Weight training can be one of the most daunting and confusing things to try and learn on your own.

Over the last 9 years or so I’ve made more mistakes in the weights room than I care to admit. From starting at 16 years old and doing nothing but chest and biceps (poorly) for 2 years, to trying to be the next IFBB pro bodybuilder when I’d barely built any muscle I’ve messed up a scary amount of times.

But the great thing about mistakes is they teach you the way not to do things. I’ve had injuries, plateaus, burnouts and everything in between. And I know what it feels like to be the new guy in the gym with no muscle struggling to figure out where the hell I should start.

So this article is going to be a sort of mish-mash of advice of the most important things I’ve learned both in my own weight training, and when coaching the 300+ clients that have come through my coaching programmes over the years.
I hope this helps, and if you have any questions at all that I can help with, please shoot me a message on social media or email me on info@andyclementsfitness.co.uk.


Master The Basics Of Weight Training

Ok, so the number one mistake I’ve made over the majority of the last decade of training is trying to metaphorically run before I could walk. In honesty, in the early days of my training I thought too much of myself and I tried to skip over the basics of weight training and get straight to the advanced stuff.

This is so common in young guys starting weight training nowadays it’s untrue. Everyone wants to look for the next magic bean exercise or adding intensifiers like dropsets, supersets or giant sets. These are advanced methods for advanced trainees – and not to piss on your bonfire but I’m afraid you’re not there yet. If you try and add these things in before mastering the basics, you will get absolutely nowhere. It’s like trying to build a house without first laying the foundations. It just isn’t going to work.

So what exactly do I mean by ‘the basics’?

Well, first of all you need to master the big movements. And when I say master – I don’t mean just randomly perform these movements. I mean perfect the technique through months of practicing and progressing your strength across these key moves. Do your research or ask someone who knows their shit to help you – and get to work.
The main movements I recommend including in any beginners weight training programme (as long as you don’t have any limiting injuries) are:

– A squatting movement (i.e. back squats, front squats, any machine based squat, dumbbell squats, sissy squats, goblet squats etc)
– A leg press movement
– A pulling movement (i.e. deadlift, rack pull, sumo deadlift)
– A horizontal pull (any type of dumbbell, barbell or machine based row)
– A vertical pull (any type of pulldown or pullup)
– A horizontal push (any type of chest pressing movement)
– A vertical push (any type of overhead press)

These are the basics you need to be initially concerned with mastering if you want to see some results in your training. Notice, I’m not prescribing exact exercises here, more types of movements for you to think about. Not everyone’s body is suited to a back squat, or a conventional deadlift, so try different types of movements and see which ones best suit your body (failing that, ask someone who actually has a good eye for biomechanics that can give you some advice).

Once you have a good grasp on the execution of movements like this, the next step is to try and increase your strength. However, this isn’t just to be done in an ‘mindlessly add more weight to the bar’ fashion. We have to intelligently structure the order, frequency and recovery times between each time you perform the same session.

We have to look at programming.



Weight training programmes are another thing that most guys first starting out in the weights room put way too much weight into. Most guys try to skip ahead to the workouts that their favourite fitness model or bodybuilder is doing on Instagram – this is completely backwards.

A fitness model or advanced athlete has been training for years, and has found all the nuances and little tricks that work for their body. For you to try and copy their routine makes about as much sense as taking Jack Wilshere to the world cup (for those that don’t understand – that makes NO SENSE).

In order to set up a training programme that suits your needs as a beginner to weight training, we need to look at a number of factors.

First of all, you aren’t experienced in the gym and you’ll need to practice the key movements outlined above as often as possible. You also won’t be as strong as someone who’s much more advanced, so the total mechanical damage going through your body won’t be quite as high. Lastly, as you’re not used to the stimulus of hard training, your recovery levels won’t be as good as someone who is highly adapted to training and can recover relatively easily from a hard workout.

All of this means that the best approach for you will be a programme of full body workouts – and I can explain why.
As you aren’t experienced – full body workouts allow you to practice similar moves almost every time you’re in the gym. Because you’re not annihilating one muscle group (i.e. doing ‘leg day’ or ‘chest day’), your body is able to recover from the workouts and the same muscle groups are well recovered enough to be able to hit the same movements and muscles again in the next workout.

Looking at the research, we also know that the more often we’re able to train a muscle, the more likely it is to respond and grow. So utilising a full body approach in which we touch on each muscle but don’t annihilate it will allow us to get a good amount of volume in on each muscle but spread it across the course of a week, so we have the best opportunity of our bodies responding as beginners.

Ideally, if you trained 4x per week you’d want to be completing 4 different workouts over the course of that week. The fundamentals of that weight training programme would be the same – so the reps, sets and rest times wouldn’t change – but the exercises would be swapped out for similar alternatives.

For example, if on Monday you performed bench press and bent over rows, on Tuesday you might go in and perform a dumbbell press and a machine based row. It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, but it will get you used to contracting the same muscles on different pieces of equipment and give your muscles a slightly different stimulus each time.

As a beginner, I think the optimal amount of volume for you would probably be around 4x per week. Now, this depends on a variety of factors but in my experience most people fall in to the 4x per week category when starting out with training.

I’d suggest sticking to a rough ‘2 on 1 off’ protocol with this – so you could train Monday Tuesday, take Wednesday off, train Thursday Friday, take the weekend off and start again on Monday.

To keep things simple, I’d recommend just sticking to a 1 week plan in the outset. This allows you to get really good at the key movements and it gives you a good gauge of strength. Week on week you should be striving to better the weights you did the previous week – but the major caveat being you must keep your form immaculate. Swinging weights around and recruiting minimal muscle fibres will be about as much use to you as a chocolate teapot. Keep your form tight and try and get strong the intelligent way.


Wrapping Up

Hopefully this was useful in clearing up some of the confusion in where you should start with your weight training. The process is really quite simple, the issue comes when people think they should be further along than they are and try to skip the vital basic steps at the beginning.

If you follow the advice I’ve outlined in this article, take an intelligent approach to your training and run a good diet alongside it you’ll make some incredible progress in your first year of weight training.

Stay positive, stay focused, be open and willing to learn as much as you possibly can and keep working hard.
If there’s anything I can do to help, whether that’s just answering your questions or if you’d like to enquire about programme writing or coaching, please don’t hesitate to send me a message or email info@andyclementsfitness.co.uk.

Alternatively, you can check out my other platforms here:

Facebook: Andy Clements Fitness

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Happy training!


PS – Want another blog to get your teeth stuck into?

Why not check out this one I wrote on how to set up a diet for fat loss by clicking here?