T Nation

Challenge: Need a Plan


Hi. I'm 25. I've been going to gyms on and off for the last 11 years. Can you tell? Me neither.

I've got the same story as every other hardgainer: I've read the right books, followed the right forums, done the right routines, followed the right diet, drank the right shakes, etc.

I guess it's never worked because I've never expected it to work, and have given up or switched programmes and strategies way too early.

This will sound real lazy, but I almost don't want to understand or think about what I'm doing anymore. If there's anyone who wants to use me as a guinea pig, be my guest: you tell me what to do each week - run, lift, eat, drink, whatever - and I'll do it and keep a photo record so we can see if there's any improvement. I just want to be massive! One last catch: I have weights, but no bench.

Rooboyo, 24/09/09

Height: 188cm
Weight: 73kg

(Let me know if you need other measurements.)

Hoping this appeals to someone....

PS I edited this to change how long I've been going to the gym for (I started when I was about 14, but haven't gone continuously) - someone pointed out that I currently had 17 years, which would have made me 8 years old lol - okay, so first I'll fix my body, then I'll work on my math.


step 1)

get a gym membership with squat racks, benches and dumbbells that go over 100lbs or 45kg or something like that.

after you have done so i will tell you step #2


I don't think going to the gym when you are 8 years old really "counts". lol

The good news is, there is nothing physiologically wrong with your body that would prevent you from gaining muscle.

The bad news is, there is a lot wrong with your mind that will.

You need to fix your shitty attitude and set a simple goal. A good example would be "Gain 20lbs of bodyweight, add 50lbs to bench press and squat, all three completed in the next 6 months". If you eat a high protein diet with enough calories to grow on every day, and get to the gym often and actually sweat and push yourself while you are in there, that goal is more than attainable... if you quit having such a limp dick mentality.


How often can you go to the gym?


Tell us more about yourself.
What has your training consisted of?
What are you eating?
Anything going on that will affect training?


First off you are in the right place!
Whoever told you about this website goldmine of info, thank them profusely.
If you stumbled across it was your lucky day and a clear omen of good things to come. :slight_smile:
Be positive you can change yourself but you must realise that to have an EXTRAORDINARY BODY you have to BE EXTRAORDINARY.

Habits that kept you skinny will have to change, accept this change of attitude and lifestyle.

Now read everything in the stickies in this beginners section (if you havn't already).
Do not get to hung up with the advanced programs that the coaches and trainers seem to write every week with each one looking different and confusing. Again DO NOT worry about them, they are only needed to help and interest the 'huge people' with getting already huge muscles huger.

There is no magic pill or method only tools that when combined over time give progress.

The consensus for beginners is a 3 total body workouts a week. Few people will argue with this. Try Mon Wed Fri in the gym.
Use heavy compound movements, (with good safe technique obviously) this lets you move the most weight and will create the biggest growth response in your body.
Train legs a lot with squats and deadlifts, this will let you lift those heavier weights.

And simply eat more good clean food and get that protein in.
Remember you are trying to force your body to grow bigger muscles, they don't want to do this easily its gonna be hard but it is possible if you give the food they need.




Guys, thanks so much for your messages. Let me try and respond:

For background, I recently quit my office job and for the next 10 months am living in a foreign country helping restore a house. I live in a farmer's house, in the middle of nowhere. That means no gym, I'm afraid.

JaX Un: I can't get a gym membership, there are no gyms.

mr popular: Thanks for spotting my mistake earlier. Don't worry about my attitude, I'm fine I just want to step back from the advice and switch off a bit. I've read so much and seen so many conflicting opinions I now just want to be told what to do. But if I could gain 20lbs and add 50lbs to my bench press and squat in the next 6 months, I would have done it years ago lol! As for a high protein diet, see below.

Clown Face: I can't go to a gym, but I can work out every day (if need be) for as long (or as little) as necessary. If there is stuff I should be doing in a gym, I'll have to try and come up with a way of doing it without.

onwards: Thanks for the welcome! I've actually been following this site for a couple of years now, albeit under a different username (I know everyone is nice here and all, but I wasn't sure how my post would be received when it basically says "Do my routine for me", there was certainly a time when I would have felt like responding "If you can't even write a routine, no wonder you never make progress"....)

