Beginner Gains- Consistency is Key

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Uncategorized

I’ve been a little short on time the last week, working on some new projects so today’s post is taken from a question in the Renegade Inner Circle

Question: I’m curious about peoples thoughts on the whole idea of beginner gains, I noticed a lot of places on the net, say that if a beginner starts working out that they can gain 20 pounds pretty easily.

What if your workouts and nutrition sucked when you were a beginner, and you never gained those 20 pounds? Is that window gone for when you get your shit in order?

Jay I’ve noticed in a few articles/replies you’ve written, that you mention you sometimes need to add things into workouts so people don’t get bored, even though they may not help the person.

I was wondering, if you didn’t have to worry about people getting bored and could give them any workout. Would you make the beginner phases of MGS last longer, until they can’t progress on it anymore or would you still mix things up after a month or two, with the rep ranges, adding in different exercises etc?


Answer: If you do everything right as a beginner it’s EASY to gain twenty pounds. You actually have to do something retardedly wrong to not gain 20lbs. And I did just that. I made countless mistakes for years that prevented me from making the gains I should have at the beginning. In other words much of my training was completely retarded. Many people have made the same mistakes during their first few months or even years of training.

That doesn’t mean those gains are gone. Once you get your shit in order you can still make great gains. And the younger you are the faster they should come.

I personally like having beginners stick with something for a long time. I would have people stick with the same beginner program for months and months at a time, making very small jumps at each workout, until they plateaued. Then I would bring their weights back down and start over again, sticking with mostly the exact same lifts, just maybe some slight modifications here or there if I thought it was warranted.

This might be a six month process. And it may even be a twelve month process. That was very doable before the internet. Nowadays I don’t know how many people have it in them to do that. They don’t have the same focus or patience and lack the consistency. Everybody wants to try the next best thing or move onto advanced methods before they are ready. All that does is screw up your progress. Too many people want to be entertained these days instead of just buckling down and working hard.

But the fact remains that old school, basic linear periodization works incredibly well for beginners. Many old school lifters stuck with the same exercises for an inordinate amount of time and didn’t do too much else but a handful of basic lifts, 52 weeks per year. And ya know what happened? They became some big, strong motherf*ckers.

One funny thing that people notice over time is that after they have been training and eating right for a few years and learn how to make progress their genetics seem to “get better.” I’ve seen a lot of skinny/fat ectos with shitty genetics actually start to recover faster and make better gains a few years into their training. That’s when they really dial it in and get a grasp on training, nutrition, recovery and consistency. It’s not that their genetics got better, it’s just that they are finally now understanding the whole process and training, eating and recovering the right way. You just need to be committed to getting through those first few years of solid basic training without questioning things every little step of the way and changing your program every week.

Commit to benching 250, overhead pressing 135, squatting 315 and deadlifting 405. Once you’re hitting those numbers you will have some decent size. Then commit to doing those numbers for ten reps each. When you can do that you will have some really good size. Then set the next goal, and on and on.

That’s all it takes. Not jumping from one system to the next or questioning or over thinking. If you can hit the numbers above for ten reps I promise you you’ll be a big dude.

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15 Responses to Beginner Gains- Consistency is Key

  1. Raymond - ZenMyFitness September 10, 2010 at 8:24 pm #

    Good point although I think my window of opportunity gains went out the window but what the heck … unfortunately you probably described me then as the type to be entertained so I’d I better lear to stick to it.
    I think Bruce Lee was once asked “Which is the best martial Art?” and he answered something like .. “None but the person who is dedicated the most” so I guess that’s the same sort of thing?

  2. Jason September 11, 2010 at 6:00 am #

    You are right. Building muscle and strength takes time. With lots of sports you see guys on top of the world at 21 but never in strength sports or bodybuilding. I think Ronnie Coleman was around 40 when he won his last Mr. O.

    Getting big and strong takes time. You stick with it, do what is necessary and you will get there.

    Great article.

