5 times a week for a newbie?

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RobertB
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5 times a week for a newbie?

Post by RobertB » Mon Sep 21, 2009 10:46 am

Good afternoon,

I have been lifting stupidly for about 5 weeks but joined the work gym for the last three (today is the start of the 4th week) so if you count the shambles that was 5 weeks of throwing a barbell around with no form, 2 months.

My work friends have been going to the gym for around three years and have recently decided to start going 5 days a week but still giving the groups a week to recover.

I have been given/advised to do a 3 day split by the guy who runs the work gym (m/w/f - arms/chest - Legs/abs - Back/shoulders) which I think is fine - the only thing is as a newbie constant supervision helps - and I cant ask that in the work gym.

So my question is - would it be sensible, will power permitting, to do 5 times a week rather than 3? they aren't the type to be overly macho, they support me and even tell me to lower weights for form - so I don't think they are reckless in suggesting I join them.

Today I worked with one of them on Triceps/chest - his advice ensured I hit the target zones and kept my form up - when I left I felt I had done a more accurate workout than my 3 day split on my own.

Anyway - rambling - the bottom line is, as someone who is not fit (not fat, not skinny, just not fit) would it be ok to do 5 sessions a week as long as each day was only done once a week?

is the main reason people say three times a week purely to lower the pressure? I am fairly comfortable with the commitment at the moment, but understand it may not stay that way in the future.

Thanks.


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Post by stuward » Mon Sep 21, 2009 11:02 am

3 days a week is to provide recovery between workouts. If you can keep out of the gym every second day, it really doesn't matter what you do in the gyme, a beginner will get enough recovery. That's why the 3 day/week recommendation.

That said, I go to the gym 5 days a week.

That actually makes it harder to design a workout. It's not just a factor of going lighter. Depending on your actual workouts there may be overlap from one workout to the next that will upset your recovery.

I would recommend that you stick to 3 days/week for at least 6 months. Get your friends help on the days you do work with them. On the alternate days, go for a hike. Throw in a few sprints along the way. Have a fun game of tennis, whatever. Stay active but allow your body to recover.

In any event, whatever you choose, run your routine by us here and we can help you tweak it to help you meet your goals.

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Post by frogbyte » Mon Sep 21, 2009 12:36 pm

Err on the side of starting slow - for me anyway the shock to my body of suddenly working out regularly caused issues like frequent colds/flu until I slowed down to ~3 days a week for about 6 months, then later I was able to go to ~4 days a week, and then 6 months later upped it to 5.25 days a week, where I am now.

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Post by RobertB » Mon Sep 21, 2009 3:50 pm

"there may be overlap from one workout to the next that will upset your recovery"

yea that was my main fear, my arms tend to bear the brunt of most exercises especially while I sort my form out - and I guess you guys are right- I could use the fitness from a few months experience to cope with the strain (before 5 times a week)

3 times a week it is then - thanks

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Post by Jungledoc » Mon Sep 21, 2009 4:35 pm

Also, split routines are for more advanced lifters, not novices. Find a good, well-designed (not do-it-yourself, nor designed by some guy at the gym) published whole-body routine, and stick to it for as long as it gives you gains (months to years). There are several in the sticky on this forum.


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Post by pdellorto » Mon Sep 21, 2009 5:18 pm

Jungledoc wrote:Also, split routines are for more advanced lifters, not novices.
Agreed, if in fact you're doing chest/arms on Monday, Legs on Wednesday, Back/Shoulders on Friday. If you're doing all of them each of three days, you're probably working too hard.

I'd look at the sticky of basic routines and pick one of those. I also wrote a big blog post on this once to avoid lots of typing:

http://strength-basics.blogspot.com/200 ... for-x.html

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Post by RobertB » Tue Sep 22, 2009 2:26 am

"If you're doing all of them each of three days, you're probably working too hard."

That part has me confused - I do both Arms and chest on Monday, I don't do arms one week and chest the next. As listed but with + now :) , arms+chest mon, legs+abs weds, back+shoulder fri - but your saying thats too hard? the whole idea of me splitting it into three was for more recovery

As for full body - that would mean one day to recover - I am happy to lower the training on each group to allow for faster recovery, but at the moment if I do legs for 40 minutes on a Wednesday they can still ache on saturday, I wont ignore or discount your advice but I will say when I have my legs on wednesday I doubt I'd be ready to do them Friday - I'd be lowering the work I do on them to allow them to be ready for Friday.

