T Nation

I'm a Total Beginner

Hello all. I finally became fed up with my body and joined the gym about 2 weeks ago. I have been to a gym before but only off and on for a few months. So I am pretty much a total beginner. I worked my legs out for the first time last week and found out just how pathetic a state I am in lol.

I’m about 6’2 and 180lbs. My legs are extremely weak and obviously I’m quite weak overall. I’m just looking for some advice, criticism. Looking for a program to stick to, so any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

There are stickies in this forum and a decent enough search feature to get you started. I suggest you go that route!

eat. read. lift. Do those three things and something good will happen.

IMO the best beginners program around. Either use the site or actually buy the book. Very good at getting your squat kg’s up. Very good for learning all the basic lifts and getting a base level of all-round strength.
Time proven and mostly well liked.

Oh and congrats on deciding to join a gym!

Here’s a few little pieces of advice-

Never ever curl in a squat rack.
Don’t wear sleeveless shirts in the gym.
Don’t flex infront of the mirror after every set.
Work on the big compound movements hard, all the time. No matter what program you’re on it should include a squat variation, a deadlift variation and a bench variation. (Although at the moment I don’t bench, but that’s shoulder issue related.)
Don’t worry about your hawt six pack abz.
Worry about your squat/dl numbers more than your bicep inches.
Learn to eat big, gain size.
Take tumbles advice and get searching on this site!

Hope this helps

Master the proper form on bench press, pullups, deadlifts and squats and make these four the staples of your workout. Before you get into different routines, approaches, etc., build up a base level of strength by doing lots of compound exercises (exercises that require multiple joint movements like bench, incline press, deadlifts, squats, front squats, pullups, chinups, rows, cleans, and lunges. Don’t bother with curls, leg curls, leg extensions, leg presses, flys, or tricep press downs for now).

For some people, overhead pressing can be difficult on the shoulders, so work on scapular mobility and rotator cuff strength before you get into a lot of overhead presses and stay light when you do start overhead stuff. Work on hip, knee and ankle mobility as well. Shoulder, knee, hip and ankle mobility is way more important than you’ll realize until you hurt something due to a lack of mobility somewhere. The source of an injury many times originates from somewhere other than the location of pain, so prioritze mobility and flexibility everywhere.

Use a light weight that you can comfortably perform ten or more reps with so that you can groove the proper form for these compound moves with some resistance. As you become more comfortable with the right form and have built up your muscle memory, slowly start adding weight. If you go too hard too quickly, you won’t learn the right form/technique and you’ll become injured or become acclimated to the wrong technique.

Since you’re a beginner, you’ll probably see a significant amount of improvements very quickly regardless of how hard you go, so get the form right first. Compound movements, because they involve more than one joint and therefore more than one muscle (hips and knees or shoulders and elbows), will allow you to use more weight than an isolation movement (you can bench more than you can do flys with, you can squat more than you do leg curls or leg extensions with). Your arms will develop strength with these moves anyways (pulling works biceps and pushing/pressing works triceps) so devote your time to the big movers to reach a strength level where you can start to use significantly heavy weights if you choose to incorporate isolation moves later on.

Also, work on grip strength as much as you can. Deadlifts, bent over rows, even pullups and chinups require a certain amount of grip strength and if this breaks down before the muscles you are targeting do, that set will not be as effective as it could be. Wrist curls, squeezing stuff, holding heavy ass barbells or dumbbells for extended time can all help this. Good luck. Oh, yeah. Eat right and eat more.

Thanks for the replies and tips. I’m going to begin the starting strength workout tomorrow. I’ve been looking at pics and descriptions on the exercises and am going to swallow my pride and start with a low weight until I am comfortable with my technique since I don’t have any now lol. Will post an update in a few weeks and state my progress if any. Thanks again

All good advice so far…

Bottom line is, you have a lot of reading to do. Fortunately for you, you have found this site and there is a wealth of information here. More than enough to get you started without ever having to purchase a book…although there are some really good books out there…Starting Strength has already been suggested.

Start with the big compound lifts that have been mentioned. Really focus on form and full range of motion…don’t screw yourself by creating bad habits now. And if that means all you can lift is the bar…than just lift the damn bar…strength will come.

