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Advice for Lean Defined Look?

Hi guys,

My goals are as follows:

  1. Look good naked
  2. This would require me to put on some muscle mass while maintaining a low bf%.

Right away, I’d like to say that I’m just a regular guy, and I’m not looking to get big and huge.

I realize that this is a long term process, and hence I would like to plan out the entire body sculpting process. Currently, I’m at 149 lbs, 5’7’’ (not sure of bf%, I think its around 19% - I am rather skinny fat ie have a belly and some chest fat but no fat elsewhere). I’ve been doing the starting strength program for almost 4 months now.

My lifts are as follows:

Squat - 205lbs
Dead - 215 lbs
Bench - 115lbs
Row - 145 lbs
Overhead Press - 75 lbs

Yes, I am aware that my lifts should have been much higher by now. But unfortunately I had to take a 3 week break due to illness, and hence this hindered my progress.

So here are my questions:

  1. Is Starting Strength a suitable workout, considering my goals. (ie I am not looking for a powerlifter physique)?
  2. At what point should I switch from Starting Strength? When should I add isolations and more upper body work?
  3. At what point should I focus on cutting down bf%, especially tummy fat?

Thanks!

  1. No, if your goals are “look good naked,” Starting Strength is nowhere near the best way to accomplish that.

  2. Considering your goals, you should switch from Starting Strength and add isolations and more upper body work NOW. A good idea would be to get yourself on a well-planned Bodybuilding split… lots of examples in this thread http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding/do_this_routine_instead_of_that_dumb_one
    You don’t HAVE to choose something from there, but anything like that would be much better for making you aesthetic, than starting strength.

  3. This is a tougher question, and really depends on you. If you diet down now, you will just look skinny at the end. I notice you did not mention diet at all, which makes me think you may not be putting nearly enough focus on it. You need to understand that diet is MORE important than what you do in the gym. As long as you’re working all your muscles, and busting your ass, the actual split you do is not all that important, what’s more important is what you’re putting into your body.

Post your diet if you want comments on that. Since you are pretty out of shape now, just putting more of a focus on eating a lot of GOOD food, getting lots of protein in each meal, and getting lots of your carbs around your workout, you could conceivably add muscle while getting in better shape/losing some fat, at first. But I would definitely recommend putting much more of an emphasis on eating enough to gain, for a good while, before really dieting down, unless you’re happy with being a lean 130 pounds.

[quote]endorphreak wrote:
My goals are as follows:

  1. Look good naked
  2. This would require me to put on some muscle mass while maintaining a low bf%.
    [/quote]
    First off, these aren’t goals. Use S.M.A.R.T to set real ones.
  1. Sure, I would choose a different program but each to their own.
  2. Once your done starting your strength, switch to a bodybuilding split.
  3. When you have reached your goal lean body mass start to cut the fat.

S.M.A.R.T

[quote]Gmoore17 wrote:

  1. No, if your goals are “look good naked,” Starting Strength is nowhere near the best way to accomplish that.

  2. Considering your goals, you should switch from Starting Strength and add isolations and more upper body work NOW. A good idea would be to get yourself on a well-planned Bodybuilding split… lots of examples in this thread http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding/do_this_routine_instead_of_that_dumb_one
    You don’t HAVE to choose something from there, but anything like that would be much better for making you aesthetic, than starting strength.

  3. This is a tougher question, and really depends on you. If you diet down now, you will just look skinny at the end. I notice you did not mention diet at all, which makes me think you may not be putting nearly enough focus on it. You need to understand that diet is MORE important than what you do in the gym. As long as you’re working all your muscles, and busting your ass, the actual split you do is not all that important, what’s more important is what you’re putting into your body.

Post your diet if you want comments on that. Since you are pretty out of shape now, just putting more of a focus on eating a lot of GOOD food, getting lots of protein in each meal, and getting lots of your carbs around your workout, you could conceivably add muscle while getting in better shape/losing some fat, at first. But I would definitely recommend putting much more of an emphasis on eating enough to gain, for a good while, before really dieting down, unless you’re happy with being a lean 130 pounds.[/quote]

Thanks for the reply!

I’m certainly not comfortable looking super lean. I’m quite sure that I’ll lose whatever muscle mass I have before I lose the belly fat. So preferably I’d like to gain some muscle mass, and then later cut down, or else maintain my weight and increase muscle/decrease fat if that is even possible. I fall into the “ectomorph” category btw. My weight doesn’t move much. Ever. It takes a lot of effort for me to put on weight. I was 138 lbs before I started SS, and I’m 149lbs now. My waist has gone from 31.8’’ to 33.5’’ :(. Strength has improved though.

The reason I started with SS, is that people say that it is a good “base” to start off with.

My diet is something like this: I get around 2600 cals daily. The protein I get varies anywhere from 110-150g (I dont eat meat everyday, so on the days I don’t eat meat/poultry it is on the lower end). Macro ratio is somewhere around 35-45-20(fat-carb-protein).

