T Nation

Advice on What to Focus on


I’m 5’9, 151 lbs currently and scale says roughly 15.3% BF. About three weeks ago I was at 155lbs, went on a calorie deficit, dropped from what the scale showed as 16% BF…

I’m still beginner level at the gym. Been back at it now for a few weeks, prior I was doing bodyweight stuff at home for 2-3 months to get my body in rhythm.

Many suggest to drop bodyfat first to at least 12% then lean bulk. . I don’t agree with the bulk, cut, bulk, cut idea, so this was the road I was taking.

Macros are C- 40% , P - 30% F- 30% I raised my calories slightly from 1700 (original deficit) to 1950. I burn about 2100 calories per day, maintenance is roughly 2300-2400 calories.

Looking for some thoughts based on my current look/stats. I work out 3 days a week. For cost reasons I am at Planet Fitness, but my program is very doable to progress with for the time being until I switch to LA Fitness. Unfortunately I do have to sacrifice benching, heavy squats, and heavy deadlift… Not what I want to do, but that’s the situation for now…

My current routine can be found on YouTube from bodybulding.com - Just search Sean Sarantos Full body 5 move super shred circuit.

Been doing it for nearly 2 weeks now. For chest I do the cybex chest press along with decline pushups close grip and if I can get a chance on the cables I do the one arm flies… Everything else in the program I’ve kept the same, but play with the reps to match my level and what I feel is challenging for me to push myself.

Thanks in advance to your feedback and comments.


I think your machine is off. I would estimate your BF% to be in the 20-25 range.

As for what you should do, that depends on your goal. If being lean is more important to you than being big, continue dieting. But if you’re not satisfied with your current amount of LBM, then eat at a modest surplus and focus on getting stronger in the 8-12 rep range.


Makes sense and I agree. As I know my body, over the years I have always been the same weight and my body mass has not changed much. A few years back when I actually had my BF % taken by a personal trainer, it was in the low 20s. I know scales and all these things are not accurate whatsoever so I take it with a grain of salt…

PLUS I’ve seen some other males in the 15% range and they have more visible abs…

I know one thing is for sure, I do not want to be that person that bulk, cuts, bulk, cuts… That doesn’t even seem fun as a process or enjoyable lol.


Eye Dentist is very reliable and always gives good advice, especially on body comp. When you can, consider a beginner strength program like Starting Strength, Greyskull, or the 5/3/1 for beginners. These will help add LBM and improve your body composition.


I’ll have to look in to those… My #1 issue with most programs is that PF limits what you can use for the MAIN compound muscle building exercises…

So without bench, heavy squats and deadlifts, what are my options? Nothing would really be a good substitute, but for the time being cost wise, I have to stay put until I can switch gyms to LA Fitness and have proper equipment to use.


If your goal is to become a strength athlete in general (and/or a powerlifter in particular), the absence of flat bench, squats and DLs would be a significant hurdle to overcome. However, if your weightlifting goals are aesthetics-related (ie, your primary goal is to build a good-looking bod), then PF has all the equipment you need.

Put another way, the ‘proper’ equipment for you is anything that allows the application of significant tension to a given muscle while it contracts in its plane of motion. Your muscle doesn’t know (or care) whether that resistance is in the form of free weights, or machines, or milk jugs.


Which means you can run those programs on Smith machines, not ideal, but possible.


Yes, makes perfect sense. .

TBH my goal is a little of both… Main reason for strength is that I am currently in the process of pursing law enforcement and right now I am actively in the process for US Customs officer.

As far as the way my body looks, who wouldn’t like a decent looking physique?

I have no desire for career style body building or doing any contests/shows. I’d like to have lower body fat, slightly bigger, and stronger than I am today.

With that said, if you would, do you have any suggested types of workouts I can utilize at PF that won’t hinder my growth or progress and will keep me challenged?

So many workouts include the staples (compound movements and equipment). Should I focus more on DB work and utilize cables? Or should I focus on DB and utilize isolation machines?


I stay away from the smith machine because it won’t improve stabilizer muscle strength, it’s not great on joints as it hinders your natural movement, and just does not seem the ideal route for long term success without joint or tendon issues later on.


But I do need to build up my chest! lol It’s lagging and will take time to create…


Since you’re interested in functional strength, I would recommend focusing on DB exercises. Work everything twice/week. Don’t overthink it–stick with meat-and-potatoes movements. Incline DB presses for chest, seated DB presses for shoulders, DB rows for back, etc. Again, your goal is to get stronger in the 8-12 rep range.


Makes sense. I know DB workouts can produce great results.

Now question… In terms of gauging progression with weight, how quickly should you be able to increase the DB weight or setting progression goals?

Back when I was at the gym for some time, I used to “climb the rack” on my sets… Sort of pyramid sets.


I am well aware of the limitations of the Smith machine. FWIW, I started 5/3/1 at PF and realized the shortcomings of the gym and joined another gym with barbells. But, if it’s all you got…

Dumb bells are a good option …except for squatting and deadlifting, two exercises that trigger hormone release and help all other body parts grow, at least for me.

The bottom line is you need to find out what works for you. For @EyeDentist, he can get jacked on his program, and he’s clearly more jacked than I am. For me, I really didn’t start seeing any body composition gains until I started Mass Made Simple and transitioned to 5/3/1. I believe part of the reason I didn’t gain is because I didn’t stick to a program and log my progress, making sure to add weight. It took too long to see changes in my body, so I would hop from program to program, bro split to bro split. Once I started a program, and really, for me, once I started Starting Strength, I saw progress by adding weight to the bar every workout.

So, SS worked for me because I liked it enough to stick with it. @EyeDentist’s program works for him because he likes it enough to stick with it. Find what you like and stick with it, making changes as you need.

Good luck man!