T Nation

Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced


#1

This is kind of a follow on to a thread on BSL forums not too long ago about "what constitutes strong" and is something I've been thinking a lot about as I start to set specific goals for the big 30.

http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_bigger_stronger_leaner/who_could_do_what_constitutes_strong

What kind of performance figures would you expect to consider someone either intermediate or advanced?

The list can be anything, including, but not limited to:
O-Lifts
Powerlifts
Bodyweight exercises
5k time
etc.


#2

I’m not sure how much sense it makes to attach these categories to certain numbers, as tempting as it is. There are plenty of naturally strong people who could outbench me in spite of not having trained for it. Maybe it makes more sense to say that a beginner is someone who can, with proper training and nutrition, expect improvements on a weekly basis, an intermediate on a monthly and an advanced guy on a yearly basis.

That being said, I’m still inclined to say that anyone who can’t do a deep squat with two wheels is a beginner. I’m using the squat as a reference because it is my personal measuring stick. There are plenty of unbalanced benchers since many people start doing it early, deadlifts can be completed in spite of awful form - but a squat, provided that the depth is there, requires controlled strength through a decent bit of ROM.


#3

Those are tough categories. With the oly lifts, a lot of people do not have adequate mobility or training to perform a safe and proper snatch, nor the technical proficiency to perform a true clean. Most do the power clean instead, so I will go with that, and drop the full clean and jerk.

In my opinion what constitutes intermediate level. Do a whole lot better for advanced, do worse for beginner.

Power clean bodyweight
Squat 1.75 x BW
Bench 1.25 x BW
Deadlift 2.25 x BW
Pullups 15 strict
Pushups 40 strict, (no rest at top position, chest lightly touch ground and arms full lockout at top)
Situps 60 in two minutes (shooting from the hip on that one)
5k 24 minutes

These are what I think would classify someone as an intermediate. Your opinion may vary.


#4

[quote]Ecchastang wrote:
These are what I think would classify someone as an intermediate. Your opinion may vary.
[/quote]

This is exactly what I’m looking for, varying opinions. And, more than likely, different yardsticks as well.


#5

Why does it matter all that much? Pigeonholing people into categories doesn’t provide anything productive when everybody’s goal (which defines the spectrum of what they consider progress) is different.

But for the sake of discussion, I want to be strong, healthy, and aesthetic. My definition is pretty simple.

When I can go to a gym and have regular gym-goers say “that guy’s pretty strong, I wish I was built like that”, I’ve reached intermediate.

When I can go to a gym and have the gym rats say that, I’m advanced.

When I can go to a hardcore gym and have the dudes there say that, I’m elite.


#6

[quote]dagill2 wrote:
This is kind of a follow on to a thread on BSL forums not too long ago about “what constitutes strong” and is something I’ve been thinking a lot about as I start to set specific goals for the big 30.

What kind of performance figures would you expect to consider someone either intermediate or advanced?

The list can be anything, including, but not limited to:
O-Lifts
Powerlifts
Bodyweight exercises
5k time
etc.[/quote]

Lots of guys on these boards do sports and aren’t necessarily leaning towards PLing, OLing, BBing or anything like that. I like Dan John’s standards here: http://www.T-Nation.com/training/figuring-out-your-life-and-lifting-goals
When the game changer standards are reached, I personally see no need to go past them, and I feel the trainee has essentially reached the top end of the intermediate bracket. What pushes them into advanced bracket is maintaining the weight room performance with minimal interference to the other athletic demands of the sport. I’m talking about reaching the standards

I do judo and I need to be fit. In practice we do lots of pushups, running, agility drills, etc. and after all that picking someone up has to be easy. With all the cardio maintaining a 2xBW deadlift is easy in the weight room while increasing the weight is very difficult, but even maintaining strength I feel tight and slow sometimes in practice. I need to work on speed and mobility in movements that are very specific to judo while maintaining strength to bring my game up and reach what I consider advanced. Boxers and football players have other skills to work on.

