08 July 2010

The B in Beginner Doesn't Stand For "Bitch"

Recently I read a letter response from Rodney Roller to a beginner, who was inquiring of Rodney the frequency with which a new jack should train(it's in this month's Muscular Development, if you want to check it out).  Rodney lamented that he lacks the drive to train all day that he once possessed, but stated that young lifters should avoid the temptation to train too much, as they'd suffer from the dreaded overtraining and find themselves stricken with polio, penniless, and possibly a derelict drunkard.  Instead, they should pace themselves to avoid this ephemeral yet uniformly dreaded condition and stick to a traditional one-bodypart-a-week programs.

I respect Rodney Roller for being a freak, and he's a strong fucking guy, but this advice is pure, unadulterated horseshit.  I've posted at great length about what a load of fucking bollocks overtraining is, and that it's generally mental burnout that's what gets lifters, rather than actual physical overuse issues.  For those of you who can't be bothered to click links, here's the crux of that post: overtraining has exactly the same symptoms as the phenomenon known in the Eastern Bloc as "staleness".  According to Zatsiorsky, "staleness" occurs due to the psychological (not physiological) stress that is created by continually training at near-maximal training volumes.  Doing so frequently is incredibly mentally exhausting, and this mental exhaustion, as mental issues are generally wont to do, manifests itself physically. (Zatsiorsky, Vladimir, "Intensity of Strength Training Facts and Theory Russian and Eastern Approach", p. 15)  Overuse, on the other hand, generally manifests itself as actually injuries, rather than a general malaise, and is thus far easier to diagnose, and easier to avoid.
"It's all about doing the right shit", said Franco as he shit his pants in front of several hundred people.

One of the great benefits to being a beginner is the excitement and enthusiasm one has for training, and it's important that we encourage new lifters to harness, rather than stifle, this enthusiasm to ensure that they build an awesome foundation for the future with their training.  Additionally, new lifters get what's known as "beginner's gain", in which they have massive gains in muscular size and strength as their bodies adapt to to the workload placed upon them.  Provided that they eat and sleep enough and lifting in the right way, this is the best opportunity to train until their fucking faces fall off, rather than huddling in the fucking corner with a Goosebumps book, a flashlight, and their blankie, hoping the light will scare off the overtraining boogeyman that Mark Rippetoe assured them would arrive at any moment to steal their souls and the left sock from every pair in their sock drawer.  For those of you who remain unconvinced, and truly believe that overtraining is coming for you, some things to consider:
  •  it is "easier to cause a performance decrease in athletes dependent on prolonged monotonous extensive training at a high training load than on intensified training of 1-2 hours per day."(#1, pp. 9-10)  Thus, if you're not boring the shit out of yourself with high rep, low-intensity bullshit like three sets of ten for eight hours a day, you're probably going to do just fine busting your ass in the gym as a beginner.
  • it's characterized in a nation that lacks a phobia to physical labor (China) as "generally a condition or status which is caused by constant severe training that does not provide adequate time and modalities for recovery." (#2)
Thus, it would stand to reason that provided that one avoided weightlifting with low loading protocols for extended periods of time, daily, they should be able to avoid overtraining.  Add in the enthusiasm and extreme adaptation that all new lifters exhibit to training, and you've got ground zero for a full-scale nuclear war on the weights, rather than the limited-scale war that some goofballs, Roller included, suggest.  I say throw caution to the wind, because you only get those gains once, and after you stop being a beginner, you're never going to see strength gains and muscular growth like that again.

