T Nation

Biggest Guy in Class: A Beginner Training Log

I’m about 171cm tall, and wingspan is just above 180cm I think, so my arms are slightly on the long side. I’ve always felt that my upper arms and forearms have been lacking in size to be honest.

At 170 tall, 180 reach you sound in proportion. I’d make your focus getting good at pull ups.

However if you want to add in so direct arm work then bolting this to end if a work out wont hurt.

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I’m going to ask a question that perhaps seems obvious but maybe I’m missing something: how are you intending to add mass to your arms while losing mass on your body?


Yes will definitely focus on increasing pull-up strength. My numbers have improved significantly since I started but much more progress is still required. And of course I’ll throw in some curls for the burn/pump etc.


I didn’t stop to consider that inconvenient fact. Perhaps a slight case of over-enthusiasm on my part. I suppose I was hoping for a sort of recomposition effect? Like keep the protein high, drop calories slightly, cut down the waist but still build a bit of muscle, thus profit?

This is the dream but, in turn, what makes it a dream. Hammering the arms can at least ensure you don’t lose muscle there, but growing them big is something to focus on during your next growth phase.


Yeah fair enough. Will definitely keep hammering them with the compound accessory stuff and the direct arm work, I don’t want to lose a millimetre of size on the arms - God knows I haven’t got many to spare.


Warmup: 20kgx8
Set 1: 40.5x5 (5 @75%)
Set 2: 46x3 (3 @85%)
Set 3: 51.5x4 (1+ @95%) (Pretty chuffed with this, didn’t hit the ideal 5, but considering my track record with rep work on the press, I think it’s rather good.)
FSL: 40.5x5x5 (5x5 FSL @75%) (did the last set with a lifting belt just to try it out. Well, when I say lifting belt, I folded a towel lengthwise until it got to about the right width and then tied it around my waist. Results were more lacklustre than I hoped.)

Superset: Dips 6, 5, 4 with chins 6, 4, 3
Superset, 2 rounds: Decline pushups with inverted rows
Pullovers, 2 sets
Superset, 3 rounds: BB curls sup. w/ BB PJRs, with weighted situps to failure

Thinking about shaking up my assistance work next training cycle, after I come back from my deload at the end of this one. So far the plan is just to have the first superset be BB incline bench with BB rows, and have the second superset be dips and chins, and keep the rest the same. I’ve been missing my BB rows lately, definitely one of my favourite exercises. But I won’t change anything until I’m done with this cycle.

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Also, my forearms have been feeling a little tired the last day or two. Noticed it when doing chin ups and dead hangs throughout the day - they were getting a little tight a little too quickly. Not sure what’s up. Might just be a random blip in recovery or something.

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Probably just a sign you’re ready for your deload. From my experience and what I’ve read, grip strength seems to be a good indicator of fatigue.

Are you going to decrease your training maxes for your next cycle? I’d recommend changing them to something you know you can do for 3-5 reps. I think there’s some new stuff in 5/3/1 Forever about picking a TM but an old method used to be five forward three back, so you increase for five cycles then take your TM back three and repeat. Could be something to try.

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Hmm, good point. Now that you mention it, I’ve heard this too, but the thought didn’t occur to me. Perhaps it is. Weirdly though, everything felt fine in today’s training session, no unusual forearm or grip fatigue at all.

As far as decreasing the training max goes, well, I’m not entirely sure. Part of me just wants to plough on and see what happens, because I’m super eager to make progress. I’ve only been running the program for 3 weeks and it feels like I’ve been doing it forever. However I also know that this over-enthusiasm may end up doing me more harm than good, and perhaps I shouldn’t worry about taking two steps back in order to take ten steps forward, as Jim puts it. I think I’ll finish the 5/3/1+ week, assess how I’m feeling and then have a more in-depth look at what to do.

Whetes the rest of your recovery at? You still on a calorie deficit?
If so you might be finding things hard because you are training hard and eating light. The effects are both chronic and acute. Eat more.

Your press TM is too high. Dont reduce but DO NOT increase. Do the same cycle again from your press BUT bet those PRs. All 3.

I’d also say your assistants exercise are good - but you need to be stronger before you do them all. Doing 4 reps on the press and THEN doing FSL THEN doing low rep body weight THEN doing high rep body weight THEN doing dumbbell work. I’m a fair bit bigger and stronger than you and I’d consider this to recover kill for me.

