T Nation

B/S! What I Learned the Hard Way


Feel free to add to this list or argue (I know you all will anyway).

1.) I keep reading in articles that muscles either shrink, grow or stay the same; you can't "shape" them or "tone" them. Bullshit. Once, I religiously and progressively back squatted for about six months. My legs blew up, but they looked like shit: mostly the inner thigh muscle got bigger and nothing whatsoever happened for the vastus medialis. I quit back squatting. Later, I took a capoeira class (a Brazilian martial art where you basically lunge and kick for an hour straight) three times a week. At the end of three months, my thighs were more cut (not bigger: more cut) than they've ever been, and the vastus medialis more developed. The truth: different exercises develop muscles differently; it's not all just "bigger" or "smaller." Nowadays I do front squats: after two years of progressively heavier weights, my legs still aren't as cut as they were when I was doing capoeira, but they look a hell of a lot better than they did when I was back squatting. (As a sidenote, I think back squats work well for ectomorphs and mesomorphs: I've trained friends who were both, and their musculature developed very differently from mine, though I had them doing back squats).

2.) Getting a six pack involves a complicated program, is impossible to maintain year round, and requires crazy amounts--or intensities-- of cardio. Bullshit. I am extremely endomorphic and I keep my six pack year round (though, admittedly, I keep things tighter in summer). The secret? Three tough fullbody workouts a week lasting one hour, no cardio whatsoever. It's the food, dudes. If you drink juice and/or soda, no abs. If you love bread, pastries and dessert, no abs. If you don't consider it a real meal unless there's some starch on the plate, you got it, no abs. You must learn how to eat, if you want a six pack. Conquering your lust for sugar/potatoes/rice/bread and learning to love fish/green vegetables/cooking-not-microwaving is the deciding factor for whether you'll ever have a six pack.

3.) Related to the two points above: If you think you can follow the training or nutritional advice of just any author, you better think again. Back squat! Bench press! Barbell rows! Hold on partner: I pointed out how back squatting doesn't create aesthetic muscle for endomorphs. Extremely long arms? Think twice (think three times) about bench pressing. Got a bad lordotic curve? Think again about barbell rows. You've got to bring a lot awareness of who you are--your weaknesses and body type--before you accept someone's advice or think that it applies to you. I don't have to eat a lot to stay 200 very solid lbs at 6'--it doesn't take 6 meals a day or tons of calories; my metabolism is VERY slow. When an extremely ectomorphic author like Berardi gives nutritional advice, I have to take it with a grain of salt. You should too.

I could go on, but I'd like to hear some of what you all have learned that contradicts the messages we receive.


nice ramble lol, neways over the few years ive been training ive learne tht i can burn fat without losing any strength or muscle and still make minimal muscle and strength gains. everywhere i go people complain that when they cut they lose muscle and strength. those are the people that do it wrong and usually try dropping weight too fast.


You make it sound like getting a 6 pack is easy... it most certainly isnt. It takes me a phenomenal effort to get to a 6 pack level of body fat, and keeping it there is equally as difficutly. 3 workouts a week with NO cardio wouldnt cut the mustard for me

I dont think you can shape your muscles, just make them grow or shrink.

It sounds like you have individualized a lot which is good, but stuff that works for you might not work for everyone else.


I mostly agree with all of your points. I do realize however that number 2 only applies to a small percentage of the population. I think you will be criticized for point #1 because of it being scientifically unsound, but I do feel that slow, concentrated contractions of certain muscle groups brings them out much more than explosive movements. Both slow and explosive movements have their importance though.


The Quadriceps has 4 heads, hence the different shape when you did different exercises. They were all worked differently with lunges and kicks than with back squats. The more cut you got I would attribute to a decrease in body fat percentage due to the fact that capoeira is fucking brutal.


  1. That just means that one type of exercise hit the VM more than the other. The VM didn't "get more tone" or "change shape", it just grew.

  2. Awesome advice. Abs are made in the kitchen.

  3. Again sound advice. I dont think, generally, it hurts people to start off with prepacked plans for a while, as they start to learn what works for them and doesnt.


In response to #1, you're talking about the quads as if they're one muscle. You didn't change the shape of the muscle at all. The quadriceps are composed of four INDIVIDUAL muscles and back squats simply worked one particular muscle more for you. When you switched to another form of exercise, a different muscle hypertrophied making your thighs a different shape. Also, as someone else mentioned, you probably looked more cut because capoeira is hard as shit.

And you can't make generalizations based on you and two friends. They may have squatted with different form than you, leading to different muscle gains. There's just way too many factors to consider.


The thing I have found by reading some author's articles, is that the style of training/nutrition they do, or preach, is very biased based on their body-type.

As a 100% ectomorph, if I was to do tough full body compound workouts 3 times a week, i wouldn't put on a lot in terms of mass. I'd probably have to eat 3500 calories just to maintain weight, and i'd only see body comp changes.

The only author i have so far made very good gains from listening to, is John Berardi, because as you stated, he is an ectomorph too, and his advice is quite biased to skinny guys.

