T Nation

Tip for Beginners

Ok,
So I see and hear this a lot.

“I’m just starting out and my friend told me I should…”

or

“I just got this program from a magazine and I want to look the guy in the pictures so should I…”

Now I know this has been covered before, but I just want to share a little knowledge, and maybe some others will throw in their tips too.

If you are a beginner:

  1. You don’t need a complicated program.
  2. The meat of your program should be fundamental compound lifts.
  3. Concentrate on good form, good nutrition and adequate rest.
  4. Don’t worry about what the advanced trainees are doing, worry about what they did to get there.
  5. Keep it simple, keep it consistent, and put 100% into it everytime you step into the gym.

Some people will advise you to do full body workouts, other will advise splits. That has been hashed and rehashed a million times. Don’t get too fancy to start with.

Make sure you train in a way to keep your body in balance. If you want a big chest, you need to balance it with a big back. If you want big biceps, you need to balance them with big triceps. Don’t just train the muscles you see in the mirror.

And please, train your legs. Also realize that there are fronts and backs to the legs as well as uppers and lowers.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone draw up a program that hits chest on Monday, back on Tuesday, shoulders on Wednesday, arms on Thursday, and legs on Friday. Legs are the whole lower half of the body, give them some respect. When you get to the level of doing split routines, give some thought to splitting up your legs too.

Odds are if you do the split I just mentioned, and you aren’t completely dedicated to working out yet, you will inevitably miss a day, which means legs will get left out for a whole other week.

Finally, in most gyms, Monday is chest day. That’s because every beginner wants an impressive chest, and starts the week with it. If your gym is too small, you will be waiting for others to finish with the benches. Try moving chest day to another day, or if you are doing total body, try doing dumbells on Mondays, and saving your barbell bench press for another day.

Good luck, and stay consistent.

Where have I read this before?

Yeah,
I’m not saying that this is ground breaking news. I just put it out there for any beginner’s to read. There is a lot of truly great information on this site, but sometimes it gets buried with all the other stuff. I’m just hoping that a few quick tips will be helpful to some.

[quote]Modi wrote:
4) Don’t worry about what the advanced trainees are doing, worry about what they did to get there.
[/quote]

what’s up? my friend posts here alot so he said to check it out. i have some questions, i’m new to this. why not train like the guys i want to look like. why do less of a program just to change it down the road?

TL

[quote]TLock wrote:
Modi wrote:
4) Don’t worry about what the advanced trainees are doing, worry about what they did to get there.

what’s up? my friend posts here alot so he said to check it out. i have some questions, i’m new to this. why not train like the guys i want to look like. why do less of a program just to change it down the road?

TL[/quote]

Because they had to pay their dues to get to that point. As a beginner, you can’t handle the same type of program that an advanced lifter can. Remember, it isn’t their current program that got them to that point, it’s the basic stuff they started out with.

[quote]OneEye wrote:

Because they had to pay their dues to get to that point. As a beginner, you can’t handle the same type of program that an advanced lifter can. Remember, it isn’t their current program that got them to that point, it’s the basic stuff they started out with.[/quote]

My thoughts exactly. You need to build a framework before you can work on the details.

[quote]OneEye wrote:
TLock wrote:
Modi wrote:
4) Don’t worry about what the advanced trainees are doing, worry about what they did to get there.

what’s up? my friend posts here alot so he said to check it out. i have some questions, i’m new to this. why not train like the guys i want to look like. why do less of a program just to change it down the road?

TL

Because they had to pay their dues to get to that point. As a beginner, you can’t handle the same type of program that an advanced lifter can. Remember, it isn’t their current program that got them to that point, it’s the basic stuff they started out with.[/quote]

what do you mean by pay their dues? i don’t get why you would lift like a beginner if you want to be advanced. i don’t want to be huge, but i don’t want to be a beginner either. i can handle alot, so why not just lift alot?

what if my friend is doing a split, and i want to train with him, is it ok to do a split if its with him?

TL

[quote]
what do you mean by pay their dues? i don’t get why you would lift like a beginner if you want to be advanced. i don’t want to be huge, but i don’t want to be a beginner either. i can handle alot, so why not just lift alot?

what if my friend is doing a split, and i want to train with him, is it ok to do a split if its with him?

TL[/quote]

You haven’t said what your goals are, how long (if at all) you have been lifting, height, weight, etc. So it is tough to offer a lot of advice.

However, the first thing you need to do as a beginner is learn the basic lifts. You should be focusing on big compound (multi-joint) movements like squats, deadlifts, bench press, shoulder press, pullups, dips, rows. You will find your strength will improve rapidly at first because you are getting good at doing the exercises. You need to engrain these lifting patterns in your head.

Advanced trainees have built their foundation and are often using special techniques, trying to refine their bodies. You don’t need to worry about this as a beginner. Work on your nutrition, your form, your intensity and your consistency.

