How To Get Started With Strength

(or review the basics and help your friends succeed without too much fuss) 

here's a printable PDF of the workout and an EXCEL TEMPLATE if you want to recklessly skip all of the crucial info below

 

It doesn't matter where you start -- just keep moving up despite the bumps on the paths and graphs of strength training.

General advice is generally bad, but...

We all have to start somewhere: this is equally true of you as you train your body, and of us as we offer you advice. There is no generic perfect advice for beginners (unless we know you and your goals). How to even define 'beginner' is a matter of some debate. But if you're approaching the freeweights for the first time ever, take a look at Nathan's suggestions for your first day and beyond. We sincerely hope you meet our group via classes and conversations so we can start tailoring our advice to you and avoid this awkward issue of generic advice. However, it's true that beginners will almost always want to do two things right away: (1) learn the techniques and principles of strength and (2) get stronger! Regardless of your specific values and ambitions, these two goals are universally desirable and crucial for anyone attracted to our community.

Mark Rippetoe defines a novice as someone who can adapt and get stronger between strength training sessions. This is the awesome thing about being a beginner: you're on track to make the fastest gains of your life, even if your program isn't optimal, even if you take a silly approach (but don't worry, we'll eventually give you a solid system). While we have our minor quibbles with Rippetoe, he popularized a no-nonsense approach oriented to technique, hard work, and general strength. And general strength, with underlying muscular gains, is what we're after here. It's quite possible to make suggestions regardless of what strength sport you eventually pursue, or even if you refuse to specialize in anything. It's certainly possible to give recommendations for both genders at once. Sexual differences for muscle, metabolism, and training are a fascinating topic yet these differences are profoundly and dangerously exaggerated by fitness media and advertising narrowly targeted to each gender. Hopefully you and your friends already know that lifting does not make women "bulky" (and if that was their goal, let them bulk in peace). To the extent that all humans share the musculoskeletal system, muscle physiology, and so on, we can and should perform all the same suite of elemental movements (squat, deadlift, press, etc.) and their variations to build strength and muscle. Age, injuries, and disabilities are important factors, but should not be overall deterrents. We want to build general strength that will help you in anything from opening jars to pushing cars -- real life stuff -- and lay foundations for perhaps competing in a strength sport like powerlifting, weightlifting, strongman, or bodybuilding. We're not going to "major in the minors" here, getting caught up in the minutiae of each muscle.  So what does this well-rounded, generalist program actually look like?

The Principles of a Great Program

In terms of your principles, mindset, and disposition, it should probably look something like what Greg Nuckol's articulates in his guide's section on The New Lifter. He's not giving you a concrete plan here, though. A concrete general strength or powerlifting program would look like these many (in)famous programs. Since a big list of programs could potentially result in information overload, we would like to present to you our program, one of the simplest strength programs of all time. Should you choose to follow it after reading our friendly and philosophical disclaimer, here's what you need to know.

Western Strength's 7-11 Program for Beginners  

Recently upgraded to version 1.1! 

There are a few humble insights behind this program. The first is that consistency and habit formation (and what's called compliance in medicine) are absolutely crucial to success, so crucial that certain key program details (sets and reps) may dwindle into insignificance. Thus we've made it easy to comply with -- by using a template of some highly effective mandatory exercises followed by flexible 'corrective' and 'vanity' exercises that most people will invariably throw in. This leads to the second insight, which is that the template of the program is more important than its exact specifications (the template means the major muscle groups and lifts are being hit with near-optimal frequency). Thirdly, having a catchy title (and rep scheme) like 7-11 may sound irrelevant, but this is yet another strategy to encourage you to remember and comply with the program. The fourth insight is that we're not claiming this is the best program ever, because "what's the best program?" is an entirely impossible question unless followed by "for person X with Y issues and Z goals". But let's be real. With decent compliance, this is a great way to get stronger from a true beginner or 'experienced beginner' level, on your way to a wide range of muscular or strength goals in different disciplines. 

