T Nation

Beginner Program


Hey guys, how does this look for a 13 year old kid looking to get started in the weightroom? It’s pretty similar to 5x5 (almost exactly 5x5).

Workout A:

Front Squat - 5x5

Chest Supported Barbell Rows - 5x10
Bench Press - 5x5

Band Pull-Aparts - 3x15
Close Grip Bench - 3x5

RKC Planks - 3x30 sec

Workout B:

Front Squat - 5x5

Chest Supported Barbell Rows - 5x10
BTN Press - 5x5

Barbell Curls - 3x8

RKC Planks - 3x30 sec

That’s it. Training typically 3 days a week, adding 5 lbs to the lifts as long as possible. When he fails at a weight we will repeat it. Trying to add in lots of pulling to offset the nature of most people’s lifestyle and posture these days, also because building a better back and not relying solely on benching will put him light years ahead of most kids training. BTN pressing is done very carefully and after warming up the shoulders. After several weeks no shoulder pain is noticed. He says he likes it better and feels it more completely in his shoulders than standard overhead pressing. Front squats are to teach upright posture, get some work done on his “abs,” and work his thoracic extensors.

If time allows, we add in some loaded carries afterwards as his “cardio” and maybe some sprinting if the weather allows it, but most often it’s just the carries. He’s overweight anyways so I don’t want him to hurt himself. Heavy lifts and carries are doing plenty to help him lose fat, build muscle, and get stronger anyways.

Let me know if this seems like a good program for a beginner. Let me know if you have any tips or what you’d do when working with a beginner.

P.S. Due to the equipment we have (we workout in a garage gym) deadlifts are’t possible right now (we use a 15 lb barbell and the weight plates are only a few inches in diameter. His mobility doesn’t allow him to get down that low to grab the bar, and besides, it’d be using mostly his quads which the front squats cover), and after trying SLDL, RDL, and good mornings, he seems unable to learn how to properly learn how to hip hinge and everything goes to his lower back. Actually I’m sure this is more my fault than his, but I am doing some reading as how to properly teach this movement before I start making him do it. Anyone know who to go to for this? Dan John’s got some good stuff.


Except that more than half the training every workout isn’t 5x5. Alrighty.

I generally prefer to start kids with bodyweight work, to build basic conditioning, strengthen tendons, and other reasons discussed here. This is my go-to plan:

If you wanted to jump right into weight training, that plan isn’t terrible, but I’d tweak some small things. Biggest thing is that if you can hold an RKC plank for 30 seconds, you’re either crazy-strong of you’re doing the movement wrong. A beginner should have difficulty getting past 10 seconds of a legit RKC plank. But I feel it’s not actually a beginner move because it’s so intense and requires some total body mind-muscle connection, so I prefer starting with the basic top push-up position plank.

The entire posterior chain is getting overlooked, so we need to figure out something. Even a one-leg RDL is pretty easy to learn and can be done unweighted. He can keep the back leg low-but-still-off-the-ground if balance is an issue.

Third world squat as part of every warm-up. I’m guessing he’s also squatting above parallel?

Yep, Dan John had a really good breakdown of hinging here, specifically work the wall drill and the goat belly swings. I probably wouldn’t even get into actual swings for now. Just drill the movement pattern because that’s crucial.

In general, Wendler talked about training kids here and Dan John talked about it here. Definitely give both of those a read.


This is (extremely) overdue, but thanks for the reply Chris. It was helpful. I have no training or education with strength training outside of personal experience and T-Nation articles, but since I’ve gotten into it, and made somewhat decent results, family and friends have asked for help. This plan was for a young teenage boy I know.

I realized it was nothing like the orginal 5x5 plan(s) - what I meant by that was it had 2 workouts, adding 5 lbs every time as long as possible on lifts, and of course the following of 5 sets of 5 reps for (some) movements.

The 3-day/week plan you gave was useful. I used it with him. He’s quite overweight, and finds bodyweight movements extremely difficult. That of course doesn’t give reason to stay away from them, but I wanted to find some way for him to gain strength and lose some fat without watching him struggle with pushups for 20 minutes. I had to alter this one - elevated pushups and very vertical looking horizontal rows (hope you get what I mean there) made it easier.

I obviously did not understand a true RKC plank or what went into it. Thanks for your help there. The plank in a top of the pushup position worked really well.

He was squatting below parallel - that was never an issue for some reason. What was tough for him was to get into a proper deadlift stance with how low my crappy wieght set sat on the ground. I set up some platforms to raise it to the correct height, and that worked, but Dan John’s articles (thanks for those links) has helped us overcome his difficulty hip hinging. He can do it now!

I’ve been reading a lot of Wendler’s stuff lately. Love his writing style. I’ll be continuing to do some type of linear progression until that stops working for us, then may switch to 5/3/1, and will continue to work on mobility and relative strength. Maybe the nice weather this summer will lead to a lot more conditioning outside, helping lose some fat.

Thanks again. Sorry I took so long to reply.


Are you hoping front squats and planks provide enough work for your hams and lower back? Or do you just not care about them?


No I care about them. He had spent a few months before this working pretty much only on back squats. He and I both had very limited time where our schedules matched, and when we could meet it was for a short time, so for a few months he pretty much only did back squats.

At the time I only had 100 lbs worth of weights I could use (I’ll be getting more soon), and he did a variety of things with that 100 lbs - 5x5, 20 rep sets, etc. For sets with lower reps we’d just focus more on bar speed, since there wasn’t a whole lot of time or equipment to do a whole lot else.

I made the switch to front squats hoping it would provide more of a challenge for him, since obviously his strength on those would be lower. I also wanted him to learn the front rack position, so eventually if I could teach him a clean variation he’d be familiar with the position he’d be in to catch it.

We haven’t been meeting a whole lot lately, but I’ve been telling to do some bodyweight posterior chain movements at home - supermans, various types of bridges or thrusts, sliding leg curls on his wooden floor, and been trying to work in some RDL’s lately too. When I get more weight we’ll probably switch back to back squats since he can keep progressing.


Always great to hear follow-ups, man. Good stuff.