top of page

NOVICE BARBELL PROGRAM

So you’ve decided that you want to lift heavy!  This program is designed to help get new lifters accustomed with barbell exercises, to train proper techniques, and to start setting PRs.  The general idea of this plan is to get you very familiar with the big lifts and through repetition hone in your technique.  Things start off light, but over the course of the first 4 weeks get pretty intense.  

HOW OFTEN WILL I WORKOUT? 

You should train 3 times a week, with no consecutive training days (Ex. Mon/Wed/Fri). If you miss a workout, perform the one that you were to do on the lost training day and continue from there. If you miss a full week of training, reduce weight by 10%, or if 2 weeks are missed reduce the weight by 20% and continue from there.

WHAT’S THE PLAN? [Link to “Novice Barbell Club Program basics]

There are 2 main workouts which are done in an alternating fashion throughout the week with a day in between each; for example, Workout A would be done on Monday, Workout B on Wednesday, and then Workout A again on Friday, with the next week starting off with Workout B, then A, then B.  Then pattern repeats until you need a new program.

 

Workout A focuses on Squats & Bench Press, with a variety of accessory exercises after completing those.  Workout B focuses on Squats and Deadlift, with a variety of accessory exercises after completing those.

 

More on the specifics later… [click to skip to workouts]

HOW MUCH WEIGHT DO I START WITH

Below are the starting recommendations for starting weights for raw beginners who have never worked with a barbell…

 

Squats: start with an empty 45lb barbell for squats.

Deadlifts: start with a bar with 65 lbs total (use 10lb bumper plates so the bar is at the correct starting height).  If you are a stronger person, you may increase the starting weight to 95lbs (25lb bumper plates)

Bench Press: start with an empty barbell.  For people who are weaker in the press motions may need to start using Dumbbells or a training barbell (25-35lbs).

 

Add 10 lbs each workout on Squat, Bench, and Deadlift until the speed slows down, then adjust to 5 or 2.5lb jumps each workout. When a plateau is reached, either drop the weight by 10-20% and continue with linear progression or consult your coach.

 

AM I STARTING TOO LITE?

If you are a barebones beginner, your main goal using this plan is to figure out which techniques work best for your body, and perfect them.  By starting lite and working your way up in small increments, you won’t make the amateur mistake of going “too hard, too fast” and getting hurt.

 

This may sound like a slow progression but if you just stick with the 10lb increases each workout, your Squats will go from the 45 lbs empty bar for 5-reps to 165 lbs for 5-reps  (a 120lb increase!) in the first 4 weeks, while your Bench and deadlift can go up around 60lbs each.  For beginners, this gets them lifting in the 200s by their 8-week mark.  

 

For those who are a bit more experienced and starting off at with 50% of their 3-rep max, the progression can easily yield 60-120lbs to many peoples lifts in the first month, with slower increases over weeks 5-12.  

 

WHAT IF I’M KINDA STRONG ALREADY

For those who are a little familiar with barbell training and can safely find out their estimated max lifts, test your 1-rep max (with good form) or use a 1-rep max calculator and start with 50% of that.  For example; a person with a 1RM squat at 225 lbs should start around 115 lbs for their first workout.

 

What this will do for most people is get them to where their 1-Rep Max becomes their 5-Rep Max within their first 4-12 weeks.  This is a significant increase in work capacity and will definitely push up your max lift capability.

HOW SHOULD I WARM UP?

We all need to warm up properly before a workout.  This primes the body for action and helps prevent injury.  While a general warm up is useful, movement-specific warm ups are more useful in this program.

 

To start off your workout, spend 5 minutes getting the body temperature up.  This can be done with general cardio activities such as walking, biking, elliptical, rowing, etc…  

 

After getting your body temperature up and elevating your heart rate, we can do some general mobility work to make sure everything is working properly.  This phase of the warm up allows us to identify any problems we may run into during the workout; we want to pay particularly close attention to any abnormal tightness or soreness and address it now before lifting heavy.  