Probably the most important diagram a beginner could ever see. Our 7-11 Program focuses on adherence, which is the most important factor in long-term success. We barely spend any time on rest periods here and don't even mention tempo, because those are irrelevant minutiae compared the pyramid's foundations! We are in total agreement with this diagram's creator Eric Helms and other experts on this point.

We offer our program to you as a sample of our methods and principles. Though we created it democratically, it is not an eternal system that everyone agrees upon in every detail, just an effective and healthy way to get started. Perhaps that's the final insight behind the program: a democratically-created guide that organically responds to your needs and questions is better than printing off the program of some internet guru (or nobody) who will never see you lift. We're here to help -- and to incorporate your feedback into the next program. 

Weekly Overview: Balancing lifting with life and cardio

Here's the program template. You'll do a strength workout every 48 hours or so, 3 or maybe 3.5 times per week. In between, you can rest and relax your body, play sports, or do reasonable cardio – that's up to you. That is, as long as it's not sitting continuously all day – make sure to stretch and move – because even visiting the gym daily can't undo the metabolic damage of continuous sitting. If your life settles into a pattern without any cardio, you need to fix this. As lifters, we agree that 'cardio is hardio' – but low-impact, volume-and-intensity controlled cardio will not impair your strength and size gains and may indeed enhance them in the long run, not to mention the health benefits. On the other hand, unchecked crossfit-style cardio will impair (but not negate) strength and size gains. We are Western Strength, not Western Endurance: it's certainly possible to be strong and conditioned, but the further you progress, the more tradeoffs are required due to the principle of specificity. For instance, elite powerlifters, weightlifters, sprinters, and track cyclists have huge legs and glutes, crucial to their sports, that would slow them down in a marathon (but these lifters could squat a barbell with a bunch of marathoners hanging onto it for dear life, and we think that's pretty cool). 

The flow of a strength workout

  1. General Warmup of 5 minutes or so to slightly elevate your heartrate, warm your tissues, and protect your joints. Use dynamic instead of static stretching. Get that synovial fluid moving in your joints! You can go longer, but it's called a warmup not a tire-out.

  2. The 7-11 Program's Given Strength Exercises (see below, always starting with light warmup sets and technical practice, always logging the numbers you hit on phone or paper)

  3. Corrective Exercises (if prescribed) for muscular imbalances or other issues

  4. Optional Vanity Exercises (extra work for glutes, arms, or your favourite hipster muscles)

  5. Stretching, Yoga, Mobility Work, etc. as needed, recommended, or desired (the reason it's at the end of the workout, or at home, is here)

The Two Workouts

Day A comes about 48h after day B

Day B comes  about 48h after day A

  • 3 sets of 7 front squats

  • 3 sets of 7 overhead press

  • 3 sets of 7 deadlifts (reseting each rep on the ground, don't just bang them out)

  • 3 sets of 11 (assisted or weighted) pullups (see 'pullup' section below)

Perhaps this will look like Monday (A) Wednesday (B) Friday (A) Monday (B) ... or other configurations. As long as you have roughly 48 hours between strength workouts, you can adapt it to fit many weekly schedules.

Here's a PDF printout of the exercises and workout flow.

But It Looks Too Simple! Is it really enough?

Yes! Even without the extra Corrective Exercises and Vanity Exercises, it's enough to become stronger as a beginner. Since human beings exhibit great variability in response to training, you'll ultimately discover the way your body responds to manipulating the intensity (weight on the bar) and volume (total weight moved = sets x reps x weight on the bar). Until then, this is a great start. As we keep saying, beginners benefit from any kind of consistent strength training -- by definition.

IS THIS FOR MEN OR WOMEN?

Both! At a beginner stage, there is little reason to fundamentally alter a program based on sex (either because of sexual dimorphism or the preachings of sexist fitness media). If you want to confirm or defy your gender stereotypes by targeting certain body parts, do it with the Vanity Exercises. Ain't nothing wrong with molding a majestic mancaboose or building XXL arms with an XX chromosome.

How important is technique for me right now?

