Everybody has to start somewhere and truth be told if you are a beginner, any program is going to work. Really. When you start at zero, just about anything will help you get to one. The truth is that just getting active is going to be the best thing you can do, no matter what that activity is or how long you do it for. The most important thing for any novice is establishing a framework of compliance, the goal for the next couple of months isn’t necessarily about getting healthy, rather the goal is to acclimatize the body to a routine of exercise and movement and establish the habit of exercise in one’s life. Because health and the improvement of strength takes decades, not months.
There is the concept of good, better and best. When you’re just getting started, anything can be good for you, because not doing anything definitely isn’t good. Don’t let the inability to be better or best stand in the way of action, even if you walk for 10 minutes once a week, you are in a better spot than not having walked that 10 minutes. Start slowly and gradually add more as you acclimatize both physically and mentally to the new routine.
Not everybody will agree with this, but I truly believe that developing strength to your best ability will be the single best activity you can undertake. And if you do buy into this and become truly dedicated to the life long pursuit of strength, then what you do for the next couple months as a beginner will not matter at all in five years. What matters is that you were consistently working out and putting in the effort. Even if you decide that the maximum strength development is not for your, at least have a goal of getting stronger than you were in the previous years.
All that being said, there are some things that I believe are better suited for novices because they will lay down a better foundation for your future growth. I want to lay out some of the key points for this program, that if you don’t buy into, then you can stop reading right now.
- Strength is the most important facet to develop. Being stronger will help almost everything in life, whether taking out the groceries, lifting up your children, moving furniture. Strength also improves health outcomes in the elderly population.
- Compound movements are the key to building strength.. By focusing on compound movements (multijoint exercises) you get more return on investment. The synergistic effect on the body from doing a squat as opposed to a leg curl & extension is exponentially better and also takes less time. Compound movements lay down the foundation of strength for the body to be further built upon.
- Simplicity is better than complexity. We don’t want to add in complex movements or routines for a beginner. We want to start simple and build complexity over the coming months, and only when necessary. When we keep things simple it gives us good benchmarks to measure progress. A good program will allow you to track your progress with distinct metrics and milestones.
With those three factors in mind, here is a simple training program:
The program will consist of three workout days. Spread these out evenly throughout the week and with alternating work days with rest days and two consecutive days off each week. E.g.,
Saturday & Sunday: Rest
The rep ranges will stay between 5-10.
Warmups will be 5 minutes of general cardio, either a rowing maching, treadmill or bike. The format of the program will only show the working sets. What this means is that warmup sets won’t count to the workout. Ideally, you will warm up before each exercise with four to five sets of said movement before your working weights.
E.g., Working sets for squats will be 135 lbs
Set 1 & 2: 10 reps empty bar (45lbs)
Set 3: 8 reps: 75lbs
Set 4: 4 reps: 95lbs
Set 5: 2 reps: 115lbs
The goal each workout is to build up the body, we don’t want to lift to failure. Building strength is achieved simply by increasing the amount of weight used each week. The program will use Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) to guide intensity of a workout and autoregulate weights used. The RPE scale is one method to allow for a subjective scale to be placed on how you feel that day. Maybe you slept for three hours, so 45lbs feels a lot heavier than it did three days ago. Introducing subjectivity, will help you listen to your body, which will transfer over to other areas of life and will help establish benchmarks on your exertion for the years to come.
Below is a chart that will help explain RPE based on how many reps you feel like you could still do. This is a learning process and may take a few weeks to months to get right, and that is all part of the learning process.
You’ll notice that the program is incredibly simple, this is by design. If you are just beginning then you need the program to be simple. This is to ensure adherence and effective execution. The simplicity of the program also allows for tailoring to your equipment and time needs. If you have a home gym setup with limited equipment, we can change the exercises to accommodate different setups.
There is a General Physical Preparedness session scheduled into the program, this is a once per week session. This is to involve some form of steady state cardio exercise into the program. The goal is not to push yourself, the goal is to be able to complete the 25-35 minute session, whilst being able to hold a conversation.
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4 Week Novice Training Template