    Raymond, like the Bruce Lee Quote

  3. clement September 12, 2010 at 3:11 am #

    That’s what I like best about your posts. They make the most sense and simplify everything. On stronglifts 5×5, I’ve been making consistent gains for about 3 months now. The main thing to focus on is getting all your planned sessions in. I plan to aim for such gains before I even call myself an “intermediate” lifter. Keep up the good work!

  4. Jamie September 12, 2010 at 8:23 am #

    Great post Jason. Simple and effective. I’ve recently made a commitment to simplify my training as well as my clients’ and athletes’. You know what? We’ve all made crazy gains. A lot of the crazy whacked out programs on the internet today have really warped some folks’ mind when it comes to effective training.

  5. Nelson Ruth September 12, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    What’s your opinion on playground workouts/sprints and only doing heavy squats and deadlifts once a week? I’ve only been lifting for a few months, and try to eat alot, although I haven’t counted calories.

  6. Maria September 12, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

    “Commit to benching 250, overhead pressing 135, squatting 315 and deadlifting 405”

    Do you have recommendations for females?

    • Caleb "Muscles" Anthony September 14, 2010 at 3:36 am #

      @Maria: It would be intersting to see, Ive recently started training a female friend, with some weightlifting, it’s be to see what kind of weight you’d consider to be a realistic goal for a female.

  7. Greg September 12, 2010 at 7:17 pm #

    Piggybacking off the original poster, what this year long workout look like Jason? What excercises and rep range would you suggest. I get the sense that I am a lot like the guy who originally posted, I could do the same workout for a year if it was bringing me toward my goals. What would it look like though?

  8. Shaun September 12, 2010 at 8:49 pm #

    It is hard to stay focussed when there is So much BS online about 6min abs and other isht. I’m on the basics for 3 mths and i’m already at 110 on the OHP but nothing close to those numbers on the others. I guess i need a new program for my genetics, or a new supplement. Or I could just keeping getting under that damn bar and doing the work.

  9. AP September 13, 2010 at 6:27 am #

    “Commit to benching 250, overhead pressing 135, squatting 315 and deadlifting 405”

    Is that overhead press with dumbells or a bar?

  10. Jason September 13, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    Hey Greg. You can not beat the basic exercises…
    lower body – deadlifts and squats
    Upper push – bench and shoulder press
    Upper pull – pull ups and rows

    Stick with those and an extra rep or a little more weight each week and you will reach your goals.

  11. Phill September 13, 2010 at 5:45 pm #

    I’ve been training for several months on Stronglifts 5×5 and one on another program and have made fair progress, gaining 30 lbs of muscle and getting my squat and dead up to 1.0x bodyweight (145 lb). However, I have scoliosis and can’t continue to put loads even that heavy on my spine. The last time I squatted 145 for 3×5 my back hurt for about a week and a half afterward, which was when I decided I had to swear off back squats (even though they’re my favorite exercise :( ). Can I simply substitute unilateral lifts like the pistol squat (assisted until I can perform them properly) and single-legged RDL for the core lifts in a program? Would sets/reps/assistance work have to be altered?

    • Robbie August 8, 2013 at 6:18 am #

      Good job bro. Good luck with your training. I too am a lifter with scoliosis. I weigh 160. Nice to know I’m not the only one with this disadvantage trying to make gains.

  12. Jason P. September 13, 2010 at 8:00 pm #

    Phill, ever try rear foot elevated split squats. These are tough and will be about half the load on you back.

  13. Julio G. September 15, 2010 at 11:36 am #

    With the “MGS beginner phase 1” (still 1 week to go) I have gone from 56kg (123.45 Lbs.) to 61kg (134.48 Lbs.), increased my squat by 15kg (33Lbs.) and deadlift for 20kg (44.1 Lbs.)..
    My question is, when I start “beginner phase 2” should I follow it for the prescibed 6 weeks and continue then with “phase 3” or, as a beginner, would it be better to follow it for a longer period of time?
    P.D: my actual objective, is reaching 155-160 Lbs. with a low fat percentage by June to start “valetudo” (MMA), I will be cutting on some fat on second half of April and May with complexes, the HIIT cardio routine in MGS and bodyweight circuits
    sorry for any error I might have done, im from Spain