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Should Beginners Worry About Body Composition


I've been on a variation of Stronglifts for a few months now. I am getting stronger for sure, but I'm not seeing any drastic changes in the mirror. I wasn't really expecting too either. I'm wondering if it's counterproductive in the first year of lifting to even care about body composition. Should I just be focusing on whether my lifts are going up and who cares about the mirror? That's my current attitude right now.

As long as my lifts are going up I don't care if I don't look significantly bigger. Or, is the fact that my body composition not improving a sign that I'm doing something wrong? I know a few months isn't a long time. I'm just wondering once I have a year under my belt how do I assess my progress? Should the mirror test matter or is it purely about the numbers?


You shouldn't expect large size gains in a few months unless you have top tier genetics and/or are a teenager as a natural lifter. Especially being that stronglifts is not a hypertrophy geared program. This is what IMO you should expect from stronglifts in order of importance:

  1. Improve your technique and understanding of a few core lifts this is achieved with frequent performance of the "core lifts".
  2. Improve your strength on a few multi jointed movements.
  3. minor physique improvement if your diet is in check.

Becoming a good or skilled as a squatter, deadlifter, rower, or (bench) presser will carry over into healthier joints, soft tissue, and better gains when you move on to other things.

a few months is a drop in the bucket when it comes to this, take your time.


There's no real "shoulds" with any of this. You can do whatever you want. Your goals are your goals.

With what you're doing right now, the way you assess progress is by tracking your progress. You are keeping a training journal? If you're stronger this month than last month, and last month than the month before that, you're making progress.

But it all depends on your primary goal. If you started lifting because you wanted to improve your body composition, and your body composition isn't improving, then you're not really accomplishing what you set out to do. I'd reassess your approach if that's really why you're lifting.

Pick a goal, achieve that goal, then pick another and do that. You can get stronger and bigger and improve your body composition all at once... but focusing on one and then the next will make progress appear to come faster. (And, in many cases, make it actually come faster.)

Since you sound mostly concerned about body composition, in this post, I'd spend the next 6-12 weeks focusing on just that. If you happen to get stronger during that process, great. If you don't, it's ok as long as you're actually on track to achieve what you set out to do. Once that block of time is over, reassess and decide if you want to keep going that direction or not.


It also depends on where you're at. If you're 6'2" and 135, you should be concerned about gaining weight; if you're 400 lbs, you should be concerned with losing weight.

But if you're just kind of normal, you don't need to worry about it on a strength focused program. The trick is.. everyone thinks they're normal.


What is your goal?


How are your numbers increasing?
Have you gained weight?

First you should worry about building a strong and solid foundation and only then progress to a specific type of training, imo


Diddly, don't expect change until you can squat pull and push your bodyweight.

Also want to add that you bring up a good point as well.
I'm pretty sure most beginners gravitate towards the iron to look better nekkid.
Nothing wrong with that.
But if you can somehow avert that goal to strength achievements, I guarantee you'll progress faster

Something I say to anyone who's starting out...

Your body does not a give a tits about 6 packs and bicep peaks.
What it does care about is self preservation... and sex with curvy brazilian women.


As of about 6 weeks ago, he was 5'6" 138 pounds (down a few pounds from the month before) and in the mid to high teens bodyfat.

Strength-wise, again 6 weeks ago he had:
"Bench - 100 lbs
Rows - 85 lbs
Deadlifts - 155 lbs
Press - 85 lbs
Pullups - 3x7
Curls - 60 lbs - 3x10
Skullcrushers - 45 lbs - 3x10"

To be fair, your last thread said you weren't doing any squats, which is a pretty significant "variation". And, if I followed everything correctly, you started training about four months ago and have jumped around with three or four different routines in that time.

What have your workouts actually looked like (days, exercises, sets, reps) for the last month?

That's the thing, though. Are your lifts going up? As a rule of thumb, it's kinda silly for someone to lose a few pounds of weight, deadlift just a hair more-than-bodyweight, and then wonder why they're not getting bigger. Relatively-strong curls, though. Gee, what a surprise.

What weights are you currently moving?

Just to make things unnecessarily complicated, I'll answer this with a math equation: W + S + A = M

Where, W is increased bodyweight via proper nutrition, S is increased strength on the main lifts, A is improved performance (weight or reps) on accessory lifts, and M is added muscle and improved body composition.

If you want to build muscle, you need to increase bodyweight and get stronger on the main lifts and improve on accessory ("bodybuilding" stuff) (the priority of those last two is debatable, but that's an issue for another thread).

If you're not getting bigger/more muscular, check those three variables and make sure they're actually dialed in.


