T Nation

Help Selecting Proper Beginner Routine


#1

I've been working out for about a year now and like 99% of all new guys in the gym I spent the majority of my time "majoring in the minors." Doing a lof of pointless isolation work and neglecting to workout my legs like I should. I also have yet to find a workout routine that I've stuck to. Everything I've done thus far has basically been a waste of time. I've put on only about 15lbs in my first year of training and that's mostly been due to my efforts in trying to eat more.

All of this being said, I know what I've been doing has been wrong and as I mentioned before, pointless. However, part of my reasoning behind my "methods" of training have been because I have bad imbalances. From the time I could walk until I graduated high school I played baseball like it was a fulltime job. I was a pitcher with prospects of playing in college. After years and years of throwing bullpens, my left arm has become incredibly more dominant than my right. Now before everyone jumps me saying that everybody has a dominant side and imbalances, my arms and even chest are noticeably different in size, especially when I'm wearing a t-shirt.

My whole left arm including; bicep, tricep, and shoulder are larger and stronger than my right causing my chest to also become imbalanced. This is due to when working out my chest my secondary muscles can't keep up. So just to be clear.. left arm is stronger so it does the work leaving my left pec weak, right arm is weak and unable to handle the weight creating a stronger and larger right pec.

I tried using the isolation exercises to improve and balance out my arms and chest. However, I've had little to no success. I've done a ton of reading and research on the subject of fixing imbalances and have about given up. There's just so much information on it ranging from; "it'll fix itself, you haven't been working out long enough, do dumbbell work, only lift what you can with the weak side on the strong side, do isolation exercises, etc. etc. etc." I've tried nearly everything I've found and have pretty much given up on it.

So back to the original point to the post. I'm looking for advice on a routine that has proven to give results for what I consider myself a "beginner." I'd like a legitimate weekly plan for adding a solid foundation for lifting and building strength. I'm 6' 145lbs. and 24 years old.

Sorry for the lengthy post, but wanted to give as much information as possible on my athletic and training history. Hopefully the things I've mentioned will help with selecting the right routine for me.

Thanks in advance!


#2

5/3/1


#3

Starting Strength is what I’d recommend. Search for it (“starting strength”) on this site and on google, or just buy the book. Greyskull LP and 5/3/1 for beginners are also good, but SS is the original and has an extensive, proven track record.

As far as your imbalance, how is your posture? Does your left shoulder hang lower than your right shoulder, when at rest?

If it’s just a muscular issue, i.e. more muscle on one side, it should correct itself over time with proper training. Your right side will fail before your left side on, say, the bench press, but that just means you will have to progress at whatever rate is appropriate for the weaker side.


#4

[quote]craze9 wrote:
Starting Strength is what I’d recommend. Search for it (“starting strength”) on this site and on google, or just buy the book. Greyskull LP and 5/3/1 for beginners are also good, but SS is the original and has an extensive, proven track record.

As far as your imbalance, how is your posture? Does your left shoulder hang lower than your right shoulder, when at rest?

If it’s just a muscular issue, i.e. more muscle on one side, it should correct itself over time with proper training. Your right side will fail before your left side on, say, the bench press, but that just means you will have to progress at whatever rate is appropriate for the weaker side. [/quote]

Starting Strength is the original in what way?


#5

I’d recommend greyskul or Starting strength


#6

[quote]craze9 wrote:
As far as your imbalance, how is your posture? Does your left shoulder hang lower than your right shoulder, when at rest? [/quote]

Posture is fine. Shoulder does not hang lower and do not have a job requiring me to carry or lift something repeatedly. It all stems from the years of baseball related training. Also, for whatever reason my baseball coach in high school didn’t have us lifting weights. The only training I did in school was band resistance work on my own.

Looked into the 5/3/1 program and think I’ll give that a try. My only concern is the heavy compound movements could make my imbalances worse instead of evening them out. From what I’ve read doing compound movements when you have imbalances, the stronger side will take over and carry the weight that the weaker side can’t handle.

However, as I mentioned before I’ve pretty much given up on trying to even out the imbalances individually. So since this is something I haven’t tried, might get lucky and it’ll even out in time.

Preciate the advice


#7

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:

[quote]craze9 wrote:
Starting Strength is what I’d recommend. Search for it (“starting strength”) on this site and on google, or just buy the book. Greyskull LP and 5/3/1 for beginners are also good, but SS is the original and has an extensive, proven track record.

As far as your imbalance, how is your posture? Does your left shoulder hang lower than your right shoulder, when at rest?

