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Biggest Guy in Class: A Beginner Training Log

[UPDATE: 6 week progress report here Biggest Guy in Class: A Beginner Training Log]

[UPDATE: 2 months in and I’m forced to make some changes. Biggest Guy in Class: A Beginner Training Log]

Recently I posted here on the forums asking for advice on training, and some very helpful members were kind enough to help me out. One of the recommendations was that I start a training log, so here I am. I’m going to try and update it regularly and stick to my routine as best I can. Please leave any feedback, criticism or questions below, I’m excited to hear what you guys think of my plans :slight_smile:

About me

-Late teens, experience in sports and exercise, but limited exposure to structured weight training. I’ve picked up a barbell before but haven’t gotten much further! Hopefully it’s time to fix that.
-Stats: [6 week update here: Biggest Guy in Class: A Beginner Training Log]
a. Physique measurements (all flexed, cold, first thing in the morning, unless stated otherwise)
Weight: 175 lbs
Height: 5’8"
Estimated body fat: 20%
Shoulder width (using the technique in Dr. Darden’s article): 20 3/8 inches
Shoulder circumference: 48 3/8 inches
Chest: 44 1/2 inches
Waist: 34 1/4 inches (relaxed and let out)
Hips: 39 1/2 inches
Leg: 22 1/2 inches (halfway up quad)
Calves: 14 3/4 inches
Arms: 14 5/8 inches

b. Lifts
Squat: 126x9 (estimated 1RM: 163 lbs)
Bench: 135x3 (est. 1RM: 145 lbs)
Deadlift: 225x5 (est. 1RM: 255 lbs)
OHP: 121x1
Chin ups: 4
Pull ups: 3

(N.B - these are only current approximate estimates. I list them only to give an impression of what sort of level I’m at. Yes, it is quite a low level! Numbers have been converted to lbs for the convenience of the reader - my training log will be using kg for the most part.)

What are my goals?
My goal is to add muscle mass while keeping my body fat under control; I will know that I have achieved this because I will look massi- ah, I will be able to see visually and through my measurements that I have succeeded. One goal I want to reach, as a first milestone, is to reach 16" arms, ideally within about 6 months or so (realistic or not?). Adding strength is desirable, but not the primary goal - that being said, I know that adding strength will be my main method of progressive overload especially during my first few years.

That being said, I would like to reach Dan John’s “Big Blue Club” strength standards in the big lifts - 205 bench, 255 squat, 315 deadlift, 115 OHP (already achieved, God knows how - working towards 135 OHP).

I’m also going to be attempting to use my DB pullovers, performed in a “breathing” style, to expand the ribcage. Whether this is possible or not is quite debatable. While I’m currently convinced that the ribcage can expand over time (e.g in COPD patients), I’m not sure whether you can do it through exercise. However, it’s worth a shot, especially at this age, so I’ll give it a go.

My training

I am going to be training 3x a week (mostly Sat/Mon/Wed) using a whole body split. My program:

Workout A
Squat 3x6-8 (superset w/ light DB pullover)
Bench 3x6-8
DB fly 3x12-15
Rows 3x6-8
Chins 5xAMRAP
Pullovers 3x10-12, focusing on breathing and stretching
Curls superset w/ skullcrushers 3x10-12 each

Workout B
Squat 3x6-8 (superset w/ light DB pullover)
OHP 3x6-8
Lateral raise 3x12-15
Deadlift 1x5-7
Chins 5xAMRAP
Pullovers 3x10-12, focusing on breathing and stretching
Curls superset w/ skullcrushers 3x10-12 each

I plan to progress using a “rep goal” system - that is, upon reaching a certain total number of reps, I will up the weight 5 or so pounds (2.5-5 kg depending on the lift), less for isolation movements, and begin the process again. For the squat, bench, OHP, and BB row I will be using a rep goal of 24 - when I get a total of 24 reps from all 3 sets combined, I’ll up the weight and then work towards 24 again. Arm work, I will use a rep goal of 30. For the deadlift, I’ll work up to about 7 or so on my work set. The DB fly and lateral raise, I plan to work towards increasing the reps up to about 15 and then making the exercise more difficult with shorter rest times, slower tempo, more sets etc. Adding weight will be difficult due to my limited equipment (I’m training at home).

For chin ups, I plan to work towards being able to do sets of 12 or so, at which point we can experiment with adding weight. Currently, I am using 5 sets because of the low number I can do, so that I can get enough volume. That will hopefully change later; again, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it! I’m also working on my chin up/pull up ability by doing a few every time I walk past the bar.

