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How To Train Beginners: A Handy Tip

If you are a strength coach, a PT or anyone that has to introduce someone to lifting weights or if you are looking to start lifting weights yourself then this article will be for you.

We actually recorded a podcast about this very subject on The Grafters Podcast this week.

You can find the episode HERE

Now, we'll talk about beginner programming and training.

To summarize my tip for training beginners:


For those who want me to explain this a little further, the rest of the article is for you.

You've finished the consultations, you've got all your sessions booked in and it's time to start writing your client's first program.

You know they are nervous.

You know they've never trained in a gym with a trainer or by themselves.

You know that they are making a commitment to training with you for a long period of time.

So what should you include in their first session, their first program and their first proper gym experience?

This is where you have a chance to build the foundations of a lifelong love with training or to foster hatred, fear, and trepidation of the gym that isn't conducive to either health or a long career as a coach, so we need to think carefully when writing the first program.

It doesn't need to be advanced or complicated, in fact, it's the complete opposite. Sessions need to be as simple as possible just because of the sheer amount of things that a client has to learn and get used to in this new, alien environment.

But first, I think it is worth telling a story about a Personal trainer who I'll never forget.

Not because of how great an inspirational he was, but because of what a spectacular, terrifyingly bad example of a PT that he was/is if he's still alive (he had a diet of steroids and energy drinks the last time I saw him.)

Let's call him Red Ronnie.

Imagine someone who is this angry 24/7 but massive, red and on a load of steroids and you'd have a good idea of what Red Ronnie was like

Red Ronnie would corner people and bully them until they signed up for a taster session or would promise young men great results (and steroids.)

He once gave me some sage-like advice which went as follows:

"Just tell them that the gym requires them to have a Personal Trainer! That's what I do!"

I mean, what the hell?

Red Ronnie wouldn't do anything resembling care before, during or after someone's session. No movement screen (not all PT's use or need to use one of these, but Ronnie wouldn't assess anything,) no individualized planning, no warm-up, nothing.

EVERYBODY did the same first session that resembled something like the below:

  • 200 bodyweight lunges

  • 200 bodyweight squats

  • 200 lateral raises

  • 200 lat pulldowns

  • Repeat

He'd then brag about how many people would contact him afterward saying they couldn't get out of the bath or had fallen up or down the stairs.

Lots of people came to me privately saying how injured it made them and about how they would never go to him again. It was terrifying.

How he had any clients is beyond me. My only explanation is that people were afraid of him. I certainly was.

I actually worked at 2 gyms with him. The first time he was fired for threatening someone at their workplace because they didn't turn up to a session (I wish I was joking) and the second time I only found out he was there AFTER my interview.

When I did find out he was there I immediately asked to be transferred to a different location but they didn't allow me to change.

Much to my dismay, his methods hadn't changed a bit and he was still doing the same shit to unsuspecting clients.

He will never change until he dies, is put in prison or changes jobs. I couldn't stand working there and I left in less than a year

Don't be like Red Ronnie.

That is the moral of the story.

Do not train people like this during their first session.

You will injure them, make them puke and it will make you a bad person.

How Should You Train A Beginner?

Always remember that someone new to the gym won't know what anything is and they won't know how anything works so my programming is centered around introducing new equipment to a beginners program so I can personally show them how to use a squat rack, a bench press, and a cable machine.

I'll also include various other machines in the gym the client is so they gradually get familiar with everything so they no longer feel like anything is off-limits, unknown or scary.

I encourage you to think hard about which variations of the lifts you give to people and in what order you give them.

For me, I believe you should start training with something someone can immediately progress at.

I perform a movement screen before I start training any client. During that assessment I see how they are built, I take an educated guess as to what exercises the person will be good at and I'll start their first sessions with those movements.


Because I get to tell someone they are good at something and they get to hear a fitness professional say they are good at something.

This is a very powerful message for a beginner to experience.


Goals at this stage won't be very complicated and will be pretty much:

  • Get to the gym without me and gradually build the confidence to perform the movements we perform in your PT sessions

Once we've achieved this goal we will then progress to other goals like performance-related goals, aesthetic goals or other kinds of goals.

Basically, we'll work on gradually putting the building blocks together to allow someone to train with weights for the rest of their life.

Because gains increase the quality of your life. So with that being said, let's teach the world how to lift, together.

Thank you for reading.

Stay metal.

Keep turning up to the battle.

Keep moving forward.

By Chris Kershaw

The Heavy Metal Strength Coach

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