T Nation

You're No Longer a Beginner When...


Alright. So I'm compiling little tidbits of info off of T-Nation here to figure out some criteria for when you're no longer considered "a beginner" or when you're considered to be a "baseline strong" member of T-Nation...

Dan John's training tip gives two criteria:

  • A bodyweight bench press
  • A 2x bodyweight deadlift

Alwyn's training tip a while back gave another two:

  • 12 clean bodyweight chin ups
  • 12 clean bodyweight dips

As Alwyn professes, and I agree, for every push or pull, the corresponding antagonist push or pull should be nearly identical in terms of intensity and volume. So...

  • A bodyweight bench press & bent-over row.
  • 12 clean bodyweight chin ups and 90% bodyweight military press.
  • 12 clean bodyweight dips and 90% bodyweight incline bench dumbbell rows.

I've also read on here somewhere way back when that your deadlift and squat should be roughly the same. So that's...

  • 2 x bodyweight deadlift and squat.

And, for good measure:

  • 100 "old school" sit ups.

So let's compile:

  • bodyweight bench press & bent-over row.
  • 12 clean chin ups & 90% bw. military press.
  • 12 clean dips & 90% bw. incline bench dumbbell row.
  • 2 x bodyweight deadlift & squat
  • 100 "old school" sit ups.

Of course, looking at this, if you can do the 12 x 90% bw. military press it's a given you can bench more than your bodyweight, as with 12 x 90% bw incline bench dumbbell row you'll be able to bent-over row more than your bodyweight.

Maybe it should be 150% bodyweight bench press and bent-over row...

I need a little help cleaning up my criteria, T-Nation. So have at it. :smiley:


I like things like this (and i think a lot of other people do too) because it's useful to have goals to shoot for.

Looks good, but it could do with some tweaking, and i think that once everyone adds there 2cents worth, eventually there should be some refined criteria.

Just a question - as the antagonist to 12 pull ups, why not use handstand pushups instead of 90% bwt military press?

I'm close to a double bodyweight deadlift, but no where near with the squat. It's pityful - and that's why i've recently prioritised it in my training.


I think your a little off, but if you can do all that, then props to you kid!

The bent over row...hell, If I could do 1 clean rep at what I bench that would be awesome! But the mechanics are different and shouldn't be compared apples to apples in my opinion. When you bench, you are supported by a bench, versus standing in an awkward position with a bent over row.

And a 90% bodyweight military press? Standing or seated? If you can bench your bodyweight that makes you strong, if you can military press that makes you "hella" strong. I would maybe sheet-can that last one.


I doubt most people at westside can do 12 clean chin ups and dips. I am also not sure whether a superheavy weight powerlifter can military press 300 lbs. Those people I am sure are not beginners.


There are some pro-bodybuilders that can't do that many chin ups in the off season when they weigh 50lbs more than contest weight.


Jim Wendler of Westside squats over 1000 pounds and bench presses around 700, give or take ... he frequently does a lot of sets of 5 reps chin-ups because he can't do any more.

While your idea is very good, you need to give some relative strength parameters.
Anyone over 250 pounds who has extreme high numbers of absolute strength will not be considered a beginner, however, if not taken into account his bodyweight, he might be considered one according to those standards.

It's all relative.


Good idea, this.

I also noted the John and Cosgrove criteria recently, and it helped kickstart me into thinking about the basics...what Cosgrove/Waterbury in their recent "Monster Shoulders" article refer to as "the big rocks."

But the Prof makes a valid point. Maybe to graduate from "novice" status you should be able to do N% of lifts/feats. Maybe there's a range of feats that qualify you, and you only need to achieve a certain number, not all?


As with any type of criteria that refer to people, there are always gonna be those for whom it doesn't apply - usually those at the extremes of whatever spectrum we're talking about.

So in this case i think it's fair to say we're talking about the average dedicated athletic-type trainer - not the massive powerlifter, nor the physique-over-function pro-bodybuilder.

Relative strength and strength tests are always going to be problematic because it is almost impossible to create a formula to standardise everyone so that they can be compared on the same level. What we are really assessing with these criteria are standards for the more sport-orientated trainer - ie not pro-powerlifter or bodybuilder, because their size makes bodyweight lifts proportionally more difficult.

