The current fixation with beginner trainees is to follow “beginner programs”, which are comprised of low reps, few sets, low volume, and high frequency. The justification for this approach is that it will quickly get a beginner trainee’s numbers up, allowing them to finally have the strength base to move on to an “intermediate program”. It’s all about speed, making the fastest, most efficient gains possible.
...you mean there is a way to eat nachos faster?!
As I have written about many times in the past, these programs are not BUILDING strength; they are simply realizing the strength that is already there. This is why there is so much variance of mileage in these programs. Some trainees can run them and get to a 300lb bench, 400lb squat and 500lb deadlift without slowing down, while others are lucky to hit 135 for all of those numbers before hitting the mythical “3 stalls” and then resetting or following a new program. This is due to the fact that some trainees start out with significantly greater strength potential due to a background in athletics or some other form of resistance training which is able to be peaked at a much higher level compared to a lifelong sedentary individual. But in any case, what was the point of all that?
Why must a beginner progress as fast as possible? Is this not a lifelong journey? Tell me, how much further ahead will a beginner who ran Starting Strength for the first 6 months of their career be compared to a trainee that ran 5/3/1 out the gate when we compare them 10 years down the road? We’re talking microscopic differences if any, and in all honesty I would argue that the trainee running 5/3/1 was better prepared to progress.
And hell, after a long enough timeline, it REALLY won't matter
Why? Because actually taking the time to learn a program with a logical progression scheme that employs a variety of rep ranges, assistance work, conditioning, and forces you to experiment will give you a far more valuable skillset than simply doing the same 6 exercises for the same sets and reps over and over again. We constantly observe trainees that are simply lost when it comes time to move on after their fabled “beginner gains” have stalled out, as they learned NOTHING from the process of training. These trainees inevitably latch on to an almost identical looking program comprised of low reps, few sets, and high frequency, with only the minorest of differences to distinguish it from before. These programs are “safe”, because once again the thinking element has been removed from the equation. Consequently, I have NEVER seen anyone emerge from these programs with anything impressive physique or strengthwise…have you?
You can not build strength quickly. I know this upsets a lot of people, but it’s the truth. Strength does not get built quickly. Strength takes many years of grinding away to be amassed. It’s not sexy, it’s not fun, it’s not quick, but if it WERE any of those things, there would be WAY more strong people running around. This is why the race to bigger numbers is a fool’s errand. It seduces away so many trainees with its false promises of great strength in little time, but the end result is a trainee who is no better off than when they began. They became better at a movement and realized their full potential, but did nothing to actually improve it.
People like to say that training is a marathon and not a sprint, but it’s even more arduous than that. A more apt analogy is that training is like siege warfare, and all you can hope to do is outlive your weakness. It’s a war of attrition, there is no quick ending, it’s brutal and uncomfortable, and in the end you’ll be pretty beat up from it. However, those with the discipline to hang back and let the enemy fade away will eventually be the winners, while those that get too anxious and go for the bayonet charge right out the gate are going to be the ones that get mowed down by machinegun fire early.
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Outlive your weakness. Do not try to directly engage it, for if you do, it will drag you down to its level.