I've stated before that I don't generally deal in beginner routines, due to the fact that beginners rarely listen to anyone with a modicum of education in strength training in nutrition, tending instead to devote the entirety of their attention to the guy they see curling and benching the most.  That sad fact aside, here are my recommendations for male beginners:
  • eat your motherfucking face off.  Unless you're fat as shit, no calorie is going to be a bad calorie for the first 6 months you're in the gym, provided you're murdering weights like you're a modern day Vlad the Impaler and the weights are Turks who want you to adopt their desert mythology in lieu of whatever else you might feel like doing.  I went 351 consecutive days of eating Taco Bell my junior year of high school, because I could get 10 tacos with just meat on them for $4 after figuring out a loophole in their pricing system, and I've got massive calves to show for it, since I had a fascination with weighted calf raises that defies explanation.  Just make sure you're getting protein with EVERY meal, and a shitload of it.  The old adage that you can only absorb 30-40g of protein at a sitting defies both science and common sense.  More is better.  
  • spend the majority of your time getting stronger, not prettier.  If you really want to get pretty, save that for the second half of the year.  The first 6 months should be all about getting as strong as you possibly can.  The heavier you go, the better your neurological adaptation to lifting will be, and the more gains you'll see in the future as a result.
  • skip the pansy-ass machine bullshit.  Great strength and physiques are forged in heavy free weight exercises.  You'll get much bigger arms from heavy rows than you will from machine curls... and as we all know, getting bigger arms is the primary, secondary, and tertiary goal of every new jack in the gym. up. 
  • make sure you're squatting, deadlifting, cleaning, and overhead pressing more often than you're engaging in any other lifts.  These lifts will have the greatest carryover into other exercises, will have the best crossover into sports training, and will precipitate the most extreme metabolic changes.  In other words, the more you do them, the leaner, stronger, and more muscular you'll get, faster than you would anything else.
  • have fucking fun.  Lifting should be a good time.  Thus, if you have an exercise that you like doing, or at which you want to get good, have the fuck at it, provided it's not cable crossovers or hercules curls.  If you love those exercises, go take a shit in the toilet, don't flush, and then jam your head into the bowl and drown yourself, because next to Sarah Palin, you suck more than any other person of whom I can think off the top of my head.
If you're a female new jack, squat.  Then squat some more.  Then eat a massive amount of protein, constantly remind yourself that you don't need to eat ice cream or macaroni and cheese, and then squat more.  For whatever reason, chicks get away with far fewer dietary shenanigans than do males, and are wholly averse to eating protein.  If you spend a couple of months eating steak and squatting, you'll see that you're not ever going to look like Mariusz Pudzianowski, no matter what sort of craziness you get up to, and you'll have your head right for lifting.  That stated, I rarely train women, but I've recently been informed that some actually read this blog for whatever reason, so that's my two cents.

I realize, for the sticklers, that I've not generated a routine.  There's a reason for that- I don't think beginners need one.  Instead they need to be pointed in the right direction, need to find someone who can teach them good form, and then go lift some weights.   Beginners rarely follow routines, so it's useless to design them anyway.  I just want people to realize that just because they're beginners, they don't have to lift like bitches.
 Tell beginners to err on the side of maniacal.
  1. Lehmann, M. J., Lormes, W., Opitz-Gress, A., Steinacker, J. M., Netzer, N., Foster, C., & Gastmann, U. (1997). Training and overtraining: An overview and experimental results in endurance sports. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 37, 7-17.
  2. Bin Bu, Quansheng Su, Junzhi Sun (2003) "Overtraining research advances in China."Journal of Exercise Science and Fitness (2003), 1(2):125-128, citing Qu & Yu 2003; Cheng 1996; Chinese Medical Encyclopaedia 1989. 


  1. This is one of the best posts in a while, i genuinely laughed out loud at some of the remarks. Here is what i've had my younger brother doing for nigh on 4 months now:

    Back Squat
    Clean and Push Press

    Front Squat
    BTN Push Press

    Usually for 10x3 or 15-20x1 dependant on how he feels and on 3 other days he'll do dips/pullups, bear or arms also dependant on how he feels, in the 4 months he's put on nearly 30lbs of decent bodyweight and his lifts have shot up. I genuinely don't belive Rippetoe's volume would of allowed this. So cliffs are, thanks Jamie both for the effort put in to this blog and your own training.

  2. I gotta say Jamie, I came on here to bitch about your blog has lacked punch lately, that it no longer makes me feel like a knee in the balls, a slap to my mother, and a castration to my father that occured before I was born, but this post was quite good. Nothing I don't know, but if a beginner reads it, it's spot on. And pretty funny too. The punishment for Hercules curls had me laughing aloud pretty good.

  3. All my freinds both male and female want to start getting "toned," ya know, cause it's summer. Since they haven't been training year round they are jumping on the band wagon of the last 4-5 articles you've written. Not the logical shit, the treadmill+ machines 3 days a week! lol and eating shit.

    I told everyone of them use fucking logic. the more training, higher intensity, higher weights will get you jacked faster and last longer.

    Everyone one of them thought otherwise and said cardio is king "Cause i dont want to get bulky like arnold and want to be toned."

    Fuck'em i went from doing bodywieght pull up at 210 on sunday to adding my first ever plate strapped on me today. Doing pull ups everyday.( plus squats,presses, and whatever heavy ass shit i wanted to pick up) Thats after working 12 hour day construction in summer heat 6-7 days a week.

    My arms look jacked like never before, and pretty soon i'll be able to flex my lats and flyaway like a bat. lol. no curls or machines. go figure

    Keep writting this shit so more people can catch on that it's mental fortitude that gets results and the only one stopping a person from accomplishing anything is thyself.