If it’s just a muscular issue, i.e. more muscle on one side, it should correct itself over time with proper training. Your right side will fail before your left side on, say, the bench press, but that just means you will have to progress at whatever rate is appropriate for the weaker side. [/quote]

Starting Strength is the original in what way?
[/quote]

It predates 5/3/1 and Greyskull (first published in 2004), and to my knowledge is the first mainstream book to clearly define Linear Progression for a novice lifter. The 3rd edition happens to have a Jim Wendler quote on the back.

Why do you think 5/3/1 is better?


#8

If I could wind the clock back to when I was your age I would do something like this.


#9

[quote]rebelangler wrote:

[quote]craze9 wrote:
As far as your imbalance, how is your posture? Does your left shoulder hang lower than your right shoulder, when at rest? [/quote]

Posture is fine. Shoulder does not hang lower and do not have a job requiring me to carry or lift something repeatedly. It all stems from the years of baseball related training. Also, for whatever reason my baseball coach in high school didn’t have us lifting weights. The only training I did in school was band resistance work on my own.

Looked into the 5/3/1 program and think I’ll give that a try. My only concern is the heavy compound movements could make my imbalances worse instead of evening them out. From what I’ve read doing compound movements when you have imbalances, the stronger side will take over and carry the weight that the weaker side can’t handle.

However, as I mentioned before I’ve pretty much given up on trying to even out the imbalances individually. So since this is something I haven’t tried, might get lucky and it’ll even out in time.

Preciate the advice
[/quote]
The accessory work is what you would use to put focus on fixing imbalances or weak points. So do the compounds as written and setup your accessory work using primarily dumbbells. Use a weight light enough to hit your intended muscle and make this your new weight for that particular accessory exercise. When a weight isn’t hitting the muscle you intend, its over your “max”(this is for accessory exercises, not the compounds).

Regardless, the compounds should be your favorite part of this program. They will make the biggest changes to your physique and strength. Do not go in half-assing the compounds and busting your ass on the accessory work.


#10

Craze: I didn’t really consider mainstream book when I was thinking of the term “original”. I know Super Squats and Bill Starr’s work clearly defined it before Rippetoe, as did Pavel Tsastouline on Dragondoor, and those are just some semi recent folks that predate Rippetoe. I will contend that he did a great job organizing, packaging and selling it though. I just chuckle whenever I hear the term “Starting Strength ripoff”.

I don’t recommend Starting Strength because I never ran it. It wasn’t popular when I started training. I did Pavel’s 3-5. I have run 5/3/1 before, and think it works well here


#11

No matter what program you’re on, putting on mass requires you to eat excess calories. There is no program that will put weight on without you making the effort to eat more.


#12

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
Craze: I didn’t really consider mainstream book when I was thinking of the term “original”. I know Super Squats and Bill Starr’s work clearly defined it before Rippetoe, as did Pavel Tsastouline on Dragondoor, and those are just some semi recent folks that predate Rippetoe. I will contend that he did a great job organizing, packaging and selling it though. I just chuckle whenever I hear the term “Starting Strength ripoff”.

I don’t recommend Starting Strength because I never ran it. It wasn’t popular when I started training. I did Pavel’s 3-5. I have run 5/3/1 before, and think it works well here
[/quote]

Fair point. Certainly Rippetoe didn’t invent the concept and I don’t think he’d claim such, so in that sense it isn’t really the “original.” I do think the people behind Greyskull or Stronglifts definitely read Starting Strength, though, and you see a lot of internet programs around now that are essentially just slight tweaks of the basic SS template. Not sure if that is true of Pavel’s 3-5 (I’m not familiar with that program).

To be honest, I’ve never actually run Starting Strength myself, either, as I had already been lifting for a couple years when I first heard about it. I have seen other people use it and make good progress, though. I’ve run 5/3/1, and I like it, but I think it makes more sense for intermediate lifters or at least advanced novices. To me, it’s a bit of an overcomplication for a true beginner to be calculating percentages, especially when their maxes are going to change so quickly.

Also, though if I wrote this in the 5/3/1 forum I’d probably start a flame war, I think it represents kind of slow progress for a rank novice. I understand the TM is about submaximal lifting and just because it increases slowly doesn’t mean you aren’t getting stronger, but for a guy with a 100lb squat to start at 90%, he is going to be repping 15+ on the final AMRAP sets after a month (or less), whereas with SS he will be lifting heavy the whole time.


#13

I do not feel as though the issues you presented will be a concern for a beginner to get bigger and stronger personally, but we are both free to have our own opinions.


#14

[quote]The-German wrote:
The accessory work is what you would use to put focus on fixing imbalances or weak points. So do the compounds as written and setup your accessory work using primarily dumbbells. Use a weight light enough to hit your intended muscle and make this your new weight for that particular accessory exercise. When a weight isn’t hitting the muscle you intend, its over your “max”(this is for accessory exercises, not the compounds).

