T Nation

New and Confused

Hello everyone,

Allow me to preface. I am a freshman in college, I have been skinny all my life. At 5’11 and 160 pounds, today is no exception to this rule. I have been lifting seriously since my college’s spring break (about two months now). Beginning in weight training is a very discouraging experience. Despite being fed loads and loads of BS by countless individuals, I feel like I have sifted my way to some clarity on the fundamentals.

When I began lifting, the amount of body muscle I lacked was truly impressive. On bench, I could put up 85 pounds like 7 times or something equally depressing. I couldn’t curl 20 pound free weights. My shoulders, oh my shoulders- they’re still miserable.

Through steady work and subtle diet shifts, I’ve managed to increase my strength and size somewhat. Nothing spectacular; on bench, I can put up 135 four times. I’ve never done my single repetition maximum, I would guess it to be 140.

My shoulders are depressingly weak. When doing seated military presses, I start with 20 pound free weights and increase to 25s. With a bar, I hit 75 6-8 times.

Obviously, this is in no way bragging, I am well aware of how abysmal such numbers sound to those of you that easily handle five times what I do.

I have another issue (problem?). I almost never get sore. Even after a day of particularly intensive focus on say, my shoulders, they simply do not hurt. Am I not pushing hard enough? On my last sets, I typically go to muscle failure. Should I train to muscle failure for all sets? Is soreness a good thing? Does its absence indicate a lack of intensity?

Luckily, I am blessed with a strong back (I say blessed because, to my knowledge, I never did things to specifically exerciese it before now).

Given that my chest and shoulders are terribly weak, how should I approach my lifting to accomodate gains in those areas?

I am relatively alone at college right now. We have a spectacular facility, I am working on campus for the summer. However, I my lifting partner returend to Jersey for the summer. As such, I often am without spotters. People here are friendly and inexperienced. As such, they often spot and give you advice (patently worthless, to my knowledge).

My second question concerns supplemental protein intake. At the urgings of my older brother, I purchased a whey protein powder. I drink a protein shake with ~40 grams of protein three times a day. Is this enough? Should I take more? Other than this, my diet is relatively low in protein. Probably ~40-50 from other foods. What other nutrients should I be conerned with?

I will finish this up by saying that I have spent approx 4-5 hours today reading through old posts on this website. I am continually impressed by the knowledge and helpfulness of people here. These questions could very well have been (and probably were) answered in other posts. However, I simply couldn’t find exactly what I wanted to know laid out clearly.

Additionally, any general advice for a noob like myself is greatly appreciated.

I wish I was in your position…before I injured myself.

Anyway read this:


and this should be helpful


bunch of info for beginners.

I wouldn’t feel discouraged if I were you. Just because you aren’t built for the NFL, doesn’t mean you can’t make some major improvements in strength.


To answer your unasked, and broadest, question (uh, what do I do?), I would say read Soco’s post and follow his links. Then read all the articles that he links to. That will give you a good basis of knowledge to build from.

To answer your first question (weak chest and shoulders), your chest and shoulders are weak because you’re weak overall. Read the articles, devise a smart training program, and follow it.

To answer your second question (protein intake), I think the general consensus here is that there is no “right” amount of protein.*** The main thing is to eat enough. Protein shakes are “supplements” in that they make it easier for you to eat enough, but they’re really just food. Include the shakes into your calculation of overall daily food intake and make sure that, as a whole, you’re getting enough food.

Welcome, and good luck with your training.

*** There is, of course, the generally accepted 1g/lb of bodyweight minimum amount of protein. That’s not a bad place to start.

Oh, and about the soreness, in the words of Charles Staley (one of the writers here): “Manage fatigue. Don’t seek it.” Lack of soreness is not an indicator of lack of progress. Instead, use a training journal to track your lifts (and your weight). If they’re increasing, don’t worry that you’re not getting sore every workout. You’re still improving.

You may not be as strong as you like. But you have made some pretty good progress. I would say enjoy your work out and keep learning all you can. Good luck