T Nation

Beginner Training vs Veteran Training


I'm in-between jobs right now, so when I'm not training I like to think of ways how I can maximize my results, and these questions popped into my head.

I know building a respectable body is a big grind, takes time & effort, and the basic idea on what to do. However, since I have lots of time on my hands, it feels like I'm missing a few things out that could make results come a lot faster.

I've read over many articles and such, saying that X amount of volume is what you should aim for, usually 9-12 sets per muscle group etc. etc.

Also, when working up to a max set of reps on a compound lift, it should only be done once a week so you don't 'burn out'.

Who is this type of talk directed at exactly?

I know everyone is different, and will need different amounts of volume/training methods. But it would be nice if some of these training articles had a targetted group, i.e - beginner/intermediate/veteran.

This is why you get so many guys in a gym, who can only bench 135lbs, using bands/chains etc. Or using drop sets/rest-pause/giant sets. Then they get called out on it.

For example, last year I did CT's "pillars of strength" program to build up my legs. Little did I know it was a stupid idea since I was a beginner. The owner of my gym (massive dude, 350+lbs, strong as he looks) stops HIS training session and just says what I was doing is pointless.

Look at it from a beginner's perspective though, you have only been into the whole gym scene for 3-6 months, you read an article and assume it would benefit you. So why not try it?

If they KNEW it wouldn't benefit them, they probably wouldn't even be a beginner anyway.

What I'm getting at is, from an experienced lifters perspective, what do you think is (or isn't) beneficial for a beginner/veteran lifter?

When Poliquin or CT says training twice in one day can be effective (same muscle group - heavy compounds in AM, lighter reps in PM), does this apply to all training ages? Or only the stronger lifters who need more stimulus?

When a strength coach says don't max out on your lifts more than twice a week, does this apply to the little runt who can only bench 135lbs?

Can someone who is only training with light weights train with more volume and frequency? Or do they have to build up to it? And vice versa.

Have any of you guys had any experience training weaker lifters, and have a general idea of what works best for them? Is there a way to optimize their training, or does it just have to be kept simple no matter what?



Training for beginners

Max set of Reps.... What exactly are you talking about.

True but the search function works great and there are countless beginner stickies.

Guys who can only bench 135 shouldn't be trying to think of get rich schemes to bench more using wizardry. This includes bands, chains and other witchcraft.

How do you know it was a stupid idea besides what the owner of the gym said? The proof is in the pudding and you never noted if you made any progress in your lifts or not. But there isn't much to beginner leg work ~ Squat, Leg Press, RDLs, Deadlift, Sumos etc - It is do work stuff.

It is not the job of an author to foresee whether person #549 will benefit from it over person #4504

Beginner and Veteran are two different types of lifters.

Beginners : consistency, progression, dedication, commitment and setting goals : eating + lifting + sleeping. Repeat x 1billion.

Veterans : depends on their goals. lol.

Oh and the twice a day ~ You do realize that with the heavy and light workouts.. It is basically cutting 1 workout in half and splitting them into two?

I'd say a strength coach's job is to help someone get strong. Generally yes though in some programs 3 times a day can be a benefit ( something to do with overtraining methods.. ) Do I..? No I think 2 is the most I'd want to do. I toast myself pretty good for a good 5-6 days after 1 chest workout.

How often to train

Moving weights is not the same thing as building muscle. Are you at the gym to just move stuff around the building or are you trying to give your body a reason to grow.

Yes someone that isn't doing anything worthwhile can repeat the same task accomplishing nothing for more hours in a day and more often.

0 investment = 0 return

I'll get the ball rolling.

So many questions..

Yes yes yes no no yes no yes yes nono yes yes yes...

Seriously though I opt for the last question.

I've found that constantly pushing a weak lifter to give his best every rep and then, find somewhere in the universe, to give 1-3 more reps per set. Along with making sure they pour on the good eatin.
* The core lifts that are essential. Other spectacular feats of wizardry are reserved til after the fundamentals are addressed. What I mean is Go bench or hammer strength press or DB press like a champ. Then you can go play with the other dark arts.

Best way in my opinion is a more experience person partners up and forces them to perform at their max training ability.

Or hire a coach/trainer.

Option C in my opinion is letting the experienced guys at the gym know that you welcome anything they could share with you.

Occasionally I'll just offer to spot and tell the guy point blank he can do more and I'll wait and see if he is going to just go for broke knowing he's got someone making sure he can finish those attempts.

If he quits out early or refuses then I walk away.

Often times it only takes a few seconds to realize maybe its form maybe its being too.. stuck on the format of average 10 reps. Instead jacking the weight up by 10-50% and telling them to do a few.

Learning to make each rep fucking a work of art with maximum concentration and focus.

Oh and the twice a day ~ You do realize that with the heavy and light workouts.. It is basically cutting 1 workout in half and splitting them into two?

I think what a beginner learns from consistency is that seeing the same veterans in the gym for like 3months 6 months 1 year. You see them doing their training. You realize it isn't magic at all. But hard work and effort and a consistent day in day out step by step transition into a newer body.

At the same time after a year you will notice some people leaving and coming back looking like crap and you will learn to see FAIL written on the foreheads of some beginners.

Fail season begins in mid-June and at the beginning of every School Semester ( first 2-3 weeks ).