Suggestions are welcome :). I’m sure my diet is lacking somehow but I’m not sure whether I should eat for maintenance or surplus or deficit

Why is it that you don’t eat meat every day? Either way, aim for more protein than that.

As far as calories, since you want to gain muscle, eat a surplus. It’s harder for some to gain weight than others, but 2600 isn’t very high, so I don’t believe it’s THAT hard for you. Either way, listen to your body. If you’re eating 2600/day and you’re putting on mostly good weight (IE noticeable muscle and an acceptable amount of fat), good, keep going. If you’re not gaining weight, bump it up a few hundred calories/day for a few weeks and reassess. If you’re gaining too much fat, eat slightly less (or alternatively, do more, throw in some cardio a couple times/week).

I’m going to throw in more whey protein to fill up the gap in my protein requirement. I have to endure the protein farts though :O.

Btw, do you think a BB split like the link which was posted (perhaps push/pull/legs or a 4 day split) is better than a workout like 5/3/1 for my goals?

[quote]endorphreak wrote:
I’m going to throw in more whey protein to fill up the gap in my protein requirement. I have to endure the protein farts though :O.

Btw, do you think a BB split like the link which was posted (perhaps push/pull/legs or a 4 day split) is better than a workout like 5/3/1 for my goals?[/quote]

For your goals, I’d still say a BB split is a better choice, but 5/3/1 with something like the Boring But Big assistance lifts is pretty good too (much better than Starting Strength for your goals). Either choice will help you get big and strong, but a BB split is for someone with the main goal of hypertrophy/looking good, while also getting stronger, and 5/3/1 with the BBB template is for someone with the main goal of getting stronger, while also gaining muscle/looking good.

Hello,

I would say that the first thing you got to do is to evaluate your body composition according to your body and not falling into “i m a skinny fat ectomorph” general thing.

Some questions :

  • How heavy is your skeleton ?
  • Do you have broad hips / thin shoulders ? thin waist, thin shoulders ? thin waist, broader shoulders ?
  • How much fat do you have ?
  • How much muscle do you have ?
  • When did the fat appears ?

Most skinny-fat are skinny people with thin build, some have heavier bones, etc… Often, they started to get fat when working in an office and having a car, low physical activity etc ?

I would say your first goal would be to change the body composition. You probably lack muscle and have a lot of fats and gained more easily fat because you did not move a lot etc…

Changing body composition is quite easy in some weeks of intense physical activity (i mean unusual physical activity), a good diet rich in protein.

Regarding training, SS is a good start however it can be unrewarding for skinnier people. Like said above, a good BB routine with focus on the main lifts (bp, ohp, squat, deadlift, pullups, pulldowns, rows) is a good start but remember this : the muscle builders are the ful boyd lifts.

For your goals… Looking good naked means nothing. It depends on the eye. For most girls, being reasonably lean with some muscle, but not too much, means good look. For BBers, having lots of muscle volume and definition is required. Strength trainees will focus on being big, etc…

You won’t get a powerlifter physique without years of powerlifting… You won’t get big if you don’t eat a lot.

First, finish your SS cycle. You should gain some lean mass by muscle hydratation. Then start focusing on what you want first. The usual routine is to bulk and then cut, however more recent approach is to first get leaner (so that means don’t eat too much cals).

WHy ? Because losing fat is rewarding, then adding muscle is more visible.

Set realistic goals. Like “I want to weigh 10 lbs more”. “I want to lose 3% BF”. “I want to gain some inchs on my chest”, etc…

And train.

My piece of advice

[quote]RootX wrote:
Hello,

I would say that the first thing you got to do is to evaluate your body composition according to your body and not falling into “i m a skinny fat ectomorph” general thing.

Some questions :

  • How heavy is your skeleton ?
  • Do you have broad hips / thin shoulders ? thin waist, thin shoulders ? thin waist, broader shoulders ?
  • How much fat do you have ?
  • How much muscle do you have ?
  • When did the fat appears ?

Most skinny-fat are skinny people with thin build, some have heavier bones, etc… Often, they started to get fat when working in an office and having a car, low physical activity etc ?

I would say your first goal would be to change the body composition. You probably lack muscle and have a lot of fats and gained more easily fat because you did not move a lot etc…

Changing body composition is quite easy in some weeks of intense physical activity (i mean unusual physical activity), a good diet rich in protein.

Regarding training, SS is a good start however it can be unrewarding for skinnier people. Like said above, a good BB routine with focus on the main lifts (bp, ohp, squat, deadlift, pullups, pulldowns, rows) is a good start but remember this : the muscle builders are the ful boyd lifts.

For your goals… Looking good naked means nothing. It depends on the eye. For most girls, being reasonably lean with some muscle, but not too much, means good look. For BBers, having lots of muscle volume and definition is required. Strength trainees will focus on being big, etc…

You won’t get a powerlifter physique without years of powerlifting… You won’t get big if you don’t eat a lot.

