T Nation

Starting with Basics


I am 19 y/o and 115kg (253lbs)... down from 132kgs (290lbs) in around 5 months through cardio/diet.

Joined a local gym recently to get more serious about developing my body, but only signed up for a basic membership (just use of equipment) - the owner / manager is a douche who wont run through training techniques with me because I wont pay for a personal trainer...

Im looking for some basic techniques to start with so I dont lose weight without building muscle and develop the soft pudgy body.

Any help appreciated,


(By the way - not looking to get into power lifting or huge development - focussing on toning and cutting the fat)


First of all, congrats for losing weight. Keep it up with diet & cardio.

If you're a newbie to the gym, you should gain some muscles even when you're dieting and doing cardio. Plus, weight lifting will boost your metabolism. So it was obviously a good idea to get that membership.

There are a lot of programms out there, just read the stickies in this forum.

I'd go with something simple. Choose one exercise for each body part, think about a split and add some weight on each session.

incline BB: warm-up sets + 5x5
lateral raises: work-up to your 1 heaviest set of 8 reps
shrugs: 5 sets to failure (over 10 reps)
hyperextensions (to strengthen lower back): 5 sets to failure
pushups: 2 sets, as many as you can get as a finisher

DB rows: warm-up sets + 5x5 +
curls: warm-up + 3x8
pulldowns: 5 sets to failure (over 10 reps)
lunges with BB: check the form first, 5 sets, 8 reps for each leg

Do day 1, rest one day, do day 2. Take two days off and hit the gym again for day 1.

You can add squats and deadlifts after you lose some weight, get some practice in the gym, get some elasticity, read about the form etc...


No matter what the goals, everyone pretty much starts off the same.

Learn how to back squat, deadlift and bench properly, and base your lifting around that.
Rows, o/h presses, chins or pull ups should also be staples of your program.

Starting strength or stronglifts are my personal favourites for beginner lifters, many other will suggest the same thing.

http://startingstrength.wikia.com/wiki/Starting_Strength_Wiki is the free online wiki, but can't compare to actually buying the book, it's invaluable for beginners.

If you want to cut some fat, learn about diet, clean it up, and cut calories back to maintenance or below. Add some cardio to your lifting program. Look into intervals, HIIT, tabata's, these are all popular right now.

If you want to build strength, worry less about cutting the calories. Clean the diet up, put on some muscle, and then worry about cutting excess fat later. Having more muscle mass will make this much easier, and strength training itself will burn alot of calories. Also gaining strength will be much quicker.

Hope this helps steer you in the right direction.


The best thing you can do is to learn proper form for every lift. Check on youtube:

  • Squat RX serie
  • dieselcrew
  • defranco's training
  • Staley performance training

read on this site as much article as possible (Mastering The Deadlift, How To Master the Power Clean, How to do pull-up, Tate's article on bench press...)

If possible, purchase Starting Strength (the book), and start with this program. In the book you'll find a detailed description of every lift (even a bit too much details...but it's better this way).

Then make videos of your lifts and post them here for form check. Enjoy your training!

Ps: I don't see any problem in getting started with squat and deadlift at your bodyweight, once you undestand how to execute them properly.


Come on thorax..

Don't be telling a beginner to be doing a program like that, even if it was just an "example"
The poor guy probably doesn't know any better.
You're right that he should read the stickies, and go with something simple.

But here's why I think your "example" is a bad one to be setting..

You list of exercises includes NONE of the big three. Why would he add squats and deadlifts after he has lost some weight, when they are two of the exercises that will help him the most to get there?
The spilt is unorthodox
It has only one leg exercise, done after everything else.
You're advocating 1 on, 1 off, 1 on, 2 off. Also unorhodox, why not just stick with 3x week, every second day then two days off?
Sets and reps are all over the place, I thought you said "something simple?"
Incline but no flat, laterals but no o/h press, no tri exercise? No ab exercises, which I would be fine with if you had him doing squats/dl's...


Cheers! You are probably referring to my post and you're right. It's just that almost every time I see a beginner in my gym doing deadlifts or squats they do it wrong. It would be perfect if they had a PT, or read sth about the form, or post their own videos but I just don't see it happening very often. That's why I don't automatically say 'squats and deads.'

I also think it's fine for the beginner to have some 'fun' - hit your chest, hit your biceps, traps... Simple and motivating for a newbie. Deads and squat can put people off. When youre more mature, see thing in broader perspective, do some reaserch - it's time to incorporate DL&S, IMO.


Read my above post.

I'm gonna be crucified for that, but... Legs grow fast. He'll have time to hit them seriously later. Let him grow some upper body muscles - that's more rewarding for a beginner.

