Questions regarding training age; Novice/Intermediate/Advanced

PaulAtreides

Level 3 Valued Member
Hi all,

In a different post, I've stumbled upon a concept that I have so far been ignorant about: "Training age"
in the context of the post, he was referring to the amount of time spent training and used that to classify a lifter as Novice, Intermediate and Advanced.

So far, I've just been using basic wave patterns and 3-6 week blocks, changing programs whenever things stopped working. I assume this is kind of an important topic though...

First question: Is this outlined in any of Pavel's books (I have all of his dragondoor-era books, can't remember it being mentioned) or what is an in-depth resource to read about the topic?

Second question: Is training age and level (novice, etc.) a global variable or can you be novice and advanced at the same time, for example, advanced pull-ups, novice ring dips, intermediate overhead presser?

--------------------------
let's take my case as a concrete example
I'm trying to find out what I would identify as, so here is some data on me:
- 22y/o, started regularly doing pull-ups at age 13
- started weighted pull-ups at age 15-16
- started Barbell OHP at 18 (took a couple of breaks though, maybe 6 months of accumulated training)
- started doing chin-ups and ring dips 1 month ago
Took half a year off every now and then, "by accident" rather than as part of periodization.

So what would I be, in terms of novice/intermediate/advanced?
 

Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
It is a good question. I've bumped into at least three different categories:

1. How long you have trained, as in years, for example under two years you're a novice

2. How long it takes for you to recover from a certain workout, for example a novice linear progression lasts so long until you can't recover and add weight for the next time

3. How much you can lift


All three have their merits and all of them are and have been used by merited coaches.

I've thought about the question every now and then and I've thought there's something true with all approaches and we should look at the big picture.

But sure, I would say that there is a level of specificity. I'm not sure I'd call anyone advanced per se, if they had been doing only pull-ups, or curls, or deadlifts. Advanced in the specific exercise, yes.
 

PaulAtreides

Level 3 Valued Member
So in terms of your first definition, I'd be intermediate-advanced. In terms of your second definition novice-intermediate I guess, and in terms of your third a mix of novice-intermediate and advanced.
On average, intermediate.

My 1rm for Barbell OHP has been stagnating at 70-75% BW & 32kg KB MP for quite a while now (hope my current new training approach will fix it)
Same for my 1rm Pull-up somewhat stuck at 40-50% BW for a while.

With Chinups (which are already stronger than my pull-ups) and Ring dips, on the other hand, I seem to make rapid progress like a novice (although my "statistics" for these moves have been going on for less than a month, so this could be a random peak I guess).



Which trainer(s) use(s) the 2nd definition? It strikes me to be the most individually testable and most relevant to programming, and I'd like to "dive deeper" :)
 

Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
For the second approach, have a look at Rippetoe and Starting Strength. But it may not be a relevant approach to you if you're interested in bodyweight training, as they're practically only interested in the barbell.

I think the first definition is the worst. One can exercise or train incredibly ineffectively for the longest time. The second definition is in ways a good one, but in it advancement in itself doesn't correlate at all with strength. The third one is really simple, and correlates with strength. But I'm not sure I'd like to call someone extremely gifted advanced, even if she can lift a lot after just getting acquainted with the weights.
 

Tuebor

Level 2 Valued Member
Training Age how I understand it has two main definitions.

1) How long you have been training and more importantly the accumulated wear and tear on the body. A collegiate football player has more training age than a college student despite both their training for 6 years. An army ranger has more training age than a support unit truck driver given the same years of service.

2. How capable you are in relevance of your BW. Great at pullups but suck at squats, your training age in pullups could be moderate but your squat age could be novice. This can change by modality too. An alpinest, rock climber, or gymnast may be advanced in bodyweight training but a novice in powerlifting.

Number two is much harder to define as standards change depending on what group your around and what is advanced to some clicks may be child's play to others. I usually define training age as definition 1. Hard living or softer living. Accumulated trauma.
 