First, finish your SS cycle. You should gain some lean mass by muscle hydratation. Then start focusing on what you want first. The usual routine is to bulk and then cut, however more recent approach is to first get leaner (so that means don’t eat too much cals).

WHy ? Because losing fat is rewarding, then adding muscle is more visible.

Set realistic goals. Like “I want to weigh 10 lbs more”. “I want to lose 3% BF”. “I want to gain some inchs on my chest”, etc…

And train.

My piece of advice
[/quote]

Hey, thanks for all the advice.

I’m not sure how to answer some of these body composition. I have no idea how heavy my skeleton is. Any way to check? My body fat percentage is shown different through different methods. The tape measurement formula (waist, neck measurement) shows 19%, while callipers show 11% (obviously too low and impossible). I have no idea what my actual bf is. Any estimate from the pictures?

I had a flat stomach till around 4 years back, and then I stopped playing sports.

I think cutting down fat now will make me too lean with very low muscle mass. Going the other way may just increase waist size. Sigh! Dilemma!

Current pics 149 lbs


Another Current pic 149 lbs

Pic from August 2012 before SS - 138lbs

Pic from August 2012 before SS - 138lbs

Current pics 149 lbs

-Make sure you are drinking at minimum a gallon of water a day.
-Try and keep foods simple, the less ingredients the better, eat smart.
-Keep your metabolism fired up throughout the day, snack constantly, moderation is key
-Train hard, train smart.
-Dont waste a workout. A day of rest is better than a day of mediocrity.
-Dont overthink things, keep it simple, Rome wasent build in a day.
-Dont make excuses!!

hey, please give me an estimate of body fat from the pictures posted.

Thanks for all the advice guys. I’m going to start a 4 day split BB workout and clean bulk until I’m 160lbs (current is 149lbs). I’m targeting a 11 lbs increase at the rate of 0.5lb/week (apparently this is the max muscle you can gain in a week?). This would require me to keep this up for almost 5 months. Not sure if I should try to go for 1lb/week (this would mean 2.5 months of bulking). I’ll cut after this cycle. Sound good?

Why are you so worried about the actual number? What’s more important is that you’re at a leanness you’re comfortable with, and that is not significantly increasing, unless a lot of muscle is going along with it to justify it. I’d say you’re in the range of 15-18%, but that really is just a guess, everyone holds fat differently, it looks different on different people, and again, the actual number really doesn’t matter.

Saying 0.5 lb/week is the max muscle you can gain is very silly, and will limit you, for several reasons. Everyone is different, and can gain muscle at different rates. Also, muscle gain is not linear, and will vary from week to week. Finally, you’re a beginner, so you can make much more muscular progress than someone more advanced, so keeping to that 0.5 lb/week will most likely limit you. As I said before, listen to your body/look at the mirror. If you are consistently gaining mostly good weight, great, keep going. If you are not gaining anything, eat more. If you are gaining too much fat, eat less. And make sure you work your ass off in the gym. There’s no real reason to put a limit of 160 pounds on it either… if you’re putting focus on your diet and working hard you should be able to put on muscle without gaining much fat, so keep at it as long as you feel comfortable doing so. I’m not saying get fat, but the more muscle you put on, the better you’ll look when you do cut down.

Also, some of the stuff RootX said is just weird, I don’t know how it would affect your diet/training at all to know the weight of your skeleton and that other stuff.

[quote]Gmoore17 wrote:
Why are you so worried about the actual number? What’s more important is that you’re at a leanness you’re comfortable with, and that is not significantly increasing, unless a lot of muscle is going along with it to justify it. I’d say you’re in the range of 15-18%, but that really is just a guess, everyone holds fat differently, it looks different on different people, and again, the actual number really doesn’t matter.

Saying 0.5 lb/week is the max muscle you can gain is very silly, and will limit you, for several reasons. Everyone is different, and can gain muscle at different rates. Also, muscle gain is not linear, and will vary from week to week. Finally, you’re a beginner, so you can make much more muscular progress than someone more advanced, so keeping to that 0.5 lb/week will most likely limit you. As I said before, listen to your body/look at the mirror. If you are consistently gaining mostly good weight, great, keep going. If you are not gaining anything, eat more. If you are gaining too much fat, eat less. And make sure you work your ass off in the gym. There’s no real reason to put a limit of 160 pounds on it either… if you’re putting focus on your diet and working hard you should be able to put on muscle without gaining much fat, so keep at it as long as you feel comfortable doing so. I’m not saying get fat, but the more muscle you put on, the better you’ll look when you do cut down.

Also, some of the stuff RootX said is just weird, I don’t know how it would affect your diet/training at all to know the weight of your skeleton and that other stuff. [/quote]

Thanks for the advice. I’ll just go ahead with a clean bulk until as long as it feels comfortable.