T Nation

What Would You Change from the Beginning?



Im new to T-Nation and its been 2 months since ive started going to the gym.

Im 21yrs, 5'3 and 120lbs. My goal is to gain mass and cut it so that my body looks lean and long. I started the routine based on this website and so far I've been happy with my progress. I started to follow the diets many people have for weight gaining and mass gain workouts. Ive read the beginners articles and some post for newbies.

My questions is, what would you do differently when you look back at the beginning of your training? What would you chagne so that you would prgoress faster and more efficiently?


i would spend more time eating if i could start again. i'd also focus more on the big lifts (deadlift, squat, bench, row variations) and going heavy.


I wouldn't change much at all...aside from forcing myself to do more leg work.

Most of the mistakes people make only help them learn more in the long run...unless they are the type to quit.

If I were doing it now, I wouldn't have eaten quite so much junk food to gain the initial weight...but by doing that, I learned where my limits are and what I can get away with.

Mistakes in bodybuilding only hurt you if you are bad at learning from them.


Absoloutely nothing. It's a long road ahead and mistakes will be made. It's a learning experience. If I started perfectly and as I progressed I hit a wall of some sort, how the hell could I deal with that if I never had to work through smaller issues? Learn as much as you can and then go lift some heavy shit.


My goals aren't the same as yours but some of what I would have done differently apply to you as well.

First, I would follow the program 100% if your goal is what the program's goal is. My first "real" program was rippetoe and my biggest mistake was starting out right away with heavy weight. I've no idea how come I never got injured back then, especially on the deadlift and I do now but I so should have listened.

Should have started with just the bar or ~100 pounds on deadlift and squats.

Should have done mobility/stretching/foam rolling(didn't even know about foam rolling until years after I started) an hour daily .

Should have learned the technique properly. Get videos and upload them on youtube and make a forum post if you need someone to check it out. Take the video from the side. I should have kept the weight at ~90% or less of the 5rm max(since I was doing rippetoe which asks for 5 reps) until I had near perfect technique. It's not that hard to learn it if you have someone to show it to you and you have the flexibility for it.

I would have learned about sleeping 8-10 hours everyday , I would have learned a lot about food AND HOW TO COOK if you don't have someone to do it for you. I would have eaten cleaner and way more vegetables(main reason I didn't was that I was lazy to cook them but now that I do I found a way to cook for ~1hour per week and have veggies throughout the whole week)

I would learn about contrast showers, using ice, warm baths and cold baths.

I would learn about supplements. the trick with supplements is that they should be what the name says. SUPPLEMENTS. If you are getting 50grams of protein a day, then obviously investing in a protein whey will benefit you a lot more than if you were already eating 300grams per day. If you are having pains on your knees getting some fish oil and some glucosamine chondroitin MSM (or whatever they are called) and possibly vitamin C will help. If you are lacking energy throughout your workout maybe getting some caffeine supplement will help. If you can't sleep properly get a better bed and some supplement that helps with sleep

Just make sure that you FIRST get a good consistent diet and 8-10 hours of sleep before you start adding supplements.

And lastly I would be a LOT more careful about injuries. This is a problem though with beginners as things at the start are SO hectic and you get so much information that you have no idea what to do and why so for some it might be being less "careful" about injuries for some it should be more careful.

In general until you learn your body better, if it hurts and its not muscle soreness or lactic acid or whatever(I haven't done more than 6 reps in a long time :slight_smile: ) then you should start worrying a bit. If its muscle soreness you better be lifting.

The rest of what I would change really only relate to olympic lifting so I won't mention them unless you want me to.


Let me also add that I started going to the gym a bit before my join date for the forum if I remember correct. At the time I had no idea what a squat was or that the main energy sources are protein carbs and fats.

It's been 3-4 years now and only now am I starting to really get what I should be doing and I'm pretty confident with it. However I had to learn 95% of things on my own and "suffer" every time I made mistakes.

In the end aside from injuries 90% of lifting weights is all about lifting heavy 2-3 times a week at least, having a clean good diet(with less calories if you want to lose weight, more if you want to add) and sleeping properly and just in general learning when your body is recovered. It's as simple as that. Keep to this simplicity at the very least at all times and maybe you won't make 100% of the progress that you ideally could but you'll make at LEAST 50% if not more of the ideal progress that you could make in any period of time.

I for one started lifting then stopped 2-3 times. This last october I had to start almost from scratch and probably could only squat 90-100kgs(200-220lbs) at the time and it felt anything but solid. I also got injured back in march which lasted 5-6 months(way more than it should have).