  4. Great article. My lifts continue to escalate, recruitment is getting a lot easier and quicker. I'm now hitting my "current" 1rms within 5 minutes of starting the lift.

    Clean and presses every time I go into the gym. That excercise is not for the faint of heart once you start getting heavy. All that weight having to be flung over your head and held up, the knowledge that it can all go very bad within the span of a blink of an eye, and you will: hopefully get lucky, duck out and get laughed out of the gym; worse die; or worst of all be irrepairably injured or paralyzed.

    But when it goes up. It is fucking awesome. And I can't stop.

  5. Great article. But I take slight issue with this quote: "Provided that they eat and sleep enough and lifting in the right way, this is the best opportunity to train until their fucking faces fall off, rather than huddling in the fucking corner with a Goosebumps book, a flashlight, and their blankie, hoping the light will scare off the overtraining boogeyman that Mark Rippetoe assured them would arrive at any moment to steal their souls and the left sock from every pair in their sock drawer."

    To be fair, he says beginners can't "overtrain", though they can train suboptimally, and has beginners squat 3 times per week adding 5# each time, which is fairly intense and in the spirit of this web-log.

  6. I would class myself as a beginner, with less than a years of training. Since me and my mate have started going balls to the wall shit has got real. Clean and pressing 2-3 x a week caused a 20lb PR over a weekend. I'll keep preaching c & p to the teens! (i think my mate actually emailed you about keeping you updated on our progress)

  7. That's fucking awesome, guys. I'm psyched that this shit has been of use to you!

    Mr. GZT- I'll have to reread "Starting Strength", I guess. Though I should hope you realize by now that I'm given to hyperbole when commenting on Ripp's training methodology, I didn't think I overstated it quite that much.

  8. It's funny to me that you're giving advice to beginners because you are basically a know-thing beginner yourself.

  9. The above post was not from me.

    More garbage from a 29 year old snot nosed kid that has competed in nothing at any significant level and never will. You’re a shit talker and a poser. Are you gonna brag about your max good morning now or some other non comp lift? C&P you’re not even worthy to suck this guys cock let alone disparage his advice. Prediction: in 5 years, if you’re still training, you’ll be riddled with arthritis and other various overuse injuries and for what? It’s not like you’re getting paid for this or you have achieved elite status in anything. You’ll be just another douchebag that shot his load in the gym before he hit 35. I have seen it in my 30 years in the iron game a million fucking times. I will be waiting in the wings to mock you when this happens. I am in it for the long haul. Now go get a virtual blow job from your adulating readers on summer break from middle school. You’re a fucking punk that couldn’t hack IGX. LOL!

  10. Rant you're genuinely the most boring troll i have ever witnessed, i wouldn't mind if you could actually back up this tough guy act but you're just an old, washed out, ex-alcoholic who either has some serious self esteem issues or is harbouring some kind of gay unrequited love. Give it up already, the whole routine is just tired, do you honestly have no better way of spending your time other than insulting people whom you will never meet in real life? Do you not realise how pathetic anyone who reads your comments thinks you are? Do you get some kind of guilty pleasure out of being made a fool of? I'm pretty sure they have 'massage parlours' for those kind of indulgences.

  11. If only any of you knew how old he really was ...

  12. Keep writting this shit so more people can catch on that it's mental fortitude that gets results and the only one stopping a person from accomplishing anything is thyself.


  13. The great irony is that he's even more disliked on IGX than he is here.

  14. Well said, Jippo.
    More complete bull-shit from Rant, in a feeble attempt to "push the buttons" around here.

  15. Neither of the above posts are mine. If and when I comment, I will mention C&P's steroid use. Keep that in mind.

  16. I'd love to know EXACTLY what proof you have in your ongoing theory that Jamie is on steroids. Not that it would matter to me in the slightest but i am intrigued as to the reasoning behind your baseless claim.

  17. I don't want to sound like a nutswinger, because there's a lot to criticize in Rippetoe's writings, but I think you picked the exact wrong area (beginner training) to pick on him. The most common complaint of BB.com wankers when they really try to follow his recommendations (squatting 3x per week, adding 5# each time, drinking shit-tons of milk, doing so until you can't walk anymore, which should be when you're at least in the 300s) is that they're "overtr---ed" and Rip's response is that they're pussies. Sure, it's only 3x per week training, but, otherwise, that sounds like it's completely in line with what you want a beginner to do. There are a lot of other places you can gripe at him.

