Beginning Weight Training Part 4

In Beginning Weight Training Part 1 I examined some of what defines a beginner in terms of entering the weight room along with examining some of the different reasons (e.g. appearance, performance, health/fitness) that people choose to start lifting weights.

In Beginning Weight Training 2, I examined in some detail what some of the primary goals of beginner weight training are including developing an overall base of strength (and/or muscularity), developing work capacity, learning how to perform the lifts, etc.

Finally, in Beginning Weight Training Part 3, I looked at some of the research (and experience) dealing with the loading parameters that are appropriate for beginners.  I’ve summarized them below as a launching off part for today’s final article where I’ll lay out three different basic weight training programs and talk about things like progression, when to change things, etc.

  1. Intensity (percentage of 1 rep. maximum): 60% or a weight that could be done for ~20 repetitions to failure
  2. Volume (# of sets): 1-3 sets per exercise/muscle group.
  3. Reps/Set: Variable depending on the circumstances and both high and low reps can be appropriate here
  4. Frequency: 2-3X/week
  5. Workout design: Generally a full body routine
  6. Exercise Selection: Highly variable depending on the circumstances

And with that I want to jump straight into examples of three different beginner programs.  The first is the Starting Strength program as developed by Mark Rippetoe (and reproduced here in full with his permission).  The second is a beginner program as outlined by my mentor, it would represent another standard approach to a barbell based routine based around the big compound movements.  Finally, and primarily to offend the barbell purists, I’m going to reproduce the basic machine-based program that I used with the majority of my beginners.

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Beginning Weight Training Part 3

In Beginning Weight Training Part 1, I looked at some basic concepts related to beginning weight training programs along with defining who was a beginner.  In Beginning Weight Training Part 2, I took a rather detailed look at some of the primary goals of beginner weight training which included neural adaptations, learning proper technique, conditioning connective tissues, improving work capacity, etc.  since those goals guide how to best set up a beginning weight training program.  I’d mention again that, fairly regardless of ultimate goal (e.g. physique sports, strength/power performance, athletic performance or general health), beginning programs shouldn’t and won’t vary too much.  I will note places where they might vary to some degree below.

I’d make the point again that one huge assumption that is going into what I’m going to write is that the individual has no underlying issues (such as muscular imbalances or injury) that are oh so common in the modern world.   In those specific cases, an ‘imbalanced’ program may be required to fix things.  But since I can’t cover that in any detail, I’m going to draw up what is basically a ‘balanced’ beginner routine.

Today, I want to look at some issues related to loading parameters for beginners including intensity, volume, frequency and exercise selection.  Quite a bit of research has actually looked at these topics in beginners (I’m unaware of much on exercise selection) and that goes a long way towards guiding the development of proper beginner programs.

Since I ran a bit long (as usual) today, on Friday, I’ll finally put all of this together and present some fairly ‘standard’ beginner routines along with suggestions on how to start, progress, when to change things up, etc.

Intensity

As I discussed in What is Training Intensity? there are a number of different definitions of intensity that are often used in the weight training world; for the purposes of this article, I’m going to be using the definition of intensity as percentage of 1 repetition maximum (1RM).  Now, 1RM refers to the absolute maximum weight that you can lift for one repetition.  You can think of it as 100% of capacity.  Training loads have often been set relative to that in terms of the percentage 1RM used.

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Beginning Weight Training Part 2

In Beginning Weight Training Part 1, I looked at some basic issues relating to beginning weight training including some commentary about different goals of weight training (and why a trainee’s ultimate goal sort of doesn’t matter in the very beginning stages) as well as looking at what defines a beginner trainee.

Today I want to continue by looking at what the specific goals of beginner training are, that is what specific adaptations and things are trying to be accomplished when setting up a beginning routine in the weight room.  As I’ll come back to when I finish up next Tuesday in Part 3, those goals desired, along with some science I’m going to bore you with go a long way towards helping to design a good basic beginning weight training program.