Rest times: 2 minutes for big compounds and chins, 1 minute or so for everything else.

I’ll probably use about 5 minutes every morning to do some light ab work (sit-ups etc) and some chin ups, maybe some resistance band face pulls etc. Bit of fluff because hey why not lol. Get the day started on a good note!

Nutrition, sleep, and miscellaneous

Nutrition and sleep will be optimised as best as I can. Currently I’m not planning on following a set nutrition plan, but I am focusing on eating clean, sticking to whole nutritious foods and skipping the obvious crap. No supplementation yet, we’ll fine tune that stuff when it’s needed.

Sleep is a problem as a student. I don’t party or game at all, I’ve phased that out completely, so I’m not staying up late wasting my time as such. However, sometimes all the work and assignments do drag on longer than I’d like. (Frankly making time to train is tough too, it’s a very demanding course, but there are people who have it worse than me so I can’t complain!) I always try to get to bed as early as possible though, and I try and make up for any lost sleep on the weekends.

Sport has been affected by the current covid crisis but it’ll be getting started again soon, so I’ll add my sport training sessions to the log as they come up.

And I think that pretty much sums everything up… have I missed anything? I am keen to learn as much as possible, so please do leave any feedback or comments below.

Let’s get cracking!

I’ve already completed a few sessions of my new program. Here are the details:

08/06/20
Not pushing to the max today, just trying to find a good place to start - it’s been a while since I’ve been under the bar in earnest, but I’ve kept fit-ish. Bit of a rushed session so had to miss some accessory exercises. All weights in kg!

Squat
20x10
40x6
50x5
57.5x6
57.5x6
57.5x5

Bench (up weight 2.5 kg next time)
20x10
30x7
45x9
45x8
45x8

(Skipped flies - didn’t have time)

BB row
20x10
50x6
50x6
50x6

Chins
3
2

BB curls
22.5x10
22.5x7
22.5x6

(had to skip skull crushers today as well)

11/06/20
Getting back into the swing of things. A harder session today, and no skipped exercises!

Squat
20x10
40x5
57.5x8
57.5x7
57.5x7
(All supersetted with some light 11 kg DB pullovers, focusing on breathing)

OHP
20x5
35x8
35x6
35x6

Lateral raise
6.6x12
6.6x11
6.6x9

Deadlift (weaker than expected here. Haven’t done deadlifts on days with squats before, so maybe that’s it… or maybe my pants were getting in the way? Definitely felt a pull.)
60x5
70x5
85x2
101x3

Chins
4, 2, 2, 2, 2

Curls sup. with skullcrushers
22.5x13, 20x8
22.5x7, 20x7
22.5x6, 20x6

That brings me up to date! Next session is tomorrow, so we’ll update the log then.

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Hey just dropping in. I wondered where you got this programme.
It looks solid enough. Maybe a tad too much arm work for a beginner. But that’s a “maybe”. Its still a REALLY solid plan.

Fyi - deadlifts after squats is hard work. You will notice a drop in performance.

And on diet try and eat similar every day. I have the same breakfast and lunch every day. But I know by 13.00 I’ve had 100g of protein and 1800 calories. So I’m doing well.

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Well I didn’t really get the plan from anywhere technically speaking, I sort of made it up, but it’s inspired by the discussions I had with the gentlemen in my first post (“How To Set Up Program For a Life of Lifting”) and other programs/articles I’ve seen. But thanks, I was wondering if it would be any good haha. Admittedly, I was very eager to add arm work, but we all have our vices.

Makes sense, I was quite concerned initially!

Also makes sense, I think that’s a good idea. Hard to know what’s going on if you’re eating random stuff every day. I might start adding nutrition to the log as well actually.

As I say its solid enough. I don;t see any reason to change it.

This is my number 1 diet tip. Even if you can’t eat EVERYTHING the same - if you can eat 2/3 of the day the same its a massive bonus.

I’ll leave you be. Good luck mate. Is there is anything I might be able to help with please tag me. I might not know the answer but if I do I’ll chip in.

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Thanks, I appreciate the tip. And I’ll be sure to let you know if I need any help! See you around :slight_smile:

13/06/20
Today’s training session! Life got in the way today, had to take a break for an online meeting after my rows. Had a bite to eat while I did that, and went back some 2 and a half hours later to finish my exercises for the day (better late than never!) - hence the slightly increased performance on the later exercises.