If done right 2-3 exercise is enough for a body part. Especially if you’re doing them 4 times a week.

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I apologize for spoiling the end of the story here, but what happens is that you stall. There’s no benefit in racing toward a stall: you keep a light TM to prevent that from happening. If you’re super eager to make progress, you want a LIGHT TM, not a heavy one.

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I’m on a calorie deficit in that I’m no longer force feeding myself. But it’s nothing dramatic, I’m trying not to be too aggressive. Waist is slowly coming down, I think, but I’m not feeling any of the classic caloric deficit symptoms like tiredness, hunger, obvious lack of recovery.

Got it. Sounds great actually.

Now is probably a bad time to say that I do arm work and ab work after that too…

Ah. Yeah, that seems painfully obvious now that you mention it.


If I’m not mistaken, these are the takeaways from the points that you guys and @caesium32 have made:

  1. For the Training Max, light=good, generally. This means that I may need to adjust my training maxes:
  • For the press, I need to maintain my TM (with the condition that I set new rep PRs on the 5+, 3+ and 1+ sets) because my PR set rep count has been consistently low this cycle.

  • Since I’ve hit 5 reps on the squat and deadlift on the 1+ sets, I can theoretically increase the TMs. However, it may be prudent to increase it by 5 lbs rather than 10 lbs to keep the TM light and delay stalling while still making progress.

  • Bench workout is tomorrow. If I hit 5 reps on the 1+ set, I can increase the TM, but here too will should keep it to +2.5 lbs or so rather than +5 lbs. If I do not hit 5 reps, use same method as with press.

  1. My assistance work may be beginning to interfere with recovery and thus could lead to overtraining. Thus, I either need to reduce the volume somewhat, or back off on the intensity of said assistance work.


I would reduce TMs all around. Hitting 5 on my 1s week is always a sign it’s time to go back 3 cycles.

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I though 5 was okay? Or is this just your preference?

“Okay” is very subjective. Anything is ok really, but Jim likes a TM you can hit for 5 clean reps, which means more should get done on 1s week and, for me, only getting 5 on 1s week means I am too heavy.

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Your triceps are going to be screwed. The sheer ammount of work they are doing WILL be stopping you from getting bigger or stronger.

Pick a goal man. Even at a maintenance calories it’s hard to make gains. Unless you’re a truly fat git like me.

You wont hit brand new pr each month unless you’re eating to support this. If you’re still too fluffy for your liking drop the TM and maintain your strength and muscle. Dont look to gain. If you do - great.

3 edits due to fat fingers

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I will say I’ve hit 5 on my +1 week and redone that cycle. I’ve not gone back. But there is no point increasing a TM when you can JUST about get 5 reps. Might as well play a longer game and do it again add a few reps to the PR’s.

I talk to some guys once about “owning” the lift. If I say I can do 150 for 5 - I own that lift. I can do it every day of the week. Good form, good bar speed looking comfortable. It shouldn’t be easy- but you shouldn’t be looking for a spotter either.

I like reducing the TM because it lets me set new PRs in a similar way

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@carlbm and @T3hPwnisher well both of you seem to be in favour of backing off a little, so I think it would be somewhat stupid of me not to take heed of your advice.

I’ll drop 10lbs off the training max for the deadlift and squat, and drop 5 lbs off the TM for press and bench (bench workout still to come today so that might change if I do very well on the bench 1+ set). That is with the condition that I set a new PR with the new weight, using Jim’s system for comparing rep PRs at different weights.

In addition, I think I will drop the decline pushups and the tricep extensions from the assistance work in order not to overload the triceps as Carl warned, and to lower the assistance volume slightly. Dips, benching, and pressing should prove sufficient for the triceps for now, I suppose.

In terms of calories, I’ll perhaps keep them where they are for now since I’m dropping the TM - which will buy me another 3 weeks of fluff-dropping time - and then reassess.

It may feel like taking a step back, but I think if I don’t swallow the pride now and ease off I’ll just keep running into a wall. This will help me make more progress in the long run.

It’s sort of hard for me to see long-term though, not going to lie - time already seems to last forever. Long-term is a long way away.