Immensely, impressively, impossibly important! Time you spend now on technique will pay massive dividends long term. We're not pretending that linking even these (world's best) instructional videos and guides and other resources for the squat is the same thing as teaching you in person. Technique requires real life tips, so come talk to us. 

How can i get inspired to care about my technique?

Check out Boyanka Kostova front squatting her way up to 396 pounds, armenian_strength proving he's the fastest, most explosive squatter on instagram, Kimberly Walford winning her fifth consecutive IPF World Championship with huge squats, benches, and deadlifts, Eric Spotto benching an inconceivable 722 pounds, and this increasing ladder of lifters (featuring dress pants and jeans) overhead pressing up to 356 pounds. None of these (relatively) simple but ultra-heavy lifts would be achievable without technical excellence. Fortunately, the lifts on our 7-11 program are vastly easier to learn than the complex, artful movements of olympic lifting.

Can I Modify The exercises?

You're allowed to change the Corrective Exercises and Vanity Exercises. You're not allowed to change the Given Strength Exercises unless medically necessary -- avoiding pain or damage, working around disability, etc. Front squats being initially uncomfortable is not a valid reason for omitting them. Pretending that certain parts of your body are irrelevant to real life (the classic 'skipping leg day') is not a valid reason for skipping lifts. If you take out the leg or pressing or pulling exercises, you removed the essence of the plan, so don't pretend you're doing this program if you choose to skip these.

Tell me about pullups?

Pullups are a bodyweight movement; depending on your sex/size/age doing one (or fifteen) is a great long-term goal. The easiest way to progress them is to use the assisted pullup machine, gradually lowering the amount of assistance. However, this machine decreases the stability demands of the exercise. Therefore, mixing in band-assisted pullups (which makes the movement easier to begin) and pullup negatives (climbing up and lowering yourself slowly down through the descent portion of the pullup) will improve your stability and simulate a more realistic trajectory of movement. Altering your grip will make pullups easier or harder; neutral grip (palms facing each other) is the easiest. In the unlikely case you can already do more than 11 strict pullups, you can add weight rather than subtract it. We recommend using a variety of different grips and assistance strategies to achieve strict pullups. Kipping pullups -- using momentum of the lower body -- are unacceptable. With every exercise, the idea is to progress some variable (eg. the weight/intensity) while keeping everything else the same. Cheating on technique only cheats yourself out objectively measuring your progress.

Where do I do the exercises?

For your first workouts, feel free to do them wherever you want (even try the barbell lifts with a broomstick at home -- doing them unweighted with perfect technique is surprisingly hard). However, for long term progress, it is crucial that you do the squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses at/near the power racks at the back of the gym with the 7 foot long Olympic barbells. We absolutely recognize that this area could be intimidating (because it skews towards male lifters and people who are lifting a lot of weight). However, there are 4 good reasons to overcome the intimidation: 

  1. No one who matters will judge you on how much you lift -- the better lifters would rather see a beginner squat the empty barbell correctly than a shaky, shallow 225 pound squat.

  2. The people who are lifting the most are often the most friendly and knowledgeable, and may be excellent role models, mentors, or future friends.

  3. You need this equipment to progress beyond the beginner stage -- you're going to be eventually be deadlifting way more than the non-adjustable barbells allow, and the power racks are the safest place to do barbell lifts like the overhead press and squat.

  4. If you meet us in person, we'll be there with you!

Can I Modify The Sets and Reps? What about the rest time between sets?

People short on time can drop one set per exercise; people with more time can add one set per exercise. No other modifications are advisable. Depending on your available time for the workout and preferences, we recommend about 3-5 minutes of rest between squat and deadlift sets and 2-4 minutes for everything else. Some people who prefer to keep their workouts dense and challenge their conditioning via short rest times could theoretically go as low as 90 seconds between sets. However, people who picture themselves eventually lifting for maximal size and strength may want to use 3 minutes or more according to Shoenfeld et. al (2016). Whatever you settle on, be consistent. If cutting the rest times results in cutting corners on technique, keep them longer!