If he recovers fast and feels ready to beat the previous lifts, he can obviously train with only 1 off.

I think the OP is clever enough to understand it. Is it really too complicated? Why does everything need to be that simple like 3x5, 1x5, 4 exercises, M&W&F and so on...


I guess I can see some logic in your post, thorax. So I apoligise for flaming you.

You're right, that almost everytime you see a beginner doing a squat or deadlift, they seem to do it wrong.
Because they just have no idea. I feel it is our responsibility, as "enlightened lifters" to educate people on the proper form, and the benefits of these lifts.

Having "fun" is good. Hitting chest, biceps, traps is fine. But I still think there are better ways of going about it. And there is nothing more motivating than moving some serious weight, and seeing serious results.

The guy is 19, he's been sticking to an exercise routine of sorts for 5 months, he's made some progress. He's motivated enough to go out and pay for a gym memebership, and brave enough to come onto these forums and ask for help.

I say, no reason not to DL and Squat from the word go. I certainly wish I had.


No problem, man.

Yeah, I think the OP is serious about what he's doing so maybe he'll go for deads and squats, which are obviously great exercises.


Sorry your above post wasn't up when I posted this^^

I guess you're right about legs growing fast. But seriously, the squat has so many other benefits for total body growth. I still think every beginner should be doing them, and we should be encouraging them. If they don't want to work on proper form, post the videos whatever, that's not our responsibility. But we can only try and spread the word.

As far as rep schemes go, I should have said "needlessly complicated". 3x5, 5x5, 5x3, 10x3 whatever, these are staples of peoples programs because they work. And they're simple, it just makes things easier.
Sure, he's smart enough to go with different reps/sets across the different exercises. But well informed enough to know why you want him to do only one set of one exercise, go to failure on another etc etc etc?


Good point. I thought about that when writing as well.


thanks for the help guys, going through the stickies on here and theyre awesome


Well, congrats on the progress, first off. You wrote that you don't want to pay for a personal trainer to run you through training techniques. Now, I don't know if by this you mean simply program design. If you're not familiar with what a movement entails, http://exrx.net/Lists/Directory.html is a great place to search. Now, I wouldn't try to learn anything truly technical from their tiny .gifs, but it's good to get an idea of what the movement entails.
Another recommendation is to get Starting Strength, the book. There is a lot of information about the big three in there, with pictures. Of course, there's plenty of free articles on here about squats, bench, and deadlift too.


The reason you see beginners squatting and DL'ing incorrectly is because nobody gets them right the first time. It doesn't matter if the OP starts doing them now or in two years from now, he's going to do them wrong at first. As long as he's lifting light while getting his form straightened out, it's no big deal.

Beginners should start with a program that includes the following movements:

Bench Press
Dead Lift
Military Press
Bent Row

Starting Strength comes to mind because that's the one I used, but there are several more out there. After a few months, when you've adapted to working out, you can add some stuff for arms and calves and whatever.

Other than Thorax's post, there are some good links and suggestions above.

Congrats on the progress, and keep it up.


You seem to think you have monopoly for truth. You take your shit too seriously, man.

I just hope we live in a perfect world and we'll see this whole new generation of beginners religiously following SS and getting their muscular bodies.


No. It's just that when I don't know the answer, I don't post.

How seriously is too seriously? Seriously, maybe you should take your shit more seriously.

SS is far from a be-all-end-all, and I never claimed it to be. It is a good place to start, though, for several reasons:

  1. It involves lifting in all the major planes of bodily movement.
  2. It requires you to start light and work your way up while working on your form.
  3. It's an easy program to add to, when you're ready for more volume.
  4. It has provided great results to quite a few beginners.


Thorax i must say you threw me off a little bit with your workout plan. Don't get me wrong all the exercises you stated are legit for bodybuilding but I wouldn't recommend it to someone who admittedly stated he's unfamiliar with workout techniques. I think laterals and shrugs are a waste of time right now. I think it should be really basic just so he gets a feel and has his techniques down. Inclines are more difficult than flat bench, so i would suggest the OP starts off with the flat bench to get his technique where it needs to be, then progress to incline.

Flat bench press
Seated rows
Lat pull downs
Bicep Curls
Tricep push downs

Any beginner could execute these. I would say incooperate deads after about a month.



Sorry Thorax, but that split you laid out is awful.


I never argued about that.
BTW, did YOU start with SS?

edit: just read your post again, you did. Serious choice for a serious guy,huh? I was also serious when I wrote the above split. Just don't stalk my anymore for being funny anywhere else.


I still think it has some charm... Anyway, good luck to the OP. I hope you choose SS and prove me wrong in the long run. Post the pics later on!