T Nation

Beginners Gains


I've been putting off starting one of these for a while, but here goes nothing.

Been pretty sedentary much of my life. Not sure why but I got it into my head that the gym was a place where all the fit, athletic people would be found and I was far to self-conscious to venture there.

About 5 years ago I suffered compression fractures to my spine, ankles, and feet. 30% loss in anterior height L/T junction. Right foot: Burst calcaneus, sub-talar fusion (screw), Mid-foot compartment syndrome. Deformed from the compartment syndrome and current dislocations in mid-foot. Left foot / ankle: Tibia fracture close to ankle (plate and screws), navicular dislocation. In both cases: Midfoot instability (unable to run), not much ankle dorsiflexion, not much side to side movement (trouble walking on unstable terrain).

32 years old. 5'7. 60kg(plus or minus depending on time of month etc). Don't know bodyfat.

Joined the gym about 15 months ago because I was feeling very decrepit and decided it was time to do something about it. Machine weights for 3 months, Dumbbell free weights for 3 months, and then I got it into my head that I wanted to do the olympic lifts.

Mostly because it is a symbol of flexibility, mobility, and strength for me. I figure I'll have made good gains on all if I can actually do them with proper form. Wasn't sure whether it would be possible for me or not, but decided that I wanted to try.

Found myself a coach a while back.

Still very much making beginners gains. Doing a combination of general strength / olympic lifting technique. Ramping and autoregulating. Have trouble not going to the gym / taking things easy. Currently doing something like this:

Clean Pulls / Powerclean: 8x3 (up to 40kg). 42.5kg 1RM.
Standing Press: 5x5 (25kg, 27.5kg, 30kg (need a couple push-presses here), 27.5kg, 25kg)
Front Squat: about 25 reps. One set 5, sets 3, up to heavy singles, two back off sets of 3). 40kg 1RM
(My squat is weak because of dorsiflexion issues. Have oly shoes but still need to stand on 2.5kg plates for additional lift and have a slightly wider than usual stance. Still feel like I'm figuring things out, really. And long femurs. Damn them.)
Push Ups: Ladders. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Aiming to get to 10 and back.
Abs: Working on TVA activation with planks / stability ball planks. Want to progress to roll-outs.

Snatch Pulls / Powersnatch: 8x3 (up to 25kg). 27.5kg 1RM
Snatch: Doubles 20kg, 22.5kg. Singles 25kg. 27.5kg. 30kg 1RM (sometimes!)
Romanian Deadlift: Just started after recovering from overuse injury with regular deadlifts / vigorous lumbar spine rolling. Bit wary of deadlifts now. And lumbar spine rolling. Still learning form on this one and taking it easy. 5x5. 40kg, 50kg, 50kg, 50kg, 40kg.
Standing Bent Over Rows: Working hard on form to get good lat activation. 5x5. 35kg top set.
Lat Pull Down / Play with Chin-Up Bar: Ditto on form. Pull Downs trying to get good activation. Think I'm cheating on the Bar (even on flexed arm hang). It makes me very sad (or sometimes mad) that I can't do a proper chin-up yet.
Abs: Ditto.

Alternate for 6 or 7 days a week. Or to be fair I usually mess around more on the weekend rather than following the program (doing some flying on the AMT or working flexibility / mobility). Still very much making beginners gains. Anyway, there it is for now.

1) Quit smoking. Been a battle over the last year. 3 months longest quit. I WILL GET THERE!!! I know it is a problem with sets of 5 are feeling like an endurance event.
2) Get serious about nutrition and sleep. Been learning about nutrition. Am intermittently pretty good (to the best of my knowledge) but sometimes revert to crap. Will start keeping a food log.
3) Snatch 35kg (smallest bumpers on the womens oly bar)
4) Clean (squat clean) 35kg. This requires me sorting out the transition from pull to catch (where the pull doesn't want additional heel lift and a narrow stance while the catch wants additional heel lift and a wider stance). Maybe I can learn to jump from no plates out to the plates. That doesn't sound like such a good idea... Sigh. Need to figure this out.

Well, thats me. For now.


Alexus, good for you for starting a log, you'll find many benefits to it. Your plan looks good and bravo for beginner gains. You'll be knocking out chin-ups in no time, don't worry about that!

