T Nation

Advice on Direction


Hello everybody! I am new to the forums and seeking some direction on where I should go next with my weightlifting program. I would also like some help as far as where I should be categorized as a lifter, based on my strength and time lifting; beginner or intermediate.

My program history is as follows:
2 Months: P90X and endurance cycling (I was underweight if anything, but was fooled by marketing)
1-2 Months: Fitness Model Workout - RC26 (I was an uninformed noob)
6 Months: Practical Starting Routines for The Drug-Free Trainee - Casey Butt, Ph.D.
1.5 Months: How I Finally Got Muscle to Grow - Amit Sapir (I think I stopped because I wasn't gaining the way I expected, or was too burned out)
1.5 Months: Six Week Program - Jonnie Candito

Since I have started lifting, I have managed to gain 28lbs, bringing my bodyweight to a fluctuating ~185lbs at 6ft.

Since I am in the processing of re-testing my 1RM this week, I can only give you an idea of where I am at the moment. Amit's programs definitley boosted my lifts, but at the start of Candito's my lifts were as follows: 205:B/255:S/295:DL. I think my Dl may have been skewed, because I tested everything on the same day. As far as increases on Candito's my projected 1RM for squats was projected at 285, but I hit 315 for one when testing last night following "How to Warm Up for a One-Rep Max - Tim Henriques". I will have to follow up with my other lifts later in the week.

My ultimate goals are aesthetics, but I would like to maintain a level of strength as Candito's program has really sparked that interest in me. I want to look big, and be strong. I'm looking for what I should be doing for my next plan, something that will meet these goals. Have I missed my chance to do a 5x5, since I started with a 3X8 program? Should I be doing a focused strength program, or body-building one?

Plans I've considered as of now:
Strong Bodybuilder Program - Amit Sapir
The Texas Method - Mark Rippetoe
Ice Cream Fitness 5X5 - Jason Blaha
PHAT - Layne Norton
Westside - Louie Simmons (After some research, and without access to bands or chains, I've decided this plan may be too advanced at this point in time)

Any input would be much appreciated! I would place myself in the beginner category, as I just recently hit a year of training, and may have used up my newbie gains. What should I be doing if aesthetics are my ultimate goal, but am intrigued by the idea of moving more weight? Is a combination possible, or are they opposing goals?

Thanks everybody!


Aesthetics isn't as specific a goal as many think it is. Everyone has a different idea of the ideal physique, what's yours?


Option to Westside is Westside for Skinny Bastards by Joe Defranco. I think 5/3/1 is the best template since its just so easy to follow and progression is easy but WS4SB was the better workout for me since its not as boring as 5/3/1 but I think you should have a basic knowledge of progression, know some weaknesses in your lifts and how to progress your volume week to week on WS4SB.


Those are all good programs, the only one I wouldn't personally recommend being Ice Cream Fitness which I think just has too much volume (Squatting 5x5 3 days / week). You should probably just choose whichever program looks most appealing to you. Diet and consistency in the gym will be the more important factors and your progress won't really depend much on which routine you do.

If it was me, personally, I'd do a heavier strength-focused program for 6 months and try to get as strong as possible, then transition to something with slightly higher reps / volume. For example: Texas Method for 6 months, then 5/3/1 Boring But Big for 3-6 months.


You're right, aesthetics are subjective. However, I think the majority share common traits like Vtaper.

I've noticed that my goals changed as I gained size. I used to want to look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club, or a fitness model, like most skinny guys.

Ideally, my current goal is somewhere between Reg Park and Jeff Seid. I want to looks similar to that, with the vtaper, large chest and back, and strong legs.

I'm sitting at 10-14% bodyfat at the moment, and I'm only looking to build muscle to the base I want, before trying to cut to single digit bodyfat.


You're a beginner without a doubt. But that's definitely not a bad thing.

Are you considering day one of the P90x stuff when you started lifting?

Like Dagill said, those aren't goals, they're just ideas. Specific goals get achieved, vague ideas remain ideas. Set some concrete goals with timelines for bodyweight, leanness, and strength in specific lifts.

One of these things is not like the other. Kinda like saying "My favorite musicians are Metallica, the Rolling Stones, my cousin Jimmy when he plays kazoo, Frank Sinatra, and Run DMC."

You didn't, not by a longshot. So you can let that idea fall right out of your head. Don't sweat it.

Again, not exactly sure what you mean by "aesthetics", but you can certainly increase muscular size while building strength. When you eventually cut fat, that muscular size will be better displayed and you'll have the sexxy abs, horseshoe triceps, and all that good stuff.

But building that size has to come first. And size comes from eating. And eating properly is what a lot of guys get tripped up by.

For perspective, about how lean are you right now? Ab definition? Manly muffin top? Somewhere inbetween?

EDIT: Okay, gotcha. For reference though, Reg Park was 6'2" and in the 220s pretty lean. That's easily 20 to 30 pounds heavier than most fitness models. So, I'm getting even more confused.

I think your best bet is to do basically any well-designed program that has you lifting 3-5 days a week for 16 weeks, eat plenty of protein, carbs, and healthy fats to gain weekly bodyweight, and check your progress at the end.

More brainpower shouldn't be devoted to the training plan than gets devoted to the nutrition side of things.




Thanks for everything. For the past several months, I've been eating 3500-3800 calories with a 50C/30P/20F mix. This is eating as clean as possible, a lot of brown rice and chicken, meals every 2-3hrs, etc.

When discussing the "5 Surefire Steps to Setting Goals" article that you linked, I'm a little confused as to how I would apply that to selecting a plan. My strength goals for 1RM are 3 plate bench, four plate squat and five plate deadlift. If I don't compete in a bodybuilding competition, how would I align my aesthetic goals with this? Would I focus on measurements?

It sounds like I would be better off with a strength program, focusing on the key compound movements, which is what I thought. But, which one is the ultimate question? Should I focus exclusively on strength in those movements, or should I do a program that comprises a lot of accessory or isolation exercises as well?