How to spot a good beginner’s program

When you begin training, it can be a jungle.

Unless you go to the right high school and end up being coached by Dan John, or find yourself close to Wichita Falls Barbell Club (home of Rip) or some other great coach – you’ll most likely end up with a generic machine-based program. This is not a good thing. The sooner you begin lifting real weights the better.

Here are some points to look for in a beginner’s program:

  1. Low to medium reps (3-6ish) on the primary lifts. Why? Because that’s a great range for learning a new skill. Most people will drift and lose focus on a set of 8-10 reps.
  2. Few barbell-based exercises. Squats, deadlifts, presses, bench presses, rows and possibly a few more. Much more than that is TOO MUCH. Focus on learning the basics. Just like a karate student only learns a few basic moves as a white belt.
  3. Progressive overload is essential. The weights should get heavier from workout to workout. Obviously not at the expense of good form.
  4. Frequency should be 2-3 times per week per exercise. That’s how you learn something quickly.

There are many great beginner’s programs available for free on the net. Starting Strength, GSLP, Bill Starr and Stronglifts are some great options. One of these programs will last 6-12 months and will get you from beginner to intermediate. It’s not unusual to see people putting 100kg on their back squat over the first 12 months of training.

Nothing will motivate you to come back like success. That’s another reason beginner programs should focus on increasing the weights from workout to workout.

Oh and unless you’re getting close to squatting double bodyweight, you’d probably still be able to milk a beginner program with linear progression. What’s holding you back?

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