T Nation

Lessons I've Learned as a Complete Newb


To start off, this isn't a general dishwater blind-leading-the-blind post, this is more about important, overlooked details about training philosophy that total newbs (such as myself) may not consider and can benefit learning from. I'm not an expert so I'll let some of the vets correct me if need be.

I started my bodybuilding training 6 months ago. Started out at 136lbs 6% BF. Now I'm around 152 3-4% BF. Anyway here are some important things I've learned so far:

Everyone know this already, but really take the time and burn this concept into your brain. It took me awhile to come to grips with this reality and the faster you accept it, the better off you'll be. I wouldn't look at my gains so far and call them great, I'd be reluctant to call them good. My current goal is to get to 165, but even so, frustration creeps in often. I look back at this past week and I feel I trained very well: I soaked myself in sweat, I strained and ached during every lift, and I even wore out my voice from grunting. I got my PWO protocol down to a T, everything seemed to be in place. I stepped on the scale today to see that my weight was the same. If you let frustration take over you, you will never get the results you want. So don't quit because you don't look like Arnold in your first year of training.

We all know the products out there that promise amazing results. 2 months ago, I ordered a bunch of MAG-10 because I thought it would keep the anabolic switch on at all times. The results were minimal, because as a beginner, training & eating right are more than enough to trigger peak anabolism. Supps of that caliber are really for the elite athletes that are doing everything right already, but for some reason, can't reach their full anabolic potential. So don't spend top-dollar for these supps. If your diet and training are already in order, then you won't need them AT ALL!!!!!

Learning how to do the basic lifts are critical to getting good results. We all want to throw around as much weight as possible and look impressive for the ladies, but doing bicep curls by dipping your whole body down in an attempt to throw the weight upwards is stupid and counter-productive. A lift that is performed with good form and low weight defeats poor form and heavy weight every time. Seriously, go to the video section here, and watch CT explain how to do all the basic lifts properly.

Sounds a bit stupid at first, but think about it when you're doing flies. It's supposed to work your chest, but how come you don't feel "the burn?" It's because you have no idea how to control your muscles. If you contract your muscles during lifts (such as flies), you will increase the intramuscular tension and thus improve hypertrophy. Spend some time at home learning how to flex and control each individual muscle and then apply it to those ab crunches and bicep curls. This applies mainly to isolation exercises though.

The first serious workout I ever had was brutal at the time, I puked eggs & oatmeal everywhere. I look at that workout now and think, how was that tough at all? Fast forward to now, my program involves 100 reps/muscle group. Last month, I was able to increase the load on every one of the core lifts for 4 straight weeks. So as a beginner, if you want great results, you must put in the effort required, and that's easier said then done. I've had plenty of mental barriers along the way that have bogged me down and the quality of my training and it will be miserable at times, and you may feel like quitting altogether, but if you push through it, you'll be amazed at what you're capable of. NO SLACKING!!!!

That's it for now, maybe I'll post more as I think of them, or feel free to add your own.


nothing about diet?


There's nothing new I could add that isn't already old news. Plus there's the nutrition board, and a plethora of articles on this site that are written by professionals.


I didn't mean anything specific. I meant more along the lines of what you've learned in your own experience. that's what this thread is about, right?

I'm not talking about macros or specific diets. just what you've learned about the importance of diet.


In that regard, I'd have to say the most important thing is making meals either carb+protein (no fat) or fat+protein(no carb). C+P when you want to grow, F+P when you want to burn fat. The other is matching carb intake to your goals. For beginners, the goal is usually continuous muscle growth, while reducing fat. Getting a majority of carbs into the first half of your day, carbs peri-workout, and then F+P for the rest of the day is a good way to start. The only other thing would be carb cycling, right now I do 2 100-carb days on my off days; and put scrambled eggs on some spinach with EVOO, tastes great and it's the food of champs.


lol I was hoping you'd mention how important it is to be consistent with your diet, whether gaining, holding or losing.


Diet-wise, over the years I've learned that it doesn't matter so much how you do things, but more-so how long you do it for (and can cope with it).

With that in mind, my metabolism is that fast that when I bulk, I have no other choice but to add lots of fat in my diet (try eating 6-7000 calories of mostly "clean" foods/high carbs and you'll see what I mean). So in my case, things are reversed - high fat for bulking and it doesn't adversely effects gains (experimented both ways).

What I'm saying is to get your priorities right - the method you use to get there should not be purely because it's so effective (there are many ways of skinning a cat), but because YOU can do it over and over and over (because it's 'comfortable' to you).

Similar principles apply to training aswell.


yup. it's been said countless times before that consistency is key. I didn't really start gaining until I ate with the same consistency that I applied to training.

for the newb who doesnt quite understand it yet: training is the blueprint your body uses to know where to grow more muscle. diet provides the actual material (wood, bricks, nails, concrete etc) you use to build according to that plan. in the beginning, it is more important that you're always providing more building material on a consistent basis rather than worrying about getting exactly X grams of one material and Y of another.


I like the idea of this thread.

Personal insights have come thick and fast throughout the short time that i have been training.

Will post a few when i have more time.


Given the scope of the topic (important concepts that are not easily understood), "consistency" is general and implied, which is why I don't mention it. I think plenty of newbs are consistent in more than one way, but there's some aspects that are hindering them and they can't figure out why.



Don't agree 100% with this.