Increased the weight on bench for today, since we hit the rep goal last time. I’m now back to my normal RPE - pushing each set right until the next rep would end up putting me on a “gym memes” compilation, i.e until the next rep would seriously compromise form. That being said, there were some slightly iffy reps right at the end of some sets… nothing too bad, but not ideal, so I’ll pay attention to that next time.

Squat (hit rep goal! Add 2.5 kg next time. I must be getting huge or something - going to be squatting an entire big-boy plate on each side now!)
20kgx10, 40x5
57.5x9
57.5x8
57.5x8
Supersetted these with 1-1.5 minutes of breathing pullovers.

Bench
20x12, 30x5
47.5x9
47.5x7
47.5x6 (6th rep was painfully slow)

DB flies (I do these slowly and carefully, holding the stretch at the bottom to get the full effect on the pectoral muscle. According to Arnold, they can also be of use to expand the ribcage - I am actually told that there is a stretch on the rib cartilage at the bottom, which theoretically is how this expansion occurs).
6.6x6
6.6x6
6.6x5

BB row
20x10
50x8
50x7
50x7

(2.5 hour rest… lol)

Chins
4, 3, 3, 2, 2

Curls sup. w/ skullcrushers
22.5x13, 20x8
22.5x9, 20x5
22.5x8, 20x8
Hands were feeling sketchy on these - grip was giving out - hence the slightly odd rep counts, especially on the skullcrushers.

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15/06/20
Decided to amend the program slightly and add pullovers after chins. I feel like I’m not getting full value from the quick reps I do in between squat sets - that being said, it’s nice to stretch out after the squats, so I’ll keep the light pullovers there, but my proper work sets will now be done separately. I’ll edit my original program write-up.

Squat (rep count didn’t go down that much, so I thought about experimenting with adding a little more weight, but decided that this is fine. If I don’t add enough then worst case scenario I’ll just hit the rep goal a little sooner than expected - no need to be greedy).
20kgx10, 40x5
60x8
60x7
60x7
Supersetted these with 1-1.5 minutes of breathing pullovers.

OHP (for some reason, rep total is still the same - just added one rep to the first set and lost one off the last! I only just realised that I seem to be pushing OHPs to complete failure unlike the other lifts where I’m stopping one short, so I’ll be more careful from now on).
20x5
35x9
35x6
35x5

Lateral raises (honestly, I feel like the rep counting here is mostly a formality, it varies so much, and the standard of the rep itself is hard to judge. Mostly I just focus on targeting the delt and pumping it with blood - over time I should notice a more noticeable increase in reps/strength though. I’ll keep an eye on this.)
6.6x15
6.6x11
6.6x12

Deadlift (set aside the ego and lightened the weight here to account for the fatigue from the squats. We’ll work up from here.)
60x5, 70x5
95x5

Chins
4 (almost 5), 3, 3 (last rep tough), 2, 2

Pullovers (focusing more on breathing and stretching than reps, but keeping my eye on slowly improving)
14.3x6
14.3x5
14.3x5

Curls sup. w/ skullcrushers (hit rep goal on curls, will add 1 kg or so next time and see how it goes. Hands feeling tired again, hopefully that will improve as I get stronger)
22.5x14, 20x10
22.5x10, 20x9
22.5x9, 20x6

Had some meditations and musings on lifting and progress to share, but it’s getting late so I’ll save that for next time!

17/06/20
Today’s session was somewhat poor. I wasn’t really feeling it; failed to progress on my bench and ended up bailing on the lift on the last rep. Have I reached a plateau? Have I hit my genetic potential? Do I need to move to dual-factor periodisation? All these questions and more raced through my mind… more likely, though, I just need to stick to it - we all have those days. Perhaps a slightly increased focus on sleep and nutrition wouldn’t be amiss either. And I also need to break this habit of “one more rep” when it’s clear that the next rep is going to be a crap one. There’s a time and a place for that but maybe not here. Hit rep goal on squats though!

Squat (up weight 2.5 kg!)
20kgx10, 40x5
60x10
60x8
60x7

Bench
20x10, 30x5
47.5x9
47.5x7
47.5x5 (went for rep 6 and couldn’t get it up. Left the bar on the safety pins and extracted myself with no injury other than a bruised ego.)

