Training Age Definitions

by : Andrew Read

Training Age Definitions

Writing a program for a new client can be daunting when you haven't gotten to know them very well yet. Obviously there are some steps to take to appraise yourself of their health before you begin, but once the initial health screen has been done and you've ascertained that they have no major health scares or injuries what's next?

Usually a trainer then makes a few assumptions on where that person should begin their new training regime based on how active that person has been up to this point. But is that the best way?

There are many people who have been around the gym scene for long enough to be familiar with most exercises. But does that make them "advanced"? Too many people assume that the sole determining factor in deciding what kind of training to perform is training age.

The typical progression goes like this:

Beginner - less than 6 months of weight training experience.

Intermediate - 6 - 18 months of weight training experience.

Advanced - 12+ months of weight training experience.

I know in the PT courses I have taught in the past year our textbooks use these definitions quite frequently. Personally, I think they are over simplified. There are many cases of people who have spent a lifetime training but have no experience in a weight room - life long runners and other endurance athletes are a classic example, as are gymnasts and martial artists. In all cases they have years of sports experience yet have never spent any appreciable time in a gym. In the case of gymnasts it doesn't usually make too much difference. Yet in the case of a runner you'd find someone who could be very advanced at their sport yet quite possibly a rank novice in strength training.

I believe, and the work with my clients has supported this, that a better ranking system goes along the following criteria:

Beginner - cannot squat, deadlift or bench press bodyweight, has no linear stability (as per the Gray Cook FMS test).

Intermediate - Bodyweight squat, deadlift and bench press. Has linear stability and adequate rotary stability. Can do multiple repetitions of chin ups.

Advanced - 1.5x bodyweight squat, deadlift and bench press. Chin ups with extra weight for reps and overhead press bodyweight.

Examined closely it is easy to see that most trainees never make it out of the first stage. Have a good look around the gym the next time you are there and see how many guys are genuinely lifting bodyweight in any lift, let alone all three.

This desire to have the highest level of training, the need for ego gratification in front of peers and the desire for variety and useless gimmick exercises are actually what hold most people back from physical success.