May I ask how you got all those compression fractures? Sounds like a rough road through that recovery but it also seems like you're doing great!

Oh, and good luck on the quitting of smoking, you can do it!


Read all the details of your first post.

I used to train with Oly-style lifts (minus the snatch). Trying to figure out what you're saying under the Clean goal. Are you cleaning from the floor or standing position?

I totally understand the challenge when you say "have trouble not going to the gym/taking it easy." I'm the same way. Six or seven days a week is a lot of training, though, and your gains may actually come quicker and more safely if you back down to, say, four days a week.

That's great you have a coach.


Thanks inkaddict. Really happy to be here and have the opportunity to learn from all these powerful women! I think I might prioritize chins a bit more since progress seems to have been stuck for quite some time now, and I have been doing them last... I do really, really want to be able to do at least one from a dead hang, though. Should have added that to my goals.

My injuries are from an impact car crash. It is strange (to me) that I can't really do anything impact (run, jump) but weightlifting seems fine since it is all about weight on the heels rather than impact through the midfoot. No ankle pain from catching as yet, but I guess I'll have to see what happens as the weights go up. Hopefully I'll gradually adjust as they gradually increase. Probably... One of the best things I could be doing for my recovery, really. Improving bone density etc.

Need to see about the smoking... I'll post my quit date once I've decided on one.


Trying to figure out what you're saying under the Clean goal.

Yeah. I find this confusing myself...

I'm power cleaning / clean pulling from bumpers off the floor or from blocks to set smaller metal plates at the same height. I catch very high in the sense that it either makes it up to my shoulders with minimal ankle / knee bend or I fail. I like to pull with oly shoes and a slightly narrower than shoulder width stance

I need to learn to get myself down under the bar in the cases where it doesn't fly high enough to land on my shoulders (so do a proper clean).

Squatting / catching is less about 'like' and more about 'must'. Doing a Dan John style front squat / catch I need to break from the knees / ankles and sit my torso down between my legs. Problem: With a regular stance (feet about hip width turned out slightly - so wider than I'm pulling from) in oly shoes I can't dorsiflex enough to get my knees out of the way so that my torso is balanced to sit straight down. One fix is to adopt a wider, almost sumo stance (knees can trek out to the sides more). That feels bio-mechanically weak (lots of pressure on my hips and very very weak standing up from there). Another fix is to add additional heel lift currently in the form of 2.5kg plates (knees can trek in front of toes more). That feels better bio-mechanically (that is how I'm front squatting) but the additional heel lift (probably looking at nearly 2" now) weakens the pull considerably and it is still wider than what I'm currently pulling from.

I need to figure some trade-off between heel lift, stance width, and whether I'm going to jump my feet into a different position for the pull-catch transition. At the moment the process feels... Frustrating. I need heel lifts in smaller increments than the plates. And I need to attach them to my shoes so I can experiment with jumping my feet out a little wider for the catch rather than needing to land where I pulled (on the plates). Give me snatches over cleans any day (sitting back more for overhead squat / catch renders this a non-issue).

I hope that wasn't too confusing :-/

Six or seven days a week is a lot of training, though, and your gains may actually come quicker and more safely if you back down to, say, four days a week.

Yeah. My coach does mutter things about 'CNS fried' and 'periodization' occasionally. I'm a bit torn between persisting (still making gains - squat going up weekly) and doing some kind of periodization or lighter days. I think I'm getting better at autoregulating (so working technique at light weights) when I'm feeling a bit fried from the last workout. I am starting to think that heavy lifting / CNS intensive stuff might be best limited to every second day, though. And maybe deadlifts once per week (and maybe less sets at a heavier weight). If I got better with nutrition / sleep / quitting smoking I'm sure I'd recover much better...

Sorry that was so long.


your quit day is now. :slight_smile:

best of luck.