Now, as I mentioned in Beginning Weight Training Part 1, people have varying and myriad goals for why they get into the weight room.  And while the specifics of training certainly need to reflect that at some point, at the beginner stage, I believe that their training programs will look more alike than not.  Whether the ultimate goals are the physique sports (bodybuilding, fitness, figure), powerlifting or some other strength related sport, lifting for sports performance or general health, beginner routines will all look basically the same.  The big exception, as I also mentioned before, would be Olympic lifting training but setting that up is between you and your coach.

But hopefully the point is made and that point is this: in a conceptual sense, the goal of all beginner weight room training is to develop a base upon which to perform more specialized training.  But now you’re wondering what exactly I mean by ‘developing a base’ upon which to perform more specialized training which is, of course, the topic of today’s article.  I’ve summarized the primary adaptations that are important to beginners below:

  1. Develop a general balanced whole-body base of strength and/or muscle mass to allow for specialization later on
  2. Improving neural mechanisms of strength production/Learning to lift weights
  3. Determine optimal exercise selection for targeting individual muscle groups
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Beginning Weight Training Part 1

I don’t even remember when I first ran this article but I’ve probably run it annually since then.  And since it IS that time of the year again (and I wanted something a bit lighter than my last piece), it seemed appropriate to talk about beginning weight training.   It’s 4 parts which I’ll run two per week (so it doesn’t take forever to get to the point) and if you know anybody just getting started out, share it with them.

For the most part, articles about beginner’s training aren’t terribly popular.  This is because, with literally no exception I have ever run into in nearly 20 years of doing this, everybody thinks that they are more advanced than they are.  It’s simply human nature, nobody wants to think of themselves as a beginner or noob.  In the world of training and dieting the consequence of this is that folks tend to jump into advanced training or diet interpretations long before they are either needed or useful or they have developed the necessary fundamentals.

Not only is this not terribly productive, it can actually be detrimental to long-term progress.  Even if the person doesn’t get injured or burned out by doing too much too soon, they run into another big problem: by using advanced methods early on, trainees are limited when they do manage to reach a more advanced stage.  That is, if someone jumps into high volumes or advanced training methods right out of the gate, they run into problems later on when they actually need to increase something.  If volume is already high, increasing it further is difficult if not impossible.  And if advanced methods are being used too early, there’s nothing left to break plateaus when they occur later on.

Put a little bit differently, one goal of all training should always be to get the most adaptations/gains in performance with the least amount of training.  That way, when gains slow down, there is actually room to increase things.  Start too high to begin with and you’ve got nowhere to go when you actually need to do it.

Put a bit differently, if you can get the same gains out of 3 hours/week of training vs. 6 hours/week of training, you’re better off training 3 hours/week.  That way, when 3 hours/week stops working, you have room to increase to 4 hours/week then 5 hours/week then 6 hours/week.  If you start at 6 hours/week and stop progressing, you’ve got nowhere left to go.

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Dan John’s Mass Made Simple – Product Review

Mass Made Simple by Dan JohnIn a previous site update, I did a review of Dan John’s Never Let Go, effectively a collection of articles he had written talking about his various and sundry experiences in the weight game.

It’s still a book I highly recommend, if not for the training wisdom it contains then for its highly entertaining and readable style.  I reread it about once a year and something in it always manages to make me chuckle or think.

As a collection of articles there wasn’t really any single theme that ran through it except for perhaps the fact that Dan is as old as the hills and has truly seen it and done it all when it comes to the weight room.

I mean, I’m fairly sure Dan was the guy who pointed Milo at the bull and told him to get cracking.  Hell, Dan might have been the bull.  For those who have truly been living under a rock, as the story goes, Milo lifted a bull on a daily basis.

And as the bull grew and got heavier, Milo was forced to get stronger; this was the supposed invention of progressive overload. Which is all just a really really torturous segue to talking about weight gain, bulking in specific, and Dan John.  Because, as the cover picture  to the left of this really silly text clearly shows, that’s what Dan’s new book is about: bulking and gaining mass.

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