Im just saying, a powerlifter that deadlifts 2xbw is not advanced. But a fighter that excels in his sport that deadlifts 2xBW is advanced for what they are doing because they have an entire other arena of training on their plate. In these discussions of standards, PLing and OLing always get brought up but it should be clarified that as sports, the weight training for PLing and OLing is so similar to the competitive events, but this is not the case in other sports


#7

I like Dan John’s “game changer” standards above for a solid intermediate bordering on advanced, with the exception of the squat, which I think is way too low. Don’t really get why the squat standard would be the same as the bench press… I’ve seen totally untrained guys get to a BW squat in less than a month of lifting. BW Bench Press takes quite a bit longer for most people.

I’d change the Squat “game changer” to BW x 1.5 for 10 reps or so.


#8

Roughly

Squat 2x BW
DL 2.5x BW
Bench 1.5x BW
Press 1x BW

That would constitute strong for most persons. Certainly not REAL strong as none of those numbers represent any specialization in a strength category but are rather general.


#9

[quote]Facepalm_Death wrote:

[quote]dagill2 wrote:
This is kind of a follow on to a thread on BSL forums not too long ago about “what constitutes strong” and is something I’ve been thinking a lot about as I start to set specific goals for the big 30.

What kind of performance figures would you expect to consider someone either intermediate or advanced?

The list can be anything, including, but not limited to:
O-Lifts
Powerlifts
Bodyweight exercises
5k time
etc.[/quote]

Lots of guys on these boards do sports and aren’t necessarily leaning towards PLing, OLing, BBing or anything like that. I like Dan John’s standards here: http://www.T-Nation.com/training/figuring-out-your-life-and-lifting-goals
When the game changer standards are reached, I personally see no need to go past them, and I feel the trainee has essentially reached the top end of the intermediate bracket. What pushes them into advanced bracket is maintaining the weight room performance with minimal interference to the other athletic demands of the sport. I’m talking about reaching the standards

I do judo and I need to be fit. In practice we do lots of pushups, running, agility drills, etc. and after all that picking someone up has to be easy. With all the cardio maintaining a 2xBW deadlift is easy in the weight room while increasing the weight is very difficult, but even maintaining strength I feel tight and slow sometimes in practice. I need to work on speed and mobility in movements that are very specific to judo while maintaining strength to bring my game up and reach what I consider advanced. Boxers and football players have other skills to work on.

Im just saying, a powerlifter that deadlifts 2xbw is not advanced. But a fighter that excels in his sport that deadlifts 2xBW is advanced for what they are doing because they have an entire other arena of training on their plate. In these discussions of standards, PLing and OLing always get brought up but it should be clarified that as sports, the weight training for PLing and OLing is so similar to the competitive events, but this is not the case in other sports
[/quote]

You do make a good point. However, outside the context of specific sports, and instead taking into account the general population, it of course makes sense that those who specifically practice and specialize in strength training (e.g. powerlifting or weightlifting) will be stronger than those who do not (e.g. a boxer). And that’s what is up for discussion: what’s strong. There’s a specific lack of qualification on that.


#10

I like the strstd.com classification, with one modification. The categories should be lowered by one, so elite becomes advanced, advanced comes intermediate, etc. Elite would be those who compete at a strength sport at a high level, e.g. nationally, and actually have a chance to win.

I’ve been lifting for 8 years, inconsistently (absolutely my, and probably the majority of peoples, biggest problem), and would only fit into the intermediate category for everything except squat. I’m quite interested in how long those who fit into the elite category on strstd.com (my definition of advanced) have been lifting and what sort of dedication was required.


#11

[quote]goochadamg wrote:

[quote]Facepalm_Death wrote:

[quote]dagill2 wrote:
This is kind of a follow on to a thread on BSL forums not too long ago about “what constitutes strong” and is something I’ve been thinking a lot about as I start to set specific goals for the big 30.

What kind of performance figures would you expect to consider someone either intermediate or advanced?