  1. TRAINING: Over the last 11 years I'd say I've tried a fair few different strategies, certainly too many to list. At the extremes, I tried this "Eastern Bloc" routine, where I basically benched, squatted and curled 10 sets of 10 reps all at 60% of my 1 rep max. It felt amazing, to be honest, but no results. At the other end of the scale, last year I was doing a routine where I barely pressed and squatted because all the excercise focus for the first 8 weeks was on "preloading" my wrists and forearms. That went wrong when the preloading phase finished and I stepped the weights up, but lost my spotter and the week it took to find a new one knocked me out of whack (probably more mentally than physically, but sometimes I'm not sure which comes first).

  2. DIET: Right now, it's pretty poor - I eat breakfast (fruit/toast/cereal); tuna sandwich at 11; lunch (usually something and rice); tuna sandwich at 1600; dinner at 2000 (meat or fish). I am happy to change my diet, but I gotta have dinner at 2000 with my host family. Two tuna sandwiches a day - when I was preloading (see above) I was having about 6. I went to the gym everyday (I know, I know - experts disagree on whether that's counterproductive, but that was what my preloading programme said to do) and between September and January I put on 1.5kg. When I stopped that routine (see above), I'd lost it all by February.

Liv92: Thanks, lol. I prefer to call it anterior pelvic tilt.


okay...try and lift progressivly heavier weights without going to a gym.

Honestly...thats how your going to get bigger.


you buy a baby cow and call yourself Milo.

I heard that trainig was bette than DC. Just roumours tho.


You need to get serious or just give up already. You've made so many excuses for yourself that you dont even know where you've went wrong in the past.

I can tell you for a fact that the first and most important place you went wrong, was that you weren't eating enough. THERE IS NO WAY AROUND THIS. No supplements or training programs are going to make up for the fact that you are eating like an anorexic little girl. Even if you cant train with weights, spend the next year eating like a man, and you'll be better off.

Also, your whole line of thinking is wrong. You have this idea that there are "right programs" and "right diets" that just didn't seem to work. There is no such think as the "right program or diet" You have to make it work for you. And this ties into your eating. You could follow the program that works for 99.99% of people, but if you aren't eating enough, or lifting progressively heavier, you are going to fail.

STAY AWAY FROM HIGH VOLUME. You may be able to handle a higher frequency of 4-5 days per week, but you need to keep the weight heavy, reps low, and sets low. This is the only way you will gain weight. AND EAT MORE.

If there aren't any gyms in the area, you may want to find alternative means of training. Believe it or not, back in the day, people didn't go to gyms to lift weights. If you are on a farm, you should be able to find some stuff to do. If I were you, my program would be this AND only this:

Pull tractor (or something like a sled)
Push tractor (or something like a sled)

You could possibly throw in some kettlebell stuff, but it wouldn't be necessary.

*******Now this is going to be the hardest part for you to grasp. The reason I suggest that training program, and even then you dont have to train at all, is because DIET IS FAR MORE IMPORTANT FOR YOU THAN TRAINING. You will get bigger, stronger, and more muscular just by eating more, EVEN IF YOU DONT TRAIN AT ALL. But you could do all the trainig in the world, and not eat enough, and you'll probably get a little stronger, but you aren't going to get biggger or more muscular.

So if you get anything from all of this, its this WORKING OUT DOESN'T MAKE YOU BIGGER, EATING MORE MAKES YOU BIGGER.


Just to be clear, you really don't need to lecture me on my attitude and where I've been going wrong, etc. I already understand and accept all that. Just tell me what to do:

So far I have:

Buy a cow.
Push thing (the cow?).
Pull things (the cow?).
Do press ups.
Eat more.

Okay, well fine. That's what I'll do for a week and then we can check I'm doing it right. I might have expected a little more detail, and looking at my posture I had hoped that whatever workout you/we come up with would include some elements from this site's "Neanderthal No More" series.

Anyway, this is what I propose to do this four-day 'workout week' (Monday/Wednesday/Thursday/Saturday):

3 x 20 push ups
3 x 20 pull ups
3 x 20 crunches
3 x 20 standing dumbbell curl (alternating) (8kg - don't panic! I can up it next week if need be)

For my posture, I'll also do:


3 x 15 Planks
Warrior Lunge Stretches (15 seconds per side)


4 x 15 Barbell Step-Ups (alternating) (0kg/bar only)
3 x 14 Dead Bug Twists


3 x 15 Dip Shrugs
2 x 20 Dumbbell dorsiflexion


4 x 6 Saxon Side Bends
2 x 25 Planks
2 x 25 Scap Pushups

Finally, I'll start off by trying to eat:

Breakfast: cereal 120 cal

1100: cereal bar 200 cal
2 hard-boiled eggs 140 cal
kiwi fruit 25 cal
cashew nuts 700 cal

Lunch: rice 230 cal
apple 65 cal

1430: peanut butter 200 cal
tuna sandwhich 250 cal

1630: cheese/ham sandwich 400 cal

Dinner: potatoes 500 cal
meat 470 cal
rice 160 cal

2200 yogurt 190 cal

			=	3650 cal

That's still some way off my target, which I guess should be closer to 4,500, but I'll no doubt need to rejig it next week anyway so I can play around with what's worked and what hasn't and build up.

