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What "Stage" Am I?

Really bizarre question: but I’ve been reading a lot of articles about beginner, intermediate and advanced trainees and how much muscle you can expect to add per year at each of these “stage”. The stages seem to be defined by how long you’ve been training. And every article seems to say 3+ years means you are advanced.

Now I’ve been training/lifting since 2009 but I’ll admit its been pretty garbage training - you would not look at me and think I’ve been lifting 1 year let alone 10 years! I’ve learnt a lot more in the last few months. I’m only 155lbs (5’7"), 34 years old. No idea what BF%, probably anywhere between 15-18%.

So what do I count as? Am I “advanced” simply because of when I first lifted a barbell or am I “beginner” because I’m still pretty small and surely still have some growth potential (maybe too old now?!)

I know its kind of meaningless but I’m been pondering it so I thought I’d see if anyone else has had the same thoughts and what I should expect to achieve. I’m fine if I should only expect to gain 5lbs a year because I am “advanced” but its just about managing my own expectations so I am correctly motivated!

Doesn’t matter. Go make gains

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If you’re 15-18% bf at 155 you’re not advanced. You’re probably not even intermediate. The good news is those words are pretty much meaningless in this context.


It’s weird when you’re in your 30s. Like advanced and a beginner at the same time. You can have good technique, but be weak. Or have nice muscle development, but a bad back. Maybe be really strong, but fat and out of shape.

How is your body holding up? Can you move around pretty well, or do you have any problems? Are there body parts you need to “fix” or be careful of?

How is your skill/technique with the lifts? Are you comfortable with squat/bench/deadlift? Or do you feel like you need to work on them?

How is your mind muscle connection? Can you flex your lats and do side delt raises without your traps taking over?

What general condition are you in? Could you do like 30 pushups, 12 pull ups and run a mile or would you have to quit?

The less stuff you have holding you back, the more gains you can make.


I’m a fit guy - I did 2 half marathons (13.1 miles each) last year at 8 and half minutes per mile, 30 push ups aren’t a problem, I can do 8-10 strict pull ups, deadlift and squat are fine but numbers are low because coming back off 4 month injury lay off. I can flex my lats, make my pecs dance (!!), etc. I can do indoor climbing and I play soccer once a week so movement, mobility and flexibility are all decent.

When I said 15-18% BF, I’m probably being harsh on myself. A trainer in the gym last year did a 7 point caliper test and came back around 8%…I’m not that low but I am in the same shape as last year.

And resting heart rate is 55-60 bpm

You seem pretty advanced to me. I wouldn’t believe any Ripplestiltskin fairy tails about being a Newbie and gaining 50 pounds this year.

It sounds like you haven’t exactly focused on the weights. But you’re in a great position “general condition” wise to get after lifting. I think if you do less running and prioritise muscle mass you’ll do Great.

Running half marathons and playing soccer every week is counterproductive to building muscle and strength and would largely explain why you are small and not incredibly strong despite years of training. To get to an advanced level, for most people it is going to require a lot of focus and not doing some of the things that you do. There are a few people out there who can combine long distance running with heavy lifting (Alex Viada) but for the vast majority of people it’s not going to work very well.


The half marathons were to prove to myself that I could do them. I actually hate running and won’t be doing anymore long distance stuff this year. Soccer I enjoy so I will be keeping that but a bit of cardio shouldn’t interfere too much with gains (so the articles say anyway).

@ FlatsFarmer; that’s the plan - much less running, much better lifting and more eating. I’ll report back just how beginner / intermediate / advanced I am!

What are your numbers like on your lifts?

They aren’t great currently
Bench 75kg x5
Deadlift 125kg x5
Squat 60kg x5 (as I said working back from 4 month groin injury)
Overhead press 52.5kg x5

They’ve all been higher than that but that was like 8 years ago at least!

Well, not that it matters, but you are most definitely a beginner.


If you like soccer then play soccer but running up and down the field for a couple hours is more than a bit of cardio. My point is that if you want to get bigger and stronger it has to be a priority, you can still play soccer but it’s probably going to affect progress… It’s also likely that however you have been training is not very effective.

If you have to ask, you’re most likely a beginner

what are you trying to get out of this thread? anything?


“What stage am I?” is the new “What bf% am I?” is the new “Are my clavicles long enough?” is the new “Total body everyday?”



This makes no sense. In what other areas is expertise measured simply by the passage of time? If you want to be advanced at math, you can’t just add, subtract, and multiply for three years. You have to demonstrate a proficiency at a high level to be considered advanced. Same for anything else I can think of.

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US Army Officer promotions and academic tenure


Are you under the impression that “beginner/intermediate/advanced” classification is a more important indicator of your growth potential than your training and recovery plans?

WHAT?!? :joy: Asks the 46 year old…

Imo, 30’s were/are fine, shouldn’t be a huge factor. I didn’t run into much problem till 40ish.

I think Stu (having trouble tagging) is still making gains.