I'm suspicious of simplicity; how can i make this fancier?

Go ahead and add vanity exercises that satisfy your urge to tinker. If you want to make fundamental changes to the program, listen to Dr. Mike Israetel and apply his principles to spice up this program (but note that he recommends vastly different strategies for beginners). Even though such advanced principles (fatigue management, phase potentiation, etc.) are extremely valuable long-term, don't skip the gym as you search for the holy grail of programs. Stay tuned for a follow-up program which incorporates more advanced principles!

What Should My Goals Being With This Program? In order of Importance.

  • firstly and mostly importantly, getting comfortable in the gym, and regularly going to the gym. Without this, the rest doesn't work! This is a lifestyle issue more than a program issue, but nonetheless crucial.

  • getting comfortable with the specific lifts, humbly realizing that improving your technique is a daily task, not something you can do once and sweep under the rug. Within a month your technique should be better than Drake's (try and spot at least three things wrong with his deadlifts).

  • adding 0-10 pounds to the bar each session without regressing in technique, eg. squatting shallower. Certain lifts like the overhead press will rapidly plateau, i.e., you won't be able to add weight each session. That's fine -- the heaviest lifts (squat and deadlift) will make fairly steady progress, and you can eventually use strategies like adding additional sets or reps to break through plateaus.

  • learning about the scientific principles of strength training, including specificity, variation, overload, fatigue management, and the stimulus-recovery-adaptation process.

Why isn't "[bro] You gotta add weight to the bar at each and every possible opportunity and push yourself to your failure and beyond!!!" one of these goals?

Firstly, training to failure is not sufficiently supported by scientific literature to merit its inclusion right now. Secondly, we want to practice completing the lifts with good technique, not failing them with bad technique. While progressively overloading your lifts (adding weight to the bar) is indeed ultimately a crucial principle of strength, it is foolish to encourage (unsupervised) beginners to push themselves beyond their comfort zone and technical capabilities. If you desperately want to experience true muscular failure, do it with a strict curl (isolation exercise), not a squat (compound exercise). If lifting was simply a game of adding weight to the bar each week, everyone would be benching 565 in two years (=45 pound bar + 5 * 104 weeks). Slowing down and focusing on technique (or adding volume) is a must. 

What are good and bad reasons for ending this program? where do I go from here?

There are a few good reasons for ending this program at some point. Firstly and ideally, you've made great gains, but you've hit serious plateaus and might want to start specializing in powerlifting, for instance. Perhaps a sports medicine doctor told you to stop. However, a bad reason for ending this program is that you saw a shiny new one promising untold gains and you simply got distracted. In beginnerland, hopping off a program after a mere 4 or 8 weeks is way too soon! There is no possible way you've reached maximum technical proficiency in this time, or even know enough to determine whether you've milked a program for all it's worth. Lifting is a game of longevity and program-hopping is a dangerous vice. If a program is giving you healthy gains, it's the epitome of foolishness to dump it or to 'optimize' it prematurely. Like a broken record, we'll keep preaching consistency and compliance. We firmly believe it's better to have 50 out of 52 weeks of consistently decent workouts than 30 weeks of amazing, intense workouts plus 22 weeks of erratic or nonexistent workouts. We are profoundly suspicious of quick-fix programs. The proverbial 21 Day Arnold Arms Program or the Beach Booty Blitz Rapid Teatoxication System (whatever that even means) are anathema to real strength training.

Do I need equipment?

Not really. The most obvious thing that would help you as a beginner are shoes with hard soles (think Chucks, not Nike Frees). These will give you a stable platform to lift from with squats and deadlifts. Things like belts, weightlifting shoes with a raised heel, and other gadgets may one day become important -- and identify you as part of a lifting tribe or subculture -- but really aren't crucial as a beginner. While gyms offer invaluable equipment, never forget that your body doesn't fundamentally understand what it is lifting (barbells, rocks, cables, friends, or itself). Though barbells are easiest to adjust, plenty of bodyweight movements like (handstand/elevated/varied) pushups, planches, lunges, bridges etc. should not be dismissed out of hand, especially when in a pinch. 