The list can be anything, including, but not limited to:
O-Lifts
Powerlifts
Bodyweight exercises
5k time
etc.[/quote]

Lots of guys on these boards do sports and aren’t necessarily leaning towards PLing, OLing, BBing or anything like that. I like Dan John’s standards here: http://www.T-Nation.com/training/figuring-out-your-life-and-lifting-goals
When the game changer standards are reached, I personally see no need to go past them, and I feel the trainee has essentially reached the top end of the intermediate bracket. What pushes them into advanced bracket is maintaining the weight room performance with minimal interference to the other athletic demands of the sport. I’m talking about reaching the standards

I do judo and I need to be fit. In practice we do lots of pushups, running, agility drills, etc. and after all that picking someone up has to be easy. With all the cardio maintaining a 2xBW deadlift is easy in the weight room while increasing the weight is very difficult, but even maintaining strength I feel tight and slow sometimes in practice. I need to work on speed and mobility in movements that are very specific to judo while maintaining strength to bring my game up and reach what I consider advanced. Boxers and football players have other skills to work on.

Im just saying, a powerlifter that deadlifts 2xbw is not advanced. But a fighter that excels in his sport that deadlifts 2xBW is advanced for what they are doing because they have an entire other arena of training on their plate. In these discussions of standards, PLing and OLing always get brought up but it should be clarified that as sports, the weight training for PLing and OLing is so similar to the competitive events, but this is not the case in other sports
[/quote]

You do make a good point. However, outside the context of specific sports, and instead taking into account the general population, it of course makes sense that those who specifically practice and specialize in strength training (e.g. powerlifting or weightlifting) will be stronger than those who do not (e.g. a boxer). And that’s what is up for discussion: what’s strong. There’s a specific lack of qualification on that.[/quote]

The original discussion on BSL was “what is strong?” Now we’re on “when is someone advanced or intermediate”.

The general population that works out wants to look good naked and little else. There are no strength standards to differentiate between intermediate and advanced for them, it all comes down to how they look. And since what these trainees are doing is essentially pretending to be bodybuilders, you could say none of them are advanced. The only advanced trainees in this context would be those that could hold their own on a stage. I might be splitting hairs a little here, but basically the stereotypical guy doing benchpress and curls and abs doesn’t a chance on the stage

It might sound elitist but I’m thinking intermediate and advanced are useless qualifiers for the “general population” because their goals are poorly defined. YOu could use intermediate and advanced for anyone that has clear goals though, which basically means athletes (including bodybuilders), no matter what level of seriousness they are at. The sport will always define goals in the gym for them. And it’s different for every sport. Its not that unusual either, there’s lots of amateur athletes out there: lots of guys in all different martial arts, crossfit, adult recreational football, soccer, basketball, amateur bodybuilding, mens physique competition, etc., these are the people I’m speaking for


#12

[quote]Facepalm_Death wrote:

[quote]goochadamg wrote:

[quote]Facepalm_Death wrote:

[quote]dagill2 wrote:
This is kind of a follow on to a thread on BSL forums not too long ago about “what constitutes strong” and is something I’ve been thinking a lot about as I start to set specific goals for the big 30.

What kind of performance figures would you expect to consider someone either intermediate or advanced?

The list can be anything, including, but not limited to:
O-Lifts
Powerlifts
Bodyweight exercises
5k time
etc.[/quote]

Lots of guys on these boards do sports and aren’t necessarily leaning towards PLing, OLing, BBing or anything like that. I like Dan John’s standards here: http://www.T-Nation.com/training/figuring-out-your-life-and-lifting-goals
When the game changer standards are reached, I personally see no need to go past them, and I feel the trainee has essentially reached the top end of the intermediate bracket. What pushes them into advanced bracket is maintaining the weight room performance with minimal interference to the other athletic demands of the sport. I’m talking about reaching the standards

I do judo and I need to be fit. In practice we do lots of pushups, running, agility drills, etc. and after all that picking someone up has to be easy. With all the cardio maintaining a 2xBW deadlift is easy in the weight room while increasing the weight is very difficult, but even maintaining strength I feel tight and slow sometimes in practice. I need to work on speed and mobility in movements that are very specific to judo while maintaining strength to bring my game up and reach what I consider advanced. Boxers and football players have other skills to work on.

Im just saying, a powerlifter that deadlifts 2xbw is not advanced. But a fighter that excels in his sport that deadlifts 2xBW is advanced for what they are doing because they have an entire other arena of training on their plate. In these discussions of standards, PLing and OLing always get brought up but it should be clarified that as sports, the weight training for PLing and OLing is so similar to the competitive events, but this is not the case in other sports
[/quote]

You do make a good point. However, outside the context of specific sports, and instead taking into account the general population, it of course makes sense that those who specifically practice and specialize in strength training (e.g. powerlifting or weightlifting) will be stronger than those who do not (e.g. a boxer). And that’s what is up for discussion: what’s strong. There’s a specific lack of qualification on that.[/quote]

The original discussion on BSL was “what is strong?” Now we’re on “when is someone advanced or intermediate”.

