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Three Programs For Intro Weightlifting

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Ok, so you want to get jacked and strong. Not only is that great, but it’s probably a lot more attainable than you probably think. As with many areas of fitness, the hardest part is taking the first step. 

Part of the difficulty of taking the first step when it comes to pumping iron is knowing what introductory program you should start with. A quick Google search is no help, providing an endless supply of overly complicated weightlifting programs supposedly designed for “beginners.”

The problem with all of these programs is that they just tell you what lifts to do. That’s not what a starting program for a newbie weightlifter should be. On the contrary, you need detailed guidance on how to start by lifting an empty barbell, progressing to loading it, knowing what to do when you stall out, and when to jump off the ride for something more advanced.

Fortunately, there are three programs to help you get started with strength training that are easy, simple, and, most importantly, structured enough that anyone who can add 5+5 can make solid, consistent strength gains for several months. 

Starting Strength

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Starting Strength was developed by renowned strength coach Mark Rippetoe. It is possibly the most popular introductory strength program in the history of humanity, having helped untold numbers of people from around the world progress from 90-pound weaklings to gym studs capable of squatting 405 pounds for reps in a matter of months. 

At its core, Starting Strength is a great way for beginners to master the most fundamental lifts. Starting Strength prioritizes compound movements, focusing on five exercises: the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, and power clean. It excels in teaching not only the proper form and mechanics of each lift but also the underlying principles of progressive overload. As beginners progressively add weight to the bar in a linear fashion, they experience tangible strength gains and build a robust foundation for more advanced training.

Rippetoe’s program offers a clear roadmap for increasing strength by consistently adding weight to the bar during each workout, fostering a sense of accomplishment and motivation for beginners. Additionally, the focus on compound movements ensures that individuals develop functional strength, translating into real-world applications beyond the gym. As a comprehensive guide, Starting Strength equips beginners with the tools for physical transformation while also instilling a deep understanding of the principles that underpin successful weightlifting, setting the stage for a lifelong journey of strength and fitness.

While some in the Starting Strength community can be dogmatic, don’t let that bother you. You don’t have to subscribe to the Church of Rippetoe to get the most out of this beginner weightlifting program. 

StrongLifts 5×5

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StrongLifts 5×5 is a popular alternative to Starting Strength and if your goal is bodybuilding and aesthetics, rather than strength and raw power, this one gets the nod. 

Created by Mehdi Hadim, StrongLifts 5×5 is extremely similar to Starting Strength, with there being only two primary differences. First, StrongLifts 5×5 swaps out the power clean for the Pendlay row. Second, StrongLifts 5×5 offers an additional two sets of volume for every lift save for the deadlift, which has identical programming to Starting Strength.

Otherwise, it utilizes the same commitment to progressive overload, which is a crucial concept for beginning weightlifters. It is a streamlined workout, which can be done very quickly, especially at the very beginning, where the lifts are very light. 

Greyskull LP 

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Greyskull LP (Linear Progression), is the brainchild of strength and conditioning expert John Sheaffer.  It’s an alternative to both Starting Strength and StrongLifts 5×5 that has made many a man and woman strong and ripped at the same time. 

Its proponents tout its versatility and adaptability, striking a balance between progressive strength gains and hypertrophy. This program, designed for both novice lifters and intermediates transitioning out of beginner programs, differs primarily from the first time because of the inclusion of AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) sets, providing a unique blend of structure and flexibility. 

AMRAP sets allow lifters to push themselves beyond prescribed repetitions, fostering not only strength but also endurance. The foundation is rooted in compound movements like squats, bench presses, and rows, which is true of any truly worthwhile introductory program. What’s more, GreySkull allows you to continue for longer because it is supposed to be for both beginners and intermediates. 

Which one of these is the best?

The short version is that it doesn’t really matter. If you’re just getting into weightlifting, the main thing you want to do is build up a strength base. Once you run through your beginner gains, then you can agonize over which intermediate program is the best to achieve your goals. At the end of the day, however, the main thing you need to do right now is be consistent. 

Which one of these sounds best to you? For more advanced lifters, which one did you use when you first got started? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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