What's the heel height like on your shoes right now? You can take then to a shoe repair and add more rubber to the bottom. If you do this in layers, in time you might be able to peel a layer off with increased flexibility. This was recommended to me by a former coach, it is legal for competition from what I understand, although you might want to confirm that with your federation.


mmmmm ...cigarettes....best way to do it is avoid all people in your life that do it. And quit all smoking stiumulators: coffee, big meals/patterns that make you smoke. Replace with carrot sticks. Go ape shit for a couple of weeks, but then you'll eventually forget about it. Also doing cardio helps.

yea!!! a log in KGs and not LBS!
How do you like working with a lifting coach? Helpful? Seen lots of gains the past 15months?

best of luck!


Nimain - my quit date is very, very soon. I have a deadline at work at the moment that I need to focus on. My quit date is as soon as that is done (Tuesday next week at the latest).

Dinab - I have oly lifting shoes. I want to get into oly lifting so I've been looking into the weightlifting rules... A bit cryptic, but I think it is okay for me to raise the heels up a bit more. My shoes have a wooden block heel with a layer of rubber over the top. I've been thinking of getting a cobbler to take the rubber off and add more of a wooden wedge - but need to specify the height and graduation of the wedge. I didn't think about adding layers, though. That is a great idea. I'll have a chat to a cobbler.

BreStruction - Yes, I have one friend in particular who is a really bad influence on my smoking (and drinking). Know from past experiences with quitting that I'll need to avoid him for a couple weeks until the cravings have largely passed. I'll be sure to stock up on carrots and drink lots of water. I'll also get into the cardio, too, because one of the biggest motivators to stay quit is noticing that my limiting factor with cardio becomes muscle burn rather than feeling like I'm going to pass out from oxygen deprivation.

My coach is basically a dude at the gym who (to the best of my knowledge) lifts with very good form. He is a form Nazi IMHO which is wonderful for me. I was doing things as best I could before I started training with him but when I started with him things really got a good overhaul. I really don't think I'd be lifting what I'm lifting now if it wasn't for his making me do bodyweight squats and goblet squats and broomstick squats etc. Still doing a lot of work on form and finding objective feedback to be really very helpful indeed.

When I first started at the gym I: Could barely stationary bike for 10 minutes on the lowest setting. Couldn't complete 3 sets of 10 on the overhead press machine with the pin out of the damned machine. Couldn't lunge without falling over. Couldn't squat myself (wasn't mobile enough but also wasn't strong enough. Couldn't stand on my tiptoes. I've come a long way :slight_smile:

SAT: Bodybalance (aka: I need a day off but I can't not go to the gym). Standing strength kills me. Muscles give up after about 20 seconds. I'm thinking that is a good thing :slight_smile:
SUN: Actual day off.

SNATCH PULLS: 20kg 1x3, 22.5 kg 1x3, 27kg 1x3, 25kg 1x3, 22kg 1x3, 20kg 1x3. Focusing on pulling straight. Easy.
SNATCH: 20kg double, 22.5kg double, 25kg double, 27.5kg single, 30kg single. Feeling good so: 32.5kg miss. Chickened out on the pull (how I tend to miss). 32.5kg got it! Solid as a rock! PB woo hoo!!! 27.5kg 3x2. Feeling good :slight_smile:
ROMANIAN DEADLIFT: 1x10 womens bar warm up. 35kg 1x5, 45kg 1x5, 50kg 1x5 Was feeling it in my back a little so switched to:
REGULAR DEADLIFT: 60kg 1x5, 65kg 1x5. Felt good. Heaviest I've gone with that since hurting my back doing 75kg and rolling what needed to recover.
BENT OVER BARBELL ROW: 1x10 womens bar warm up. 25kg 1x5, 30kg 2x5 (losing lat activation a little so did another set at that weight), 35kg 1x5. Not so good. Losing lat activation and muscling up with biceps, I think :frowning: 30kg 1x5.
CHIN UP BAR / LAT PULL DOWN: Up to 40kg with good activation on machine. Playing around on the bar. Can't contract my lats properly in the top position (not strong enough yet). AAAAARGH.
PLANKS: Did some. Also did ab activation work between sets on the first 2 exercises.

If things feel good... I'm going for my goal of 35kg snatch next Monday :slight_smile: Pretty green bumpers here I come...


Nice work on the 32.5! Would love to see some vids.
You mentioned that you have some issues getting under the bar, has your coach addressed bumping at the hip? I know not all oly coaches use that method. It makes a huge difference in technique.
The replays really show a good example of bumping at the hip.


french canadian hotty ftw!


oooh!!!! an olympic log!! I'm interested!! all those terms i have to look up and study but badass! very cool!!