The general population that works out wants to look good naked and little else. There are no strength standards to differentiate between intermediate and advanced for them, it all comes down to how they look. And since what these trainees are doing is essentially pretending to be bodybuilders, you could say none of them are advanced. The only advanced trainees in this context would be those that could hold their own on a stage. I might be splitting hairs a little here, but basically the stereotypical guy doing benchpress and curls and abs doesn’t a chance on the stage

It might sound elitist but I’m thinking intermediate and advanced are useless qualifiers for the “general population” because their goals are poorly defined. YOu could use intermediate and advanced for anyone that has clear goals though, which basically means athletes (including bodybuilders), no matter what level of seriousness they are at. The sport will always define goals in the gym for them. And it’s different for every sport. Its not that unusual either, there’s lots of amateur athletes out there: lots of guys in all different martial arts, crossfit, adult recreational football, soccer, basketball, amateur bodybuilding, mens physique competition, etc., these are the people I’m speaking for
[/quote]

You’re right. What is strong for a martial artist will be different from what is strong for a crossfitter, which will again be different from what is strong for an adult recreational football player. I really have no idea what these numbers are.

I do have an idea of what is strong for the gym population as a whole, and that is described in a previous post. This does, of course, favor those who specifically practice strength training, but that is exactly how it should be. Those who practice playing soccer will be good at soccer. Those who train in martial arts will excel there. Those who train for strength will be strong.


#13

I’ve never really loved the whole bodyweight to weight lifted ratio thing. I think a 500 lb squat is strong. I think a 400 lb bench press is strong. I think a 315 clean is strong. You know what I mean? I don’t care what the athlete weighs, strong is strong. To me, unless you’re competing in weight-class specific sports (and granted many of us do), mentioning bodyweight is really of little value. It just gives an idea of how lean you are for the most part. I’ve just never wanted to have to say ‘yea but I only weighed X when I lifted Y, so it’s more impressive.’ I want to be able to say "I lifted Y. The end. "


#14

[quote]flipcollar wrote:
I’ve never really loved the whole bodyweight to weight lifted ratio thing. I think a 500 lb squat is strong. I think a 400 lb bench press is strong. I think a 315 clean is strong. You know what I mean? I don’t care what the athlete weighs, strong is strong. To me, unless you’re competing in weight-class specific sports (and granted many of us do), mentioning bodyweight is really of little value. It just gives an idea of how lean you are for the most part. I’ve just never wanted to have to say ‘yea but I only weighed X when I lifted Y, so it’s more impressive.’ I want to be able to say "I lifted Y. The end. "[/quote]

As a 293 pound dude who is probably good for a 500 pound squat if I belted up and wrapped my knees, part of me wants to REALLY agree with you there.

But when I compare what I’ve achieved in strength gains, which I’m very proud of, to the effort that leaner, smaller men have put in to move the same amount of weight it becomes clear that starting off as as I did (330 lbs) gave me a big advantage in gaining absolute strength.

So what “level” am I at? I’ve been doing barbell work for 17 months now, so I think I’m good to call myself an intermediate lifter, even though my squat max is less than 2x BW. Others may dispute that, but I don’t think I would have much to learn about squatting from a 155 pound guy who can squat 315.

At the end of the day, I don’t think any of this dick-measuring matters if you aren’t competing in a weight-class sport. Meeting your goals, being happy with your accomplishments and becoming the person you want to be are totally independent of any strength standards, be they absolute or relative to bodyweight.

To that point, I don’t think a 500 pound squat is very good… for me. I know I can do much better with more smart and focused training. Similarly, I don’t think weighing 293 pounds is good… for me. I know I can get much leaner with smart and focused dieting.


#15

I might as well add Rippetoe’s definition of novice / intermediate / advanced here, since there has been some discussion of criteria and what we mean by “intermediate” in the first place. His definition avoids this problem because it is a technical one, based on a lifter’s rate of adaptation to resistance training (which corresponds to his need for complexity in his programming).