What do you mean by corrective exercises? Give me examples. 

In consultation with a professional you might consider: 

  • Unilaterial exercises (using one leg or arm at a time) to correct left-to-right imbalances

  • Pulling exercises (eg. face-pulls) to target postural issues caused by excessive sitting and screen usage

  • Glute exercises to mitigate Anterior Femoral Glide System (pain at front of hip typically manifesting in squats)

  • stability exercises for problematic, injury-prone joints

  • eccentric exercises for the repair of tendons

  • strengthening muscles that were injured to to weakness

What do you mean by vanity exercises? Give me examples.

  • vanity exercises are not necessarily vain; they are accessory exercises designed to make a certain bodypart bigger. If it's helping another more important lift, then it shouldn't be considered entirely vain (glute work helping your deadlift, tricep work helping your bench).

  • anything Dom Mazetti would recommend, who we'd like to remind you is a fictional caricature of a gym dbag and not a role model. But there is no way to possibly dissuade you from doing curls, so please have at them.

  • any kind of exercise of exercise promising to miraculously reveal your abs (instead of strengthening crucial real-life functions of your core: resisting spinal flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation). Remember that all humans have abs, whether they weigh 5 or 500 pounds, and these abs in conjunction with other underappreciated muscles protect your spine from devastating injury on a daily basis. Doing crunch-like movements (spinal flexion) in pursuit of visible abs is doubly misguided, since only leanness will truly reveal your abs and you want to resist spinal flexion during almost all other movements anyway. We're not dissuading you from training your core directly, rather, we encourage to to choose wisely among the many core exercises out there.

  • anything that smacks of One SUPER WEIRD Trick to Make Your XYZ Bigger. You can feel free to isolate bodyparts so long as you're not compromising your main lifts or developing muscular imbalances.

Something went wrong, but I can't explain it since i forgot to log in my results each day. What do I do?

Simply start logging your results into your phone, index cards, or notebooks. Different apps can do this for you. We truly need diagnostic information to help! We also suggest writing down your favourite technique tips and issues for each workout, and mark down anything that might have messed up your performance like sickness or last night's poor decisions. In a few months or years from now, it will be cool to look back at a pretty graph of your beginner gains on the up-and-up.

How will I look and feel after finishing this program? 

You will feel stronger because you will objectively be stronger. You can also expect to gain an appreciable amount of lean mass. However, the aesthetics of this are complicated: you might gain 10 pounds of muscle and appear skinnier despite not losing any fat because of the shaping effects of muscle on your appearance (skinny: both an inane and undefined concept). Whereas your daily thoughts towards your appearance will fluctuate depending on your fat loss/muscle gain goals, and fitness media will keep pestering you to gain or lose X pounds or inches here and there, a 225, 315, or 405 pound barbell is just going to keep sitting there, beckoning you. It does not care about what you ate; it does not care about how you look; it does not care about how you feel.

Yet you will certainly feel awesome as you size up all those 45 pound plates on either side, clutch the knurling firmly in your hands, and rip the bar free from the gravitational jaws of our planet and its 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds of greedy atoms that are trying to accelerate your poor barbell at 9.8m/s^2 straight down into the earth's massive molten core. You, the valiant hero and barbell's saviour, just performed hundreds and perhaps thousands of joules' worth of work (= force * distance) on your rescue mission. You should feel good! While elite athletes (and people with serious health concerns like metabolic syndrome) need to consider their body composition, you should never forget about strength even if you're aesthetically oriented. It is inconceivable that strength is irrelevant to your athletic and body goals, whatever those may be, and however they change over time. While your friends are fretting and bragging about their bulking, cutting, and needy bodyparts, remember that there's a heavy barbell out there that none of you can lift, laying there in profound indifference to your very existence, utterly unmoved by your gossip, insecurity, and vanity. The only thing that will move it is a force greater than 9.8 times its mass in kilograms --  and only if you can supply it.

