A very frequent question from members in my Facebook groups…
“What is the best way to start lifting?”
First, it’s important to understand that if you’re a new lifter, or if you’ve been away from it for a long while, you’re going to see a lot of progress no matter what you do with lifting.
It’s called the “newbie gains” and it’s magical. (10 years later I appreciate that time sooooo much more now!)
But as you train consistently, your body will adapt to your training. That’s a good thing. That’s what it is supposed to do.
You may not think of yourself as an athlete, but if you train with a smart program and start progressing, you’re an athlete.
With consistent training, your magical phase of newbie gains will end sometime after 3 to 6 months.
But up until that time, don’t use a complicated program to progress.
And even though motivation may be high, I caution you against using a program this isn’t intended for new lifters. It’s just asking for an over-use injury.
The more complicated programs out there that use upper/lower days, push/pull days, or body part days, aren’t designed for new lifters. They are for intermediate or advanced lifters.
Read Are You a Novice, Intermediate, or Advanced Lifter? to learn more.
But because everything works for a novice, those complicated programs (called “splits”) will work, but they may also be too hard on a body that hasn’t been training for very long.
After a couple of weeks or a month, you’ll realize you pushed too hard.
Your body needs time to be ready to handle the increased workload of an intermediate or advanced program.
For a new lifter, the recommendation is a whole-body workout, hitting only the big muscle groups, and doing that 2 or 3 times a week. That’s it.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking “more is more” with lifting. It’s not. You’re working with living tissue here. You can optimize things a bit, but nature and biology are still running things.
The best approach, no matter your lifting age, is to do just enough to progress, not more.
I understand the desire to go “beast mode”, but you can’t speed things up in the weight room. Progress takes as long as it takes. Train smart so you can do this a long time and avoid an over-use injury.
A sample workout could be 2 to 3 sets of 5-8 repetitions of each of these movements…
- Leg Press
- Chest Press
- Shoulder Press variation of choice
You could add in arm movements, but the arms are already being worked when you do the other upper body movements, so they aren’t being skipped.
Proper technique and form must be learned before you try to lift heavy.
If you’ve never lifted before, I strongly recommend working with a trainer in real life (not online) for a couple of months so they can teach you how to use proper technique and form.
When you start with a new trainer, tell with them that you want to learn how to lift with proper technique and form.
It’s likely they will have you start with functional strength first – that’s appropriate to develop core strength. But at some point, if they aren’t taking you into the free weight area, it’s time to find a trainer who is a lifter.
Lastly – do your homework! 🙂
Read books, research online, and use videos to learn proper form.
Even when I was working with a trainer in the beginning, I would watch YouTube form videos before I lifted. I’d record my own form and make adjustments between sets.
And if you use YouTube, check out this playlist I created for new lifters…
Hi! I’m Tammy! I was a busy, stressed, and unhealthy teacher until I decided to take control of my health. I did not become an athlete until I was in my 50’s.
I earned personal training and fitness nutrition certifications, then retired from teaching to dedicate my work life to fitness education for other busy women over 40.
My results are obviously not typical because most people don’t train to compete as a bodybuilder.
But I believe everyone can make positive changes with healthy habits! Each of us has a unique combination of strengths and challenges that need to be considered to customize a program that will work for us. Science-based principles, flexibility, and consistency make all the difference.