 

[Links to General Warm Up Video]

 

Heavy Compound Exercises such as Barbell Squats, Deadlift, Rows, and Presses are all technical, skill-based movements and you’ll get a lot more out of them by performing a warm up specific to them called a “Ramp Up”. While at lighter weights this may mean just doing 2-3 sets with an empty bar or even unweighted, and as your working sets get heavier you will need to do a few extra sets of increasing weight.  The general rule of thumb is to take whatever your *Working Set Weight* is and calculate your ramp up based on that.  Below is a breakdown of what a Ramp Up should look like.

 

RAMP UP WEIGHTS

Set Weight Reps

1 (Empty Bar) 5

2 30 - 50 % 5

3 50 - 60 % 3 - 5

4 60 - 70 % 2 - 4

5 60 - 80 % 1 - 3

 

Ramp Ups should leave you feeling primed and ready to lift efficiently.  They also allow you to identify any anomalies such as tightness or soreness before getting to your working sets.  

THE WORKOUTS

WORKOUT A [Link to Workout Video A]

Warm Up & Mobility Work

Squat Ramp Up (Bar x5, 50% x5 , 60% x3-5, 70% x2-4, 80% x1-3)

Squat Working Sets 3x5

Bench Press Ramp Up (Bar x5, 50% x5 , 60% x3-5, 70% x2-4, 80% x1-3)

Bench Press Working Sets 3x5

Row Variation (ex: Barbell Pendlay Rows, DB Kroc Rows, Heavy Seated Cable Rows) 3x5

Accessories: Quads, Hams, Core (Ex: Lunges, GHR, Hanging Leg Raise

HOW MUCH REST IN BETWEEN SETS?

For the heavy compound exercises minimize rest in between warm up sets.  Once at working sets, 1-3 minutes rest in between sets.  

 

For Accessory exercises it’s good to minimize rest and keep those exercises focused and intense.  Try to use no more than 1-minute in between sets.

WORKOUT B [Link to Workout Video B]

Warm Up & Mobility Work

Squat Ramp Up (Bar x5, 50% x5 , 60% x3-5, 70% x2-4, 80% x1-3)

Squat Working Sets 3x5

Deadlift Ramp Up (Bar x5, 50% x5 , 60% x3-5, 70% x2-4, 80% x1-3)

Deadlift Working Sets 5x1-3

Press Variation (ex: Arnold Press, Z-Press, Incline Press, Decline Press)

Accessories: Bis/Tris/Lats (ex: Chin Ups, Dips, Pullovers)

 

HOW MUCH REST IN BETWEEN SETS?

For the heavy compound exercises minimize rest in between warm up sets.  Once at working sets, 1-3 minutes rest in between sets.  

 

For Accessory exercises it’s good to minimize rest and keep those exercises focused and intense.  Try to use no more than 1-minute in between sets.

WHAT ARE ACCESSORY EXERCISES?

These exercises are meant to build strength in the body that is going to enhance the heavy compound lifts, and to keep your workouts interesting.  

 

For each workout’s Accessory Exercises, we have a list of suggestions for each body part that we want to target.  This list is not scripture and you are encouraged to experiment to keep your workouts fresh and to find which exercises benefit you the most.

 

Accessory exercises are meant to be intense so there are a few guidelines to remember.  

  • Reps should be explosive on the contraction, and be slow & controlled during the negative part of the lift. 

  • You should be picking a weight that you are hitting a fatigue point within the intended rep-scheme.  For Upper Body Exercises, the Sets/Reps should be 2-3x8-12, Lower Body & Core should be 2-3x12-15  

  • If you get a few extra difficult reps on the first set, that’s normal; however, if you are able to go way beyond the prescribed number of reps you are training with too light a load.

  • Towards the end of the last set of each exercise you probably will struggle to get out the last few reps. Try to maintain good form and control over the negative portion of the reps.  Once you cannot maintain decent form or perform the exercise for a full range-of-motion, the exercise is over.

WHEN SHOULD I SWITCH TO A NEW PROGRAM?

You should be prepared to switch to a new program when your lifts are becoming stalled out. Until then, adding a few accessory exercises can change up your routine enough to keep things interesting. Main thing to remember is don’t switch programs every few weeks because you’re feeling bored or not seeing immediate results; training requires time and consistency.

 

If you’ve reached a point where you cannot lift any heavier, it’s time to make some decisions, and progress to a more advanced lifting program [LINK TO PWRBLD Program Page]

bottom of page