I'm about to post a log in the proper forum, so I'll link it there, but considering 152 is still scrawny and I'm only 6 months in, there's not much to see until I get into the 160+ range.

What specific training situations is it allowable for a newb to use bad form?


Figures I'd throw in the things that I've learned.

    As beginners we are tremendously eager to get results. We see the kind of body we want and try to figure out "how to do it" using the knowledge we get from friends, school, family and doctors. I started training well over six months ago, but I recognize that those first two months I didn't really know what I was doing until I re-read "Education of a Bodybuilder" by Arnold.

Then did some research on Reg Park since the Terminator started his journey emulating Hercules' workouts, and had the luck to land on the Stronglifts program which got me on the idea of "get strong first". Doing some further research I found that this approach was the one that yielded the most results, so instead of trying to figure out for myself I decided to do something that had worked to get the body I would love to have.

The other day my brother said he wanted to hit the gym with me, and asked me for advise on where to begin. I told him "find someone who looks the way you look and see how that person started in the very beginning and do what he DID, not what he DOES now".

I believe this is important since a lot of beginners will pick up a routine from a magazine or on the internet of the guy that they want to look like and do what they're currently doing. The problem is that a complete newb is, in most of the cases, not ready for those kinds of routines.

    My friends made fun of me every time they joined me grocery shopping because I stopped and read the labels of tuna, pasta, and just about everything I'm thinking of buying. Now, three months after serious training, my diet is still far from perfect, but the small changes I made have made them shut up because I am stronger and healthier than the lot of them, and their moms are asking me on tips on what foods to buy next time they go grocery shopping hehehe.

Making the switch from regular soda to the occasional diet soda and mostly water.
Stop eating junk food.
Have breakfast.
Eat every 4 or 3 hours.
Eat an hour before a workout and immediately after.

Those were the changes I made at the very beginning, and feel they are a good first step. Now I'm looking into cleaning out my carb and fat sources, along with the macro nutrient proportions I'm eating.

    Last sunday I went to a BB competition with my cousin. It was his first competition and he asked me to be his "helper" behind the stage. Back there I had a chance to talk and see first-hand the sacrifice and dedication needed to be a competing bodybuilder.

I made several new friends and socialized with the competitors from my own gym, and these last few days those same competitors have been voices of encouragement when I was hitting the irons and the general vibe being surrounded by them make me eager to be there training (Alas, today is an off day, I'll have to wait until tomorrow).

Enjoying the company of people that have the same goals you do gives you that extra motivation to train harder and eat smarter, because at least in my opinion, you belong to a new world and you gotta pay your due diligence to call yourself a Lifter.

    Now, more than ever in my life, I value a good night sleep and have found that learning to relax makes life in general, not just training. Proper rest gives you more energy, makes you more proactive, and keeps you in a far better mood than when you're struggling to keep your eyes open. Training wise, I've noticed a hell of a difference from sleeping 5 hours a night to sleeping 7 hours when dealing with muscle soreness.

Off the top of my head, those are the most important things I've learned since I begun serious training.


Oh yeah!

    You get mentally strong when you know that today is gym day, but when the time comes to go you start to feel lazy, like thinking "only five more minutes" or "I'll wait until this TV-Show ends", and a plethora of excuses to NOT go to the gym... But you go anyway. That kind of mind power is something that carries over to other areas of your life.

If you have the strength of mind to work on your body and transform it into what you want to look like, you can pretty much stick to any activity until it is finished, be it a report you need to finish ASAP at work, or that fucking annoying calculus homework that is due next week but you have the time to do it now, and so on and so forth.


It is not your gain in lean body mass I am skeptical of, rather your 3-4% body fat.
That's literally shredded so if it is true and you have any sort of size, NICE WORK!

As for form... I think noobs should work hard to use correct form. I took your OP as "Lessons I have learned as a Noob" to mean things you have learned is your first year of lifting that you can take with you as you progress. NOT, things I learned that are only for Noobs.

I can think of lots of reasons to let form fall to the way side, such as; forced reps while fatigued, PR attempts, plateau busting. In the end it will come down to goals. If I wanted to do isolation movements and fatigue the sh*t out of my calfs I can do several solid reps and then bang out a few sloppy ones. In power lifting I may concentrate exclusively on form while warming up but when I pull a PR off the hooks I am usually on another plane of focus. I am not thinking about form, I am pissed off mentally and I "do work son". I may visualize making a PR 100 times using perfect form but the goal is moving heavy-ass weights not maintaining strict form.

Cliff Notes:
Noobs should learn good form.
Learning when to not worry about form is also important


you hit the nail on the head, J. when doing burnouts I keep doing reps as long as I'm hitting the target muscle, I stay safe and I'm not unduly fatiguing other muscles involved and screwing up their recovery for other sessions the next day or later in the week.

also agree with the PR thing. I never would've hit my current deadlift PR if I was overly concerned with form. it was ugly, but it happened, I stayed in one piece and I knew what to fix for next time.

OP - I too would like to see this < 5% bf you speak of.


Hey Alfranglez, you do you think you could condense your points a little? I'd prefer not to have the topic turn into a mountain of info and have people get discouraged from reading all of it.

I wouldn't say shredded, as that 6 lbs of fat is desperately clinging to my abs which is my most under-trained group. Let's see if I can figure out how to get the pics uploaded:


Side view




Don't let the angles fool you.