As a beginner to lifting (or after a long break off) you have a period of about 12 weeks/3 months where you will experience the most rapid gains in your life. As a guy you will build the foundation on which your future mass will be built, and as a female, you’ll suddenly start to see curves coming and going in all the right places. But there is a catch. You have to make a smart choice regarding what you’ll be doing as you won’t be able to gain this time back without making the backward step of stopping for a long time.
Now this is a programme that both Rakesh, my girlfriend and I have completed for the full 12 weeks. I can assure you that for a beginner, this is absolutely fantastic. In fact, I’d already been training for a year at this time and saw some massive progress: my overhead press (OHP) personal best shot up from 70kg to 90kg, which is huge!
Philosophy of the programme
This is actually very simple. When you start training, the goal is gain a solid strength base across all areas before you start focusing on specific areas. Everything in this programme is designed to support your main lifts which include squat, deadlift, OHP, Bench Press. Though what you might find quite surprising is that a standard deadlift isn’t actually in the programme: this is as we at EHF consider it to be an advanced lifting technique and building strength in the muscles used is more important at this level. These lifts will give you the most bang for your buck: they work the most muscles in the smallest time.
The programme will be split into 6 days which will be as follows:
- Upper Body Strength
- Lower Body Strength
- (Light) Cardio
- Upper Body Volume
- Lower Body Volume
- (Light) Cardio
This is to enable you to train your muscles twice a week whilst giving you lots of rest – EHF considers light cardio to be an active rest. This rest will enable your body to adapt to the new stresses you are placing on it. However, do be prepared for lots of aching over these 12 weeks: this is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) but it does settle down the longer you have been lifting. So don’t worry, it isn’t your body telling you to stop!
As this is your first real step towards the fitness lifestyle, we at EHF would recommend to focus more on making solid food choices. For example, if you were to eat a chocolate bar for a snack as you need to fix a sweet craving, try substituting it for some fruit that you like. I prefer to go for an apple as they’re cheap and tasty.
For more general lifestyle choices, I would follow these rules:
- Consciously start to eat more protein in your diet. This is essential for any muscle growth and is a healthy source of energy. Also, if any women feel that this will make them bulky, this is an old wives tale: the women that you see on bodybuilding stages have layers of fake tan on and often on the “bigger” stages they take steroids.
- Eat more green vegetables. Broccoli is one of the most nutrient dense but is also cheap and tasty. If this isn’t your thing there are plenty more vegetables out there! The list of health benefits is widely known and far too long to list here
- Lower the amount of added sugar in your diet. This is terrible for your long term health and in the short term can cause all sorts of problems, with the main one being the increased need to eat more sugary foods!
- If you are overweight, try to eat smaller portions. Nobody is telling you to starve yourself, but making those portions just 10% smaller will make all of the difference when it comes to your overall calorie intake.
- If you want to get bigger, eat more. This one is easy.
- Sleep. Try to get at least 8 hours a night, consistently, even if this means going to bed earlier.
- If you drink a lot, lower your alcohol intake. Don’t stop it completely if its something you enjoy, but just try to cut down on the overall amount.
For this programme I’d recommend just a few simple supplements
- Green Tea. Either the extract form or actual tea. [It’s fantastic for a number of reasons but I will go into detail in a future post which will be linked here]
- Protein Powder. It isn’t necessary but cheap protein can be tasty and fulfills the protein requirement in a easy way. There are other benefits but at this stage, this is all you need to know.
- Multivitamins. You may be eating more greens, but best to cover all bases and make sure you are getting all of the micro nutrients you need.
The EHF Beginner Programme
- OHP – 5×5
- Dumbbell Bench Press (twist at the top) – 3×8
- Wide Grip Pull-ups* – 3xAMAP
- Squat – 3×8
- Barbell Standing Lunge – 3×8/8
- Straight Leg Deadlift – 5×5
- Light Cardio
- Tricep Pushdowns – 3xAMAP (Light Weight)
- Bent Over Rows – 3xShockwave
- Reverse Cable Flyes – 5x1min (timed)
- Single Leg Split Squat** – 3xShockwave
- Hamstring Curls – 5xShockwave
- Plank*** – 5min
- Hanging Leg Raises – 3×12
- Light Cardio
- * If you cannot complete wide grip pull ups then perform these on the lat pull down machine or perform eight negative reps where you jump up and try to come down slowly.
- ** These are best performed on a Smith Machine if you gym has one. There are three sets performed for each leg. They are hard so don’t put on too much weight to start.
- *** When you fail try and take a short rest and try again. Even a few seconds every attempt is good near the end.
- Shockwave. This involves 5 mini sets with no rest in between, to make up on actual set.The weight is increased in each mini set. For instance, one set would go like this
- 4 reps at 2.5kg
- 4 reps at 5.0kg
- 4 reps at 7.5kg
- 4 reps at 10.0kg
- 4 reps at 12.5kg
- AMAP. This is an acronym for As Many As Possible.
- 3×4. This would indicate performing 4 reps for 3 sets.
- 3×8/8. This means that each set involves performing 8 reps on your left and 8 reps on your right
Rest as long as you feel you need. There is no rush.
Make sure you start off light. Even if it’s not quite heavy enough for you. Look up on bodybuilding.com or other such sites to see how to perform each exercises correctly. We do not want anyone to injure themselves and correct form takes a long time to build up. Our advice would be to start light and then increase weight each week as you feel comfortable. Again, for this reason we do not include deadlift, but the squat is also hard to master so do not push yourself too hard too early.
This is Rakesh’s take on the programme along with his top 5 tips.
(Be aware that when he says deadlift he refers to straight leg deadlift)