At first, weightlifting gives tons of results almost no matter what approach is taken. Whether it is high weight, low reps, or the exact opposite. This is because the muscles have not been stimulated in such a way yet. Hypertrophy will occur very easily.
So is there a correct approach in the beginning or will anything work? Well, I believe this is dependent on the goal. If the goal is overall health and just want to feel good and have energy then I’d say do what you enjoy and be consistent with it. Always have correct form and workout safely.
On the other hand, if maximum strength is the goal everyone is usually told to stick with compound movements. It’s hard to disagree; after all they are the best ‘bang for your buck’ exercises. Rep ranges could be anywhere from 3 – 12. I’m sure some of you just freaked out because you always want to max out. Well occasionally that’s fine but it’s definitely not a part of the program.
Rest is also extremely important in building strength. Most beginners could get by only training 3 days a week. These days would consist of the “big” movements. An example would be: deadlifts, barbell rows, pull-ups, and dumbbell rows. Train it and heavy with good form. Strength numbers should shoot up every week if diet and rest are optimal.
If size and shape is the goal you may want to approach it differently. Most would still say stick with compound movements and while I don’t disagree, I think there’s more to it. The mind muscle connection must be built as well, so isolation movements should also be incorporated. For those who don’t know, the Mind-Muscle connection is when you focus on isolation movements over and over; your brain will be more able to recruit muscle fibers, it’s basically practicing. Anytime you repeat something your neurons move closer together shortening the path way and making it more robust. You will essentially have better control over your contractions. It is a mystical thing and the only ones who understand it are the ones who took the time to understand it. With proper mind muscle connection symmetry will be easier to achieve as well as a well-balanced look. Rep ranges could be anywhere from 8-20. An example of exercises for back would be: rack pulls, pull down variations, barbell rows, and machine rows. You’d want more of a variation and different angles for size and shape than strength. Body parts could be worked out once possibly twice a week.
While different goals have different plans, both share many of the same principals; one being progressive overload. Something has to increase every workout. This can include weight, form or time under tension, reps, sets, or bio mechanical difficulty. Intensity boosters are not necessary in the beginning stages. If you get to a point with an exercise where you can’t increase anything then change the medium. For example if you’re stuck with pull-ups and just can’t do anymore at all then go to pulldowns for a few weeks or months even. Try to progress there then eventually go back to pull-ups and chances are you can do more than before. This is where you need to learn to read the signals your body gives and work with it not forcing things. Trying to force progression when it is not there will lead to ego lifting and most likely injuries. Not to mention in the long run it will stunt your overall progression.
A good split in the beginning is a push, pull, leg program or a one muscle a day program. Both work and it really depends on how you personally respond. My suggestion is don’t limit yourself to anything because of somebody else had success with it. Find what works best for you.
Remember, this is your journey. Nobody else’s. Go after it and kill it. Every damn day.