Why You Won't Do the Program, Part 3

Failure to Appreciate the Novice Effect

by Mark Rippetoe | July 05, 2022

lifter locking out a press

When you first start training correctly – doing the program as written – progress comes very quickly. The article The Novice Effect is one of the more important essays we've done because it explains so many different things about the accumulation of a training effect under the bar. I suggest you read it.

Basically, the Novice Effect means that if you train correctly – and this means not doing anything stupid that dilutes the Novice Effect – your first 6-8 months in the gym doing the program correctly will be the most productive time you ever spend under the bar. Average guys can take their squat from 135 x 5 to 365 x 5, their press from 75 x 5 to 165 x 5, their bench from 115 x 5 to 255 x 5, and their deadlift from 185 x 5 to 425 x 5: the fastest and simplest progress you will ever make.

This means that an average guy training at a fitness industry gym can go from a noob to one of the strongest guys in the club in 6-8 months. In the process of gaining 30-35 pounds of clean bodyweight, you've gone from extremely average to exceptional: your neck and arms have grown 2 inches, your shoulders now have traps on top of them, your chest has gained 6-7 inches while your waist has grown an inch or 2, your hips have deepened noticeably, your legs are bigger (the legs of your pants are full), and your hands and forearms are now bigger and stronger. And amazingly enough, you carry yourself differently, and are perceived differently by the people you know. Seriously. I've been doing this for 45 years, and I know what I'm talking about.

But this will not happen if you won't do the program. And you won't do the program because you do not appreciate the power of the Novice Effect: you don't believe this can happen, so you waste your time on a bunch of arms and calves and forearms and dumbbells and bodyparts and light weights and high reps and volume. Because you've been told by Experts that volume is necessary for hypertrophy, which sounds more scientific than just getting big and strong. I mean, Follow The Science, right?

If you stick with the program for 3 weeks – and by that I mean doing absolutely nothing but the program for 3 weeks, no running, no dumbbell curls, no volume – you will understand what I'm talking about. If you somehow commit to just squatting, pressing, benching, deadlifting, and power cleans for 3 weeks, adding weight every time as the program calls for, and subjecting your body to more manageable physical stress that it's ever known, and then feeding it more good quality food than you think it needs to recover, and sleeping as much as you can make time for, an amazing thing will take place: all of the things you thought you had to babysit with assistance exercises and dumbbells and volume got bigger along with the rest of you.

Works every time it's tried, because the Novice Effect is very powerful. Even if you've been fucking around in the gym for 3 years, or if you're 55, or a grandmother, a version of the Novice Effect will work. Until you exhaust the potential for a consistently-applied progressive stress to produce a constantly accumulating adaptation, it's available to you, if you do it correctly. But it's very seldom tried correctly because you already know that it just can't possibly work, because it can't be that simple.

Let's assume you're serious about getting stronger, since you've made time to go to the gym 3 days a week. If you apply a progressively increasing stress to your whole body by using exercises that load the whole body – and don't do anything else that removes resources from the recovery process – eat enough to both recover and grow, and rest enough to let this happen, you will get bigger and stronger. The Novice Effect will be on full display, just like it has been for hundreds of thousands of trainees that trusted me and just followed the program to the letter. But again, it just can't be that simple, can it? Everybody else does bodyparts and volume, percentages and undulating periodization, and they are doctors and shit, and here you are, telling us that it is really simple. How can it be simple?

It is simple, in that it's just not complicated, since it relies on the basic biology of adaptation to the environment developed over hundreds of millions of years, and which is in operation whether you recognize it or not. It's heavy and challenging, especially after a few months when you're strong enough to be challenged every time you train. It's not a calculus problem, but it is a test of your balls, every time you train. Give it three weeks and see what happens. It's very simple, it's just not easy.

But really, easy is what you're looking for, isn't it? And that's why you won't do the program.

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