Anyone who has spent some time in the gym knows that it’s not a smart move to use a one-size-fits-all approach to training. If you want strength and size, there needs to be a method to the madness. A beginner will get the most bang for their buck by training smarter—not harder—and assuming a move should be in your arsenal because all the pros are doing it is a fast track to injury. Thankfully, we’re here to help keep you on the right path.

While many of these lifts and moves are great and effective, they require a level of experience and nuance that a beginner won’t posess right off the bat—no matter how strong you already are. Don’t let your ambition derail your progress by causing a potentially serious injury. It’s probably a smart idea for beginners to sandbag these moves until they’ve built some skill.

Olympic Lift Variations

The Olympic lifts require the most power, muscular coordination, mobility, and timing of basically any lift in the weight room. It’s what makes them so great. The problem is, it’s something a beginner needs more time under the bar to develop more controlled movements. Even if you think you’re naturally athletic enough to give the Oly lifts a try, there’s a good chance doing so prematurely will throw off your firing and recruitment patterns.

Alternatively, break the complexity of those lifts down to segments and make sets and reps of those segments for your training. Lifts like front squats, high pulls, and deadlifts are great substitutes to apply volume to for strength and size development.


Similar to Olympic weightlifting, plyometrics require explosiveness, athleticism, and the muscular awareness to jump and land safely and efficiently. Athletes, strength trainees, and bodybuilders alike can all reap benefits from adding plyo’s to their program, but it’s important to consider why they should be reserved for intermediate trainees. Simply put, you’re expecting your body to create the correct geometry and technique, and your muscles to produce maximal force all in a fraction of the time it takes you to complete a typical time-conscious rep of any other weight training exercise. A novice lifter with issues getting the most out of their controlled back squat won’t see many physiological benefits from cutting their available time window to try and produce an even greater result.

Instead, beginners should give their nervous systems the chance to adapt to help make their high threshold motor units work more efficiently. Getting better at big lifts, and then adding a tempo (slow eccentric, strong concentric) is a smart way to progress simple compound movements as a step in the right direction. The gains will be self-evident.

Unstable Surface Training

The early to mid 2000s saw a trending wave of instability training taking the fitness industry by storm. The argument that the BOSU ball and other modalities like it was more athletic and “functional” and a better form of preparation for traditional methods of weight training was maintained for quite some time. All things equal, a beginner who’s looking for gains should make strength development his first area of focus in the weight room after he’s determined he can move properly. To train strength sufficiently, you need to put your muscles through maximal contractions using heavy loads. When a surface is unstable, you can’t produce maximal force against it; that’s just one of the rules of the physical universe. This becomes very important for a lifter who’s new to training and probably younger also.

Instead, always remember that lifting an unstable object is very different than lifting on an unstable base. Kettlebells, bandbells, chains, and other lifting methods can help a lifter after strength gains past his beginning phases. Just remember to keep both feet flat on the ground.

Kipping Pullup

The kipping pull up is a gymnastic-oriented move that has been most recently popularized for the strength and conditioning world thanks to CrossFit. It’s a way to get more repetitions in for the pull up, especially if your workouts are being timed. They begin with a coordinated, rhythmic body swing that helps propel the body upward over the bar using momentum. If pull ups are to be viewed as a back exercise (which is something most of the strength training community tends to agree upon), then kipping pull ups are a good way to accomplish very little. The body’s assistance to the movement takes away from any back isolation, and the lift becomes a cardio nightmare. Starting your learning curve for pull ups off with this method can set a lifter on the wrong track, and have him forego proper shoulder blade mechanics essential to proper and safe pulling. Moreover, a closer look at the bottom phase of the kipping pull up shows plenty of injury risk to the shoulder capsule due to the exaggerated shoulder hyperflexion that occurs before each pull. I’ll safely speculate that a weaker, less trained lifter would be even more susceptible to getting hurt compared to one with a stronger shoulder girdle. Instead, stick with normal pullups. If they get redundant, change your grip, tempo, and rest interval.

Single-Leg Deadlift

This one will come as the shocker to most people reading, but hear me out.

For the record, I hold this exercise in high regard due to the benefits it delivers. However, a beginner with low kinesthetic awareness, poor neuromuscular coordination, and low levels of stability will most probably find this exercise just plain too hard. In my experience as a coach, any lifter who’s not at least at the intermediate level of his training has spent more time fumbling for balance, proper hip alignment, and of course, proper hamstring and glute activation during a set of single leg deads. Basically, all of his mental attention and energy is invested into just plain “getting through” the set without being able to reap the muscular benefits the exercise is capable of delivering. Any lift that creates that much ancillary distraction can be an added burden for a new or young lifter that he can do without dealing with for the time being. An effective regression can be my single leg pull through. As seen in the video, the force angle is changed to completely oppose the posterior chain. Also, the trailing leg is banked, and this encourages level hips and a flat spine. It takes the balancing act out of the equation and serves as a great substitute to the SLDL