T Nation

Training a Client Who Has Never Lifted


#1

Hi, Im new to personal training and Ive been working out for a few years know and would say I know a fair amount about working out but when it comes to clients, I tend to second guess my decisions on programs and end up spinning my wheels.

I was just wondering how would you design a program for a person who has never lifted and there main goal is to increase muscle mass? I know you advocate basics and using deadlifts, squats, military press and bench press as staples but would you recommend this with beginners as well or go a different route?


#2

[quote]Distortia wrote:
Hi, Im new to personal training and Ive been working out for a few years know and would say I know a fair amount about working out but when it comes to clients, I tend to second guess my decisions on programs and end up spinning my wheels.

I was just wondering how would you design a program for a person who has never lifted and there main goal is to increase muscle mass? I know you advocate basics and using deadlifts, squats, military press and bench press as staples but would you recommend this with beginners as well or go a different route? [/quote]

There are two classes of beginner who want to build muscle:

  1. Those who are looking to look good for the beach/club ASAP

  2. Those who are in this for the long run and want to make lasting changes in their appearance.

Sadly the former is the most frequent. It’s the guy who only want to do arms, chest and delts and only cares about getting a pump to “look swole”. Honestly I personally refuse to work with these clients. They normally have unrealistic expectations about how much and how fast they can gain, do not really want to put in the hard work required to progress and are likely to quickly quit training or be on and off.

With the later the first 6-8 weeks of training should NOT have for a goal to increase muscle mass or strength (although it will happen). It is TO LEARN TO LIFT. Learn then practice and finally master the optimal form for big compound movements like squats, front squats, military press, bench press, barbell row, deadlifts, chin-ups (band assisted). NEVER allow a bad rep… NEVER increase the weight if it leads to form breakdown. Only use a weight that can be lifted with proper from and without grinding.

I prefer more sets of fewer exercises so that the client can get more practice on each of the key lifts.

Each of the selected “big lifts” should be practiced 2-3 times per week.

It is of primary importance that your client understands that he must be patient:

  • Patient about taking the time to learn to lift

  • Patient about adding weight to the bar… during those first 6-8 weeks they should only add weight when it is necessary because the weight is feeling too easy. Have them increase the weight because they have to, not because they are capable of.

  • Patient about adding exercises.

They must become perfectionists about perfecting lifting form.

There are basically 4 levels of effort when you are in the gym:

REHAB/PREHAB – PRACTICE – TRAINING – TESTING

These are in order of the intensity (amount of effort relative to your maximum effort).

During the first 6-8 weeks a beginner should see most of his training as “practice”… the goal is to get better at the movements, not increase performance (although their performance and size WILL increase because they are starting from scratch). When you begin, the longer you stay in “practice” mode, the better your foundation for future gains will be.

For someone who is in this for the long run, 6-8 weeks is nothing.

New personal trainers make ONE typical mistake: they feel the need to show how much they know and prove themselves. As a result they tend to design programs that are way too complicated for the needs of their clients and also have their clients add weight too fast (to be able to say “the program worked great, you added 20lbs more this week”).


#3

I wish I got advice like that when I started lifting! Starting the wrong way, even when you put in the hard work, builds a baseline of bad habits and imbalances, that takes way longer than 6-8 weeks to correct.


#4

What rep range would you choose? Liwer rep range to prevent form breakdown? And would you just do the big lifts multiple times a week or throw in some other exercises?


#5

[quote]seank22 wrote:
What rep range would you choose? Liwer rep range to prevent form breakdown? And would you just do the big lifts multiple times a week or throw in some other exercises? [/quote]

I like 6 to 8 … not too low because beginners aren’t good a recruiting motor units and lower reps wont work well until they are.

It should be mostly working on the big movements but 15 minutes of isolation work can be added to each session