My lifts for my next workout are as follows:
Press - 105 lbs
Deadlift - 225 lbs
Curls - 70 lbs - 3x5 (I keep increasing this by one tell I get to 10 and then reset back to 5 reps and add 5 lbs)
Bench - 125 lbs
Skulls - 60 lbs - 3x5 (similar to curls)
I did a bit of a reset on rows due to form issues.

Yes, I know that not squatting is bad. If you can believe it my hip still hasn't healed 100%. I hate the fact that I'm not squatting. I Just want to wait a bit more until the hip is 100%, but it has improved drastically. If anyone knows where I can get lessons I'd appreciate it. I live in the Toronto, Ontario.

My goal are to build strength, create a habit of working out and understand how to eat properly. I tried working out once before long time ago and after about half a year I gave up, because I didn't look so great in the mirror even though I was stronger. This time I don't want to get derailed like that again.

Anyway, thanks for the advice guys!


Really? In my experience, everyone thinks they're a special and unique snowflake and that somehow the rules and processes that have made people bigger and stronger for centuries somehow don't apply to them.


Hey, you made good progress in your lifts. Nice work.


Solid improvement so far. How much bodyweight have you gained?

I'm not necessarily saying that not squatting is "bad". Pletny of guys don't squat and still build muscle. I'm just saying that it's hard to be doing "modified Stronglifts" when squatting is a key component of the program.

Are you doing anything to correct the issue? And are you doing any other leg work or is your only lower body movement deadlifts? I think you were working on goblet squats before, no?


That's good progress, well done. The reset is to be expected. The most productive session I ever had in the gym took my squat from 320lbs down to about 150 in the space of about 30mins. Because I'd been taught how to squat properly. Resets are part of long term progress.

You realise it's important though, which is good. Are you doing anything to actively improve the situation? There's only so long you can wait for things to magically fix themselves.

This sounds like exactly what you should be doing right now. For me, the best thing I ever did for my consistency in the gym was to workout 6 days a week every week for 3 months. I obviously used limited volume, but the idea was to get me into the habit of working out every day. Probaly wouldn't work for everyone but was just what I needed at the time.


Thanks for the encouraging words. Glad to see you think I'm progressing well. Six weeks ago I almost gave up on lifting...I had a lot of self-defeating thinking, but luckily I ignored it and stuck to it.

Today I had a solid workout. I had one of those days where you feel like you can lift anything. I wish it was always like that.

My weight has gone up...maybe too much. I'm at about 145 lbs right now. I kind of feel like that's a bad thing. Doesn't it mean I put on too much fat? I do notice a bit more fat on my stomach, but nothing dramatic. However, I do also notice more muscle in the shoulders, arms, etc.

I think one of the reasons I put on weight recently is that I stopped biking to work, because of the weather. However, I'm still eating like I'm biking to work. I'm thinking I need to adjust my calories a bit to accommodate the fact that I'm not biking anymore.


Any weight gain should be considered in the context of your actual goal. A few months ago, you wanted to gain 20 pounds. Whether or not that's still what you're after is up to you. But generally speaking, you have gained some decent strength while gaining bodyweight. The majority of the time, this means you're on track and building muscle.

Look at yourself in the mirror or take a shirtless pic (posting it here is up to you) and then objectively compare it to your picture here:
If you can really be objective, that'll let you know if it's "too much" so far.

Yes, your total calories should be relative to your daily activity. However, your goals also need to be taken into consideration. Guys who want to build muscle might need less calories than guys who want to build muscle while riding a bike, but they still need more calories than guys who don't want to build muscle.


I want to start squatting again. Remember, I messed up my hip pretty easily last time at a very low weight. I was wondering if you guys think I should purchase a Safety Squat Bar? If I use one will it help alleviate my hip problems?


... Ahem ...


I started doing leg curls/ext because my bench has that part to it. I'm Going to start goblet squats again...probably starting today. However, eventually I'll need to use the bar. At that point would a safety bar be better?

Also, if I were to own one kettle all what size weight should I buy?


You did them previously and said you felt better so, for sure, get back on them pronto. Don't be in a rush to add weight, work on the movement and hitting depth consistently.

A safety squat bar is nice, but in terms of a home gym, it's not essential by any means. Barbell, dumbbells, rack, and weights are the priorities for a home gym. After those are in place, then maybe think of a safety squat bar or something like the Dead-Squat bar.

Way back when, the standard suggestion for a new-to-kettlebell guy was to start with a 35-pounder. 1 Pood! I think that's still a solid and relatively-versatile place to start learning a bunch of movements.