I've noticed that lifting is preached a bunch here but little help is really available for the noobs. So I wrote this as a bit of a guide for the new guys starting out. This is just a compilation of info and tips to get you started, since researching this shit is rather time consuming. Once you get enough experience its all on you and your research. I'm not a competing powerlifter or strongman, I just spent too much time in the gym. Everything I'm about to write is from my own personal experience and working with Powerlifters and bodybuilders. My own PR's @ 190lb BW are Squat: 405lb, Deadlift (conventional): 365lb, bench: 255lb. nothing impressive but its something. And as you can see, my body favors the squat more.
So where to begin ? if you're a noob to lifting and look like a stick, do not start with a body building split rather begin with Stronglifts! or Starting Strength!. Doing isolation work this early on will not do much for you. Compound movements coupled with linear progression will make you big and strong. Once you're in the rhythm of working the 5x5, keep at it until you cannot complete the 5x5 required of the squats or deads, which ever stalls first. At that point, you can either move on to bodybuilding, powerlifting, or my favorite powerbuilding. My only gripe about the 5x5 template is the lack of upper body development. To mitigate this, just throw in more bench variations on bench day and do other upper body stuff on deadlift days. 5x5 is mainly a strength program but I really do think its the best one to start with across the board.
Now for those going for pure aesthetics, keeping with the 5x5 until you can't do the squats doesn't really make sense. I feel that once you can consistently squat 225 and bench your BW, then you should be good enough to transition into bodybuilding. But the early game is still the same, you need the strength and mass before you can chisel it down; cutting when you have no mass is only going to make you look weak and sickly. Like I said above, you need more upper body exercises when working with 5x5. After hitting all three lifts, come back to the bench and do inclines/declines/close grip or dips/pull ups for reps instead of weight. Then on an off day, hit your arms and shoulders hard. (Bodybuilding isn't really my thing but I got some noticeable definition by doing this)
For the fluffier folks. Walk. Walking is so underrated as an exercise. Go for a walk in the morning for an hour or after you come home, just walk. Don't get on a treadmill or elliptical, walk outside and listen to shit or just think. Walk consistently for about a month and then you can slowly integrate weights. Also I believe you should stay away from machines and stick with free weights. Doing those twat spreaders or ab machines right away wont do shit for you because there is no need for balance. Having to balance a weight correctly works muscles that the machines can't and will make you stronger overall. If you don't believe me, see how your squat compares to when you're in a smith machine and when its a barbell.
Now the biggest factor in getting your gainz is actually not which program you've chosen, it is CONSISTENCY !!! God himself could be using 5x5 or 5/3/1 but if you don't religiously follow it, you are destined to fail. Once you choose a program, stick with it for a couple months and track your progress. if you made progress, keep with it. If not, choose another one or tweak the existing one a bit. Some good intermediate ones are 5/3/1 with BBB, Westside variations, madcow, texas method, hepburn method, Cube method etc. Just remember BE CONSISTENT!
Also find a generic GPP program and use it later on. You may be strong but without endurance, you're going to have a tough time.
When you do these compound lifts, know that they are dangerous and as the weight goes up your form needs to be on point. So just like in SL or SS, begin with the bar across the big three (squat, dead, and bench). Learn the proper form and movements required of the exercise before you begin putting weights on. Kill your ego when you step into the gym, there's no one but you and the weights. Also there is no one correct form, it all depends on your body's proportions and mechanics. Drill the very basics into your mind and start making tweaks from there. Here are a couple videos for you to check out to learn the form for the big three:
Mark Rippetoe was the easiest to find and to learn for me. As you learn the form, I suggest you look up videos of powerlifters like Stan Efferding, Richard Hawthorne, Mark Bell etc. to see what tips they have that can apply to you. Those guys, especially Stan Efferding, are ridiculously strong but also look strong as well.
Squats - Squats for THOTS
There are two variations for the back squat: low bar and high bar. You can learn bar placement and foot position from videos and research, heres some tips and info. Low bar will put more stress on your lower back but will generally allow more weight to be moved with less flexibility. High bar will put much less stress on the lower back but requires flexibility and you wont generally be able to lift more due to the change in mechanics. The most important part of the squat is KEEPING A NEUTRAL SPINE. You MUST keep a neutral spine, especially the lumbar/lower back, throughout the whole lift for you to be safe and not have a one way ticket to snap city. Another big issue is keeping your knees pointed outwards and tracking over your feet. During your squat movements, your knees will begin to cave in when you get heavy or tired. You can't let that happen because it'll wreck your knees. Keep your back straight, keep a tight core, chest up, and don't let you knees cave in and you'll be set. Oh and never squat in tennis shoes. you need a flat surface that will not deform under load. Use Converse, wrastlin shoes, or go bare foot.
For this I highly suggest you watch videos while you learn it. Hand placement is going to depend on your build but I prefer a little . Biggest thing is your back, especially your traps. Alot of people think that they keep their back flat on the bench, this is not true. When you bench, the only parts of your body in contact with the bench should be your upper back (traps) and your buttcheeks. Your lower back should be arched and kept tight and OFF the bench while keeping a tight core with your feet planted. Keep your elbows in and bring the bar down to your lower pecs and you should be bueno !
Deadlift - This shit right here nigga ... this shits called death.
This is the holy grail of strength. It is a simple lift where you literally just pick something up and put it down and it is the standard lift to test one's strength; oly lifts are better indicators but they're far to technical to learn quickly. Like the squat, the deadlift has two variations, sumo and conventional. Which variation you use will ultimately come down to your build. This is something you should research thoroughly. Just like the squat, keep your back straight with a tight core. Because the weight is in front of you, it is crucial to have back strength so you're not pulled into a rounded back lift. And just like the other lifts, you're going to have to play with your stance and foot positions before you're really comfortable. Keep your back straight, tighten and brace your core, drop your butt (not to parallel), and push your feet through the ground. When that bar reaches your knees, squeeze your glutes hard and literally fuck the bar by popping your hips forward; side effects include a sore gf or plate. Never deadlift in tennis shoes; I find bare foot is best on heavy deadlifts.
These lifts can be dangerous when it gets heavy and all three have the potential to end your lifting career. Seriously learn the correct form with the bar first and progress slowly. Dont get hurt because of your ego. I hurt myself deadlifting when I was rushed back from an injury. I popped 315 on the bar after a couple weeks of lifting and hurt my back. It took me a whole year to get back to normal. So please be safe and never push yourself to get the number of reps when your form goes to shit. If you fail to get your numbers ... who cares ? Failure is going to happen alot in weightlifting so get used to it; try again and again until you hit your mark.
Also utilize the powerlifting or weightlifting subreddits for form checks. Video yourself from the side with the camera placed knee high and post it.
Equipment & Supplements
Things you should never get:
- gloves aka "bitch mittens"
- most workout supplements
Things you should get now:
- Good protein shakes
- Solid foam roller and lacrosse ball
- Ab Wheel
- Solid shoes
You'll figure out the other pieces of equipment you need later on with some research.
- If you're skinny or average, just eat clean and don't dirty bulk because its hard to get that fat off. You're going to have to run a caloric surplus but don't go pigging out at a fast food restaurant, unless you truly don't care and only want to move the most weight. Seriously get over the fact that you have to eat more, the aesthetics will come soon enough.
- if you're a little fluffy, you're going to be on a cutting diet while you walk and learn your form. Once the weights become noticeably heavier, you can switch over to a bulking diet.
Other important stuff
Resting is very important when you run the 5x5 methods since it is a rather aggressive program. Just make sure you get enough sleep and have enough rest days or it will affect your life because of how tired you are. However, there will come a point where no matter what you do, you cannot progress and feel like general shit. When this happens you deload on your weights. Instead of taking a week off to recover, deloading just reduces your working weight by 50% of your normal working weight while not changing your workout. After the deload is up, you should be good to go the next week. Also on your off days, work on your flexibility and foam roll sore muscles. Foam rolling hurts but you should do it anyways because it'll help with the soreness especially in your legs. There are plenty of online videos on how to foam roll your body. Now the lacrosse ball is used like the foam roller but for your glutes. You literally plop one cheek on it and roll it around with some weight on it. This really hurts but it'll definitely help loosen the deep tissues in your glutes.
Accessory work is another good thing to do. Accessory work is just an exercise that you use to supplement the big three. Some stuff includes front squat, RDL, pull ups, dips, etc. You can easily look them up and choose. The most important accessory work you can do is the ab wheel and core work. The big three have one thing in common, they require a strong core. You need a strong core to be able to support your spine with a heavy load and not get injured. This is also why you don't use a belt until you get to at least 1.5xBW on squats. Being able to brace your spine without the belt will strengthen your core. After every workout do some ab wheel work and if you don't know how to do them ... look it up. Remember accessory work is to help your main lifts so don't go overboard and try to get as heavy as you can.
When you get heavy enough, you will begin to stall on lifts. Generally the order of lifts that will stall first is Bench, squat, deadlift. When you stall on the bench, just add more variations and keep on with the 5x5 until you hit a benchmark and then move on.
- curls or deadlifts in the squat rack
- not racking your weights
- not cleaning your shit
- screaming when lifting
- bogarting a piece of equipment to talk to someone or on the phone
- squat in the squat rack
- Put your weights back
- clean yo nasty sweat
- ask for help when you need it (spot, form check)
Random thoughts to keep in mind
- learn Google-fu, its all about research and applying it
- Noob gainz is a real thing, keep yourself grounded
- Again, there is no single correct form or motion. Keep the basics in mind and tweak your form to match you.
- there is no single best program, it all depends on you
- Body proportions and genetics will always effect your lifts and how you look.
- lifting in general is a marathon and not a sprint. Do not progress so fast that you burn out.
- Remember, everyone is different. Just because something worked for someone else doesn't mean its the best for you.
- You need a baseline of strength before you can progress into more challenging programs
- Keep old injuries in mind and make sure you can work around them
- When you get sufficiently heavy, do not couple heavy squats and heavy deadlifts on the same day. But you'll figure out what to do when this happens.
- Motivation doesn't mean shit in the long run, discipline is what you need.
- Quote to keep in mind "Success is never owned; it is rented ... and rent is due every day" - Rory Vanden
- Another quote to keep in mind "You must hate all weakness. Hate it in others, but most of all hate it in yourself." - That old guy in the shitty movie Ninja Assassin
This is just a basic compilation for beginner lifters. If you have something to add, by all means let me know and I will edit accordingly.
Now, watch this video! and pay your dues at the iron temple.