DB flies
6.6x7
6.6x7
6.6x6

BB row
20x10
50x8
50x7
50x7

Chins (disappointing outcomes today, but perhaps I went too gung-ho on my philosophy of doing a lot of them throughout the day!)
3, 2, 2, 2, 2

Pullovers
14.3x7
14.3x6
14.3x6

Curls sup. w/ skullcrushers (edit: correction, weight on curls is 23 not 23.5)
23x10, 20x9
23x8, 20x8
23x7, 20x7

Other assorted thoughts -
I’ve come to realise that lifting isn’t just an equation with nice clear cut numbers. i.e, Performance varies from day to day, sometimes the lift doesn’t feel quite right or something’s not feeling good. Maybe I shouldn’t look at progress as a steady upwards line and start to feel it more as a fluctuating line moving higher slowly over time, if that makes sense.

Also, I haven’t been looking in the mirror for the last week or two, not physique-wise anyway. Honestly I don’t know why. I just don’t really feel like it… I start getting all worried if I’m looking “flat” or if the lighting’s making me look bad or whatever. Little things like that. Much less stress to cut such unhealthy behaviour out. I plan to check in with the mirror again in about 4 weeks or so, and I’ll also take my new measurements then. Hopefully both will show progress!

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20/06/20
Today’s session was rather average. I won’t complain (yet) - I still need to focus more on my nutrition and sleep before anything else. Unfortunately I’ve got some important assignments due soon, so neither are currently being given as much importance as they should be. We’ll see how things play out.

Squat (might need some more warmups in the future)
20kgx10, 40x5
62.5x7
62.5x6
62.5x4 (had to bail on the 5th rep, but that was my own fault - I reckon I could have made it)

OHP (3rd session in a row that I’ve failed to see an increase in reps. I’ll wait another week and focus on my recovery, and if there’s no improvement, I’ll drop the weight and start up again.)
20x5
35x8
35x6
35x6

Lateral raise
6.6x17
6.6x13
6.6x12

Deadlift (failed to increase reps here too.)
60x5, 70x3
95x5

Chins
5 (last one tough), 3, 3, 2 (almost 3), 2

Pullovers
14.3x9
14.3x8
14.3x8

Curls sup. w/ skullcrushers (hit rep goal on curls)
23x12, 20x11
23x10, 20x8
23x8, 20x8

Hey man, sounds like you are stalling a bit. Don;t worry its normal. You seem to have the right idea in double down on sleep and nutrition. Eat more / more protein. No one eats enough. Post in here EXACTLY what you eat in a day. And sleep more. Always a good idea.

When setting rep PR’s I tend to go by the first set only. Reason being - if I’ve pushed for a rep PR on the squat - even if its just one rep. Then my next set might be toast. Hell the rest of the day might be toast. But I’ve still hit my PR so next week I want more on the first set.

BTW two writers on double progression. One very extensive - one not.

2 Likes

Thanks for the articles, both were great reads. Coach Thibs’ ideas about progressing by making the rep more difficult really interested me, I’ll file that one away for future use.

The concept of only using the first set as a rep PR set is rather good, the idea seems very logical. And I do tend to end up dropping reps like crazy in the sets following an all-out set, even with 2+ mins rest, so I can definitely relate to being toast after a rep PR. Definitely will experiment with that idea.

Ooh… this might get me crucified, but it’ll be good for my soul. Will post that tomorrow with my workout report!

Clay Hyght is writer “The amazing Stu” really respects. And Stu is himself a beast. So this is weapons grade info.

Part one is also a good read. But point 11 is the bit I think you should read. Training to the max too often is HARD. Grinding out reps will tax you. Chose when to tax your self. So you can do it more often.

Yeah - welcome to the club. I’m finally trying to get my act together with this. Getting enough food/protein is never an issue. But I’m a human garbage bin. The quality of food I eat is DIRE lol.

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Actually he attributes this to the Pullover, especially if you do it across the bench, it stretches the chest like nothing else.

I think it is also a nice idea to do it after the pull-ups, or even as a superset with.

Maybe it would be useful to replace some of these with pulldowns. Having a bit more of volume.

I would also increase the rep range on Flyes, Pullovers and arms sometimes.

Progression, well we all have bad and good days… But as a beginner it should be pretty quick.
But honestly I don’t think you should go to failure yet. Keep 1-2 reps in the tank, especially on the big basics.

