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The Beginner’s Guide to Strength Training

Throughout our history, our idols have often been those who are physically impressive.

Beings who are capable of accomplishing feats so impressive, they hardly seem real. Beings who inspire us to become stronger ourselves.

From real life people to heroes in films and comics, our idols endure great physical hardship in order to become the impressive physical specimens that they are.

Why else would Captain America hold such a special place in our hearts? Why do Rocky montages still evoke that deep sense of pride and glory? Why do millions of people glue their faces to the TV every 4 years to watch the Olympic Games?

The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Strength Training

Being strong is at the core of what makes us human. It’s primal and exhilarating. Plus, being weak is not attractive.

My Quest for Strength

18-year-old Chris knew this well. His many years spent delving in virtual dungeons and living in the dark realm of friend zone had taught him the importance of being strong.

As his video game character grew stronger, he became more capable and respected. So, fed up with the little Chris I was, I began to emulate my character. Just as my beloved character became respected as he grew stronger, so did I. My self-worth rapidly grew as I became stronger.

As I began to internalize a positive view of myself. So too did the world around me. My peers began to respect me and women began to talk to me. The confidence I gained through strength training reciprocated into my life outside the gym and my life finally became my own.

But getting to that point was NOT easy.

It took me many years to nail down his training and nutrition. Hours of endless toil were spent, and wasted performing complex workouts from various tomes of knowledge known as “Fitness Magazines”.

These training methods were usually contingent on consuming copious amounts of chancy cocktails known as “supplements”. But since these “supplements” were highly touted by jacked dudes, it was the way to go, right?

Frustrated with my lack of progress, but determined to succeed, I eventually stumbled on a recurring theme known as progressive overload.

Progressive overload is a fancy term describing the rather simple process of adding weight to your lifts with each workout. By progressively increasing the load on your muscles, you force your body to continuously adapt to the change.

When you tear down your muscles during your workouts, your body repairs the damage, increasing your strength and muscle mass. As a beginner, this is the most important process of building strength.

Progressive overload is unbelievably effective when used with compound exercises (like deadlifts, bench press and chin-ups), heavy weights and low rep ranges. This type of training tends to cause the most muscle damage and results in the greatest strength and muscle gain (provided your nutrition and rest are spot-on).

The Beginner’s Strength Training Program

When I applied this concept to my own workouts, my strength went through the roof. The simple program below is the exact same that I used and am now sharing with you.

Careful, though. On deployment, my friends and I would often joke “Beware the simple workout”. Just because a workout appears simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy. You don’t need to get complicated, you just need to consistently lift some heavy weights!

Workout 1

A1) Barbell Deadlift – 3 x 5 – all sets should be very challenging. Rest 90s – 2m between each set.

B1) Pull/Chin Up – 5 x 5 – if bodyweight pull-ups are too easy, add weight by using a belt or putting a dumbbell between your feet. Rest 60 – 90s between each set.

Alternate between C1 and C2. Rest 30s after C1 and 60s after C2:

C1) Barbell Romanian Deadlift – 3 x 8

C2) Single Arm Dumbbell Row – 3 x 8 per arm – put your knee on the bench when doing these.

D1) Farmer’s Carry – 4 x 50 yards – rest 60s between each set.

Workout 2

A1) Barbell Bench Press – 3 x 5 – rest 90s – 2m between each set.

B1) Dips – 4 x 6 – rest 60 – 90s between each set.

Alternate between C1 and C2. Rest 45s after C1 and 60s after C2:

C1) Dumbbell Floor Press – 3 x 8

C2) Pallof Press – 3 x 8 – hold the weight for 2s at the “top” position.

Workout 3

A1) Barbell Squat – 3 x 5 – rest 90s – 2m between each set.

B1) Seated Military Press – 3 x 5 – rest 60 – 90s between each set.

Alternate between C1 and C2. Rest 30s after C1 and 60s after C2:

C1) Forward Lunge – 4 x 6

C2) Dumbbell Push Press – 4 x 6

Alternate between D1 and D2:

D1) Lateral Lunge – 3 x 6-8 per leg – hold the dumbbell goblet style.

D2) Lateral Raise – 3 x 8

E1) Medicine Ball Russian Twist – 3 x 15 per side – rest 45s between each set.

And that’s it. Watch out for Workout 3… it’s a doozy. And on a final note, please please please make sure you have good form before performing these exercises. Shitty form and heavy weights are a quick ticket to the doctor.

Using Progressive Overload to Build Strength

To really maximize the effectiveness of this program, you need to use a progressive overload that I mentioned earlier. Each week aim to increase the weight you use for the big lifts (the A1’s for each day, as well as B1 for workout 3) by at least 5 lb.

If your gym doesn’t have any 2.5 lb plates and you don’t feel comfortable going up 10 lb in a week, you can add reps to each lift instead. So instead of going up and doing 3 x 5 for the second week, stay with the same weight, but do 3 x 6.

This is still a variation of progressive overload since you’re increasing the amount of work your muscles do. Once you can do about 8 reps, increase the weight and drop back down to 5 reps per set.

It’s All About Intensity

Strength Training with Deadlifts

Many people overlook intensity when going to the gym. You need to be on fire during these workouts. Use whatever you need to get to that state. Think about the time you were cut from the football team or when you couldn’t muster the courage to ask that girl out.

Use your inner drive to fuel your workouts to even greater heights. The weights you should be using for these lifts will be daunting… event borderline scary. But with your razor-sharp mental focus, you can unleash yourself from the shackles that are holding you back.

Don’t Forget About Nutrition

Working out is only part of the battle. You absolutely need to get your nutrition right to see consistent strength gains.

Make sure you are eating enough to support your training. Keep your protein high, carbohydrates moderate and fat moderate. This will help you recover and will ensure you don’t get injured or burnt out. Here is a list of great protein sources you should definitely check out.

Aim for about 1.2 – 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. For carbohydrates, shoot for 0.8 – 1 grams per pound and for fats  – about 0.3 – 0.5 grams per pound of bodyweight.

Putting It All Together

We can be our own worst enemies and greatest critics, but also our biggest supporters and motivators. Strive to be just a little bit better than you were yesterday. You’ll be stunned at how far that can take you and how much you can achieve.

You have your program. You have your motivation and you know what to eat. What’s next?

Go out there and execute.

Add weight to that bar each week. Sleep enough and lock down your nutrition. Your results will be amazing.

At the end of the day, that’s all it takes. Put one foot down and start your journey. Momentum is a powerful tool, but to use it you need to start.

Don’t wait until tomorrow, don’t wait until “Monday” or the beginning of the month. Start today and the rest… well that will be history.

Chris Coulson

I'm a fitness nerd, US Navy vet, NYC celebrity trainer, and samurai. My passion is helping people lose fat, build muscle and become awesome. I'm here to help YOU get the body you've always wanted.