I noticed when everyone discusses or brings up the topic of a weight lifting routine particularly for novices it boils down to the same few items of business.
1. Focus on barbell compound movements
Everyone knows what these are: bench press, squat, deadlift, row and overhead press. And also some programs include the weighted chin up(or pull up). Instead of burning yourself out on all the various isolation movements or machine movements or at least keeping these until the end of the workout. These are the tried and true movements.
Not sticking to the basics especially as a novice lifter and getting caught up in doing too much isolation work will either waste time or dampen progress.
A full body program focused on compound movements will help you avoid muscular imbalances.
2. Workouts Must Be Progressive
In my opinion there are three major ways to progress in terms of weightlifting and for calisthenics there is four.
A) Adding weight to the bar to increase strength thereby increasing muscle mass as well
In terms of bodyweight movements such as chin up, dips and push ups this means gaining bodyweight (either through gaining mass by upping calories) or by using a weighted vest or dip belt etc. This isn’t always going to be easy to do for some movements.
For barbell training you add weight to the bar. Increase by 2.5-5 lbs for the upper body movements and 5-10lbs for the lower body movements as a rule of thumb.
B) Adding reps/increasing volume
Doing more reps at the same weight. Although for barbell and dumbbell movements I think anything past 20-25 reps may be too much. The lower body can still grow quite a bit with high reps. You can also increase the number of sets you do.
C) Reducing rest time
This may require a lighter weight. But instead of resting for 60s you rest for 30s as an example. This is rest-pause training ultimately. I don’t recommend it for novice lifters.
D) Doing a harder movement (calisthenics)
Instead of regular push ups when you reach a certain number of reps you do a variation such as diamond push ups.
Warming up and stretching it out is important. Stretching before and after really does wonders in my opinion. For warm up sets as a novice and intermediate a good rule of thumb is 60/80. If your work set is 180 lbs you warm up with 60% of 180 which is 108 lbs and then warmup with 80% of 180 which is 144. You don’t need as much rest between sets as when your pumping them out but you should still rest between warmup sets.
4. Poor Form/Lifting Too Heavy/Overtraining/Undertraining
These four things are the main demons to slay I think once you get past doing programs that only work for steroid users or don’t work at all.
a) Work on your form and practice it at home. Watch youtube videos, look at pictures and film yourself.
b) If you are new to a particular movement risk starting too light than too heavy.
Overtraining would be like doing a heavy full body routine every single day (for most people). Although I think most people are lazy and undertrain.
2-3 x a week for a full body program.
3-4 x a week for a upper/lower split
4-6 x a week for a split.
Alot of people do the brosplit where they do chest day, arm day etc because some pro bodybuilder on steroids does it. Most people don’t have the genetics or drugs to do this.
I recommend for novices full body routine. Once you get to a 1 plate overhead press, 2 plate bench, 3 plate squat and 4 plate deadlift then you can continue with it or do something else. After that point you can split it into a upper/lower, push/pull/legs, or agonist/antagonist hypertrophy or strength routine because full body may be hard to maintain once you become an intermediate or advanced lifter.
7. How many reps and how many sets?
That depends on your level of lifting and goals.
Generally I and most others will tell you:
12-15+: Start becoming more for muscular endurance which can build muscle mass but starting to get too light.
20+: Starting to get way too light for most peoples goals. But it can still build muscle mass.
Done in sets of 3-5.
Isolation work like curls I generally keep in the 10-20 rep range. Compound movements like bench I try not to exceed 10 reps on.
8. Keeping A Log
On your phone or better yet a small notepad write down the date and time of day (AM/PM) you did your workout and your routine. That way you can keep track of and progress on your workouts.
July 2nd, 2019
8 x 210 lbs
7 x 210 lbs
6 x 210 lbs
Note: Retry with same weight again next workout
Ran 2 miles in 14 mins
9. Rest Between Sets
A really heavy or difficult set I recommend resting 2-3 mins between. A really light set 45-60s may be good enough. An in between set 1 min to 2 mins.