  18. Manveet-

    I gathered from your email address that you're a mountie. A such, you need to post a pic or vid of yourself riding a moose, as I'm told that's the RCMP's mode of transport du jour.

  19. lol, ya I work for them (not one myself though).

    I try not to use that email address for personal shit but paypal was being a bitch.

    Looking forward to the strange looks I'll get from people when I'm wearing that shirt and crushing some hill sprints outside.

  20. So how'd you get that many tacos for $4?

  21. Hahahaha, question of the day!!!! Yeah, I was wondering that, too....

    Rant: you know, steroids are used to treat some forms of cancer. Familiarize yourself, friend, as I'm hoping the lil' ones will become acquainted with them in their impending battles with the big C. I'm praying that God hits 'em hard with it!

    P.S. I'm now hoping for liver cancer instead of pancreatic. It's usually a longer process and you have to basically watch your loved one die. I have a 20 year old cousin who died of it two months ago. Brutal. Not nearly as quick as pancreatic. Rant, I'm going to have a drink and pray to Jobu that a healthy dose of the stuff is on its way to Boston, hoping to nestle in the bosoms of the fruit of your loins.

  22. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    Fuck you Jamie, you suck.


    Sarah Palin is awesome.

    Go watch the Gayly Show or something.

  23. Pretty sure Jamie hates on Rip because he likes the hate for Rip nut-swingers it generates; I learned a lot from Rip though, and respect him, and has been a big deal with getting the word out that you ought to be squatting more than once every 3 years as per Mentzer's request (only slight hyperbole).

  24. Glen McFilmcritic just had to chime in..

  25. So women guess what? There is protein in semen, and so I suggest you go give lots of blow jobs! haha And its a give give relationship and here is how... when you suck a dude off and swallow as you already should your getting protein and bettering yourself, not only that men's test levels raise after ejaculation. Sounds like a good deal to me!

  26. Yeah, you have no frame of reference here, Glen. You're like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie and starts saying how cool it is.

  27. Hurry up, motherfucker. I want some tacos!

  28. RE: That whole eat your fucking face off bit, in particular the tacos--
    How do I keep CJ from getting fat after eating a lot at Cluck N Bell. It makes no sense cos I get mad GPP on my bike, playin' ball with Ryder, running, fighting old ladies in the street, hit mad weight at the Los Santos gym but he's still fat as fuck. Man, why CJ gotta be a busta.

  29. My mother to the RCMP:

    "BULLSHIT! You faggots ride bikes!"

  30. As a beginner I would also like to see a post on injuries and prevention. On a low-rep scheme like this it's wise to know how to deal with them.
    RICE? Ibuprofen? Train through pain?

  31. I'll jump on that, actually. Thanks for the suggestion.

  32. Hey C&P
    I'm having alot of problems with injuries too when squatting. The shit goes right in buttocks and hurts so bad I can't even ride my car. So now I'm only doing lunges and all sorts of other leg worksouts (machines - crap). Could you maybe post some squat technique? I've triede both boxsquat and normal.

  33. Hmmm so I'm just into my first week training, read this and tried out going to the max... Could manage a ~60kg(Barbell seemed like women's, light) a2g squat. Form was alright(dont think I get much flexibility issues) but I think the weight did shift from the heels a bit... Maybe that's because I was trying to front squat before
    and I am having trouble with front squat form(especially how much knee to put in so it doesn't fall).

    So my only concern is whether this would harm form development or not... You earlier said you'd do 6 months of form training for a fresh beginner??? I am feeling pretty confident back squatting. I did train form with bodyweight for a week or two too. But will form hurt because I'm working to max and might do unwanted things? Or will it improve as I can feel the weight with heavies and adjust? That said my gym doesn't have power racks and I did drop the weights(not using collars) with 62kg...

  34. I could not possibly care any less about how much or why rant hates Jamie or vice versa.
    Maniac was a decent movie. I used to have it on VHS. It's probably on youtube; you should watch it.
    Go back to your little pseudo-intellectual flame war now. Most of you don't lift worth a shit anyhow.

  35. Hey Glen, I totally agree with you. It's important to let everybody know that you don't care.

  36. 12 year old British boy benches 200lbs and deadlifts 300lbs:


  37. Hey Glen, thanks for clarifying, as it's possible that someone cares. Somewhere.

  38. In response to "Overuse, on the other hand, generally manifests itself as actually injuries" How severe of injuries are we talking about?

  39. I want to shove myself in between that chick's thighs.

    That is all.

  40. You've shamed me into going to South Carolina Barbell. I can stand the guilt no longer.

  41. B stands for Bring Us More Dracoy!!!