Determining Training Status
You’ve probably of heard the terms “untrained, novice, intermediate, advanced” in regards to strength training. These are Training Status classifications based on the level of advancement of the individual in the bodybuilding/strength training game.
Are you curious what your training status is? You should be! A lot of training parameters (the optimal training frequency, volume and intensity) and nutritional recommendations (size of the surplus and deficit for your bulks/cuts) kind of depend on that assessment, after all.
Warning: DBZ references ahead. Aw yeah.
“Oh I’m probably advanced”
Some people are easygoing with their training status assassment and will simply call themselves advanced because they’ve been training for a few years.
I’m here to tell you that it’s not that simple to determine training status.
What if, in the case of many years of training, your strength is still fairly poor? Or what if your strength standards still match that of a novice or intermediate? Or what if your deadlift rules (advanced stats), but your bench strength is that of a novice? Perhaps you’ve just realized you have been doing fuckarounditis all the time, and you’re better off classifying yourself as an intermediate (or “advanced intermediate”) instead of advanced – and update your training/nutrition plan accordingly.
What you classify yourself as is entirely up to you of course – but to optimize both training and nutrition and follow the correct parameter guidelines for each of thise, it will definitely help to determine training status. Commence operating: dig into training status theory & material!
Why is it important to determine your training status? So that you can optimize everything!
Once you determine training status you will know the following:
- Your optimal training frequency: how frequently on a weekly basis you should be training to optimize gains. The more advanced you are, the more you can (and should) train – the higher your optimal training frequency.
- Your optimal training volume (how many sets per bodypart per week). A novice trainee requires less total training volume per bodypart than an advanced lifter. Such is the law of diminishing returns: the more advanced you become, the more you need to do to make gains.
- Your optimal training intensity (what % of 1 RM you should be training at): Very generally speaking, novices can train at lower intensities and make excellent gains. Intermediates benefit from training at moderate-high intensities, and advanced athletes should be training at higher intensities most of the time.
- You will have an indication of what calorie surpluses and deficits you should use for your nutrition approach. Generally speaking, the more advanced you become, the smaller the deficits/surpluses you should use (although this also depends on your bodyfat level).
Simply put: by knowing your training status you can set up an effective and personal training (+ nutrition) program for yourself – using parameters that suit your training status!
So: how do we determine training status?
Training Status can be determined by looking at training experience and strength/size of the individual. The latter is often a result from training experience, mind you – but not always (some gifted people start out hilariously strong and get stronger relatively fast).
Next to that, it’s important to factor in genetic potential and lifestyle circumstances when determining training status, to further optimize the training program (from here on I’ll just focus on training, and not training + nutrition). The better the genetic potential and the more optimized the lifestyle factors are, the more training volume someone can tolerate.
Let’s go through all of those topics!
Training Experience (= not enough)
First of all, simply look at total training age/experience. It doesn’t tell the entire story, but it definitely tells us something about the individual in question.
So ask yourself: how long have you been training (months, years)? Then rephrase that question: how long have you actually seriously been training?
A common way to classify someone based on training age / experience may look like this:
- Untrained = Someone who doesn’t (even) lift
- Novice = Someone who has trained for <1 year
- Intermediate = Someone who has been training for <2 years
- Advanced = Someone who has been training for more than 2 years.
- Elite = Someone who has been training for a hell of a long time (>10 years or so).
“The longer you have been training, the more experienced you are > the more advanced you are!” might seem like a logical way of thinking, but it is flawed as I mentioned before. So before you call yourself advanced because you’ve been “into fitness and lifting” for over 10 years – but all you’ve really been doing is random lifting and not getting much stronger in (a form fuckarounditis) – I recommend re-assessing yourself. Include strength/size into the training experience assessment mix!
Training Experience + Strength/Size! (= a much better measure!)
This is much more complete! Again: the strength and size of the individual is often a result from training experience (years of proper training), but not always! Some people get stronger faster than others at a more rapid pace – this can be a matter of genetics, what type of training they’ve been doing, how often they got injured in their lifting career, etc.
So by now you realize: simply looking at just training age won’t cut it. You want to look at how strong and big the individual is or has become. I think we all know those beasts that have achieved advanced training stats within 1-2 years of training, and the “lesser beasts” that aren’t anywhere near as strong as aforementioned beasts after >10 years of training.
This is why we should look at both training experience and strength/size when determining training status. How can you determine your strength standards? Compare yourself to published ones! Here’s a link to the ExRx Weightlifting Performance Standards page. See how you score on the lifts! The exercises listed to compare yourself to are limited (deadlifts, squat, bench press, overhead press, clean) – but will suffice for getting a general idea of your training status.
A more experienced Ahnuld
Note: Training Status can vary per bodypart!
This might sound a bit weird, but it makes sense the more you think about it.
Someone who is an advanced squatter can be an intermediate bench presser. As such, this person could use “advanced” training guidelines for his quads/lower body, and follow “intermediate guidelines” for his chest/presses (until he ranks “advanced” there, as well). Also note that a relatively weak bench presser can still be advanced and “in need” of advanced volume guidelines for the pecs (depending on the reason of his weak pressing skills – which might be something like injury!).
Keep all of these possibilities in mind when setting up or adjusting your training program. Program your exercises bodypart-specific!
This will be discussed in a separate article. In short: genetic potential will influence how much muscle mass you can add to your frame, how much you can train and how much training volume you can tolerate/recover from. If you have excellent genetic potential, chances are that you will be able to make awesome gains at a more rapid pace (you’ll be able to train more and tolerate more training volume) than someone with poor genetic potential. That does not mean you should be discouraged and give up on training if you don’t score great on the genetic potential rating system – embrace the challenge! However, do make sure to optimize your training parameters.
This will also be discussed in a separate article. In short: the more “lifestyle odds” in your favor, the more training volume you can theoretically tolerate. So, the better your sleep, the lower your stress, the more optimal your circadian rhythm hacks, the better your nutrition – the more training volume you can tolerate.
Determining Training Status (and using Super Saiyan Classifications!)
Time to finally make some training status classifications based on training experience & strength standards. Let’s make it even more fun by including Dragonball Z references, because everyone got into lifting because of that show!
Status: Untrained (= Fat farmer @ start of DBZ)
Ok I just added this one for lols. Moving on!
Time to get into shape with some proper strength training. Or is this guy by chance a powerlifter?
Status: Novice (= Saiyan)
If you are relatively new to strength training (<12 months) and most of your strength levels are that of a novice – consider yourself a novice, and follow the novice parameters. Congrats btw, you have good gains ahead the coming time! Make sure you make the right decisions training- and nutrition wise.
Rank1! You’re awesome, and have a long journey of awesome transformations ahead of you.
Status: Intermediate (= Super Saiyan)
Been training for a year or two, and have the strength standards of an intermediate? You probably are an intermediate level trainee. Again, make sure to check status per bodypart.
Aw yeah, first awesome power up.
Status: Advanced Intermediate (= Super Saiyan 2)
This category doesn’t really need to exist, but it’s fun to include here anyway. This bridges between, surprise surprise, the Intermediate stage and the Advanced stage. No solid distinction here, it’s kinda like Super Saiyan 2. You’re stronger and your hair is pointier, but you’re not fully advanced yet. Pick the guidelines bridging between intermediate & advanced.
Errr, the hair is slightly pointier when super saiyan 2, right?
Status: Advanced (= Super Saiyan 3)
A few years of training experience under your belt and reasonably strong, scoring “advanced” at most strength standards = usually classified as an advanced athlete. You’re Super Saiyan 3, congrats!
However, as I mentioned earlier on: please note that you can already be an advanced-category trainee even if you are not very strong at the benchmark lifts! Perhaps you’ve simply been spinning your wheels for a long time, or you’ve been injured, or whatever other reason have you. As a not-so-strong advanced athlete, you can still choose to follow the higher training volume guidelines.
Freaking GAINS man.
Status: Elite (=Super Saiyan 4)
Not a lot of people reach the “elite”. If you are elite, you probably know you are – and you have strength stats that prove you are. Elite = Super Saiyan 4.
Not a huge fan of DBGT and SS4 myself, but it’s a rank above SS3 – so let’s use it, hah!
Status: Beyond Elite / Super Saiyan God, lol
For those training beyond the Super Saiyan 4 levels, hah!
What, this is above SS3? Seriously? This looks like Kaio-Ken!
Strength Stats don’t tell the entire picture. Individualize!
Having advanced strength stats doesn’t automatically mean you have to follow advanced training parameters. You have to factor in strength and size development relative to genetic potential and training experience!
Example: A trainee with advanced strength stats who hasn’t been training for a long time (<2 years, for example) can still follow intermediate training parameter guidelines.
Example #2: A trainee with average training stats with poor genetic potential who’s already quite advanced relative to their genetic potential, may have to be treated as an advanced when pre-scribing him “optimal training parameters”.
As such: it’s important to customize training programs, so they fit the individual. Factor in strength + size development relative to genetic potential!
My Bench is Super Saiyan, but my Squat is Super Saiyan 3. What now?!
Your level of advancement can be bodypart/exercise specific. You also factor that in when setting up the optimal training volume. This often means that someone with a very advanced bench press can tolerate more chest/pressing volume than quad/squat volume. It doesn’t always have to be like this (perhaps someone just has poor lower body genetics or has suffered an injury or whatever, or his lower body training just sucks), but it’s something that can be experimented with.
Great, what do I do with this info?
Use it to select and adjust your optimal training parameters (frequency, volume, intensity). The more advanced you are, the more training volume and greater training intensities you benefit from.