T Nation

Helping A Complete Beginner

I’ve recently made friends with someone and he wants to start going to the gym with me. He has virtually no knowledge of training or nutrition and is very skinny. Unfortunately my knowledge is also somewhat limited and I’m not sure what to suggest to him, he said his sole goal is to get big.
His plan at the minute is 20 push ups a day and he’s started taking mass gainer but I’m struggling to explain progressive overload to him and he seems to have forgot the rest of his body.
Could anyone give me any suggestions for him? Thank you in advance.

20 push-ups a day and some mass gainer, eh?

I’d recommend you and your friend both read Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 Second Edition. I still haven’t read anything that does a better job of laying out the principles necessary for training success in such a concise and easy-to-digest format. You can read it in an evening and start following these principles the very next day.

Its really up to you and your buddy what you want to do. You can do something that works, or you can do something else. Its all optional.

I’ve already read 5/3/1, it’s my current training programme. I don’t think that’s going to be the best thing to start him on though when he’s never touched a barbell. I think Jim himself said not to do it until you’ve got the hang of the big 4.

It is a fine program for a beginner, and Jim’s written plenty on that topic. That said, my recommendation was not to run 5/3/1 per-se, but to read the book and absorb the training principles espoused by Wendler.

I think the specific program is less important for a rank beginner than understanding the principles for training success, which is why I recommended that particular book. It really does a good job of laying them out in very simple terms.

Your friend seems to have the idea that 20 push-ups and some mass gainer are a good idea. Reading 5/3/1 should cure him of that, even if he doesn’t run that specific program.

Sorry I misunderstood your first message. I’ll work on trying to get him to read it but I mentioned he needed to read some books before and he said he couldn’t be bothered and didn’t want to pay.
Anywhere online I could send him for free?

Sure. Go to www.t-nation.com. Tons of free content here.

If reading about training is too much work for your friend, I don’t think he’s going to do well with actual training. It is much more strenuous.

Tell him it’s a much better investment than mass gainer

In this situation, the best help you could provide is to let him fail while you succeed. Eventually, he will either take your advice seriously and achieve his goals, or he will blame genetics and drugs and just quit. In either case, you can’t make this horse drink.

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Forget progressive overload. That idea belongs with Rip-plestiltskin and the other fairy tales.

If your bro like pushups, it shouldn’t be hard to get him into chin ups, fat man chins(inverted rows) dips, different leg raises, walking lunges, lunge in place(split squats), sit ups on the decline bench, etc.

Get him going on a basic bw circuit. Use rep PRs or whatever. Start with something non-killer and frequent. As it gets easier, use more challenging moves. Teach him positioning, and the basic movements. After a short time, that stuff will get so easy he’ll gravitate to the weights for the challenge.

You’ll teach him, but he’ll think it was all his idea.


Couldn’t agree more with @FlatsFarmer

For people to be consistant,especially when they are first starting out,it takes a program that they really enjoy.When they see some gains,then they are willing to subtitude some of the fun for more progress

If your bud likes bodyweight movements,that’s a start

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Here’s a body weight-based program made for newcomers to lifting

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If he is skinny as you say he is then it’s not gonna matter what happens in the gym. 531, push pull, Bro split, full body. None of them will work until the nutrition issue is fixed

spend the time together to go over the importance of nutrition, hitting your calories and macros and fueling your performance. Any program will fail without this criteria being met and it’s always skinny guys who think they eat loads that will fail hardest. Keep a food log and track calories for a week and then you will a figure that will probably explain the skinniness, and will enlighten him to what a lot of calories actually looks like.

A good push pull split works well for rank beginners with the appropriate nutrition.

yeah the bodyweight strategy is a good idea.

Just suggest he browse through any 10 tnation articles (ideally a couple by Dan John/Wendler etc) and he will find something that resonates

Okay thank you all for helping. I’ll point him towards this site and see what he thinks. I like the body weight suggestion I’ll mention that although I think he was doing press ups more because it was the only thing he knew to do in his room than becuase he likes them.
What punisher said was good, I think perhaps the best way for him to learn is to see others progress while you don’t, that’s what happened to me.
Next time he goes to the gym he said he’s going to watch some other people to get an idea of what does what and I’m slowly teaching him about nutrition and what exercises work what body part etc. It seems like at the moment he’s going for a upper body dominant bro split.
I’m going to leave him to it for now I think and slowly help him here and there because like someone said he needs to enjoy it. Overtime after reading around and seeing other people I’m sure he will start to figure it out.
Thanks again everyone.