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Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
Not to be negative or anything... but what does it even matter?
Maybe I'm missing something?
Don't you think people with different levels of development should train differently? In the absence of a coach, how would one choose a correct training program? Of course, the key word is goals, but in general I would think that the average trainee would appreciate efficiency and rapid development.
 

offwidth

Level 9 Valued Member
Don't you think people with different levels of development should train differently? In the absence of a coach, how would one choose a correct training program? Of course, the key word is goals, but in general I would think that the average trainee would appreciate efficiency and rapid development.
Yes I do think people at different levels of development should train differently. But I don't think we need to special labels or boxes to put them in. Take S&S for a simplistic example. Start with a low weight. Finish at Sinister. (Or beyond) No need to add a concept such as training age. If I wanted to start training in barbells, the concept of training age wouldn't even enter into my mind. I would load a bar and start deadlifting...
I would do what I could do until I reached a certain level of proficiency, then I would look at programming. With never a thought to some arbitrary concept.

Too many concepts... not enough lifting...

Rant over...:)

And yes let's not forget the ever important goals.
 

PaulAtreides

Level 3 Valued Member
Yes I do think people at different levels of development should train differently. But I don't think we need to special labels or boxes to put them in. Take S&S for a simplistic example. Start with a low weight. Finish at Sinister. (Or beyond) No need to add a concept such as training age. If I wanted to start training in barbells, the concept of training age wouldn't even enter into my mind. I would load a bar and start deadlifting...
I would do what I could do until I reached a certain level of proficiency, then I would look at programming. With never a thought to some arbitrary concept.

Too many concepts... not enough lifting...

Rant over...:)

And yes let's not forget the ever important goals.
That was my idea as well and that's why I ignored it in the first place. I've been sticking to the same 3-4 programs for all of my exercises ever since I started training and at least half of them are from Pavel.

But if I remember correctly, in deadlift dynamite or PTTP Professional he actually recommends programs specifically for novice/intermediate/advanced lifters at some point. That's partly why I thought "maybe this isn't JUST an overcomplicated American wussy thing", and maybe I should read up on it, not to miss anything
 

PaulAtreides

Level 3 Valued Member
It helps guide program selection.

IMO it's most useful for pure strength training, i.e. barbell.
So since I'm currently training to increase my 1rm pull-ups 1rm Barbell OHP and 1rm KB MP, it could be a useful concept right?
In case I hit a plateau I can't push through with my current methods any time soon and want to find a suitable program.
 

Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
Yes I do think people at different levels of development should train differently. But I don't think we need to special labels or boxes to put them in. Take S&S for a simplistic example. Start with a low weight. Finish at Sinister. (Or beyond) No need to add a concept such as training age. If I wanted to start training in barbells, the concept of training age wouldn't even enter into my mind. I would load a bar and start deadlifting...
I would do what I could do until I reached a certain level of proficiency, then I would look at programming. With never a thought to some arbitrary concept.

Too many concepts... not enough lifting...

Rant over...:)

And yes let's not forget the ever important goals.
When I got my hands on a barbell, I loaded the bar and started deadlifting. 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps 3-5 times a week, leaving some in the tank most of the days. Worked great for a while, and I think I made better progress that way than if I had picked a reasonable novice plan. But maybe it doesn't work for everybody, and it's more complicated when one does other things than the deadlift as well.

Plenty of coaches like separating programs for novices, intermediates and advanced trainees. Like it or not. Thus, I would expect a person looking to find out what he is by those boxes or labels before he picks a program from them. I find it pretty simple. I'm not sure I understand what the problem is.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
If I wanted to start training in barbells, the concept of training age wouldn't even enter into my mind. I would load a bar and start deadlifting...
I would do what I could do until I reached a certain level of proficiency, then I would look at programming. With never a thought to some arbitrary concept.

Too many concepts... not enough lifting...