However, I must say that listening to thib, or joe defranco on training advice has done me good also. This is because they are not very biased on their training methods and understand that different people have different needs. Though I think anyone can gain considerable size on a body-part split.

  1. Deep squats hit the VSM nicely and again it comes to your own personal structure. Front Squats work well for hitting the quads and VSM. For some it means doing the leg extensions. Squats are for overall growth however as mentioned what ever "weak" part of the legs will most likely grow because what ever part is stronger will over compensate the weakness. Going deep enough without crushing the calves will let you know what needs work. VSM does not get worked in heavy assed partials.

  2. Great, it worked for you others need more cardio.

  3. Again it comes down to what works for you as some have posted. Some people are not tolerant to certain foods so although there are blanket nutrional advice or exercise advice it comes down to the individual. This is a journey of self exploration, there are no short cuts.


Quite so. He disproved his own point, which isn't to say he's an idiot, but just that he didn't think it through. I'm not up to another treatise on number 2 at the moment.


Let's take your bench press point: If you have long arms, you should rethink doing the exercise... If you aren't "built for" a given exercise, you will probably need more attention to form, but that doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't do it...


I am also 100% ectomorph and have done nothing but full body, grueling training sessions of nothing but the big three with extra compounds and managed to put on over 40lbs of mostly musle over the past two years and still on the rise.

In this iron game I don't think anyone can really make any generalizations about anything. Only what is backed by raw scientific data, because so many damn things work for so many damn different types of people.

Train as hard as you can and eat as hard as you can and you get results.


So I guess that's the only point he's made that's really wrong. Everything else is pretty spot on.

To add to the whole not shaping muscle thing, you defiantly can't shape a specific muscle but you can enhance it's already existing shape and you can shape a region of muscle.

Anyone with freaky peaked biceps has needed to do a considerable amount of work to make that peak more obvious. Larry Scott doesn't have much of a peak but has massive arms. Others have the peak that came with massive arms. If you want to know the true shape of your muscles you gotta build them.

And you can shape your brachialis muscle and your bicep heads to get a different look for your arm or shape the different heads of the tricep to get a different look.


My point is that different exercises, which according to most recieved ideas should have identical effects on hypertrophy, actually are extremely different. It's not a matter of technique: I can back squat just fine, and I'm flexible enough to squat with heels on the ground and hamstrings resting on the calfs.

It's a good point about the 4 heads of the quadriceps, but I could have mentioned something similiar about my struggles with bench pressing and my success with dips. I tried wide grip to the neck, I learned powerlifting style, etc, etc: my chest wouldn't grow and my shoulders hurt. When I put my effort into dips, things finally started happening.

I would encourage people who have an image of what they want to look like and have been struggling in good faith to do various money exercises they've always heard will give them results, but aren't getting the results: maybe it's time to strike out on a more individual, experimental path.

I'm making the same point here that Scott Abel did a couple weeks ago and got torn to shreds for: if some exercise is not living up to its reputation for you (bench press, back squat, chinup, whatever), stop investing so much of your best energy in trying to master it, and move on to something that does work.


BS: you have to "keep your body guessing" by frequently changing your exercises, sets and reps. That's just an excuse to avoid the more painful, more effective way of providing a new growth stimulus: adding WEIGHT.


Agreed. I kept my body guessing by slapping 20 lbs on my front squats and doing an extra rep.


Mike Mejia wrote an article here a while back about your point one.



Here's one I learned the hard way-

When doing GHRs with a medicine ball, don't bounce the ball off of the floor on your way down.

The rebound will crush your face.


In this case, your chest simply didn't grow, not that one part of your chest grew differently from another when you switched exercises. Still, I agree with most of what you said about sticking to money exercises that don't work. Nobody should.


Good idea for a thread though.

I'll add a couple from previous experience especially:

  1. Supplements are mostly bs, even the good ones are only of marginal benefit over and above sufficient reasonably healthy food and a 'cover the bases' vitamin. The more 'sophisticated' the supplement the more marginal the benefit. worth it if you have the budget and have everything in your life sorted out for training, but not worth fretting about otherwise, and never expect anything more than a few % extra improvement over what you would be getting anyway.

  2. "big guns in 28 days" and any article with a similar title in mens health, muscle and fitness and mags like that. You may go from 13" to 13.5" but that's not what "big guns" means! One exception is "6 pack in 6 weeks" type articles, as it's basically about the food and provided youre not really fat you can get abs in a few hard weeks.

  3. Anecdotal evidence! yep, you can kind of ignore not only my experience with 'great guns' articles but also anyone who says "but i did get big guns on program x..'" or whatever! The only general rules we can rely on are ones that are tested with sufficient subjects under solid test conditions, the only supplements you can believe in are those with replicated multple double blind studies under very strict conditions. I.e. the tried and tested progressive resistance large muscle exercise, whole proteins and sufficient calories and rest.

Just because johnny down the road gained 20 pounds in 4 weeks while using supplement x, drinking raw milk, training a heavy/light cycle in the morning with 5x5 squats doesnt mean a) that you will or b) that any of those factors above were the key to his success!