Please don’t say you don’t want to be huge. DON’T Worry, you aren’t going to wake up tomorrow and be huge, this takes an enormous amount of time and dedication. Hell, most of the people that have been training for years are still trying to get to the size they want to be. It takes time.

How much experience does this friend of yours have? Can he show you the right technique? Will he motivate you to go to the gym? A lifting partner is great to have if he is reliable.

[quote]TLock wrote:
what do you mean by pay their dues? i don’t get why you would lift like a beginner if you want to be advanced. i don’t want to be huge, but i don’t want to be a beginner either. i can handle alot, so why not just lift alot?
[/quote]

I sense some sincerity here, but you are getting off on the wrong foot. You need to face 2 fundemental and closely related facts right off the bat.

1> You have no idea what you’re doing. Get up from your computer, look yourself in the mirror and say “I do not know anything about weight training” Whatever you think you know at this point is going to hold you back or get you hurt or both.

2> You ARE a beginner. Not wanting to be one doesn’t change the fact that you are. You can get plenty of help, but you already sound like you’re going to bicker with people trying to help you.

You’ve gotten some very sensible relatively short term advice to get you pointed in the right direction. If you decide to do it your way you will either hurt yourself or burn yourself out in short order.

I’m not trying to be an asshole, but if you already know what you want to do why are you asking and then disputing what you’re being told by guys who know much more what they’re talking about than you obviously do?

[quote]Tiribulus wrote:
TLock wrote:
what do you mean by pay their dues? i don’t get why you would lift like a beginner if you want to be advanced. i don’t want to be huge, but i don’t want to be a beginner either. i can handle alot, so why not just lift alot?

I sense some sincerity here, but you are getting off on the wrong foot. You need to face 2 fundemental and closely related facts right off the bat.

1> You have no idea what you’re doing. Get up from your computer, look yourself in the mirror and say “I do not know anything about weight training” Whatever you think you know at this point is going to hold you back or get you hurt or both.

2> You ARE a beginner. Not wanting to be one doesn’t change the fact that you are. You can get plenty of help, but you already sound like you’re going to bicker with people trying to help you.

You’ve gotten some very sensible relatively short term advice to get you pointed in the right direction. If you decide to do it your way you will either hurt yourself or burn yourself out in short order.

I’m not trying to be an asshole, but if you already know what you want to do why are you asking and then disputing what you’re being told by guys who know much more what they’re talking about than you obviously do?[/quote]

yeh, your right. sometimes i can come off as being a punk. my friend says you guys know what ur doing. i’m going to read some articles here, and he’s going to show me the form. we are going to go to the gym together, but only do certain lifts together, cuz he’s doing splits, and i’m going to learn the full body way at first.

thanks modi, thanks one eye, thanks tribulus. good advice, sorry to be disrespectful if i was.

TL

It’s not a respect thing man, at least not to me. It’s not about us, it’s about you. What’s going to be most beneficial to you. I didn’t think you were being a punk, you’re just a cocky kid. You’ve now shown that you’re a level headed cocky kid, which means you’ve got confidence, but are willing to be taught. A good combination.

My first experience with weights was when my then fiance won me a free 3 month membership to a Jack Lalanne health club on Long Island, 1990. I was tall, small and soft with no real belief that lifting weights would make any difference to my very unimpressive “physique”.

It was free so I went. They had every conceivable piece of training equipment in the history of the world. I also had no flickering clue how to build muscle. I just showed up in the morning a few times a week and watched what people did, which was about 99% machines and tried to copy them. I had no knowledge of diet or nutrition either.

I had nobody to show me anything and there was no internet so I just pushed and pulled on stuff and grabbed some Burger King across the street when I was done. I was sore so I figured, at least my body knows something’s different. About 4 or 5 weeks later I was in the locker room getting changed and I walked past a mirror in my underwear and actually looked at myself for the first time since starting this. Like I say I was doing it to show her some appreciation for winning me the trial membership, I never thought it would make any difference.

Imagine my utter shock when I actually saw a slight, but noticable increase in the muscles all over my body. I stood there kinda wide eyed for minute thinking “oh shit… this is working”

That day I bought a bunch of magazines which led me to go supplement happy and I wasted the next year on all the bullshit routines I saw in those magazines. I didn’t realize all that advice would kill a drug free mortal trainee. Despite being very sore and overtrained all the time I did make some gains that at the time I was happy with, not knowing how much more they could’ve been. Mercifully, I won’t get into how I finally learned some valuable lessons and made serious and increasing gains after that.

The moral of this long boring story is IF ONLY I would’ve had a five minute conversation with someone like a lot of the guys here right from the start. I could’ve gained twice as much in half the time and maybe wouldn’t have gotten bored and stale and drifted away from training back then. Hell, I’d probably have 50 more pounds of lean mass today.

