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.


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.


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
    . (more…)

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.


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.


Pre- vs. Post-Workout Nutrition – Q&A

Question: If protein and other nutrients take time to be broken down and utilized, does it really matter whether or not you have a PWO meal, if you’ve had a large meal relatively soon before your training?  In other words, can a Pre-workout meal be just as beneficial as a post-workout meal (if not better)?  Isn’t it important to have AA in your blood stream when training? And if there is a designated time for digestion, wouldn’t the other nutrients effectively help recovery, even though they were consumed before hand?

Answer: As usual this is going to be one of those longish ‘it depends’ kinds of answers and I’m probably going to go way off track in trying to answer it.  As I discussed in The Protein Book, some recent research certainly suggested that pre-workout nutrients (carbs and protein, and I’ll assume the combination from here on out) were superior to post-workout nutrients in terms of promoting protein synthesis.

Other research wasn’t so positive but it did look like having nutrients in the system during/immediately after workout might be better than waiting until afterwards.  Some of it depended on the form of nutrients (especially protein consumed); in one study immediate pre-workout essential amino acids (EAA’s) were better than post-workout EAA’s.  In another, a whole protein taken right before training wasn’t superior to post-workout; this may have been an issue of digestion time.

I would note that protein synthesis isn’t the only goal here; maintaining high levels of training intensity during a workout is also key and pre- and/or during-workout nutrition can benefit folks there as well.  A complication of that research was that most of it was done fasted, that is first thing in the morning, after folks hadn’t eaten for many hours.  While that is relevant to some people (e.g. those who train first thing in the morning), many if not most trainees will have eaten something prior to the immediate pre-workout period.  This complicates issues.

And the general picture that seems to be developing is that if someone is in the ‘fed’ state, that is they have eaten within a few hours of their workout, pre-workout nutrients don’t seem to provide any major benefit.  This mainly has to do with the slow digestion time of whole foods.  A relatively ‘normal’ whole-food meal is still releasing nutrients (carbs and protein) into the bloodstream as much as 4-5 hours after you eat it.