Here are a couple of articles from Christian Thibaudeau (pronounced Tee-Bow-Dow) on program design. This will give you a good idea how to put together a program based on your goals.

Also do not underestimate the importance of nutrition!!! Everyone knows that you have to train to get strong, big, cut, etc. But many beginners don’t give that much thought to nutrition. Whether you are trying to cut fat or gain muscle your diet will either get you there or hold you back.

I always recommend Dr. John Berardi’s “The Metabolism Advantage” for beginners when it comes to nutrition. This book will give you a good understanding of how metabolism works as well as macronutrient ratios and timing.

You can also start Berardi’s Precision Nutrition program.


Start with these resources and continue building your knowledge base and you’ll be seeing results soon…good luck.

One other thing: if you want to develop a lot of strength, especially functional strength, prioritze your rear-chain muscles. Most beginners get caught up trying to build bigger biceps and pecs, but the muscles that need development to gain strength that translates well in and out of the gym are basically the muscles you can’t see when you look in the mirror. Lower and middle traps, lats, spinal erectors, lower back, glutes, hamstrings and rear deltoids. Pretty much everything between your neck and your knees on the posterior portion of your body should take priority.

Most people at the gym will obsess over how much they can bench, but you should obsess over how much you can deadlift or barbell row. If someone asks you how much you can bench, tell them you’re not sure and ask them how much they can deadlift. The deadlift works pretty much all of the rear-chain muscles to some degree, so this should really be the king of all the exercises you do. Perform variations of it and mix up the reps and sets you do from week to week.

When you work out, keep it simple and do a three day split, meaning that you’ll do pulling exercises one day, legs the next, then pushing exercises. Count how many reps you perform on pushing/pressing days and do 1.5 to 2 times that many reps on pulling days. It can be as easy as simply adding one more exercise on pulling days. On leg days, target your hamstrings more with romanian deadlifts, regular deadlifts and even good mornings. Squats will work both quads and hams sufficiently. Front squats can be used to target the quads more, and single leg squats, lunges and stepups can be used to work on hip mobility/stability and even out any imbalances you may have or develop.

Thanks again for the tips guys. Unfortunetly or fortunetly, depending on how you look at it… I just started a new job today that turns out to be much more physical than i thought. It’s a forestry job and I have to walk up and down steep steep hills all day carrying and moving thick steel cables and it is killer on my body, especially my legs.

It seems to be a good workout since i was on the brink of puking several times. So I think I will take it easy in the gym at least for a couple of weeks while I get used to work before I put anymore of a load on my body. I’m still browsing through the site and all the links and getting up to snuff with as much information as I can before I head back into the gym. Thanks for everyone taking the time to point me in the right direction.

[quote]Spike84 wrote:
So I think I will take it easy in the gym at least for a couple of weeks while I get used to work before I put anymore of a load on my body. I’m still browsing through the site and all the links and getting up to snuff with as much information as I can before I head back into the gym. Thanks for everyone taking the time to point me in the right direction.[/quote]

New here myself and am still a beginner at about 6-8 weeks of strength training.

One thing I did want to point out is that while it is okay to take a step back here and there at the gym to allow yourself to re-group/re-build, be sure not to get comfortable with going light. You almost always want to challenge yourself and push yourself to the brink (safely). If you make a habit of going easy in the gym, you will have a harder time getting out of that hole. Always set goals and work hard toward them. Pushing yourself should also help you perform better with your intense job as well.

While I agree with the general premise of skell’s post, I disagree that you need to avoid taking it easy in the gym given your current job. Shit, hauling all that stuff up and down hills all day IS the workout. No need to go to the gym if you’re already working to the point of puking everyday anyways. You may not get the same results as you would from going to the gym, but you can’t really have your cake and eat it too. Your job sounds taxing enough as it is, and while the physical activity you described may not lead to amassing more muscle weight, it will definitely get you into better shape.

In the future, this job will have built a very solid foundation for packing on some serious lean muscle, but for now, you simply can’t work this hard, work hard in the gym at the same time (especially if your goal is to gain strength and size in the gym), have enough sleep time to recover (and therefore not waste your gym efforts and also allow you to make it through the day at work) and have any sort of life outside of these things. Most forestry jobs are seasonal, and if yours is, well when it’s over with, you’ll be much more prepared for some serious, hardcore weightlifting.