Alright, so how strong will I be AFTER finishing this program?

That depends on countless things. But to give you an idea of what's possible with dedication, Shirley Webb hit her first 200 pound deadlift in under a year of training. She then hit 225 for 3 reps in another year. Who is Shirley Webb? A 78 year old woman without previous strength training experience. Able-bodied people can scale up their goals from here according to age, gender, and size; a tool like this will help. Assessing how strong you are relative to other people is a complicated art -- the point is that most people can safely ramp their ambitions. While Webb's grandchildren were probably out chasing biceps and abs, she was lifting actual heavy things. There is something to be said for an old-school (and old-person) work ethic. Until you hit the challenges of intermediate lifters (plateaus and trickier programming), merely showing up with consistency and doing the thing will allow you to achieve any reasonable strength goal as a beginner.

I'VE PLATEAUED, WHAT DO I DO? Am I 'beyond a beginner'? 

We're defining plateauing in a certain exercise as when you have three or more workouts in a row when you can't add weight to the bar (and you were healthy, nourished, and rested going into these workouts). The overhead press will probably plateau the most easily, and deadlift the least. Here are your plateau-busting options:

  1. simply keep trying -- not everything will plateau at once, so you're still making progress overall

  2. add an extra set or two at the same weight and reps. Instead of doing your overhead press at 3 sets of 7 at 100 for instance, go up to 4 or 5 sets of 7. When you've achieved this, bump up to 105 at 3 sets of 7.

  3. drop two reps off the exercise, add one or two sets, and add a tiny bit of weight. Perhaps you your bench got stuck at 4 sets of 7 @ 155. Try 5 or 6 sets of 5 at 160 or 165, progress here for a bit, and then go back to the classic 4 sets of 7 scheme.

  4. whereas the previous three strategies involved breaking the plateau by doing more, there is also the option of doing less and 'deloading'. Though this is more of an intermediate to advanced technique, beginners could benefit from a deload at a stressful time like exams or midterms. For 1-3 workouts you could drop the weights 30%, drop 1-2 sets from each exercise, and generally spend less time and effort in the gym. However, even if your workout is brief, it is important to still go to gym during a deload to maintain technique and your habits. Deloads will make you feel energized (or else you're doing them wrong). Use this energy outside the gym!

  5. if everything has plateaued hard across all your lifts, and you've tried the aforementioned options, then congratulations, you're not a beginner anymore! You are probably ready to move on to a more sophisticated program that will ensure smoother progress at the cost of not being able to set personal records each workout. Thinking back to the beginning of this article, beginners are defined by their ability to progress from workout to workout -- and you've just exceeded this definition as you enter the new and nebulous "beyond beginner" stage. Yes, you're much stronger now, but from this point on you'll need to train smarter.

So What will you follow up this program with?

A more advanced program, of course! Though this newer program will use more advanced principles of strength training, it bears repeating that the best program is the one you actually do, and we've done our best to make our sample 7-11 Program For Beginners doable, fun, and flexible. A more 'advanced' program is in fact a poorer program if it's being followed by the wrong people. We hope you understand the scientific and psychological reasons why we kept the 7-11 Program so simple. 

ALTHOUGH your program SOUNDS SENSIBLE, I DESPERATELY WANT TO FOLLOW A 'BODYPART SPLIT'! I WANT A SPECIAL DAY FOR CHEST, LEGS, ARMS, ABS ETC. ONCE PER WEEK EVEN THOUGH I'M A BEGINNER.

This is a bad idea, even if you want to become like one of the massive, highly trained, steroid-using bodybuilders who originally popularized bodypart splits (with 5 or 6 parts) back in the day. Here are the reasons you should avoid bodypart splits:

  • as a beginner, your muscles can rapidly recover. If you train your chest once per week, you are massively undertraining and underutilizing it after the period it takes to recover (say hypothetically 48 hours). This has been compellingly argued by Dr. Mike Israetel, who is both a bodybuilder and leading expert in the principles of strength training

  • training lifts with higher frequency results in higher proficiency. Your squats will look rough for long time if you only practice them once a week. Any serious student of music, language, or art will tell you to practice your weak areas with much greater frequency!