Rant over...:)

And yes let's not forget the ever important goals.
Going to have to strongly disagree with this. IMO, programming is way more important with barbells than it is with kettlebells, bodyweight, climbing, cycling, or just about anything else I can think of. You can bury yourself in a big hurry with just a bit too much volume (edit/add: and/or intensity). And you can leave a lot of gains on the table with not enough.

So since I'm currently training to increase my 1rm pull-ups 1rm Barbell OHP and 1rm KB MP, it could be a useful concept right?
In case I hit a plateau I can't push through with my current methods any time soon and want to find a suitable program.
Yes, still useful.

I would say you're a novice, actually, based on the info in the original post. But don't worry, that's a GOOD thing! It means you can get stronger rapidly, with simple programs. Intermediate can only get stronger slowly, with more complicated programs. Advanced struggle to add any strength at all and have to pull out all kinds of new tricks. But, they do it for competition or for the love of the chase of new capability and just because they love to train.

When I went to SFL, there was a very strong female student in the group who was about 135 lb bodyweight and squatting about 220 lbs. She was STRONG. But Doc Hartle said she's still a novice. She can still get stronger with simple programming.

Basically, if you see progress on a novice program, you're a novice, and enjoy the rapid ride! If you aren't making progress on a novice program you may be intermediate or advanced and need different approaches.
 
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PaulAtreides

Level 3 Valued Member
Going to have to strongly disagree with this. IMO, programming is way more important with barbells than it is with kettlebells, bodyweight, climbing, cycling, or just about anything else I can think of. You can bury yourself in a big hurry with just a bit too much volume. And you can leave a lot of gains on the table with not enough.



Yes, still useful.

I would say you're a novice, actually, based on the info in the original post. But don't worry, that's a GOOD thing! It means you can get stronger rapidly, with simple programs. Intermediate can only get stronger slowly, with more complicated programs. Advanced struggle to add any strength at all and have to pull out all kinds of new tricks. But, they do it for competition or for the love of the chase of new capability and just because they love to train.

When I went to SFL, there was a very strong female student in the group who was about 135 lb bodyweight and squatting about 220 lbs. She was STRONG. But Doc Hartle said she's still a novice. She can still get stronger with simple programming.

Basically, if you see progress on a novice program, you're a novice, and enjoy the rapid ride! If you aren't making progress on a novice program you may be intermediate or advanced and need different approaches.
You're probably right about me being a novice. the only lifts I seem to be stuck at are Barbell OHP and KB MP, but this may just be because I've been almost exclusively training it with PTTP up until 2 weeks ago.

On all the other exercises I'm still making really good progress as far as I can tell, without using complicated periodization, but by just kind of alternating between low volume per session @ high frequency and higher volume per session @ lower frequency whenever I stagnate still seems to be doing the trick for me.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Sounds good... if what you are doing is making you stronger and you're not having any difficulties, you're probably on the right track.

As to your other question:

Is training age and level (novice, etc.) a global variable or can you be novice and advanced at the same time, for example, advanced pull-ups, novice ring dips, intermediate overhead presser?
Not a global variable; it's particular to the lift. So yes you can be novice and intermediate at the same time, or intermediate and advanced. (Hard to imagine novice and advanced).

For example, I've been deadlifting since 2014 (along with kettlebell training) but bench pressing only since mid-2017, so when I started on a comprehensive barbell program I was a novice bench presser but probably intermediate deadlifter. Barbell OHP was probably closer to intermediate as well, since I had been pressing kettlebells for several years. But even so, I was able to make gains on all lifts with a novice program.
 

Bro Mo

Level 6 Valued Member
It would probably be a good concept to consider how many weeks it takes to get into the groove of a program, then do some multiple of that for the "working" portion of the program. I don't know what that ratio is but I bet it's about the same for everyone and would indicate how many weeks a program will work for each unique individual and what your training age would be close to. I feel it's something like 1:3 though.

Maybe:
Novice: 3 weeks acclimating followed by 9 weeks of progress
Intermediate: 2 weeks acclimating followed by 6 weeks of progress
Advanced: 1 week acclimating, 3 weeks of progress.​
 
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