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@carlbm that’s a great article. I have to say, I felt quite singled out when he said: "Or you can be stubborn like I’ve been and say, “Screw that, I can do more… I’ll do one more rep on the next set…and then I’ll do one more set, too! That way I’ll give the muscle no choice but to grow!” Sounds too much like me!

Well you’re all far smarter and wiser than I am, so I think I’d be doing myself a favour if I listen haha! I’ll be more careful with how I direct my efforts.

@aldebaran I’m definitely a big fan of the pullover, I think I’m the only one among my friends doing the movement tbh. I do them across the bench like you say, and I can definitely feel the stretch. I sometimes do some light sets just to stretch out between squats, and then harder sets to really stretch the rib box later after my chin ups - I also add some stretching exercises (Rader chest pulls) to get the full expansion effect.

As far as I know, the DB fly does actually have some effect on the ribcage (but it is definitely second fiddle to the pullover for that purpose). In “The Education of a Bodybuilder”, Arnold says of the DB fly: “Flyes stretch the rib cage and build the outer pectorals. They’re one of my favorite exercises and have had the best effect on my pectoral muscles, causing them to grow wide and low, with a lot of definition.” In a video on the DB chest fly (ironically, it was about the risks of the exercise!), Jeff Cavalier of Athlean-X remarked that a part of the stretch at the bottom position is because of a stretch on the cartilage of the ribs - which is how the expansion occurs. That being said, I do the exercise mainly for the benefit to the pectoral muscle. As you said, the most important movement for the ribcage is definitely the pullover, but I’ll take anything I can get!

Yeah not much point in going too heavy on those movements all the time I suppose. Although for flies I’m currently limited by my equipment (training at home - they’re adjustable DBs but the next configuration is way too light for the exercise, I’ll be banging out 20+ reps lol.)

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22/06/20
Much better workout today thankfully!

Squat
20kgx10, 40x5
62.5x9
62.5x7
62.5x6

Bench
20x10, 30x5
47.5x10
47.5x7
47.5x6

Flies
6.6x9
6.6x8
6.6x6

BB row (hit rep goal, add 2.5 kg)
20x10
50x9
50x8
50x7

Chins
3, 2, 2, 2, 2

Pullover
14.3x11
14.3x9
14.3x9

Curls sup. w/ skullcrusher
23.5x9, 20x9
23.5x7, 20x6
23.5x8, 20x7 (don’t know why I got more reps on these two sets lol. just found an extra rep I suppose - pushed hard for it though)

Diet for 22/06/20
No breakfast (yep, sin no. 1, I know - gotta make time for that in future)
Lunch: Homemade chicken burger x3, fruit (apples and clementines)
Dinner: Homemade chicken sandwich in 1/4 baguette stick each x2.5, plate of potato wedges
(May have eaten a Guylian chocolate seashell (hey I was hungry), but I usually manage to resist such temptations!)

Obviously needs a bit of work, so we’ll fine tune as we go!

I stand corrected, I knew he said that about the Pullover, not the Fly as well!

I was thinking, mainly for back, is that you’ll be able to bang more reps, and probably with better form (I’m shooting in the dark here, just from personal experience) and mind-muscle connexion than really hard sets of 2-3 chins. As you lose weight these will increase automatically anyway.

I have nothing against isolation for arms, chest etc. for a beginner. It will improve mind-muscle connexion for sure, and this will be paramount if you ever want to take the aesthetics route. But it might be hard to develop, once again, with heavy ass reps.

Anyway, all this talk is not really important. This is a solid thing you have. Work hard at it and you’ll improve, no doubts!

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Definitely eat more protein. You’re in a very similar position to what I was when I created my log on here and you’re doing very similar stuff.

Long story short, I spent 3+ years spinning my wheels until recently when I paid a lot of attention to my diet. Suddenly I’m gaining muscle while in a deficit and setting multiple PRs every workout. I tried lots of different programs over the three years and got mediocre results with them all so I don’t think it was the program. I also gained up to 10kg over that time too so I was definitely eating enough but just looked fat and no more muscular. The thing I changed recently though was tracking my food and eating enough protein (>1g/lb of bodyweight), not just enough calories.

This is nothing new, I’m sure you’ve already read it, I had and never really focussed on it but I wish I had. So basically what I am trying to say is really try your best to sort that diet out ASAP. I wish someone had posted this in my log when I started (to be fair they might have and I ignored it).

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You’re completely right. For some reason during my two last cuts I gained muscle and strength. Because I wasn’t eating like a complete moron for once. Focusing on the diet did more for me than any workout.

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