Take advantage friend, you don’t know how good you’ve got it.

–Tiribulus->

Well said Tirib. Well said.

[quote]eengrms76 wrote:
Where have I read this before?[/quote]

Ok, so I just read Are you a Beginner II, and I understand your comment. Vroom covered it all, and a whole lot better, but I guess no harm no foul.

If you are a beginner and haven’t read Vroom’s post, please do so now.

[quote]Modi wrote:
eengrms76 wrote:
Where have I read this before?

Ok, so I just read Are you a Beginner II, and I understand your comment. Vroom covered it all, and a whole lot better, but I guess no harm no foul.

If you are a beginner and haven’t read Vroom’s post, please do so now.[/quote]

i started lifting after reading the article which was very good. their is alot of information there, but everyone just said to start lifting rather than trying to find the perfect program which is what i was asking in another article. i’ll let you guys know how it goes. thanks.

This is a great post. Who cares if it has been posted before? Most newcomers to the site and beginners in the weight room will come to the T-Nation homepage and only scroll down the “top 30 most discussed topics.” Most won’t use the search function and won’t search through the various forums. Therefore, I think that it is a great idea for advanced lifters to post advice like this every couple of weeks.

If no one could ever repost anything, it would be very difficult to have a forum here. Similarly, if only purely new concepts could be written about, the contributors would have a very difficult time (they have a difficult time as it is).

Great post Modi. Almost every gym friend I have trains chest on Monday and legs on Friday. If they are going to miss a day in the gym, it will inevitably be leg day. This shows what their priorities are and also explains why the stereotypical “meathead” has a huge upper body and an average lower body.

That being said, I think that there is merit in having beginners follow a typical bodybuilding split for several reasons:

First, it allows beginners to realize which muscle groups are being worked during each exercise. This knowledge is crucial and must be learned.

I have been a trainer for a long time and have trained people individually as well as in a group (athletic) environment. I even taught resistance training at the high school level. I noticed that when I had my students follow a typical bodybuilding split, they made a better connection between exercises and the muscle groups the exercises worked.

Advanced lifters forget or don’t realize how difficult it is to learn all this stuff right off the bat. For example, pullovers work the lats, pec minor, and serratus anterior muscles as well as the triceps and abdominal muscles from an isometric standpoint.

No matter how many times you iterate these bits of information to beginners, it sinks in better when they know that it is “back day” and therefore pullovers must work the back. One could say that a beginner has no business performing a pullover, which brings me to my next point…

Second, beginners are more inclined to continue working out if they are excited about coming to the gym. If every beginner started out doing squats, deadlifts, bench press, bent over rows and military press two or three days per week and were only allowed to split it up or perform isolation exercises until they reached sufficient strength levels (a policy that would actually be optimal for their strength development and long-term progress), there would be an even bigger dropout level in beginning lifter dropouts.

Beginners like learning how to perform exercises such as pullovers, rear delt raises, incline flies, hammer curls, etc. It makes training fun for them and it allows them to really feel a certain muscle being worked (the burn).

It also allows them to train like advanced lifters so they can feel like their routine is superior to others’. Psychological phenomena like this isn’t taken into consideration often enough.

Third, it allows beginners to train with a knowledgable partner. The advanced lifter isn’t going to modify his routine to accomodate the beginner. He will most likely expect the beginner to conform to his routine if he wants to have him as a workout partner.

Now, if only we could educate most of these “advanced” lifters or change their mindsets. In my opinion, splits can be very effective if you split them optimally. While professional bodybuilders have to maintain certain bodyparts while they bring other body parts up to par, the average “advanced” lifter simply needs to get bigger and stronger everywhere.

They could do squats, front squats and walking lunges or bulgarian squats on Monday (leg day), then do deadlifts, pullups, bent over rows and back extensions on Wednesday (back day), which would allow them to work the lower body twice per week.

They could do incline press, bench press and flies on Tuesday (chest day), then do close grip bench, chins, dips, curls and hammer curls on Friday (arm day) which would allow them to hit their chest and back musculature twice per week and would give them a psychological edge going into the weekend (my arms look pumped!) and give them a reason not to skip Friday’s workout.

Thursday could be shoulder day with military press, shrugs, lateral raises and rear delt raises.

Two out of the five training days (Tueday and Thursday) aren’t very intensive in terms of exercise taxation, which allows for fluxuation of training stress throughout the week.

This type of split would allow for each muscle group to be hit with more frequency than a split that included deadlifts and back extensions on leg day or didn’t include compound lifts for the chest and back on arm day.

Still not as effective from a strength and hypertrophy standpoint as a full-body routine for beginners, but it keeps them coming back to the gym week-in and week-out. Consistency is one of the best qualities for long-term progress.