A novice/beginner is defined as someone for whom the stress applied in a single workout is sufficient to cause an adaptation by the next workout. So for example a lifter on starting strength who can add 5 (or 10) lbs to his squat from Monday’s workout to Wednesday’s workout is a novice.

An intermediate is a lifter who takes longer to recover and adapt than a novice, and for whom progress is typically measured in weekly increments. Someone who can squat heavy on Monday, setting a PR, then add weight or reps and set a new PR the following Monday.

An advanced lifter is close enough to his ultimate physical potential that weekly progress is no longer possible. Usually, this means periodization, or monthly training cycles, are necessary.

This is a technical definition obviously and maybe not what the OP had in mind, because it doesn’t address what should be considered “strong” in a subjective sense, but it’s useful for some purposes. It means that the vast majority of the gym-going population will never reach “advanced” status, and that most athletes who aren’t in the strength sports don’t ever need to be more than intermediate lifters, to Facepalm’s point.

Basically its purpose is to determine the need for complexity in one’s training program. For example, I may be “advanced” according to Dan John’s standards or the strstd.com calculator, but I’m probably still an intermediate by Rippetoe’s definition, at least on some lifts.


#16

[quote]craze9 wrote:
I might as well add Rippetoe’s definition of novice / intermediate / advanced here, since there has been some discussion of criteria and what we mean by “intermediate” in the first place. His definition avoids this problem because it is a technical one, based on a lifter’s rate of adaptation to resistance training (which corresponds to his need for complexity in his programming).

A novice/beginner is defined as someone for whom the stress applied in a single workout is sufficient to cause an adaptation by the next workout. So for example a lifter on starting strength who can add 5 (or 10) lbs to his squat from Monday’s workout to Wednesday’s workout is a novice.

An intermediate is a lifter who takes longer to recover and adapt than a novice, and for whom progress is typically measured in weekly increments. Someone who can squat heavy on Monday, setting a PR, then add weight or reps and set a new PR the following Monday.

An advanced lifter is close enough to his ultimate physical potential that weekly progress is no longer possible. Usually, this means periodization, or monthly training cycles, are necessary.

This is a technical definition obviously and maybe not what the OP had in mind, because it doesn’t address what should be considered “strong” in a subjective sense, but it’s useful for some purposes. It means that the vast majority of the gym-going population will never reach “advanced” status, and that most athletes who aren’t in the strength sports don’t ever need to be more than intermediate lifters, to Facepalm’s point.

Basically its purpose is to determine the need for complexity in one’s training program. For example, I may be “advanced” according to Dan John’s standards or the strstd.com calculator, but I’m probably still an intermediate by Rippetoe’s definition, at least on some lifts.[/quote]

I really like this idea, but I suspect it would be hard to use it any practical sense because it operates under the assumption that everything is ideal.

I don’t think advanced would do well at describing a 150lb guy who takes months to advance beyond squatting 225lbs for 5x5 because he’s under-doing his recovery and binge-drinking every Friday and Saturday. Even when a trainee has the right idea, lifting is still a process of self-discovery: we will always be students. That, and life always has a funny way of getting in the way of consistency.


#17

I see what you mean, in that the definition refers to recovery in terms of what is possible vs what actually happens, but I think it’s working on a theoretical level. If the guy in your example squats 225 for 5x5 and that is sufficient stress to cause an adaptation that would allow him to lift 230 for 5x5 the next week, he is intermediate.

Whether he succeeds or fails to adequately recover in time for external factors is beside the point. He might actually think he’s advanced, because of his slow progress, but he would be wrong, and it would be wrong to put him on a periodized cycle spending a month loading volume, then tapering, then peaking, because if he can’t recover from the intermediate program he sure as hell won’t recover from that.

But you’re right that it’s kind of a nebulous concept, and ultimately requires trial and error to figure out what category you’re actually in. I think the distinction between novice and intermediate is easier to make, though, and more useful. The overall point is that you never want to use a program that is more advanced than you are, because the progress is slower (i.e., someone capable of increasing strength every workout shouldn’t do a program based around increasing every week).