By John Litteral 12-8-22
BEGINNER GAINS (NEWBIE GAINS)
“Newbie” gains are very important to be understood because it is an opportunity that you will want to take full advantage of if you are a beginner to resistance training. As a novice, you will have the opportunity to make your most rapid gains in strength because your adaptation is very high at this point. You will be able to progress in strength within 48-72 hours after each training session. An intermediate lifter can no longer complete the stress/recovery/adaptation cycle within 48-72 hours as was previously possible as a novice. The cycle becomes longer, as the training stress required to drive further adaptation can no longer be recovered from in a matter of days, therefore, is making slower progress.1 So, as a novice, this means that you should be able to do strength and mass building exercises such as the squat, deadlift, and bench press three times a week and add more weight each time you train. I recommend strength coach Mark Rippetoe’s system of Starting Strength as a source to glean from. His program has been tested and tried and has been very successful in getting novice lifters stronger in the most efficient manner possible through a linear increase in strength. Mark writes…
“The novice effect, simply described, is what happens when a previously untrained person begins to lift weights – he gets stronger very quickly at first, and then improves less and less rapidly the stronger he gets… Since strength is this important, the most efficient way to acquire strength will therefore be the most efficient way to improve performance for the less-proficient athlete. And the most mathematically efficient way to increase any quantity over time is to incrementally add to the quantity in a way that allows the increase to accumulate for as long as possible. In the case of training, an incremental increase to the weight lifted each workout yields the fastest results. It must obviously be done in a way that permits these increases to continue, and this means that each increase must be recovered from and adapted to before the next workout, the physiologic capacity for which is within the ability of the previously unchallenged novice. But when it is done correctly, a ‘linear’ increase of this type yields the greatest increase in strength in the shortest amount of time, and is thus the most efficient way to improve performance… Again, for a novice, any program is better than sitting squarely on one’s ass, so all of them work to varying degrees of efficiency. This is why everybody thinks their program works. But nothing works as well as a scaled mathematical increase in some loading parameter each time, for as long as an adaptation to the increase continues to occur. And since the best way to produce athletic improvement in novices is to increase strength, a program that increases total-body strength in a linear fashion is the best one for a novice athlete to use if he is to make the most efficient use of training time by making the most positive effect on his performance in the shortest time possible. Disagreement may exist over which exercises do this the most effectively, but it seems rather apparent that there can be only one efficient way to program them for a novice – a linear increase in force-production stress as often as can be supported by recovery produces a linear increase in strength.”2
Mark Rippetoe’s program is specifically designed to increase strength in the most efficient manner through compound movements; my philosophy not only targets improving strength, but training in a way that targets a full muscle development through both compound and isolation movements through a periodization model, using variant cycles to build muscle and lose body fat. If your goal is to get stronger and nothing else, then I recommend following Mark Rippetoe’s program to the letter. But if you are interested in not only being stronger but looking stronger, then the training philosophy that I am writing about will accomplish that. I have seen people who can bench press 400lbs but look like they could only bench press 300lbs. And I have seen people who train more like a bodybuilder who looks like they can bench press 400lbs but only benches 300lbs. I know from personal experience when training the way that I do that many people have assumed that I train with heavier weights than what I do. But regardless of what technique and goals that you have for training, a novice will have a golden opportunity to make their greatest gains in their first year of training.
1 Intermediate Programming Step 1: Define Your Goals by Nate Mielke | November 23, 2022 https://startingstrength.com/article/intermediate-programming-step-1-define-your-goals
2 The Novice Effect by Mark Rippetoe | January 04, 2010 https://startingstrength.com/article/the_novice_effect