Well I'm not sure how the above helps me prove my point.. lol.. but my point is, stick to the basics at all times! Add/change things at your own discretion. I would suggest that you first learn about diet, sleep, supplements, recovery methods and once you have all those other things down, THEN change anything about your training.


I agree with all of the above especially the part about supplements being secondary to a good diet. I've been in and out of the gym since freshman year of high school, didn't really start going regularly until 3 years ago and didn't start seriously with goal-oriented training until last fall/winter.

before last then, I was always looking for a magic supplement to give me more energy for my workouts. then I started 5/3/1 and really started eating and ever since then, I've killed every single session. who knew that EATING could give you so much energy?


You're 5'3". Only a funhouse mirror will have you looking long, 'lil buddy. (I kid, I kid.)

Really though, just for reference, you should probably expect a long-term plan of gaining 30 or 40 pounds of muscular bodyweight before you even consider cutting down.

I wouldn't have trained arms more often than I trained legs. I wouldn't have neglected shoulders simply because I didn't like training them. I wouldn't have over-relied on supplements I didn't need instead of being sure to get three good meals everyday. (No 19-year old putz needs Vanadyl Sulfate and HMB. Ha.)

I wouldn't have turned down my buddy's offer to train me for free. (If you have the chance to be mentored by someone more successful and more experienced than you, you should jump at the opportunity. Getting advice online is fine, but training face-to-face with someone is a whole 'nother ballgame.)

Decide to make it a lifestyle, not a hobby. Hobby's can be, and often are, set aside for weeks or months at a time. Lifestyles aren't.


This. So important. If you can find someone in "real life" who can guide you and is passionate about it, it will help a beginner more than anything. Assuming he knows what he's doing, which as a beginner you never know if they do.

I've seen lots of people lifting more than me who knew less about a lot of aspects concerning weightlifting or diet. The only thing for certain is that the stronger/bigger one is they will AT LEAST know something!


Thank you all for the great response! I will definitely learn from my mistakes and take what all of you said to heart.

Now its time to hit the gym!


I would've trained legs sooner.
I would've learned about proper nutrition sooner.
I would've trained arms directly sooner.

In that order.


I would be more consistent, and have a better attitude as far as trying to use more weight or do more reps every workout (make less excuses).

If I could go back in time to my 16 year old self, I would have slapped me and said stop reading T-Nation articles and overthinking every detail, stop making excuses for why you can't lift every day and improve. I would also explain to myself that getting stronger isn't magic and doesn't happen by some special formula of sets and reps, you get stronger by making yourself do more than you could do last time. It's pure hard work.

I would tell myself to do squats, deadlifts, flat bench, incline bench, situps, barbell rows, pullups, military presses, upright rows, and barbell curls until the cows came home (only had access to a barbell w/ rack and pullup bar at this time), and eat as much food as possible and train as much and as hard as possible until I was in the 1/2/3/4/5 club (bb curl/military/bench and row/squat/deadlift respectively LOL) and weighed 200lbs.

I would have also explained the importance of good form, performing sets in a non-stop fashion, and using a full range of motion.

And then I would go give my parents some advice about their futures as well LOL


I wouldn't get so fuckin fat


I would have dropped the deadlift that fucked up my trap rather than try and muscle it up.

I also would have not gone so deep on the first front squat I ever did and fuck up my leg when I wasn't ready for that depth.

In general, I would have realized hurting yourself doesn't make you a badass. Lifting hard, but in a manner so I can still lift tomorrow, and the next day, and every day after that, is what matters, not looking cool and locking out a gym PR.


I just got back from the gym. I read your post and realized how many people in my gym lift with heavy ass weight with terrible form. I have a feeling one of those guys are going to be in a pain in the morning.


Not done any direct trap work/shrugs

Done more direct arm work especially triceps

Done deloads regularly

Used more free weights

Used more powerlifting programs/rep schemes for the big lifts


For me I would have been less worried about cutting weight and more focused on building strength. If I had to it to do all over again I would have met with quality trainers and coaches who know what they are talking about. I would have learned the big lifts and followed a power liftig type program. Instead for many years I made the same mistake most people do starting out. I did what the magazines said I should do or listened to some trainer tell me how good the machines are. I would have spent more time learning the movement before trying to workout. Quality over quantity trumps everything now! It wasn't until a few years ago when I finally started doing it right by listening to guys like Pavel and Dan John that I started making serious gains.


I wouldn't change a thing.

I've really enjoyed the journey. Learn something new every day. There certainly are things I could have done to progress faster... Only... I needed to be in the right place to receive and act on that information, anyway. Sometimes the biggest things that hold us back are mental barriers we have to doing what we know full well needs to be done. At least, I've still got a few things in that camp (e.g., reliably meeting my protein target each and every day).