In this article and video I want to share the story of how I got into lifting, what I did in the beginning and what I’d do differently if I could go back in time. I believe you’ll pick up some good lessons on consistency, noobie gains, and weight training programming for beginners.
Alright, so I first stepped inside of a gym when I was 17, at the beginning of the 11th grade in high school. My friend Rareș, who you’ve seen many times in my vlogs was actually the one that dragged me to the gym because initially I didn’t want to go.
I remember I used every excuse to skip workouts, even stuff like homework or the weather. That changed soon after though. I became very dedicated as soon I started to see progress.
Fitness Magazine style workouts
Our training routine in the beginning was obviously bad. I was completely clueless about nutrition and training but Rareș just started reading fitness magazines. So he was in charge of our training. I followed everything he said and did. Like the story of the blind man following another blind man…
I remember our first routine very well, it was like this:
Monday – Arms (oh yeah, we had a day dedicated to arms)
- Dumbbell Curls – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
- Rope push-downs – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
- Barbell Curls – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
- Skull crushers – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
- Machine curls – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
- Dumbbell Triceps extensions – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
Wednesday – Back and Shoulders
- Lat pull-downs – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
- Barbell rows – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
- Cable rows – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
- Dumbbell rows – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
- Behind the neck standing overhead press – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
- A sort of lateral raises – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
Friday – Chest
- Flat Bench Press – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
- Incline Bench Press – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
- Flat Dumbbell Bench Press – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
- Flat Dumbbell Flyes – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
- Machine Chest Flyes – 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
Clearly there are a lot of wrong things about this routine. The frequency is low, the volume is ridiculously high, I was missing entire muscle groups, I was using ascending pyramid sets, etc. It was bad in general.
But did it work?
Actually, yeah! We both made very good gains on it.
Check out the photos in the video. Pretty decent results for 8 months of lifting, right? Except for legs. We didn’t train them at all.
The power of noobie gains
Everything works in the beginning, no matter how bad it is. That’s a problem because you tend to think you’re doing things right.
In addition to following this bad routine my nutrition was also bad.
I was not getting enough protein and I drank alcohol almost every weekend during that time. In Romania when you get to 18 years old you have a big party to celebrate reaching the adult age. So if you have about 50 friends in your generation that means you had at least one of those epic parties each weekend. We drank a lot.
But with all that bad training and bad nutrition I still made gains. Noobie gains For The Win!
The problems started after those first 7-8 months when we maxed out our noob gains and our training program was no longer working. I hit a wall, I was no longer progressing on anything. And that’s when I went online to find some answers.
The problem with online information
When I started reading articles and watching videos I picked up a lot of bad advice like eating every 2-3 hours, going low carb dieting, doing tons of cardio, and so on.
For my first months of lifting I was eating 3 meals a day and it worked great. I was eating tons of carbs and did not get fat. But now suddenly because I read some random article all my personal experiences no longer mattered. I thought I’ve been doing everything wrong.
All this conflicting information only made things worse because now I was putting even more time into my training and diet and I still was not getting any results.
So after a while I got really frustrated and stopped going to the gym completely. I was really busy with school during that time because it was my final year and I also started working so I just didn’t want to go to the gym anymore.
I stopped working out and I resumed lifting only about 1.5 years later, in the summer of 2013.
What I would have done differently
If I could go back in time here’s what I’d do:
First of all I’d study the overall philosophy of building a great physique. I now wrote an entire ebook about that “The Path to your Goal Physique” which you can download for free. You’d be extremely fortunate to read that ebook at the beginning of your fitness journey.
Second of all I would follow a different routine. I would cut volume at least in half and I would use a higher frequency routine focusing on gaining strength on a few key movements. Beginners should train body parts and exercises very often because they can make progress every workout. You can read all about that in this article about training splits and in this article about training frequency.
And lastly I would learn about macros and energy balance. The basics of nutrition. I wrote an entire ebook about that as well Master of Macros which you can get for free.
What I was trying to do in the beginning was losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time. And it worked for a while but then it became wasted effort. You need to learn about nutrition to know how to set up your cut and bulk cycles to improve your body composition.
So that’s pretty much it. My story of how I started lifting and the mistakes I did. If you have any question leave them below, I’ll gladly answer!
The Program that built my physique
When I restarted lifting in the summer of 2013 I learned how to get lean but I still had a hard time gaining muscle and strength. I struggled for 5-6 months before I picked up the Greek God Program.
That program solved my problems and radically transformed my physique in the next year. See my one year transformation with it.