Your lifting age isn’t the number of years you’ve been training.  It represents a stage of development of a lifter characterized by how close they are to the limits of their genetic potential.  There are novices that have been lifting on and off for years.

How you train depends on your lifting age, so it’s important to have an idea of where you are on the continuum.  Novice, intermediate, and advanced lifters have some common characteristics and I’ve listed them here for you.

Novice Lifter

  • Untrained or lifting has been in consistent
  • Furthest away from genetic potential
  • Most rapid progress during this phase.
  • Full recovery in 48-72 hours.
  • Likely to see progress from one session to the next.
  • Training programs should be simple, without a lot of different exercises
  • Whole body, 3 times a week.
  • Time in this phase varies from person to person, but if consistent, it lasts 3-6 months if training is consistent.

Intermediate Lifter

  • Closer to genetic potential for size and strength.
  • Starts when novice progression slows.
  • Progress takes longer. Don’t expect to progress from session to session.
  • Full recovery takes longer. May need a week.
  • Workout splits need to change to allow for individual body parts to recover.
  • Use upper/lower, push/pull type of splits.
  • Incorporate more exercises to train more movement patterns and learn new skills.
  • Training programs evolve to include blocks of time where volume can be cycled up or down.
  • Takes 6 months to 2 years of consistent, intentional training.
  • Most people will voluntarily stay in this stage.

Advanced Lifter

  • Longer than 2 years of consistent, intentionally programmed training.
  • Very close to genetic potential.
  • Takes a long time to make improvements.
  • Weekly organization less effective; periodization over a longer time span is needed.
  • Lower number of exercises needed.
  • Full recovery can take weeks.

Think of these phases as a continuum with blurry edges.  Novices will progress if they lift consistently and use progressive overload.  Intermediates need intentional and smart programming to progress to the advanced phase.   

The only lifters that need to progress to the advanced stage are competitors in a lifting sport.  People interested in being fit and strong can reach their goals while in the  intermediate phase.

The important take-away is that if you train consistently and purposely, it’s normal if your recovery time increases and your  progress to slows down a bit.


Practical Programming for Strength Training 3rd Edition, Mark Rippetoe & Andy Baker

The Muscle & Strength Pyramid: Training, Eric Helms, Andy Morgan, Andrea Valdez

Tammy White

Tammy became an athlete in her 50’s and is passionate about helping other busy adults transform their health.  Each individual has a unique combination of strengths and challenges that have to be used to shape a program that will work.   Science-based principles, flexibility, accountability, and support make all the difference.

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