So you’ve decided to finally get in shape, but you aren’t sure where to start. It can be confusing because there is an abundance of contradictory information out there. Well, in this article I’m going to give you some clear guidance on where to start. When you are new to lifting weights, you have the ability to make “noob gains” and therefore pretty much any program will get you results. However, I’m going to show you how to get the most out of your noob gains.
How Do You Know if You’re Still a Beginner?
The general rule of thumb is that anyone who hasn’t been lifting for at least 2 years is a beginner. The reason is that if you are working out properly and consistently, you will make your most significant progress in your first 2 years of training. After that, your progress starts to slow down.
Then there are those who look at how much weight you can lift to determine if you are a beginner or intermediate. However, this is tricky because that weight is relative to each person’s bodyweight so there isn’t a set scale. The reason some feel this way is because many people have been training for over 2 years, but they had never trained effectively.
My view is that it doesn’t matter how many total years you’ve been training, if you haven’t lifted consistently for at least 2 consecutive years and made significant strength progress in that period – you’re probably a beginner. That’s good news though!
Beginners can take advantage of something the rest of us can’t – “noob gains.” The rapid strength and size progress you typically make in your first 2 years of lifting is referred to as noob gains.
So what are the benefits of the noob gains phase?
- You will be able to double or triple your strength in a matter of months
- Your body will build muscle at the fastest rate possible naturally
- Your metabolism will improve noticeably and typically remains higher if you continue to live an active life
- You will gain fat at a much slower pace, as long as your are lifting heavy and increasing the weight every workout
So you can see how any program will work during this time, but just imagine if you tried to max out your benefits from the noob gains period.
That’s exactly what the program I suggest is designed to do.
Full Body Training
Most mainstream advice will tell you to only workout 1-2 muscle groups per session and workout each muscle group only once a week. Well, if that’s your thing, that’s fine. However, if you’re a beginner you are missing out on a lot of gains doing it that way. I learned this the hard way.
Why consider full body workouts?
- Higher training frequency in less time
- Most real athletes (opposed to bodybuilders) train this way
- It allows for the most progress in strength, which is important for a beginner
- Greater anabolic hormonal response
Now I’m not talking about doing full body workouts 5 days a week. Most full body splits are 3 days a week, such as Monday/Wednesday/Friday. This allows you to hit every muscle group twice a week, but still have 4 days to rest and recover.
As a beginner you need to build a foundation of strength before incorporating more bodybuilding exercises into your routine. Historically, most of the most accomplished bodybuilders started with strength training – such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronnie Coleman.
Also, assuming you aren’t enhanced, you need to be progressively getting stronger to get bigger. All of those high-rep workouts that focus on the pump only work when combined with strength training or steroids. I think there’s definitely a place for high reps, just not when you’re a beginner.
My Favorite Programs For Beginners
The two programs I recommend are nearly identical, because one is just an adaptation of the other. (And the other is adapted from an even older program, FYI)
Now, if you play sports or are more focused on your athletic ability I suggest Starting Strength by Mark Rippletoe. Regardless of your goals, I suggest EVERYONE interested in weight lifting read this book. It is one of the best books ever written on the subject for a beginner.
If you are more interested in bodybuilding, powerlifting or just lifting for fun then I suggest Strong Lifts 5×5 by Mehdi. I’ve used this program and I loved it. The only main difference is that Mehdi replaced the power clean with the bent over row, which isn’t as difficult to learn. Rippletoe addressed this issue and makes a strong case for not changing his program in the 3rd addition of his book.
However, I really enjoy barbell rows so that’s why I went with Strong Lifts instead. Both guys are a great resource of information. Strong Lifts is free and Starting Strength is only $10 for the kindle edition.
You’re going to need food. A lot of food. Don’t worry about learning how to track your macros or anything like that, just learn to eat a lot. You might even consider GOMAD – this is the only scenario where I would even suggest it actually.
When doing full body workouts like SL 5×5 you will be burning a lot more calories. This training style combined with the highly coveted “noob gains” results in the only time in your lifting journey where you can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time without the use of drugs.
Squatting 3 times a week is tough, but increasing the weight 3 times a week on squats is brutal. Walking and sitting will be very painful for the first several weeks. That’s why I suggest foam rolling and epsom salt baths. I started doing both of those while doing 5×5 and still do both of them to this day.
Also, I want to reiterate here how important food intake is. You MUST eat enough food to recover. If you aren’t recovering, eat more. If you can’t move the weight up, eat more. Don’t worry about gaining a little bit of fat. If you are doing 5×5 and you are a beginner, it will not only be difficult to gain fat but it will be difficult to not lose weight.
The other major factor in recovery is sleep. Everyone has different requirements, but most people need 6-10 hours of sleep a night. Find out what works best for you and be consistent!
You can’t get bigger and stronger if you don’t recover. You have to be consistent in the gym and outside the gym to see great results. Anyone can work hard for an hour, but what about the other 23 hours?
Being healthy and strong is a lifestyle, not a hobby.
I wish I knew about full body training and 5×5 programs when I first started lifting. I guarantee if you’ve never done this style of training before that you will see rapid strength gains in your first 90 days or so. To make the most of your noob gains, don’t neglect nutrition and recovery. If you’re not in this for the long haul then there’s really no point in starting.
Who all has used a 5×5 program before? What did you think?
Until Next Time,
What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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