T Nation

'Advanced Beginner' Trying to Stop Messing Up

I started lifting about 3 years ago, and while I am extremely happy with how much better I feel today, I am by no means satisfied with my progress.

I am 6’1, 23 years old, roughly 20% bodyfat at 215 pounds.

When I was 19, I used to run 6 miles a day, every day, sometimes more on the weekends. This led me to develop the wonderful physique of weighing 180 pounds at 20% body fat. Basically I had a big barrel gut attached to a couple malnourished arms and legs.

Right about the time I turned 20 I woke up and realized how much this sucked at started lifting instead.

For the first year I made very good progress. Then I spent three months in Europe, trained the best I could with what I had available, but ended up regressing a bit anyways. Back in the states, I spent the next 3 months getting back to where I was when I left 6 months ago.

At this point, I decided to set a goal of reaching a 1000 pound total, which I hit about 6 months later by setting PRs of 245 Bench, 425 Dead, 345 Squat all in the same week. Problem was, I ballooned up to a body weight of 245 in the process. Cool if it’s all muscle, kinda shitty if it’s not… which of course, it wasn’t.

I soon realized living at the fat extreme was just as shitty as living at the scrawny extreme and decided to cut. I took the V-Diet Challenge, which, at the time, was a far cry from its current incarnation. It was basically a post from Chris saying “I tried drinking Grow! all day and walked a lot and had a solid meal once a week and got really lean… you should too!” So I did. This is said only somewhat in jest, as that was essentially the program I followed.

It worked fairly well in the sense that I dropped 30 pounds in a month, down to 215. Each of my lifts also dropped about 30 pounds, and I’ve been trying to get them back ever since while trying not to bulk over 215 pounds.

I brought my then 395 deadlift back up to 410, my 315 squat has actually decreased down to 305, and my bench has jumped all the way to 255, 10 pounds over the PR I set when I was 30 pounds heavier. I also set a new PR of 225 for the Clean & Jerk at a body weight of 215, which was a goal of mine I was very happy to reach.

So I call myself an “Advanced Beginner” because my numbers are still pretty meager and I KNOW I could be doing better for having been lifting for the better part of three years now. I know my lower body lifts have been stunted by poor training decisions. Not lack of effort, just lack of intelligent effort.

Long story short, basically all I’ve done in the past 8 months is put 15 pounds on my dead, 40 on my bench, LOST 10 off my squat, and added about 45 to the Clean and Jerk which I never really trained much previously anyways. I’ve managed to not get any fatter, but certainly haven’t gotten any better looking, either.

Basically, I’ve been fucking up. I’m deciding right here and now that the next 8 months of training are NOT going to go down like the last 8. I would add 10 pounds to my weight and my lifts during one month, then lose all of it all over again trying to cut the fat off in the next month. Yo-Yo lifting at it’s finest.

Anyways, I appreciate anyone taking the time to read my long-winded rant. For everyone else…

tl;dr - I got pretty strong pretty quick but also got pretty fat; then I dumped all the fat but also got weak again; now I can’t get stronger without also getting fatter and I have to find a way to fucking fix that, immediately.

Current Goal: lean down to a maximum of 15% body fat over the next 8 weeks, without losing any strength.

Plan: CT’s 6 Weeks to Superhero program coupled with Carb Cycling.

Questions: I don’t have much money for supplements. Any absolute essentials I should grab on a tight budget (maybe $30/month), with the goal of cutting in mind? I know from experience that I respond extremely well to Leucine, so that will be on there no matter what. I also want to pick up a bottle of MAG-10 in a couple weeks and start running Pulse Fasts from week 3 to 6 as I finish out the program.

Is 5% body fat (from 20 down to 15) in 8 weeks a realistic goal? Is it too modest? I would expect this to be roughly 11 pounds of body fat.

If my long-term plan is to stay lean while focusing primarily on building strength indefinitely, is 15% body fat a good number to maintain? I’ve considered going down to 12%, allowing me 3% to gain while focusing on building muscle. I honestly don’t really know where I should stand on this, other than I’m sick of having a fucking gut.

Is my program selection in line with my goals? Is my diet?

Should I add cardio? I tend to think the lifting will have me struggling to recover as it is, especially since it’s so hard for me to afford the supplements used to improve this process. I followed the HPMass program a few months ago and seriously struggled to make it through the last couple weeks of the program.

I have heard that the post-cutting period is one of the best times to rapidly build muscle. How can I set myself up to take full advantage of this period in the coming weeks?

I truly appreciate anyone taking the time to read this whole thing and answer any or all of my questions, or offer any other advice. I understand you get nothing in return for helping me, and would be grateful for any criticism I can get. I’ve been learning things the hard way for the past three years, and while I’ve certainly learned a lot, I’m honestly getting kind of sick of it.

In any case, the process of sitting down and writing this all out has made me realize that the only two times in my lifting career that I set out tangible NUMERIC goals for myself (reach a 1000 pound total; cut 30 pounds) I hit them relatively quickly. You’d think I would have caught on more quickly; I guess it’s just one more thing I’ll have learned the hard way.

You can get from 20% to 15% just by changing a few of your eating habits. You don’t even need all the supplements you listed. You’ve chosen a solid program.