T Nation

Still a Beginner?


Hi Everyone,

Long time reader of the site.

I've recently stopped boxing, which has been my primary focus for some time now.

That said, I have had periods, on and off, where I have trained with weights.

When I have previously trained with weights, I have fallen into the usual traps of either using it as a license to eat crap (eg chicken nuggets + a protein shake made with ice cream) and subsequently put on weight, but at least 50% of it was fat, or I've been concerned with being 'functional', and trying to train for strength and 'not get all bulky like a body builder'. Essentially, one way or another, I've spun my wheels and not kept my ego in check.

I've always played sports, and have always done labouring jobs in my holidays etc, so probably felt I was above doing what rank beginners do. I recognise that now as a mistake, and am here, cap in hand to ask a few questions.


Height - 6'1
Weight - 178lbs
Age - 25
BF ~10% (I've been boxing seriously, within a weightclass. Outline of each row of abs clearly visible)


L&R arm - 14.125"
Chest - 40"
Waist (1" above navel) - 33"
Thigh (mid) - 23.5"
Neck - 15"

Lifts 1RM:

Squat - 220lbs
Deadlift - 300lbs
Press - 110lbs
Bench - 160lbs

Diet (typical):

Breakfast - 1 bowl museli, 3 eggs
Lunch - Chicken soup, Cheese
Dinner - Meat + veg + potatoes/white rice
Snack - Protein shake (1 scoop made with whole milk (half pint))

Goals initially - Arms 15", Chest 42", Thigh 24.5, Waist 33", Neck 16"

Fundamental question: even though I've 'trained' with weights off and on for a few years, do you think based on my numbers/measurements I still have the opportunity to make some beginners gains on the right program?

There are a lot of good programs out there, and I've jut done a week of Paul Carter's basic mass workout given in Base Building. Is there a program that would be more effective at this point? I recognise the need at this point to get bigger and stronger generally, and that I'm weak enough that if one happens, probably so will the other.

I'm not wedded to having a six pack, either in the short or long term, but I do want to look good, and avoid looking sloppy. I'd also like to maintain a good level of cardio type fitness.

Any input would be gratefully received.


Rate the following 4 qualities in order of importance to you:

1) Strength
2) Size
3) Cardio
4) Fat loss


In the short term (for the next 3-6months as necessary (if longer so be it)), I'd rate them:

1 Size
2 Strength
3 cardio
4 fat loss

In the medium to long term, I'd rate them:

  1. Strength
  2. Cardio
  3. Size (assuming a reasonable amount has been built by this point)
  4. Fat loss (assuming I have not got unbearably fat, and it's only a matter of trimming down 5% bf or less)

Ultimately, I'd like to be fit and strong, with a reasonable amount of muscle mass. I suspect at my current bf, that would probably be around 195lbs.


Those numbers aren't particularly impressive for your weight. You're not at the stage where you'll double your bench within months, but you should still be able to make a lot of progress before the year is over. I guess 'advanced beginner' would be a good label for you if you want one. Here's what I would do...

Scale your weights back to 50% of your 1RM and start stronglifts (add three sets of chins at the end of workout B). Once you stall hard, move on to 531 - I find that way too many people grind their gears deloading on stronglifts while getting little out of doing so. Of course, there are many other options - feel free to pick.


I know :frowning:

Seriously though, I've heard a lot about stronglifts, and it does seem like perhaps a concerted period of doing it might be my best bet at this point. Do you think it would allow for conditioning on off days: eg running/rucking/heavybag?


As long as you are progressing on your lifts, do what you want.


It also means you'll have to eat more.


Small breakfast, snack, good meal, snack. This can't be a "typical" day when you're trying to put on size. Need plenty of calories, protein, carbs, and healthy fats.

As was said, you can definitely see some solid gains once you dial in a good, consistent training and eating plan.

There is no "better", in the sense that, from what I know of that program, it's a pretty solid setup and you're in a position where any well-designed plan will do fine. Changing after one week will serve no purpose. Stick with it for however long he suggests, eat right (meaning plenty of calories seven days a week), and then see where you are.

Totally untrue. You don't accidentally get bigger just because you gain strength. Calories are crucial and that's where lots of guys screw up.


Thank you for your input, I always learn a lot from your posts.

  1. With regards to the diet, I recognise that I will most likely need to increase calories quite considerably over the next few months. However, without eating that much more on previous occasions, I've started gaining fat quite notably. I accept that that is probably because I haven't trained hard enough to justify the additional calories, but I would say I was quite susceptible to gaining poor quality weight quite quickly if my diet isn't dialed in.

  2. I understand what you're saying. I'm going with stronglifts, and will follow it until I plateau. For all the other mistakes I've made with training, program hopping hasn't been one of them. I've never built the proper foundation deliberately, and I will be using Stronglifts to do it.

  3. Point absolutely taken, and I will increase them over the coming weeks, not through poor quality food though, as I don't respond very well to junk by and large. I will accept the limitations in gains, if any, that that brings. I will however try to make up the necessary calories through good quality food.


Sounds like you've got a pretty good handle on the mistakes you were making, so that's definitely a good thing.

Attack your plan, track progress (strength and bodyweight) on a regular basis, and make smart adjustments when/if needed.


There's a fine line between maintaining weight, gaining lean mass and getting chubby in terms of calorie intake. If you dislike the idea of putting on any fat, you'll have to tread in the middle - this means that you need to know how much you're eating every single day. It's doable but requires some effort.


Agreed. I suspect that perhaps, rather than being extremely susceptible to junk food, I am just worse at judging the amount of calories I get from it, and am better at instinctively eating what I need from quality food.

For example, my diet was on point all last week, and I was 1lb heavier on the scale this morning, with 1 week's training under my belt. Of course, on such a small time scale it is meaningless, but at least I'm not any lighter. I'm going to start a log anyway, to chart my progress and stay accountable. I'll post a link.

If anyone chose to stop by over the coming weeks and months, I'd appreciate any ongoing advice and input. I'm calling myself a beginner, and starting work on the foundation that I should have built years ago.