The girl in the vid is doing snatches and I thought your challenge was on the clean. When I did Oly cleans (from the floor), I would pull to about hip height and quickly drop into an ATG squat to get under the bar. I do find that the correct "choreography" of this lift takes a lot of practice.


KP, the hip bump comes into play for both lifts, the principle is the same for C&J and snatch. I know some coaches refer to this as a "second pull" which is a confusing term (for me anyways).


LOL she is the nicest person and strong as hell. She just took gold at the Commonwealth games in India.
I swear, if you want resources for oly lifting, Montreal is a great place to be situated in.


Didn't know that. But I never learned the snatch. I never did master the pubic thrust bump. I found it incredibly painful. I suppose one gets used to it?


yup, just like everything else LOL


Damn girl, LOVING your workouts.

Welcome to PW :slightly_smiling:


So great to see a long limbed lifter doing well!!! I only caught the women's lightest weight lifting at the commonwealth games. Happy to see the Nigerian long limbed lifter take the gold for that, too :slightly_smiling:

Wow guys, thanks for all the responses :slightly_smiling: Really happy to finally have plucked up the courage to have started a log here. Also really enjoying reading other logs - will take me some time to catch up with where people are at / what people are up to, but I am trying.

Yeah, my problem is the clean rather than the snatch (snatching more than I can powersnatch at the moment - which is as it should be). The problem is complicated (I confuse myself) but basically my front squat is very picky about where my feet are in order for me to get under / descend with an upright torso. My front squat is also weaker than my powerclean which is sad, sad, sad :frowning: I'm thinking I might see about getting a bunch of wooden wedges of different heights (they might be able to cut them for me at some hardware store) and then taping them to my shoes. I'll figure it out soonish...

I'm working on my second pull a lot at the moment. Never thought of it as a 'hip bump' - but this is something that I'm playing with, experimenting on slightly different ways of doing it. My powerclean is a bit stuck at the moment. 45kg just won't go up (I chicken out at the second pull because I don't think I have the strength to pull it up to my shoulders and I'm certainly not going to try and squat that up). Something needs to be tweaked technique-wise... Thanks so much for posting the vids (and much more helpful for me to see long limbed lifters rather than the usual short limbed genetically suitable freaks).

Todays workout sucked ass. Realized half way through that I was so excited to be going to the gym that I forgot to eat breakfast. My own dumb-ass fault :frowning: for what it is worth (not a lot - worst workout in ages):

POWERCLEAN: 30kg 1x3, 35kg 1x3, 40kg 1x3, 35kg 1x3. (first 'wave'. coach suggested I try that). Then I added the 2.5kg plates under my heels where I usually squat from. This makes my stance wider than before and the heel raise weakens the pull a lot (and changes most of the movement IMHO) but I'm able to 'get under' the bar a little more if it doesn't get up high enough to rack. 30kg 1x3, 35kg 1x3, 40kg 1x3, 35kg 1x3. Okay. Waves: good. Plates / no plates situation: bad :frowning:
OVERHEAD PRESS: 25kg 1x5, 27.5kg 1x5, 30kg 2x3 (realized I'd fail doing the fourth rep on 1x5 so decided to do this instead), 27.5kg 1x4 fail the fifth rep so push-pressed it up, 25kg 1x5.
FRONT SQUAT: Feeling like crap now so this sucked ass. All of it. 20kg 1x5. Why does my warm-up feel so heavy???!! 25kg 1x3, 30kg 1x3, 35kg try for 1x3 but failed second rep. WTF!!! Did a single for confidence (realized I forgot to eat). 30kg try 1x3 failed first rep. 20kg 1x5.
PUSHUPS: Bailed to go eat.



I just watched the vid again. Notice how she jumps her feet out a little wider for the pull / catch transition? That is what I can't do standing on plates (might land half on / half off and things would turn nasty).

I will ask a friend to take a vid of me at some point. I'd be interested to see it myself ('cause I can't really watch myself lift) and I'd also be keen to get feedback. Also: 'Post it or it didn't happen'. Fair 'nuff :wink: