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A Few Noobish Questions

  1. I’ve been following a 5x5 plan (M/W/F) using as heavy loads as possible. I do 4 compounds on each day, usually consisting of a lower body movement (squat, dead lift or clean), chest (barbell or dumbbell bench, incline dumbbell), shoulders (push press, standing press, weighted dips) and back specific (bent-over row, weighted chin or power shrug).

Should I try adding one more compound or is that enough? It usually takes me 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete a workout, and at the end I have no time for any isolation movements that I want to get in (abs, biceps and triceps). I have to jam before I can ever get these in, and I don’t slack when I’m doing my core lifts. Should I even worry about them, or will my heavy compounds take care of these?

  1. It’s been a long hiatus since I’ve gone back to a strength program. I lost a lot of weight (went from 200 to 170 in about 1.5 years, losing some fat and mostly muscle), hence me starting out on total body type program. As you guys imagine, my composition currently… sucks. I’m ~180 lbs. (at 6’), and probably 14%-15% BF (hell, I could be even higher, I don’t have much muscle anywhere).

My food choices are right on track, it’s the actual calories that I get that I’m not clear of. I want to eat at maintenance for 2-3 weeks before I decide how I want to achieve my goals. Basically, hows the best way to find out my maintenance calories?

  1. As for my goals, I do mixed martial arts and because of this, I would really like in the end to be between 170-180 lbs. (basically what I weigh now) but as lean and strong as possible (so same weight, a lot more muscle and a lot less fat). I know that to get there, the scale weight WILL have to fluctuate a lot. What should my plan of attack be in the next month? Limit cals and lose around 10-15 lbs. of fat, THEN slowly increase the cals to surplus to gain weight? Start off in surplus, gain the 20 lbs. of muscle mass over a long period, then lose the fat?

  2. When I start to “bulk” I’m not worried about getting a little soft (but I refuse to let my waist get out of control), will my intense lifting, GPP work (basically my MMA on T-Th-S) keep the fat to a minimum and allow me to eat huge? I already make excellent choices, so just basically doubling everything I eat? I work my ass off in the gym, the nutrition is where I have the toughest time (like I said, it’s the intake).

I think I have a couple more, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head…

[quote]Droogan Leader wrote:

  1. I’ve been following a 5x5 plan (M/W/F) using as heavy loads as possible. I do 4 compounds on each day, usually consisting of a lower body movement (squat, dead lift or clean), chest (barbell or dumbbell bench, incline dumbbell), shoulders (push press, standing press, weighted dips) and back specific (bent-over row, weighted chin or power shrug).

Should I try adding one more compound or is that enough? It usually takes me 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete a workout, and at the end I have no time for any isolation movements that I want to get in (abs, biceps and triceps). I have to jam before I can ever get these in, and I don’t slack when I’m doing my core lifts. Should I even worry about them, or will my heavy compounds take care of these?[/quote]

20 sets is already a solid workout. However 25 sets is not necessarily too much.

An hour fifteen or an hour and a half is not necessarily too much but personally I need to refuel with Surge (another source of glucose and fast-acting protein, for example whey protein or preferably whey hydrolysate, woudl be acceptable) at the 1 hour point. If you feel your energy crashing or seemingly your blood sugar dropping, further training past that point isn’t indicated. But refueling (so to speak) can solve that.

It’s really a matter of personal choice whether to add a fifth 5x5, or keep it where it is in terms of the compound exercise 5x5’s and add a few one-or-two set each other exercises, or keep it right where it is.

You might find you could work in some desired additional exercises by doing them in rest periods of a 5x5. For example, curls can be performed between sets of squats without adding to the total workout time. Don’t go overboard with this and wind up doing 40 sets per workout, but definitely this is a way to get in some of these things you want to without necessarily extending the workout duration.

As to whether you need to incorporate these isolation movements or not, it depends on the individual. For example I don’t need to do ab work (serratus yes, but abs no.) The big exercises are all they need. Specific ab work is pointless for me. But for another person that won’t be true. Still another person might find direct bicep work fairly pointless, when doing heavy back work, while for another they are obviously lacking at the present moment and aren’t improving in that regard from the back work but will improve rapidly with specific bicep work. So there is no one answer.

[quote]2. It’s been a long hiatus since I’ve gone back to a strength program. I lost a lot of weight (went from 200 to 170 in about 1.5 years, losing some fat and mostly muscle), hence me starting out on total body type program. As you guys imagine, my composition currently… sucks. I’m ~180 lbs. (at 6’), and probably 14%-15% BF (hell, I could be even higher, I don’t have much muscle anywhere).

My food choices are right on track, it’s the actual calories that I get that I’m not clear of. I want to eat at maintenance for 2-3 weeks before I decide how I want to achieve my goals. Basically, hows the best way to find out my maintenance calories?[/quote]

Your natural feel for it is probably better than any outside person’s guess based on your stats. Just keep track of calories (a pain though it is) for several weeks during which time hopefully fat will be staying constant. Aim for that and if a week seemed to put on a little fat then next week eat an amount you guess should lose that same amount. At some point a few weeks later if your fat is the same and you counted accurately, then you know your maintenance calories: it’s the average of all those days.

Actually no, it won’t. While trying to lose fat and gain muscle on the same day doesn’t make the most sense (it is doable for beginners though) there is no reason for fat gain to be faster than 1 lb per week when aiming at gaining muscle, and muscle gain will not, unfortunately, under natural condition usually be any incredibly large value per week either, so weight change in a single week or two should not be a large fluctuation. Similarly, a week or two of cutting up is not going to be that large a fluctuation.

The common practice of getting way fat while “bulking up” and then having to drop 40 lb or whatever is not the way to go. Particularly with your goals.

I’d address what seems the biggest need first, unless muscle is thought the biggest need yet fat is as bad as it’s ever been. Then, drop fat first regardless of the perceived need.

The periods of cutting and gaining could be shorter than a month, for example only 2 weeks, but there is nothing wrong with a month if you prefer that. Unless you’re really gifted at losing fat, though, at 17-180 I wouldn’t expect to be dropping nearly 4 lb of fat per week (15 lb per month.) Three pounds per week of actual fat would be very fast. There would be nothing wrong with achieving 2 lb per week of actual fat lost.

Some can eat amazing amounts when training hard: this may be due to simply not absorbing all the nutrients as well as burning a lot of calories. Others will get fat (I do) when doing anything remotely like eating everything that could be eaten, even if keeping the diet extremely clean.

[quote]Droogan Leader wrote:

  1. Should I try adding one more compound or is that enough?[/quote]

First of all, why do you want to add in more?

Secondly, your ACTUAL results dictate whether its enough or not! Your body will tell you everything you need to know. Just listen to it and do what it asks.

[quote]Droogan Leader wrote:
Should I even worry about them, or will my heavy compounds take care of these?[/quote]

If your goal is bodybuilding/physique transformation I recommend you incorporate some isolation exercises. I know its popular with some authors to say that hypertrophy is systemic and that your arms will grow just by doing deadlifts (which may be true), but they will NOT grow at the same rate as if you did deadlifts and curls. My gym is filled with “meatheads” who only train their upper body and have bigger arms than olympic lifters weighing the same. I’m not suggesting you train this way, but I wanted to point out that systemic hypertrophy is not optimal for bodybuilding.

If your goal is training for sport than isolation exercises still has its place except it’s used to work on the weak part of your lift (a la Westside).

[quote]Droogan Leader wrote:
My food choices are right on track, it’s the actual calories that I get that I’m not clear of. I want to eat at maintenance for 2-3 weeks before I decide how I want to achieve my goals. Basically, hows the best way to find out my maintenance calories?[/quote]

Work backwards! There are tons of online calorie calculators (the complex ones appear to be the most popular because they seem more “scientific”) but there are simply too many variables (age, metabolism, intensity during training, predispositions to types of macro nutrients) to make them completely accurate. Actually most tell you, after plugging in a dozen numbers, that you still have to make adjustments according to your results… Nice.

So what I recommend is that you jot down everything you eat for the next 2 weeks, use fitday or something similar to determine how many calories that amounts to, and finally check to see if you’ve gained or lost any weights (you could get fancier with tape measures and calipers… but… lets not develop an OCD just yet)

[quote]Droogan Leader wrote:
3. As for my goals, I do mixed martial arts and because of this, I would really like in the end to be between 170-180 lbs. (basically what I weigh now) but as lean and strong as possible (so same weight, a lot more muscle and a lot less fat). I know that to get there, the scale weight WILL have to fluctuate a lot. What should my plan of attack be in the next month? Limit cals and lose around 10-15 lbs. of fat, THEN slowly increase the cals to surplus to gain weight? Start off in surplus, gain the 20 lbs. of muscle mass over a long period, then lose the fat?[/quote]

Weightlifting hard 3 times per week and mma training? How many hours per week total do you train? Do you go to school, have a job etc…? You might prove me wrong, but remember to not burn the candle at both ends. I’m not telling you to cut back on anything, but your body only has the ability to deal with so much life stresses. Again, having a game plan is good, but your body has the final say in anything you plan.

Anyways, on to your question. If you plan on competing at 180 your “walking weight” will probably have to be around 200 lbs lean. Not to name drop but I used to train bjj at the same gym as GSP and his “walking weight” was 190-192lbs (from what he told me at the time) and he was very lean . Basically he would lose a few extra pound of fat in the weeks leading to the fight and then drop a bunch of water weight in days prior to the fight.

This means that you should be more or less at around 8-12%BF at 200 lbs JUST MONTHS prior to a match. To have enough muscle mass with your current level of body fat you’ll probably have to overshoot that body weight mark. Whether you want to straight bulk, or use the “2 steps forward one step back” approach is up to you.

[quote]Droogan Leader wrote:
4. When I start to “bulk” I’m not worried about getting a little soft (but I refuse to let my waist get out of control), will my intense lifting, GPP work (basically my MMA on T-Th-S) keep the fat to a minimum and allow me to eat huge? I already make excellent choices, so just basically doubling everything I eat? I work my ass off in the gym, the nutrition is where I have the toughest time (like I said, it’s the intake).
[/quote]

The straight bulk approach will probably get you to your goals faster than obsessing with your abs, but you have to do what you think is best.

Doubling what you eat is NOT the way to bulk. That’s how people become fat asses and then complain how bulking doesn’t work. Listen, once you’ve figured out your calorie needs (as described above) you add a bit more food (say 500 cal per day for 2 weeks) and see if you gained weight. If you did, then continue at that level, if not, add another bit of food per day and see how that works out for you. You will gain a bit of fat (most people don’t get leaner bulking), but there is a huge difference between gain SOME fat and becoming a COMPLETE FAT ASS.

Good luck.

Excellent replies from you both, thank you very much. Lots of information here, so I’ll address each individually.

Interesting, because I do feel my energy levels rapidly begin to diminish before my final lift. I mainly try to get my most heavy and intense lifts done first (technically they all are since they are compound) such as my squat, dead lift, power clean or chest pressing movements, but feel I need (and could) give out more “Oomph” on my final lift. A during workout refuel might be exactly what I need, and since I’ll be ordering Surge, I’ll give that a try with some BCAA powder.s

I actually forgot to mention that I have stuck “extra work” between squat and chest sets(i.e. deep body weight squats, narrow-width push-ups respectively). The only isolation’s I would want to add would be 2-3 sets of bicep and rear deltoid work. But that still leaves abdominal work out of the equation.

That I find difficult, seeing as how my natural feel can sometimes be my own worst tool, since I get so muddled up on the calories part. I’ll try to be very constant with the intake level (still sticking to what I eat), write that down over the next 1-2 weeks, then post back accordingly (then maybe some users can help me tweak it to reach my immediate goal).

Maybe I didn’t explain it well enough on my part? I think what I was trying to say is that it will fluctuate in that to be the same weight yet with a totally different muscle to fat ratio, I will at some point have to leave that 170-180 lb. range over a period of time, no?

[quote]
The common practice of getting way fat while “bulking up” and then having to drop 40 lb or whatever is not the way to go. Particularly with your goals.

I’d address what seems the biggest need first, unless muscle is thought the biggest need yet fat is as bad as it’s ever been. Then, drop fat first regardless of the perceived need.

The periods of cutting and gaining could be shorter than a month, for example only 2 weeks, but there is nothing wrong with a month if you prefer that. Unless you’re really gifted at losing fat, though, at 17-180 I wouldn’t expect to be dropping nearly 4 lb of fat per week (15 lb per month.) Three pounds per week of actual fat would be very fast. There would be nothing wrong with achieving 2 lb per week of actual fat lost.[/quote]

Based on a calculator I found for lean body mass online, this is simply by the numbers. Maybe you could help me better understand my translating them into what I need to do (according to the goals I described)

Currently (180 lbs. at 14%): 155 lbs. muscle, 25 lbs. fat

Eventual Goal (I just used 175 lbs. at 8%): 161 lbs. muscle, 14 lbs. fat

Well, I’ve never actually focused on increasing as much muscle as possible. In college football, I was more concerned with strength and scale weight, (I was by no means a fat-ass at start of the season, but not lean either). This will be a good opportunity to see how I respond.

[quote]Droogan Leader wrote:

I think what I was trying to say is that it will fluctuate in that to be the same weight yet with a totally different muscle to fat ratio, I will at some point have to leave that 170-180 lb. range over a period of time, no?[/quote]

Well, it depends. If for example presently 180 and the 180 represents being say 15 lb overfat compared to being in really excellent condition, and the first thing done is to diet off some fat, and if your present degree of muscle development and training experience is where 15 lb of muscle would be a fine accomplishment in the timeframe in question, then there would be no need to go outside that range.

(Just as an example: now editing my post, I see that your goals differ. Indeed in many cases the above example would be a long time frame.)

It also depends on what you meant by large fluctuations. I don’t myself take 10 lb, certainly, to be a large fluctuation, and not really 15 either. Not even 20 is a really large fluctuation.

(I’m referring to natural training.)

[quote]Based on a calculator I found for lean body mass online, this is simply by the numbers. Maybe you could help me better understand my translating them into what I need to do (according to the goals I described)

Currently (180 lbs. at 14%): 155 lbs. muscle, 25 lbs. fat

Eventual Goal (I just used 175 lbs. at 8%): 161 lbs. muscle, 14 lbs. fat[/quote]

So to sum that up, the goal is to gain six pounds of muscle in this timeframe, and lose 11 lb of fat.

So if done cyclically, roughly speaking fat loss needs to be twice as much per cycle as muscle gain.

There’s no way to predict really the rate of muscle gain that will occur. It’s so variable.

But let’s say for the sake of having a starting point for guesstimation, anyway, that it’s hoped that muscle gain will be 1 lb per week while gaining. Obviously, that can’t be assumed over long periods of time for someone who is an experienced trainer: no one puts on 52 lb of muscle per year year after year after year.

And for that matter sometimes rate of gain is BETTER than this.

But let’s not bet on it being better, and let’s hope that this is achieved.

Let’s look at two scenarios, one where you are very aggressive with the fat loss weeks and manage to achieve 3 lb of fat loss per week. However, let’s say 1 lb of fat is gained per week in the muscle-gaining weeks.

In this instance, then as we’re expecting, with no particular accuracy, to require 6 weeks for muscle gain, the total fat loss needed is not only the 11 lb, but 17 lb counting the fat gained in muscle-gaining weeks.

So, we’d figure on needing, as a wild-ass guess, about 6 weeks of this aggressive fat loss and about 6 weeks of muscle-gaining. The goal might be met in 3 months, and might be done in cycles of 2 weeks fat loss, 2 weeks muscle gain, etc.

If results do fall short the fat loss should still be accomplished. It’s possible the muscle gains might be less than planned. It’s also possible they might be better than planned. It would depend so much on the individual.

A second scenario is less severe dieting, say 2 lb per week planned fat loss.

In this case, while it would be helpful if the fat gain is the muscle gaining weeks were held back to only half a pound per week, let’s say that this isn’t met and in fact gain is 1 lb per week despite best intent. If so then again it’s 17 lb total fat that needs to be lost, and so about 9 weeks are needed.

In this case, then cycling of 3 weeks fat loss / 2 weeks muscle gain would be called for and it would be reasonable to budget 15 weeks for the program.

Some can eat amazing amounts when training hard: this may be due to simply not absorbing all the nutrients as well as burning a lot of calories. Others will get fat (I do) when doing anything remotely like eating everything that could be eaten, even if keeping the diet extremely clean.

[quote]Well, I’ve never actually focused on increasing as much muscle as possible. In college football, I was more concerned with strength and scale weight, (I was by no means a fat-ass at start of the season, but not lean either). This will be a good opportunity to see how I respond.
[/quote]

This makes it entirely possible that you will fully meet or quite possibly exceed your muscle gain goal! Best of results!!

Sorry for not keeping up with this thread, school has started back up so I’ve been all over the place with classwork, the gym and athletics. Finally I have the time to sit down and respond, I appreciate the responses thus far GREATLY.

[quote]Bill Roberts wrote:

Well, it depends. If for example presently 180 and the 180 represents being say 15 lb overfat compared to being in really excellent condition, and the first thing done is to diet off some fat, and if your present degree of muscle development and training experience is where 15 lb of muscle would be a fine accomplishment in the timeframe in question, then there would be no need to go outside that range.

(Just as an example: now editing my post, I see that your goals differ. Indeed in many cases the above example would be a long time frame.)

It also depends on what you meant by large fluctuations. I don’t myself take 10 lb, certainly, to be a large fluctuation, and not really 15 either. Not even 20 is a really large fluctuation.

(I’m referring to natural training.)
[/quote]

That’s what I was thinking of doing originally (in regards to first losing fat and lowering my BF%) but at 180 lbs. with about 14% BF (if I’m even carrying that little, like I was saying early, I think that’s what it is because I’ve never been tested, but it could be higher since I have such little muscle mass underneath) if I WERE to drop down to a much more preferable fat level (lets say dropping 12 lbs of fat) I would way a very slim ~165 lbs. at 6’. Then I would begin the muscle gaining phase.

I agree that 20 lbs. isn’t actually a very large fluctuation (especially if it includes lots of muscle increase) to the eye.

So in layman’s terms for me, I’m really looking at getting up to 200 lbs. when all is said and done before I decide to drop body fat (using the worst case of 1:1 muscle:fat gain ratio) right?

In your opinion, should I try to do this cyclically? I was intending to gain the ~6 lbs. of muscle mass along with the added fat until I reach 200 lbs. overall, then cut the fat and be done (i.e. maintain, it’s never really done). I will say that I am going to bust my ass so that my cutting phase will hopefully be near finished during next summer, but time is not an issue.

Well this weekend is where I really decide to knuckle down, pick a goal, and focus solely on that before switching over to another (be it gaining muscle or losing fat). I did my homework and tallied how much I’ve been eating currently, and I see that I have actually been chronically eating BELOW maintenance (~1900-2300 calories) for an extended period AND lifting 3 times per week full body with 2 days MMA training in between.

So I sat down and wrote down what I eat (which is actually extremely healthy, but lacking in intake like I stated earlier) and added things here and there to reach maintenance levels AND about 500 over (which may still not be enough). Regardless, I’m going to post a thread on my nutrition in the proper forum, and keep this thread here for more n00bish questions that I might have.

[quote]Droogan Leader wrote:

Bill Roberts wrote:

So to sum that up, the goal is to gain six pounds of muscle in this timeframe, and lose 11 lb of fat.

So if done cyclically, roughly speaking fat loss needs to be twice as much per cycle as muscle gain…

But let’s say for the sake of having a starting point for guesstimation, anyway, that it’s hoped that muscle gain will be 1 lb per week while gaining…

Let’s look at two scenarios, one where you are very aggressive with the fat loss weeks and manage to achieve 3 lb of fat loss per week. However, let’s say 1 lb of fat is gained per week in the muscle-gaining weeks.

In this instance, then as we’re expecting, with no particular accuracy, to require 6 weeks for muscle gain, the total fat loss needed is not only the 11 lb, but 17 lb counting the fat gained in muscle-gaining weeks.

So, we’d figure on needing, as a wild-ass guess, about 6 weeks of this aggressive fat loss and about 6 weeks of muscle-gaining. The goal might be met in 3 months, and might be done in cycles of 2 weeks fat loss, 2 weeks muscle gain, etc.

A second scenario is less severe dieting, say 2 lb per week planned fat loss.

In this case, while it would be helpful if the fat gain is the muscle gaining weeks were held back to only half a pound per week, let’s say that this isn’t met and in fact gain is 1 lb per week despite best intent. If so then again it’s 17 lb total fat that needs to be lost, and so about 9 weeks are needed.

In this case, then cycling of 3 weeks fat loss / 2 weeks muscle gain would be called for and it would be reasonable to budget 15 weeks for the program.

So in layman’s terms for me, I’m really looking at getting up to 200 lbs. when all is said and done before I decide to drop body fat (using the worst case of 1:1 muscle:fat gain ratio) right?[/quote]

No. I didn’t say that at all and that wouldn’t be the result of following what I said.

After asking for the advice, did you read the post?

Yes in fact I did (I’m not that rude), I’ve been reading it over and over (I think I had trouble comprehending it).

Just for a safe measure, I re-read your response again, this from what I understand there are two scenarios that you suggest:

Scenario 1: I begin 6 weeks of aggressive fat loss first, then switch over for 6 weeks of muscle gain.

Scenario 2: I alternate 3 weeks fat loss, 2 weeks muscle gain.

Correct me if I I’m wrong but this is what is suggested, no?

Yes, you have got it exactly. With the one added point that in Scenario 1, it doesn’t have to be six weeks straight of one, but could be for example 2 weeks diet down, 2 weeks gain muscle, 2 weeks diet down, etc.

You’re completely correct on 6 weeks total of each in Scenario 1. It’s your option whether to break those up or not. I would for myself break it up into the 2 week cycles but that is completely individual preference.

There is an advantage though to the 2 week cycling in that metabolism will tend to stay faster with dieting not having ever been for a long time.

I apologize for assuming that it could have been that you hadn’t read things that directly answered your following questions – the cause instead was overly dense and long writing.

I am admittedly often guilty both of writing posts that are too long (I type very fast) and of being too detailed by including not only the suggestions but the reasoning behind them, as my feeling very strongly is it’s much more useful to see how something was figured out so one could do it oneself in the future, rather than just be told something that appears out of thin air.

The result can be something said plainly but missed what with the internal explanations.

Not only that, but when writing posts I pay utterly no attention to professional writing style, which would have me using much shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, and would get rid of nearly all the parenthetical statements.

Long sentences, long paragraphs, and way-excessive parenthetical thoughts are personal idiosyncrasies that in my case required hard work to defeat. They do unfortunately make posts harder to read.