done a good job.
[/quote]

Not to be a dick, but where do you get this rationale from? The function of muscles is purely to contract. Now if you have a guy with big arms who can curl 180lbs, how are his arms going to be ‘weak’ outside of the gym? Bearing in mind size is determined purely by calorie surplus. If he can deadlift, squat and bench huge numbers he will be just as strong in other activities that require his muscles to contract against a resistance. Do you get what I’m saying?

This is why ‘functional training’ is ridiculous. A stability ball crunch will not train your abs to ‘stabilize your core’ as effectively as a 400lbs deadlift.

Just wanted to get that off my back. It wasn’t directed at you personally, just to the ‘functional muscle’ crowd in general.

“Squat Press and Pull” in case you missed the point.

To get back to your original question about what to do between now and January when you get to the gym, do lots of bodyweight moves. In some cases I’d suggest working on lots of pushups. In your case, try to make them as hard as you can. Do 10 conventional pushups, then 10 with your hand together, the 10 with your arms wide, then 10 with your feet on a chair, etc. Do chinups, glute ham raises, squats with the biggest dumbbells you have. Then do some 1/4 mile sprints. Do 8 in a row and make each one faster than the one before. Use a friend with a stopwatch. Do this every 2-3 days.

[quote]Der Candy wrote:
overswarm wrote:
Having big arms is great, but if you can’t lift a box without killing your back, you’ve not done a good job.

Not to be a dick, but where do you get this rationale from? The function of muscles is purely to contract. Now if you have a guy with big arms who can curl 180lbs, how are his arms going to be ‘weak’ outside of the gym? Bearing in mind size is determined purely by calorie surplus. If he can deadlift, squat and bench huge numbers he will be just as strong in other activities that require his muscles to contract against a resistance. Do you get what I’m saying?

This is why ‘functional training’ is ridiculous. A stability ball crunch will not train your abs to ‘stabilize your core’ as effectively as a 400lbs deadlift.

Just wanted to get that off my back. It wasn’t directed at you personally, just to the ‘functional muscle’ crowd in general.[/quote]

Your arms would be able to lift it; but your legs wouldn’t help, nor would your back, your neck, your chest, etc., etc.

Inferior training programs that are just to make you LOOK big, and not be able to use the muscle effectively together… that is the opposite of functional strength. The Squat, Press, and Pull is in the “functional strength” group.

[quote]overswarm wrote:

Someone telling me to do tons of crunchs, bench presses, and curls would create strength in those respective areas, but it would not be functional or well rounded. In everyday life, you use all your muscles, not just a few. Everyday life activities can be anything from running to lifting boxes to taking out garbage. Basically anything other than excercises meant to prepare you solely for olympic lifting and bodybuilding shows. Gotta work on all the muscles, all the connections, together; otherwise it isn’t worth the effort. Having big arms is great, but if you can’t lift a box without killing your back, you’ve not done a good job.

The stuff you guys have given me is great though; hopefully I’ll be able to bulk up a bit, but we’ll see.
[/quote]

All of the push pull and squat exercises involve multiple muscles and challenge a lot of motor units. The squa,t for example, involves pretty much every leg muscle and requires you to use your core to stabilize the load. A strong muscle is a functional muscle, if you get stronger in the exercises listed you will be able to perform everyday tasks more easily.

And bigger muscles will not make you less functional, the muscle bound myth is outdated.

“I want to get strong, but not big.”

I wish I had a problem with getting TOO big. Trust me just eat a shit load like these guys are saying and start out with something like Riptoe’s Starting Strength. You won’t get too big too fast, but you’ll get strong. Treat your legs the same as you treat your arms and chest. Only other thing I’d say is that change is gonna’ take a while to start being too noticable - but stay commited and gains will come. Good luck with all your goals man.