If they aren't toasted after 5-6 sets of benching and struggling through the other 3-4 exercises then they didn't lift heavy enough to start with. Optimization is teaching the newbie to actually lift instead of play grabass.

Too much thinking and trying to perform the dragonkick and not enough "shutup and lift".

How to design a damn good program

Dr. John M. Berardi ?
His 7 Effective methods

Okay that was my best attempt at answering chaos.


Example: Max set of 5 reps - you build up until you reach a weight where you can only do 5 reps on your last set.

Joe Defranco prescribes that for ME day on WS4SB.

What I meant was:

Are methods such as rest-pause / drop sets / giant sets beneficial for a beginning lifter? Or should they be left alone until you are at an advanced stage?

Yes, obviously.

But again, I was asking if something like this would make any difference at all for someone with relatively low experience in weight training.

What are you talking about?

I'm not talking about relatively light weights, I'm talking about light weights in general.

I.E - Is it safe to say that someone who DB bench presses 65lb dumbbells, can usually train with more volume and frequency than someone who uses 120lb dumbbells?

I'm not saying that the person who is using small weights isn't doing something worthwhile, because he is, he's training to get stronger.

I'm saying that because he is weaker, and doesn't tax his body as much, can he train more often?

Sorry I didn't structure my post better, my mind was on over-drive when I made it.


Really the overall point of my post was this:

Can a beginner use any out-of-the-norm methods to optimize his training?


That all really depends on the individual. With practice and experimentation sure. It is much more effective if you were able to bypass the learning curve by having someone more experienced maximize the training by forcing you to do it at a higher level.

  • Too lazy to quote stuff : Up to 5 reps ~ sure it works great though I also advocate going up to 3 reps or 1 rep at times.

  • Those other methods "can" be beneficial the various training methods yes can all be put to good work provided the trainee can push himself and give 150%

re light weight question - Okay you mean a weaker individual vs a stronger individual. Light and heavy are relative to the individual in question. I can train harder and longer using 120lb dumbbells then someone training where he is using 65lb dumbbells. Does that answer your question?

I think your confusing things. Just because a guy is weaker and lifts 65 lbs doesn't mean he isn't taxing his body as much as someone using 120lbs.

The reason why I cross the 100lb threshhold is because there are times where 100lbs just won't cut it. Not getting enough resistance to challenge my body enough for any real stimulation.

Whereas someone whom is weaker but using 65lbs could be operating at close to his max and punishing his body more.

Your concepts need to be corrected.

How much I lift vs how much you lift means nothing. < ---- reread this.

It is how effective I am training at any given weight vs how effective you are at training. Not! " So if Weak Guy uses 65lbs vs Strong Guy 120lbs then Weak Guy taxes his body less " <--- This is not a valid argument.


I'm still a 'weaker lifter' more or less, but I've lifted with guys that are weaker than I am by a fair measure, and by far the most important thing to do is drill over and over and over again, and then some more, how to squat, bench, pull, press, etc. properly.

A full squat is an incredibly complex physical skill that takes years to cultivate. Your focus has to be on doing it right every rep of every set.

The application in terms of a program is much less important, but of course, you should stay as simple as possible. Fewer moving parts means less chance for breakdown. Using a complex method when you don't need it means it will probably be less effective when you are further along and actually need something more complex to progress.

Keep it as simple as possible, don't change lifts or parameters too often, and most importantly, cultivate your lifting skill.


for what it's worth these are my thoughts on this.
when you are a beginner, totally untrained, you can do any old crap routine for a few weeks/months and will respond rapidly if you work hard enough. you won't tax your cns too hard because you will not be moving enough weight. soon you will plateau and then your training will need to be more structured.

rather than stressing out wether you could be doing something that will make you progress faster, just concentrate on the logbook, scales,mirror and use these indicators to see if how you are training is taking you closer to your goals.
when progress stalls, that is when you adjust something/change program whatever.

there is no magic formula for begginner/intermediate/veteran etc. it's all about steady progress.

remember your ability to progress isn't dependant on the amount of time you have to train as much as your ability to recover from your training.


For hypertrophy:

Beginners should focus more on neuromuscular coordination, using mainly compound exercises (for activation of several muscle groups) in a moderate to high rep range (12-15).

As they get used to activate the muscles heavy lifting can come gradually, getting to the most suitable rep range for the individual.


Yes, but it isn't the best way to go about it. A beginner can use intermediate to advanced methods and still gain muscle, but it isn't going to optimize his or her training. In simple terms, you only need to shock your body beyond its normal capacity in order to spark growth.

Trying and succeeding to lift beyond your current level of strength while eating an adequate amount of calories and protein to support growth is going to result in muscle gains. Anybody that says otherwise is full of shit. The most important thing is to be honest with yourself about your level of experience and development, and train (and eat) accordingly.

Any aspiring bodybuilder should avoid getting caught up in doing an advanced routine that they don't have to or need to do to in order to get results. If you are a beginner and haven't made gains on your current routine, you have either a) not been consistent/ haven't put enough effort in your training b) chosen the wrong routine (in which case you need to read around and find out what the majority of the big guys are doing) c) Not eaten enough cals and protein.

Anybody who has ignored the hype and worked things out for themselves won't worry about which program will give them the best results: they will also be the biggest guys and the ones worth listening to. They are the guys that won't be losing sleep over whether drop sets are better than straight sets. Don't worry about the technique, worry about the results.