  • the bodypart split enthusiasts will be adhering to International Bench Press Monday and clogging up the benches while you're freely squatting

  • following bodypart splits is pure broscience (gym dogma) and echoing it does nothing for our community

  • with bodypart splits will you'll ultimately be weaker because of less exposure to the major lifts. Your weekly volume, ceteris paribus, will be less per bodypart. And volume is a key determinant of strength and size gains!

  • These points, however, are not a direct critique of the classic 'split' of push/pull/legs -- this typically involves training each muscle more than once per week, which is indeed what we recommend for beginners

WHY IS THIS BETTER THAN Beginner Strength PROGRAM X, Y, OR Z? 

Since we're all about critical thinking, we're not going to tell you "trust us [bro]" and give you an anecdotes about mom's deadlift doubling and this one guy who added 30 pounds of Hollywood muscle. The only way to assess this program is with your own experiential learning in combination with theoretical learning about program design (in service of your goals -- which we assure you are a moving target over the months and years). We examined several different beginner programs, took good ideas from each, and think our synthesis and modifications make ours better. For instance, Stronglifts and the very similar Ice Cream Fitness are based on a (generally good) 5x5 routine, but 5x5 tends to cause squats to stall prematurely (no squat variation). ICF wisely adds some extra accessories and volume, but these accessories can be done as Vanity Exercises with our program, which is by design higher volume (relative to something like Starting Strength). The 7-11 Program uses substantially more deadlift volume (and hence practice) than all these programs, features underrated front squats and paused bench presses, and adds slots for Corrective Exercises and Vanity Exercises to keep things flexible and fun. We think our program and all these programs are wise to feature (1) relatively high frequency (2) major barbell lifts (3) practice at moderately heavy weights instead of light weights. They have all worked for thousands of people; we just think ours will work a bit better. Outside the geeky issues of program design, we're presenting you with a friendly, modern, non-gimmicky, well-reasoned system, and we think that's a good reason for going with this program as a beginner. Anyone who compares the 7-11 Program to 'intermediate' or 'advanced' programs (periodization, percentages, etc.) has unfortunately missed the entire point: a beginner program is best for beginners. Running a more advanced program as a beginner will result in slower gains (not to mention needless complexity and confusion). By definition, more advanced lifters make slower progress and attempt personal records less often. Hence, being a beginner is awesome!

BUT I JUST WANT TO get JAaaaCKED, OR be LEAN, OR FEEL THE BURN IN THE TONE ZONE™! WHY AREN'T YOU SPEAKING MY LANGUAGE?

We use the language of strength and performance instead of aesthetics and visual goals because it's a more objective, inclusive, and effective way of teaching beginners what they need to know. But make no mistake, many powerlifters are (or need to be) jacked in service of strength; muscular strength and size are intimately connected. And strength training is a crucial tool for achieving leanness ('resistance training improves body composition') if that is your goal. But if you're looking to discover the mythic realm of the mysterious TONE ZONE™, we can't help you, but maybe this guy can.

When people finish this program, what are their #1 tips for people who are starting it? What do strong people want to teach their former, weaker selves?

We can't speak for everyone, but the typical answers usually run like this. Almost everyone wishes they took technique more seriously for the beginning, both for safety and performance reasons. Few people wished they pushed themselves harder (if you're now 'beyond beginner', your work ethic was up to snuff). Looking back, most people would say that becoming strong is a gradual process where your gains in strength and muscle need to be matched by gains in technique and knowledge. As long as your gym routine is consistent and secure, you'd be better served by re-reading this document and its many quality links to technique tips and other guides than spending yet another hour in the gym. 

I REALLY WANT TO ARGUE WITH YOU OR SUGGEST IMPROVEMENTS, HOW DO WE CONNECT?

This program is supposed to reflect a democratic consensus so we welcome feedback. Come talk to us in person or get in touch via email or facebook.