The only thing I miss about being a beginner trainee is the quick gains. To me, the rest (although exciting at times) was very, very frustrating. Fighting my way through the smoke trying to find out what to eat, what not to eat, supplements, exercises, workout plans, lies, truths… I didn’t exactly enjoy it, and I’m glad I don’t have to go through that again.
You have an important choice to make as a beginner: what workout plan you are going to follow. It’s critical to your success, but the good news is, it’s not the be all and end all forevermore. If something doesn’t work for you after a month or so of giving it your best shot, simply change to something else. You aren’t locked into any agreement!
I would, however, like to give you some pointers about what a good workout plan should include – in my opinion, and in the opinion of many guys and gals far more experienced than me. (Hey, we all know someone smarter!)
These tips, for a beginner, would be:
Use a program based on/including plenty of compound exercises: No program – particularly for beginners – worth its salt in my book will skip the fundamental compound exercises. Compound exercises are exercises which involve several muscle groups (the opposite of isolation, involving one) at once, and are very functional in nature because of this. The benefits of having several muscle groups involved at once is being able to lift more, but also working more muscle area (the basic idea in weight training) in less time – meaning very little direct isolation work is necessary.
Compound exercises include squats, dead lifts, bent over rows, military presses and bench presses.
Work out each muscle once a week only: This gives maximum recovery time so you get maximum growth. With compound exercises though, it’s inevitable there will be some overlap when muscles are worked by proxy, but that’s ok – because a well designed program will acknowledge this and be laid out and arranged in such a way that conflicts are kept to a minimum.
Work out no more than 5 days a week: In my experience, the best results come from a 5 day split or 3 day split (with rest days in between). Anything more than this for the beginner is excessive and won’t bring the desired results.
Don’t use a program which takes you longer than an hour to complete: Really, any workout which takes longer than an hour, or an hour and a quarter at a push is too long. You should have sufficient time to rest in between sets, also. Some programs contain so many exercises it takes 2 hours to complete. This isn’t conducive for the steroid-free beginner at all.
Use reps of 7 – 12: Any lower, and you are strength training, which isn’t optimal for size. Any higher, and you are probably training too light and doing too many reps for a beginner to benefit well.
Use sets of 3 – 5: Sure, you could go higher and maybe get good results, but you could also go higher and get fewer results. It’s your job to test what is optimal for you. As a rule of thumb though, 3 – 5 is just fine.