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Best Way to Train a Beginner


Hey guys, you often hear people say.. oh I could go back to the start of my training.. I would be SO much bigger now because I know how to train smarter etc.
It's pretty true, most people do start with stupid programs that are too advanced for them and don't take the "advantage" of being a noob, that is rapid gains in size and strength. People still gain muscle and strength, but not as much as they could.

So, say you could train a beginner , someone new to the weightroom who wanted to get bigger and stronger how would you go about it?
I ask because a few of my freinds (age 16-17) want to start training, and I want to help them take that advantage of being a newb and get the best gains they can. I know that the main rule for mass is eating alot, generally speaking but what about the training part of things.



Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe + 1 gallon of milk per day.

Workout A

Workout B
Power Clean

All are 3x5 except for deadlifts, those are 1x5, pullups/chins do 3 sets to failure.

Mark Rippetoe has been known and proven to put 40 lbs on his trainees faster than anyone else.

Buy the book or at least search for "starting strength" around here.


yeah, something along the lines of a 5x5 programme, with a gallon of milk+ a ton of other food.dont worry about looking good until you got BW OHP, and 2BW squat for example. i have to remind myself all the time - stop fretting bout looks, i'm still weak!


Three to four workouts per week. Multiple sets of low to moderate reps (5-10), not lifting to muscular failure. Each workout focused around compound free weight exercises with some isolation lifts as "dessert" at the end of some sessions.

There are a bunch of pre-written programs that would work with these ideas, like Starting Strength, Total Body Training, classic 5x5, a basic upper/lower split, push/pull/legs.

I'd start them with a super-basic bodyweight plan for the first few weeks. 2 sets of their age in reps for the squat, push-up, lunge, pull-up, plank, and burpee/squat thrust. After they can handle those with no problem, progress to a plan like above.


I think the biggest thing for me was




If only I ate more in high school I could have made amazing gains, and was active enough in sports it would not have been fat.


I would teach them about 1) Goals, and 2) ask somebody who knows. 3) To train with people alot more advanced than you.


Thanks for all the replies guys, it looks like starting strength and something along the lines of it should work the best, with all of food/milk. Adding "beach work" or "dessert work" is a great idea i think, esp for people my age since we like focusing on teh armz and teh peCZ!! :smiley:

Also upto what point would you recommend starting strength, like if somebody has already been training with full range squats etc. for a few months sorta like ws4sb style, and have a 1x bw bench, 1.5xbw squat, would it be wise to put them on starting strength or would something else work better?
Thanks for all the help, much appreciated!


The hardest thing may be keeping them interested. Working out can be boring to beginners, especially if they don't see gains quickly. Work out with them, teach them new things, and encourage them along the way, but don't come off as a know-it-all. Once they see changes in their physiques they'll be hooked and be coming back for more.

Most important tip for beginners is just to eat more.

If someone is already squating and benching decent numbers (in proportion to their body weight) then I wouldn't consider them "beginners". I would help them address lagging body parts (bigger traps, upper pecs, w/e) and push them to bring those areas up to speed.


I wish I had someone show me proper form on the big three, and just how much food you need to grow.


All of the comments above are excellent in terms of movements, rep ranges, etc. So I concur with those...

The most important thing that I was taught when I started was by my first training partner. He was/is several years older than me and was quite advanced when I first started out. One day he simply said to me,

"Always do it for yourself...never do it for anyone else."

If you can get your newbies to believe in that...then they'll figure the rest out because they won't give up if their inner drive is strong enough.



If you are doing WORK in the weight-room I highly doubt you'll get "fat". a little soft, yes...fat however. Doubt it.


Yeah I didn't write it very well, we lifted a lot after track, and had a weight coach, but he never told us to eat. The only guys I knew who ate a lot were on football and my friend said something like "you have to eat till you get fat and that fat turns to muscle" heh :slight_smile:

So I worked really hard but never saw a ton of improvement in either my sprinting or lifts, because I didn't eat enough.


Unfortunately OP you are probably correct in your statement that all guys your age want teh armz and teh pacz...

I've recently switched gyms and in neither my first gym or this one have I ever seen guys close to my age(and certainly not the ones younger than me) actually train their legs. They seem to prefer 'The Real Big Three': half rep benches, curls in wife beater tops as close to the mirror as possible and smith-machine shoulder press(if I get asked to spot one of these SMSP sets again I'm gonna force the bar down on them to make them realise all they have to do is move their damn wrists)
Sorry, babbling a bit here...