Regardless, the compounds should be your favorite part of this program. They will make the biggest changes to your physique and strength. Do not go in half-assing the compounds and busting your ass on the accessory work.[/quote]

Which program are you referring to here?


#15

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
I do not feel as though the issues you presented will be a concern for a beginner to get bigger and stronger personally, but we are both free to have our own opinions.[/quote]

Well, lots of things will work for a beginner to get bigger and stronger. I suppose I was talking about what is optimal. Lots of people seem to agree that 5s are a good number of reps for beginners, so I’d lean toward doing 5s rather than doing 15s.

A new squatter who starts at 100 lbs (85x5), after 8 weeks on SS should be squatting around 225x5, as a pretty conservative estimate. On 5/3/1, even if he increases his TM by 20 lbs instead of 10, his TM after 8 weeks is 130 (90% of 100, plus 40lbs). His week 9 lifts would therefore be 90x3, 105x3, 120x3+. That seems pretty light to me, assuming strength has increased at the same rate over this time and he’s capable of squatting 225 for 3x5. Sure you could skip the deloads, increase TM by more, but the point is that submaximal lifting isn’t necessarily the best way to go for an untrained novice capable of rapid progress.

But you are right that we don’t have to agree. And I think beginner lifters could certainly do worse than diving into 5/3/1 and applying a little common sense to their training maxes / deloads.


#16

I wouldn’t recommend a complete beginner to do squats over 5 reps and I definitely wouldn’t recommend a beginner to do deadlifts over 5 reps. The reason being is they are technical lifts and form goes to shit after the 5th rep. Deadlifting over 5 reps can also lead to injuries. It’s hard to keep tight. Considering that a beginners form may not be all that great to start with it’s a recipe for an injury which is unnecessary. Low reps build strength. High reps build shitty form.

I know the OP is not a complete beginner but just wanted to make the point.


#17

Craze: Yeah, like I said, we’ll agree to disagree.


#18

[quote]Angus1 wrote:
I know the OP is not a complete beginner but just wanted to make the point. [/quote]

Yeah not 100% beginner, but might as well be and would like to begin a training regiment as if it were my first time in a gym.

One, because all I’ve done over the past year was unilateral and isolation exercises trying to balance out my arms and chest. Pretty much completely neglecting to workout my legs. I went through one good phase for about 2 months where I hit my legs hard and heavy and actually got great results. Then I ended up having to be out of town for several days here an there over the next two months and got out of going to the gym almost altogether. Lost all of the progress I’d made and never got back into working my legs. Poor choice of course.

Two, I have very little experience with squats and deads. I did however have one training session with a highly qualified trainer who lifted competitively for years and now trains bodybuilders. I had him show my the right form/technique for the major lower half exercises; back squat, deadlift, leg press, leg extensions, and hamstring curls.

Any more help before I select a program would ge great.
Awesome info so far!


#19

[quote]rebelangler wrote:

[quote]The-German wrote:
The accessory work is what you would use to put focus on fixing imbalances or weak points. So do the compounds as written and setup your accessory work using primarily dumbbells. Use a weight light enough to hit your intended muscle and make this your new weight for that particular accessory exercise. When a weight isn’t hitting the muscle you intend, its over your “max”(this is for accessory exercises, not the compounds).

Regardless, the compounds should be your favorite part of this program. They will make the biggest changes to your physique and strength. Do not go in half-assing the compounds and busting your ass on the accessory work.[/quote]

Which program are you referring to here?
[/quote]
Referring to the OP discussing 5/3/1 and his imbalances. Really the concept goes for any program though. Your accessory work should help support your primary lifts, build up lagging body parts, etc. rather than focusing on moving weight or hitting a certain number.


#20

[quote]rebelangler wrote:
So back to the original point to the post. I’m looking for advice on a routine that has proven to give results for what I consider myself a “beginner.” I’d like a legitimate weekly plan for adding a solid foundation for lifting and building strength. I’m 6’ 145lbs. and 24 years old.
[/quote]

You say you’re ready to stop “majoring in the minors,” so buy Starting Strength and follow the program, including nutrition and recovery. If you’re physically unable to do the exercises because of the issues you mentioned, seek professional help. It doesn’t get any more simple - and if you follow the program, in less than a year you will be ready for something more.

I putzed around in the weight room for months thinking I could make my own way, despite zero actual experience. I’m still a beginner, but following an actual program was a revelation and at your age it will feel nothing short of miraculous. Good luck.