No matter what level of training you are on or how long you have been training, you have to have started somewhere. Everyone, at one point in time, was a beginner. I myself was a beginner at one point and have recently been thinking back to my first experiences with training. I thought it would be a useful thing to share with you my lack of knowledge at the start of my journey. The mistakes I made and the things I learnt.
Ever since I have been very young I have been interested in the gym. I was at one point in time incredibly skinny. I don’t mean skinny for a guy, I mean skinny for a girl. Even with my rather less than athletic build I was always interested in strongman and bodybuilding. I used to watch worlds strongest man with my granddad every year that it was on. My granddad was my main influence on my training. He trained with a former Mr. Britain for many years and that influenced me greatly. When my uncle turned 14 my granddad took him to the gym. They took photos every month of my uncle’s progression and kept them in a photo album. When I saw this photo album at about the age of 12 and saw the massive progress my uncle made from a similar physique to mine to a very impressive ripped and muscular physique in just 4 years I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to start the gym right then! Unfortunately though I wasn’t allowed. I had to wait until my 14th birthday. When my 14th birthday came I knew it was time that I could start my transformation. The first day I was to go to the gym I sat by the front door eagerly awaiting my granddads arrival. I remember the journey to the gym. I had bought a lucozade in readiness for my hardcore gym session. This lucozade actually became a ritual for about 3 years until I found the glorious pre-workout drinks like BSN No-Xplode. So we arrived at the gym and I just looked around in bewilderment. I didn’t know what half of the stuff did and I was sure I couldn’t even move the rest of it. My granddad snapped me out of my daze and proceeded to take me through my first workout. To start with I did one full body workout once per week. I was only 14 and my granddad, in his training wisdom, knew that it was best to ease me into training gently. My joints were not used to weight training and it would be a shock to my muscles. I also needed adequate recovery as I did play other sports as well. My first ever routine looked like this:
Flat bench press – 3 x 20 reps
Lat pull down – 3 x 20 reps
Standing dumbbell shoulder press – 3 x 20
Leg press – 3 x 20
EZ bar curl – 3 x 20
Tricep cable pushdown – 3 x 20
A very basic and easy routine. The reps were kept really high and the weight low. I didn’t understand why but now I know that it was to develop proprioception and awareness of the muscles and movement patterns. Form was always drilled into me as the most important aspect of learning how to train. So the plan was set. Now it was just a matter of doing it. I excitedly ran over to the bench press ready to begin. I was shown how to do the exercise and I watched carefully. I laid down on the bench ready to do my 20 reps with just the bar. The bar was unracked and I began. The only problem was after about 5 reps I was really struggling. I managed 9 reps with just the bar. I was a little disheartened to say the least. I was given some encouraging words and started to realize that the only way from there was up. 7 years later I would manage 9 reps with 6 times that amount of weight so I guess it did improve a bit. I carried on with the workout, using appallingly low weights but loved every second of it. I finished my workout in about 40 minutes and then sat and watched as my granddad and his training partner did their workout with weights that I could never imagine using. Jamie (the training partner) was training for a competition so their training was extremely intense. I watched every movement carefully and tried to analyze what they were doing and why. This was a habit that I continued for about 2 years. Every workout I would finish before them and I would watch exactly what they did to try and learn as much as I could. Once they had finished I went into the office to collect my things. My granddad bought me a flapjack to recover some of my energy and we set off home.
That was my very first training experience. I carried on with the one day per week routine for about 3 months before starting 2 days per week doing the same routine. Then 3 days per week, where we changed to a body part split. My training progressed gradually until I was doing the sort of routine that I would be doing today about 1 year after starting. I also went from 3 sets of 20 down to 3 sets of 12 over a period of about 4 months. This gradual lowering of the weights was a great way to introduce my body to weight training and allow me to develop good form on all exercises. I think this is one of the most valuable things that I have learnt from training. So many young guys who want to start the gym are just given a standard routine that any advanced trainer would do. I see people recommending stronglifts 5 x 5 or powerlifting routines etc for young kids who have just started lifting. I don’t condone this in any way and feel that they will do themselves far more harm than good by doing this.
So this was my very first training experience. It is something I will never forget and I’m sure it is very similar to many of your training experiences. If you are new to the gym you must also remember, every single person in the gym started in a similar position to you. Don’t be worried or intimidated and remember, the only way is up.