Many people ask me for advice on which training program they should start training with. With the rise in popularity of powerlifting in recent years, there has been a profusion of routines that can clutter and overwhelm a beginner who just simply wants to get going on their path to superhuman strength.
What I advise is using the basics: lift incrementally heavier weights, practice good form, use muscle-building assistance work strategically, and don’t rush into getting stronger.
When you look at a well-designed program, you make advances every microcycle (usually every 1-2 weeks.) This is done by either adding weight or reps to the work set(s) that you did the week or two before.
I am astounded by the number of people that are looking for a magical number of sets or reps. I inform these people that there is no magic number, but that there is, however, a magic attitude. If you treat your lifts as practice and commit to getting better over time, not overnight, you will make progress. This is true for not only powerlifting or bodybuilding, but any sport or business or activity where you either make it or you don’t.
So where do you start? I advocate a 5×5 routine for the beginner, but again, not because it’s magic. That’s simply a set and rep scheme that has shown itself, time and time again, to hit a sweet spot in both intensity and volume for the widest number of lifters. Instead of doing something foolish like jumping into a high-volume, high-intensity routine that can lead to injury and wasting your time, learn the core lifts first.
By using this routine you will also gain some muscle because there are no sets in which you do triples or singles. You’re building a broad base of strength and muscularity that will serve you down the road.