There are two sides to the coin when you start your lifting journey. On the one side, everything is new and exciting. Your lifts are shooting up, you’re beginning to see strength gains, and the gym feels like an endless field of untapped potential.
Then, on the other side, there’s the daunting feeling of uncertainty with direction. What should I be doing? Why do my peers look like they know something that I don’t? The ebb and flow of beginner excitement and uncertainty are normal and to be expected.
As a beginner lifter, we’re placing a TON of novel stimuli on our body, so it’s only normal for the body and mind to experience everything very strongly when beginning to formally train. With over 15 years of cumulative experience coaching clients, me and Coach Eugen frequently talk about parallels we see with our clients at all experience levels.
In this article, we wanted to talk about a topic that we discuss frequently. What are the things that we WISH we knew when we started training? As a coach, it’s easy to look back see where we fell short, so we wanted to provide a joint list of our favorite beginner lifter tips.
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1. Adopt a Tortoise, Not Hare Mentality
Everyone knows the old childhood story of the Tortoise and the Hare. For cliff notes, turtle and rabbit race. Rabbit is cheeky and brags about how fast he is. Once the race starts, the rabbit takes off with a huge lead and decides to nap since he’s so far ahead. As he naps, the good ol’ slow turtle keeps chugging along and eventually reaches the finish line while the rabbit wakes up in a panicked sprint frantically realizing his mistake.
Moral of the story: Slow and steady wins the race.
Where Beginners Can Go Wrong
In the day and age of Instagram and flashy training, it can be REALLY hard to not fall victim to the subconscious thought pattern of needing to be further along than you are. It’s okay to idolize elite athletes and respect what they’re doing (whether it’s for show or go… ), but as a beginner, you have to remember that they once started where you were, too.
This constant bombardment of chasing the new flashy workout or training method dilutes key elements that set beginners up for long-term success, AKA building a strong foundation, and actually understanding fundamental movement patterns.
What Beginner Should Do Instead
Remember that everyone was a beginner at some point, too. Don’t chase the flashy workouts that are pumped out by elite athletes. Find a quality program and training method, then stick to that and build a foundation of key movement patterns. The more we chase the flash, the more we dilute our foundation.
Slow and steady is the name of the game when beginning your lifting journey. Weight on the bar will come and crisp form on compounds will manifest only with consistent practice and time.
2. Find a Plan and Stick With It
Program hopping entails the frequent jumping from training program-to-program in the hopes of finding the “perfect” or “best” thing for you. It’s a great way to never make true progress as a beginner and to sell yourself short on key learning periods.
Why Programm Hopping Is Not Great for Beginners
Look, we get it. You want to try a bunch of different things and see what sticks. You’re newer to lifting and it’s exciting to constantly try new things, but hear us out. If we’re constantly jumping around from program-to-program as a beginner, then how can accurately track progress?
Strength and mechanics take time to build and certainly more than a few training sessions, so the constant program hopping is only selling yourself short from making gains faster. It’s ironic because beginners program hop in hopes of making faster gains, but in reality, if they stuck with their program they’ll make faster gains than if they continue to program hop.
What to Do Instead
There’s a difference between trying out new activities and completely neglecting to stick to a training program. As coaches, our job is to blend your wants and goals with our experience to help you get where you want to be in a means that is feasible for you. We’d suggest sticking with a program for a minimum of three months before considering a full change.
Essentially, if you want to try out a new exercise or activity from time to time, go for it, but you need to have a constant program as the base of your training. Beginners tend to go “all in” on making drastic changes with their program, however, with a coach, you can have your cake and eat it, too, while consistently making gains.
3. Soak In the Newbie Gains
Newbie gains are the rapid gains we make as beginners as the body adapts to the novel stimuli we’re placing on it. Essentially, as a beginner, you’re like a dry sponge that’s ready to absorb everything that you apply yourself to.