My point is, that on a programme like SS with a gallon of milk a day, your friends will probably go a bit 'soft' like ronaldo7 said. In my experiance, 16/17 year old kids will freak out at that and will probably not stick to the programme as it won't get them ripped

Just my two cents, I could be wrong


Ditto this.

I think, having done this several times before, the big thing is making them understand the concepts at work in body transformation, and also making no bones about exactly how hard it is...it's kind of a dare actually. But they need to understand how much dedication it will take to do it.

They also need to draw on your experience and they need an environment to ask questions that will not be ridiculed...no matter how stupid they might sound.

In general, I try to agree with as much of their question or ideas as possible while simultaneously pointing out the serious flaws and assumptions they just made. It's easier to say, "yeah, I see where you're coming from but it really doesn't work that way", or "well, sometimes that can work, like if 1., 2., 3., but generally you want....." than to say "No.".

Also, I try and explain in practical terms the reasons behind WHY you want something or do something, or train in a certain way...

because if someone is trying something out, they often want to be told why something works or doesn't work as much as they want to be told what to do. They want reassurance that you know things, and/or that this particular approach has worked before---I often use myself or people at the gym I know as examples because then they can visually see the difference it makes.

They need positive reinforcement. This goes along with my general approach to questions above. Encouragement, but not hand holding. Bust their ass, but tell them every time they do something right. They aren't to the point where going to the gym is a good experience on its own yet, they need external motivation. That's often the way it goes with newbs and only time in the gym will make you self-motivated as most vets usually are.

As far as training itself goes, that depends a) on your level of real world experience and progress b) on your book knowledge and c) on your ability to supervise them.

If you can personally look after them most or all of the times they're at the gym, then you can use more advanced training programs than Starting Strength or 5x5. Use something you have personal positive experience with. Me, that's WSB training. I know that shit. Dumbed down for newbs of course.

But there's no use in advocating box squatting or something if they're going to be left on their own without proper technique coaching and supervision. If you don't have the ability to coach them personally in the gym most of the time then you need a simple foolproof program like Starting Strength, Scrawny to Brawny, or 5x5.

Newbs react best to concrete plans, not programs that leave too much open to choice, which is an advantage for vets. Example, while you could say "shoot for 40-50 reps depending on how good you feel, and use as many sets as you need to get there", you could not say "waveload the bench for 3 waves" or "You need a total training volume of 12,000 pounds". So you make a program that allows some small choices, but no big choices where they can mess up.


4 day split, basic freeweight exercises, making them keep a logbook so that they're sure they are increasing either their reps or their weight on their exercises every time they're in the gym.

On a sidenote, the LAST thing I would have a beginner do is Starting Strength.


I think SS would be good even for people not complete beginners if they could even just get a couple weeks from it.

I did a upper/lower split for 5 months before I went on SS and I still made quick gains on it, it just lasted 2 oe 3 weeks instead of months. It won't ever be this easier to add weight to the bar so you might as well take advantage of it. Also as mr popular said, a log book is a must!

What do you have against Starting Strength for beginners mr popular?


Because I have yet to see one person use Starting Strength and not wind up with either muscle imbalances, and/or imbalanced and stagnated lifts.

It's just not necessary to be that minimalistic, not to mention going that heavy when form is still a huge issue for novices.


Man, don't even open that can of worms. I tried having that conversation with the guy a few weeks ago, and he doesn't really have an answer...
... even though Starting Strength abides by two of the three tips he listed in his post above (basic free weight exercises and beating the logbook with heavier weights each workout).

Starting Strength is not a cure-all program that every new kid needs to do, but it is one solid option. I also listed some other options in my first post above.

And I definitely agree that, with beginners, the sooner smart nutrition is introduced, the better. Although a fine line needs to be walked with any talk of "bulking" or "eat, eat, just fuckin' eat" because if you don't explain things to them any further, many will see that as an invitation a gorge on crap and rationalize that "it's all going towards muscle."


Thank God someone else noticed


Thanks alot for all the advice guys, its appreciated. Some of the points like not be a "know it all" and not just turn down people ideas and shit. I m by not a trainer or anything by all means, but i do know alot more then the average gym goer, esp guys my age. When i used to go gym with a few freinds id always tell them what they are doing wrong etc but they never realy listend seeing as im not very big myself lol and thats being kind to myself, so i do have a long way to go to a good physique, but incase i do start going gym with some people that want some help starting out, ill know abit more now thanks to you guys :smiley: