So you’re just starting out in the strength and conditioning game… maybe you’ve “worked out” or “lifted weights” before, maybe not. Maybe you want to get better at your sport and don’t know where to start. Heck, maybe you’ve been working out for awhile but still haven’t reached some pretty basic strength “milestones” that sort of initiate you into the realm of the so-called intermediate.
So, first things first, here’s my operational definition of a beginner strength trainee, stolen from strength sport/training legend Dan John.
Consider yourself a strength training beginner if…
1. You can’t deadlift double your bodyweight (no straps)
2. You can’t bench your bodyweight (this standard could go higher, and isn’t as “vital” as the deadlift standard)
3. For perspective, the legendary Dan John insists that you must overhead press (not push press, not excessive leg drive, not jerk, we’re talking strict overhead press) bodyweight to be considered anything more than a beginner in the strength game
You may notice these standards don’t include the squat. Why? It’s a lot easier to cheat a squat. You can cheat on depth or have an “all-you-bro” spot where your spotting buddy is lifting more of the weight than you are. Unless you’re a complete toolbag you know it’s ridiculous to spot a deadlift, and if you can’t grip it and rip it, well, the weight’s just not going up. (although avoid hitching please)
So you’re a beginner, or you’re (a very smart individual) who wants to start with the basics regardless of current strength levels. Congratulations. You’re about to get a whole hell of a lot stronger.
A short note on strength and sport performance
I really can’t stress the following point enough: STRENGTH IS THE FOUNDATION FOR ALL ATHLETIC MOVEMENT!!! The absolute easiest way to help a novice athlete improve is to jack up his strength levels in the basic lifts (deadlift, a squat variation, and an upper body press, either bench, strict overhead or both).
Sorry to say this, but the less talented you are, the stronger you need to be to compete in a speed/power sport. We all know the kids who can jump out of the gym without being very strong. These kids often have great leverages, a very efficient nervous system and are very “reactive” athletes [think naturally springy/explosive].
I’m not one of those kids. I needed basic strength levels in order to get to where I could try and compete with more genetically gifted individuals in speed and jumping ability. In short, if you want to get better at your sport or event, get stronger!
How to get very strong very fast
Want to be an awesome strength coach that ALWAYS get’s great results? Work with novice athletes. Everything works with novice athletes. Seriously. That’s how some of the idiotic BS published in magazines or from so-called instagram trainers get published and keep clients. EVERYTHING WORKS for a novice.
That being said, although it might not be as “sexy” as your Big Box personal trainer’s upside down bosu ball single leg turkish one toe wheelbarrow exercise ball stability squats with dumbells, the best way to get a novice strong is to stick to the basics.
The best two basic programs ever published in the history of mankind?
Mark Rippetoe’s “Starting Strength” and Jim Wendler’s “5/3/1”.
“Starting Strength” is an excellent program for novices that emphasizes adding weight to the bar in the basic lifts every workout. Small, consistent jumps over time leave the disciplined, hard-working athlete much, much, MUCH stronger without “wasting” fancy tricks of the trade on an athlete that doesn’t need it. Do yourself a favor and milk the “Starting Strength” program until runs dry. By the time it does, 12 or 16 or 52 weeks later, you’ll be right on track for reaching those goals and getting the girl (or whatever the heck it is you want from this).
What do ya know, Wendler’s “5/3/1” also focuses on the basic lifts. You want a surefire way to strong as hell and add some quality size in the process? Buy the book (available in hard copy or ebook format) and do the program (AS F*&#ING WRITTEN) using the “boring but big” assistance template. You can thank me later for this advice if you can still talk without your gigantic biceps getting in the way.
Seriously. Get one of these books, do the programs, or AT LEAST talk to a strength coach that understands how to work with novice athletes.
Note: if the first thing a trainer does is bring out a bosu ball, kick his ass, take your money back, and RUN the other way as fast as possible. At least you’ll get a good sprint out of the deal!
Go to http://www.elitefts.com to find both of the badass books listed above (along with zillions of other goodies for dedicated strength and conditioning enthusiasts like yourself)