PR Frequency For The New Athlete


Article written by Jay Stadtfeld for

I’m going to make a bold assumption and say that you were (or still are) at one point a beginner who, at the mere glimpse of a barbell, got stronger.

The novice effect is an outstanding concept. Frequency and time under load are two of the most important aspects of a novice trainee. This is often why a linear periodization is best for the novice. It allows them to simply increase at a 5 to 10 pound gap every other day. However, with that comes a price, and while you may not want to hear this, over time you’ll find that you will not be able to maintain that progress, having to go to weekly progress, and later on monthly progress.

Our main focus as athletes is setting PR’s (preferably on a platform). We do the volume necessary to spur our max effort work. We don’t aim to do the inverse of that. Sadly your progress will come to a stand still, regardless of what level of trainee you are at.  If you are a Novice, then you become an Intermediate. If you’re an Intermediate, you become an Advanced trainee, or some level in-between. Rarely is it 100% one way or another.

Below is a graph taken from Practical Programming (Kilgore and Rippetoe’s famous work) detailing the “training age” in months and programming styles necessary at that stage.

As you can see, the younger the training age (Time in Months on the graph), the less complex the training method needs to be. Consequently, the rate of improvement also is at it’s highest between 0 and 9 months, where you’ll see the greatest spike in PR occurances. This occurs largely because your adaptation is at a relative “newbie” status. Somewhere between 6 and 9 months is when you step into more intermediate programming, perhaps focusing on a weekly PR as opposed to a daily PR (Texas Method is a program that is frequently referred to as Intermediate, same with 5/3/1).

According to Practical Programming, rarely will someone reach outside the realm of an Intermediate athlete, requiring that they focus on “Annual” PR’s. I’ve seen monthly PR’s occur, in a sort of Mesocycle programming where increases still occur, although even slower than a weekly Intermediate program. None of this should discourage you, though. The idea is that, even though you may not be able to set PR’s with the occurrence of a Novice as you progress, that there are still ways to set PR’s, though it may be at a slower pace. It’s going to happen whether you want it to or not. More advanced guys than myself will testify to this. It just makes the taste of victory that much sweeter.

In short, don’t overcomplicate your training if simple is working. Stick with it until it gets brutally hard. Then shift into something that will still spur progress, perhaps at a slower rate than your previous program. Don’t bury yourself in Westside, or thinking you have a weak spot. Training the body as one unit and focusing on said movements will help you out much more than doing front delt raises.