I’m sure you all remember your first time. It might have been a little awkward as you fumble around to find the right position. Doing things with your body that you have only seen on t.v., read in a book or found on the interwebz. My first time was in my bedroom with a Weider barbell set that my mother bought for me at a yardsale. My first workouts consisted of benching, pec flys, bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, dumbbell rows, and overhead presses. Since then my exercise toolbox has grown to over 400 exercises. Practice makes perfect.

Seriously? What did you think I was talking about?

I work with clients of all types and design their program on an individual basis depending on their goals, experience, posture and limitations. For the most part, I see an influx of absolute beginners on a regular basis as more and more people are beginning to realize the benefits of strength training.

To be honest, the beginning trainee actually has it better than the rest of us who have been training for years. Many of which have the wrong ideas of strength training and are still sticking to bodypart split routines but who am I to judge?

The main reason beginners have all the luck: EVERYTHING WORKS!

Disclaimer:  Although everything works, it only works for a short amount of time.  The way around this is through smart programming and changing things up every 4-6 weeks.  I touched on the importance of changing your routine here.

You could have the worst program in the world and still make significant gains as a beginner because any new stress will overload your system.  This window is small though so doing a billion bicep curls might not be the best idea.  You will get results but they will be crappy.  If you want great results you should have a smart program.

That said, my only formula for working with beginners is making sure that they learn how to train their bodies and NOT their body parts.  Learning how to push, pull, squat and bend by using full body exercises for most will yield the greatest results. Not only is this more efficient but there are other great benefits as well.

Benefit #1: Greater Training Frequency

For the beginner who like most Americans wants results and wants them yesterday this means for much more rapid neural adaptations and coordination.  Add in a medium-high rep scheme (6-12) and you will also have the added benefit of greater connective tissue adaptation, less degradation in form, and more protein synthesis.  I mean, this is why you are working out isn’t it?

In the grand scheme of things it is way better for most to train movements several times a week rather than bodyparts once per week as seen by most men in the gym (I don’t see too many females looking to get a ripped chest and bulging biceps).  Raise your hand if Monday is Chest and Tris day.

Benefit #2: Greater Energy Expenditure

I’m sure that if you have waited years to get into the gym that a few pounds have found their way around your waistline and one of the reasons you are in the gym is to shed a few.  This seems to be a common goal among many of my new clients so the first place I direct their attention is to full-body workouts with medium-high reps and little rest in between.

This not only cuts out hours of boring ass cardio on the elliptical but you can eat more without gaining more fat (depending on your current diet) and you can build lean muscle in the process which will aid in metabolism.  Key words here: “muscle gain” and “fat loss”.

To wrap it up (no pun intended from my intro) beginners should:

  1. Stick to full body workouts 2-3x/week.
  2. Use full body exercises such as squats, deadlifts and pushups.
  3. Change it up every 4-6 weeks.
  4. Use medium-high reps, I recommend between 6 and 12
  5. NEVER give up

Written by Steve