So, if we could put in the proviso that these criteria are for the average man, then are there any other modification that need to be made to them?


As I've recently "learned", it's all relative and too convoluted to even try to discern. Dan John's criteria may work for him and his clients, but what about the novice that starts w/ a 2X BW deadlift? Or the trainee that works long and hard to double their deadlift number, but still hasn't reached 2X BW?

And as others have mentioned, outside of the specific lift, the feat carries little weight (e.g. bodybuilders and powerlifters with pullups). Maybe it could be done like IQ, anything that puts you >1SD (or 2, 3, etc.) of the population average makes you officially "seasoned".


No longer a beginner when . .

's are immaterial to you.

You don't give a damn what you situp, how many chins you do or what you can bench
rather the state of your insides and the image of your outside . .
Fiber types, leverages, etc. will enhance or prevent many a great lift . .so forget about it unless it's your goal as a powerlifter.
I'll take healthy joints, HDL/LDL and Cholesterol profiles that mean I'm around for awhile
A waist to chest ratio that makes it impossible to buy off the rack.

I acknowledge the Westsidr's bench and dead but don't want his abs . .and I acknowledge the organic vegan's blood lipids but don't want his physique or lack of strength . .
I acknowledge the shear mass of Ronnie Coleman's thighs but don't want to waddle when I walk or be out of breath with a distended GH gut.
My two cents . .as always turns into a nickel of chatter


and you stole the words right out of my mouth. both and Alwyn and Dan John train primarily athletic types as per their articles and theories. propowerlifters and probodybuilders are the two extremes of the weightlifting crowds. it seems that the original poster were gearing more towards the average joe that just left the beginner notion into a little more experience in his training.
i always found the such attempted standards in strength and fitness can hinder many people's confidence in proper development. perhaps they should be a measure for the absolute beginner to scale their progress and have a goal. however, after that line of beginner has been crossed the lifter can use whatever else he/she sees fit to develop further into his/her training.


I dont consider myself a beginner, i weigh 205 pounds and can do dips with a 45 for 12 clean reps, yet i can only do like 6 wide grip chins without weight. I think your list is good though, you just have to understand that it is all relative.


I think his list is pretty good. Being as the majority of us are neither professional bodybuilders or elite powerlifters, I think the thing applies pretty well.

I, of course, would like to see pushups on there, because I love them. Maybe 50 or 75 straight for good measure...


I agree in that trying to make a list that specifically makes you an intermediate is pointless. Basically, if you have to ask, you are still a beginner.


When comparing the bench to the row are people using the pronated hand position row? That makes quite a bit of difference in how the numbers come out.

I like the idea of rating by standard deviations, though this completely defeats the purpose of having simple "one size fits most" guidelines. When I see things like this I naturally assume that their will be outliers to whom the figures don't apply. It seems though that any table would need an explicit cautionary statement at the bottom to inform people that these numbers don't apply to people over "x" bodyweight with "y" stats, elite athletes, or something of the like lest we see people meeting none of the criteria running around declaring that they are of a similerly low level as a super heavy.


Did Iron John say BW bench or BW Military?

I think he said simply bodyweight press... which makes me think military.


He said Bench Press.

I am still a beginner. I am pretty close to a bodyweight bench, but way off a double body weight dead OR a bodyweight military.

That being said, I actually realy like the list presented. It represents my goals as an athletic bodybuilder pretty well.



I'm the opposite, 2xbodyweight DL is well in sight, but bodyweight bench is not. I suck at bench.


Or we could go about this from an entirely different angle:

% of original Lean Body Mass gained since training started


Can perform and is confident to teach most forms of deadlifts, most forms of squats, and most olympic lifts.

I guess it depends on your definition of novice.


You're No Longer a Beginner When...

  1. You don't worry about convincing others that you are no longer a beginner.
  2. You don't expect others to see the results of a 6-week program.
  3. Inches no longer matter.
  4. You always have a plan to reach a goal.
  5. Your plan does not include every new workout that was recently published.
  6. Your logs are categorized by year.
  7. Others plan around your workout schedule.
  8. You've had to buy new clothes at least twice.
  9. You realize that theory is only part of the answer.
  10. You read way more than you post and you lift way more than you read.