If you don’t mind, I’m gonna ramble story style. Down time today, so you all get to suffer for it! haha.
So newbie freshman me got pissed. I fucking hated being skinny. I fucking hated being weak. I fucking hated it! And to top it all off outside of my disgust with myself my girlfriend of 2 years and I broke up a week before coming to college. Suffice to say I was not excited to be in college. I also had the “honor” of being in the worst dorm and worst floor on campus (intensive study antisocial floor, all doors were always shut).
I had messed around with weights in the basement of one of my friends dads before. Only a couple times as a senior, but his dad worked out, was bald and looked badass. When I got sick of everything in college that drive kicked back in like never before.
I did everything wrong. I started in the machines. I was reading another site at the time cough and moreover I was just to damn shy and scared of what I thought of the ‘monsters’ in the free weights to get into the free weights section. I laugh now, because by the end the guys who were still there that I was afraid of started coming up to me for advice and spots, but at the time I knew all too well how weak I was and I was shy and skinny. The first workout I did was arms and I couldn’t move them for a week afterwards…I almost quit it hurt so bad. I did at least get good coverage on my back and legs, but all machines.
That lasted a couple months til I couldn’t find a satisfactory answer to one of my questions at the other site forume and I hit google. I found T-Nation and Charles Poliquin, Ian King, Charles Staley stuff…and a guy named Thibaudeau. I still was too scared to hit the free weights because I knew I’d be embarrassed by how little I could lift and that the machines weren’t doing the job. Eventually I worked the courage up and it was every bit as bad as I thought it would be, except that the other guys ignored and didn’t tease me. Still, I felt burned.
bench 95 lbs. Actually that’s not fair, I got stapled by 95 lbs 3 different times, so…yeah.
squat 115 lbsx3, crappy and high.
RDL 135 lbsx3, crappy, but down deep. Didn’t learn to deadlift right away, just started on the RDL cuz I could handle more weight…lol.
I was sore and bruised for a week. I had been working out for about 3 months, only a couple weeks in free weights. Almost quit several times, even after my very first workout, but I had promised myself I wouldn’t miss any workout for any damn reason for a couple months. About this time I read “Getting Schooled Westside Style” first, and then “The Mad Monk of Powerlifting” from the archives on T-Nation.
It changed my fucking life.
I had never even conceived of these weights being humanly possible. Shit, I thought 315 was a mindblowing bench press. I didn’t even know a human being was capable of bench pressing 600 lbs, much less being the lowest fucking bench in the gym! I crystallized. I swore I was going to do that. I was going to squat 600 lbs if it killed me. I had no idea how I was going to get there. I looked and looked for powerlifting programs.
By sheer luck I stumbled onto the “9 week basic training program” which was 100% written out–sets/reps, everything. That winter break I searched high and low and found a place that had a GHR and reverse hyper. It was an hour away. Sadly it is no longer there. My skinny self went and started. I had no spotter, no lifting partners, was in a gym I didn’t know (ironically also called Westside), and no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I was going to fucking do what they were doing at Westside, sometime, somewhere, in the future.
I remember the first ME lower day I had, I was sore for a week. I saw my first ever 600 lb deadlift in person by some nameless heavyweight who had to try 3 times to get it. It blew my brains all the way out of my head. I good morninged 150 lbs for 1 rep, and I did it down to parallel, and I did it mostly right for a newbie. I had to warm up for about 30 minutes by stretching to do DE day later that week. I couldn’t sit down. My abs were unspeakably sore from just 5x10 on the roman chair.
I stayed on Westside, re-ran the program after I finished, and literally read everything I could get my hands on. I averaged about 2-3 hours of reading on nutrition and training a day for the first 3 years I lifted, and have kept an average of about 1-1.5 hours 7 days a week for the first 8 years I lifted.
I stayed on the traditional 4 day a week template for 5 years or so. Every once in a while I would stray to something else when I had an attack of the “shy skinny wanna be ripped and Ahnold” kid. I mean, I really did want to look like Arnold. Still do as a matter of fact, as I’m sure most of us do. I wasted time doing the odd cut, or more bodybuilding style stuff from Thibaudeau ala “the big back stack” or “triple threat back” or something like that, but for the most part the first 5 years were pretty much all Westside, all the time.
My bench went up slowly, aggravatingly, embarrassingly, but eventually got to about 300 lbs. My squat and deadlift went up. And then up. And then up. I pulled 400, then 450, then eventually 500 lbs for the first time in my life. What a rush that was…I’m pretty sure I looked like a crazy person lol. Squat went up, stalled, went up, stalled, finally got to 450. Long limbs and tall…bad combo for easy squat progress lol. I actually good morninged more than I squatted which should have told me something but I didn’t really have anybody to help me. I was completely on my own with only what I could read and glean for guidance. I did eventually squat 500, then really stalled.
Several points throughout this period of time I did some two week high frequency super-compensation cycles, and some other stuff: Smolov intense phase for my deadlift (yes that’s right), my own hybrid programs based on frequency and what I’d read from CT and Poliquin and Louie. They actually worked pretty damn well for the spurts I was on them, but I didn’t know how to modulate my training–because I was the only damn person in there doing this stuff and didn’t know anybody to ask except forums–and eventually burned out, had to go back to Westside 2 lower body days a week. The T-Nation forums were helpful, but obviously can’t take the place of a real coach.