How Beginners Sell Themselves Short On Newbie Gains
When first starting out, it can hard at times to not appreciate where you are. With eyes on the future, the present gets left behind, but beginners can sometimes forget… the gains are in the present. Literally, everything can be made into an accelerated learning experience as a beginner if you make yourself susceptible to it.
By neglecting the present, beginners can lose out on prime learning experiences and time frames to make quick gains. This point also circles back to our previous two points.
How to Embrace Newbie Gains
In the first year of training, your body and mind are primed to make accelerated gains. The body and mind are built to adapt to whatever stimulus you place on them, and when you begin your training journey, whatever your goals are, you’ll notice that your gains will never be faster.
Weight on the bar will go up quickly, form feedback will make immense changes to your mechanics, and you’ll adapt incredibly fast. This is the time frame when you see your family at Christmas and then again in the summer and you’re met with, “Wow, you look incredible. What have you been doing? You look so different!”
Embrace everything as a beginner. Soak in the training sessions, absorb coaching feedback you receive, acknowledge subtle changes you notice on a day-to-day basis.
4. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others, and Accept the Present
From Coach Eugen, I remember beating myself up for being “too weak” or “too small” compared to other guys who had been lifting for a much longer time. I would blame myself rather than understanding that results take time. And that it’s completely ok to start there.
Where Beginners Can Go Wrong
As a beginner, it’s very easy to compare yourself to others, without even noticing your progress or remembering to be proud of it, during the journey. Instead of feeling frustrated celebrate your small wins.
You’ll eventually get there, but what matters is that you enjoy the process and not the end goal, which will probably not even be as satisfying as you may think! (You’ll likely always want to chase more)
What Beginners Should Try to Do Instead
It’s alright not to be strong as a beginner: you’re in the gym to learn and to become strong along the way. Don’t bash yourself for not being there yet, but rather give yourself a pat on your back for showing up and trying your best to get there one day!
Remember that the only competition is against yourself, not others. It’s easy to get frustrated because your friends may be ‘better’ or ‘stronger’ at one or another movement, but that doesn’t matter in reality. What matters is that you keep making progress and that you enjoy the process!
5. Not Hiring a Coach Sooner
As a beginner, we’re blissfully blind almost to our own fault. A lot of us start because of an external influence that provides us some loose framework for where to begin and we think this loose framework is enough but is it really?
Why Beginners Don’t Hire Coaches
Ignorance is bliss. Beginners are often not at a point where they understand how useful a coach can be. Every session you’re making gains, so why hire someone to help you when things are going fine on your own? That’s a fair point, but let’s take it a step further.
Weight is going up and you’re progressing because the body is adapting quickly, however, the devil’s in the details when it comes to the groundwork of these adaptations.
Why Beginners Could Use a Coach
Let’s say you’re back squatting and your numbers are going up steadily, then one day you hit a point where it seems nearly impossible to progress. You start scratching your head, then film yourself to see if you notice anything going on. Coming out of the hole, you see the hips shoot up and your balance shifts forward — hmm, that’s odd, so you hit up Google.
You start reading articles about your experience and realize, you’re doing the dreaded good morning squat. The article provides you with a few tips for working through this mechanics discrepancy, but now you have to backtrack to re-work your squat mechanics.
A coach would help you address this mechanical fault before you reach a point in which you’re Googling, “Why has my squat stalled? Why do my hips shoot up?” That’s where a coach comes in. Besides helping you objectively progress and hold you accountable, they can also help you see blind spots that you might not notice.
Where Pheasyque Lab Can Help
If you’ve read this long, then Pheasyque Lab was built for you. Our True Beginner course + program is set up to teach you the fundamentals and to provide you affordable coaching if you choose to use us.
The course provides weekly lessons that every beginner should understand and have a grasp on, and the training program takes place 3x a week, so it’s not a HUGE time commitment on your end.
Check out the course and program here!
We guarantee you won’t find a better value for what this course + program offers beginners.