At the moment im getting 6 days rest (within reason, supporting muscles etc obv get less rest) on each body part/section which seems good.

Errk - my poor head :) Gym instructor/friends/forum all diff suggestions at every part of the scale.

I definately wont be doing 5 times a week - but now I have to research full body vs 3 way split it seems.

Thanks for your help

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Post by Jungledoc » Tue Sep 22, 2009 3:32 am

Robert:

You've only been lifting for 5 weeks! You should have no trouble recovering from a full-body workout in 48 hours, unless you are really overdoing things, like with multiple exercises for the same muscle groups, or going to failure on big compound lifts. If in each workout you do one big compound lift for each of the basic movements, with reasonable progressive loading, you should recover fine in 2 days, and be able to add weight to each lift.

You really should look at Starting Strength or at one of the other novice routines in the sticky. They are tried and true, each one written by well-established strength coaches. You don't need to invent the wheel! Pick one of those systems and stick to it for a few months. When you stop being able to make gains, then you can consider splits and periodization.

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Post by KPj » Tue Sep 22, 2009 4:06 am

I have 2 newbies training with me just now and they lift 4x per week on an upper lower split (you have 2 'upper body days' and 2 'lower body days'). This is just so they can train with me all the time though. However, i'm happy that their full body is being trained twice per week. I think this should be a mininum for a beginner. Due to them training with me, and due to the way that I train, they're basically doing something similar to WSFSB. My training partener started this way about 18months ago, maybe longer and got/gets good results (despite various injuries and pain to overcome).

In an ideal world, though, I would actually prefer it if they trained 3 x per week, something along the lines of starting strength, just learning the big lifts and doing them frequently. When they became competent I would put them onto the upper/lower, providing they had the time to train 4 days per week.

In my opinion, beginners don't have the neuro-muscular capacity to train intensely enough to warrant anything less than training the full body 2-3 times per week. In English that means that you can't push yourself hard enough to actually need that much recovery time, no matter how hard you try. Anyone that doesn't believe that just needs to see a beginner ramp up the weight on any exercise. When they find something that 'feels' hard to them, it looks to everyone else as if it's far too easy for them - they've just not got the ability to grind out intense sets yet.

Anyway, I have a habbit of overexplaining/over complicating things. Basically I think your selling yourself short if you don't train your whole body 2-3 times per week. Beginners are fighting a different battle from more experienced lifters, especially in the first 3-6 months or more. Think of it as becoming some kind of racing driver. You need to learn how to drive where as your friends are learning about the best racing lines to take around the track. There's not much point learning about racing lines with them when you can't even drive yet...

KPj

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Post by RobertB » Tue Sep 22, 2009 5:45 am

So much conflicting info from all sources :(

I was doing multiple exercises on one - I'll paste my list. I'm not going to be proud and lessen my experience, when I do my legs wednesday with the below I do them until my legs are trembling in the showers and I hold the bannister going back up/down stairs - they can ache (comfortably i.e. no sharp pain, but definately ache) for 72 hours.


(x3 sets)
day 1:
1. squat
2. lunge
3. leg extension
4. leg curl

5. ball crunch
6. leg raises
7. woodchopper

day 2:
1. lat pulldown -
2. bent over row -
3. reverse fly -
4. standing pull -
5. DB press -
6. lat raise -
7. upright row -

day 3:
1. Flat bench
2. incline fly
3. decline bench
4. kickbacks (replaced with cable overhead pull, kickback form is awful)
5. dips
6. seated curl
7. preacher curl

I guess I will revert to the starting strength you have suggested and go back to full bodys - Can I please put all of my sources in one room and have you argue :)?

Nah I appreciate all advice - I am just struggling now to decide - I can discount some advice from friends because they arent the ones employed at a gym, or with a doctorate, or a ton of competative experience - but I'm still left with conflicting advice.

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Post by KPj » Tue Sep 22, 2009 6:24 am

RobertB wrote: Nah I appreciate all advice - I am just struggling now to decide - I can discount some advice from friends because they arent the ones employed at a gym, or with a doctorate, or a ton of competative experience - but I'm still left with conflicting advice.
Most people worth listening to agree on 90% of things. Don't focus so much on the differences, focus on the similarities.

