Hallmarks of a Great Beginner Program

beginner program

From the desk of Coach Glenn Pendlay

The most important thing you can accomplish as a beginner is to build great motor patterns.  This is priority number one.

I believe in lots of drilling as a beginner, and a great way to accomplish this is with EMOM sets.  The beginners’ group that I program for online does up to 18 minutes of EMOM work per lift every Monday, and this is a big part of the program.  You have to keep the intensity between 70 and 80% but even at these percentages, EMOM sets can be a challenge.  And as I have written before, in an EMOM set the fatigue works with you, and not against you.  The fatigue actually helps you refine the movement over the course of the workout.

The second most important thing is the workload.  This is not only built with the weightlifting movements but also with a large variety of assistance movements concentrating on the muscles that are important in weightlifting.  I am of course talking about the hips, the hamstrings, and the back.  On my X-Files program, we do between 80 and 100 reps of things like glute ham raises, back raises, reverse hypers, and various rowing motions every training day.  We usually put this in its own workout, and many lifters choose to do the first workout, rest an hour or two, then come back and finish the accessory work.

Strength is, of course, important, but I find that by doing plenty of work on the classic lifts then doing a large amount of work on assistance exercises you not only develop a large work capacity but strength increases almost as a by-product.

Accomplishing this as a beginner will set you up to continue making great progress as an intermediate and advanced lifter.

Glenn Pendlay
Glenn Pendlay
Glenn Pendlay is a World-Class Weightlifting coach accredited as a Level-5 USA Weightlifting Coach, the USA's highest accreditation for Olympic lifting coaches. Glenn has produced over 90 national champions, over 20 medalists in international competition, and his athletes have broken as many as 10 American records in a single year.

This article was originally published at Glenn’s Blog.

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Hallmarks of a Great Beginner Program

2 thoughts on “Hallmarks of a Great Beginner Program

  1. If you already have a strong base in powerlifting is it okay to moreso jump right into olympic lifting or should you still take it slow?

    1. The correct answer to this question is…it depends. Let me explain my opinion by giving an example, a few months ago a lifter in his early forties came to us to learn Olympic lifts for CrossFit. Now this person was quite athletic and no stranger to weight training but he had never tried any type of Olympic lifting movement. After testing his mobility and skill level for the Olympic lifting, I found that this person was quite limber and can overhead squat without any glaring issues. So I put him on a very basic Olympic lifting plan with a 3 Snatch based workouts and 2 Clean based workouts. And only after 3 months of lifting this guy was full snatching 175 lbs for multiple reps.
      Another example is of my old training partner who is an ex-powerlifter. When he decided to accompany me on Olympic lifting, I saw that his thoracic mobility was terrible. Now, this guy was very strong, can bench twice his body weight and low bar squat 2.5XB.W for a few reps but he can’t full squat without any significant spinal flexion. Moreover, his skill level at performing even a hip clean/snatch was poor. So I proceeded very slowly in a step by step manner, and the first time he ever tried full snatching was after 3 months of stepwise training!

      So really I believe that training for any skill-dominant activity like Olympic lifts should be dosed appropriately based on an individuals aptitude and skill level.

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