Anyone reputable will tell you beginners should train with more frequency. More frequency refers to how much you train your whole body. A muscle split where you have 'arm days' and 'shoulder' days or whatever goes on the theorythat you hammer every muscle so intensely that you need a week to recover and, therefore, your whole body gets trained once per week. Whether anyone agrees with that split or not, it's widely regarded as a more advanced way of doing things, once you've exhausted some routines that focus on more frequency (like full body routines).

I actually can't think of any time i've seen someone recommend that a beginner trains their whole body once per week. Just remember you are a Beginner and should train like one so, you're not looking for the best way to build muscle or strength or big arms - you're looking for the best way to start out. If you take this approach you'll maximise the amazing beginner gains you get. However the fact of the matter is, you could do the worst routine we could think of and you'll still get results, because that's what happens when you're new. This is why you get so many people giving strange advice. They get great results in the first 6-12 months and think they're a pro and what they do is obviously superior to anything else. It's not until 5 years down the line when they realise they've made no progress in the last 4 years that they think, "hmm.. maybe I need to read a book or something". That's pretty much the story of my first 2 years of training.

Anyway... Again with the similarities - train your whole body frequently, and use mostly compound exercises i.e. squats, deadlifts, rows, presses, pull ups. If anything doesn't adhere to those 2 rules, I would seriously question it.

Mark Rippetoe is an especially good source because he specialises in training beginners, although he is still a good source for any level of lifter.

KPj

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Post by pdellorto » Tue Sep 22, 2009 7:11 am

KPj wrote:Most people worth listening to agree on 90% of things. Don't focus so much on the differences, focus on the similarities.
And pretty much all of us here are saying the same thing: You're a beginner, and you can work your whole body 3x a week, week in, week out, without worrying about training too hard. Find a proven routine and stick to it.

My comment on "too much" was if you were doing those three splits - chest/arms, abs/legs, back/shoulders on one day...mostly because when people say "chest/arms" they don't mean "bench press" they mean "3-4 exercises for 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps for chest, and then the same for arms." That would add up to too much. A full body routine is what you want now, but not a parade of dozens of exercises each day.

You're a beginner, so for a while, you can exercise your whole body every time you hit the gym, add weight to every exercise workout after workout, and make big gains. Take advantage, and get a routine (like Starting Strength, or Stronglifts 5 x 5, or another from that basic routine) that will let you build up strength fast. At this point you can gain on anything, but you may as well gain efficiently and quickly.

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Post by TimD » Tue Sep 22, 2009 8:40 am

I see all the heavy hitters have weighed in on this. Just a point though that I haven't seen hit on. In your list you have multiple exercises for each bodypart. Fair enough, IF you are an advanced trainee, can generate the strength/power required to force a full weeks recovery, but your NOT. Your a beginner. The others have hit on starting strength. That's a solid approach. Here is an alternate, focusing more on variety. Take your exercises, put then into a "pool" and divide them into 3 full body workouts. That way you can have basic moves with variety.OR go with KPJ's suggestion and divide them into 2 upper/lower split days. There are examples in the stickies.
Tim

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Post by RobertB » Tue Sep 22, 2009 9:05 am

Variety will confuse me in terms of form, but I guess you mean switch it up monthly not daily? I'd hate to try sort out the form of 25 exercises in the next two weeks.

and as for similarities - there are hardly any in the suggestions - starting strength has suggested exercises, you suggest variety, my friends want me to do 5 times a week on individual/pairs of, the gym instructor gave me the above 3 way split, I then hear whole body x3 a week - thats every single source different information.

But I know you guys have some serious experience, so yours trumps it. I am going to sort myself out a full body routine based on Starting Strength (bookmarked, will read today/tommorow) and see what I can do in terms of rotating exercises on a monthly or bi-weekly basis - I will aim for the 10-14 rep range as opposed to 6-10 to get used to the form and to get myself in the zone faster.

Thanks again

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Post by stuward » Tue Sep 22, 2009 9:18 am

Robert, you may want to buy the book, now in it's second edition, or get it at the library. Show it to your gym instructor and friends so they see where you're coming from. It's really helpful to have someone knowlegable help you with the form for the basic exercises. The book goes into great length on how to perform them but nothing beats a critical eye watching you.


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