I'll let you know how Milo and I have got on next Sunday.



Actually, you're supposed to carry the cow around, which would work your legs. Which it looks like you're barely going to do.

Where did you pull that routine out of? If you feel your posture is that bad, how about just actually doing the NNM program with equipment variations?

So, you've been training for a long time, with not much change in bw. How about strength changes? Do you make any progress during these programs?


Too long, didn't read = bad program.

So from what I did read, you're in the sticks with no access to a gym, have weights but no bench, and you may or may not have access to a cow.

This is doable.

Step 1)
Eat AT LEAST 50 grams of protein with each meal.
What more than 50 grams of protein can look like:

2/3 lb. of steak
7 8oz. glasses of milk
2 cans of tuna fish

You should eat other food along with it.

Step 2)
Read this:

Step 3)
Quit worrying about set and rep schemes; perform reps until you know the next rep will fail, and stop. Then rest and repeat. Use heavy weight while doing this, ie: the most you can do with good form.

Step 4)
See step 1.

Step 5)
Eat more.

Follow the KISS rule.


HoratioSandoval: Carry the cow around, okay got it - thanks! Seriously, I'm happy to do legs too (on Tuesdays and Thursdays perhaps?) but should I see how I fare with upper body for a week or two first?

As for my posture, I tried doing the full NNM once, but (surprise!) gave it up after some or other period of time having not felt like I was getting anywhere. If for the first month I can do the elements of it that I have listed above, then perhaps I can add on some of the other excercises that we think will be beneficial (and don't need a gym)?

As for strength, I do think I make some improvements. I think I am fairly strong given my atrophic appearance. (But I'd be lying if I said I just wanted to be strong, I want to be strong and LOOK strong.)



kl0wn: Great, thanks. Well you're level 4 and I'm level 0 so I'll do what you say.

I'll do my original routine next week as a control, and see how I get on:

Monday; Wednesday; Thursday; Saturday:

3 x 20 push ups
3 x 20 pull ups
3 x 20 crunches
3 x 20 standing dumbbell curl (alternating) (8kg)

I'm still going to try the NNM stuff throughout.

I'll scrap my (arduous) diet immediately and instead eat an extra two tins of tuna per each meal I have.

Starting the week of 05/10/09 I'll up that (I hope) to:

3 sets push ups to failure
3 sets pull ups to failure
3 sets crunches to failure
3 sets standing dumbbell curl (alternating) (8kg) to failure

If all goes well, and subject to my progress and any advice received in the meantime, I'll prepare something from the Old School routine for weeks 3+.



I'd ditch the crunches and curls and focus more on compound movements.
If I were in your shoes, which I was up until recently, I'd do something more like this:

Xx squats to relative failure (one legged if you lack heavy enough weights)
Xx pullups to relative failure
Xx pushups to relative failure
Xx bent over rows to relative failure

I use the "X"s because you want to stay flexible with your set and rep scheme. Let your body dictate what it's capable of, not any kind of program.

And the article was more of a conceptual recommendation, not a routine. It was to give you an idea of what you could use when lacking "proper" gym equipment.
In other words, feel free to lift rocks and logs, push cars and drag tires.

Here's another one that's good for when you're gym-defecient:

Remember that all you need to do is tear muscle fibers in order to stimulate muscle growth/adaptation, and then provide the building blocks for your body to repair itself; eat with the same intensity as you lift, and make sure you're eating the right stuff. Your diet as it was, was severely lacking in protein.

Also, regarding the 2 tins of tuna with every meal: get more variety with the food you eat; don't just eat cans of tuna with everything or you'll develop a taste aversion to it.

And the main reason I'm level a 4 is just because I've been hooked on the Metabolic Drive bars for years.


Just give up now. You aren't going to make any progress with YOUR mindset, so you might as well not waste the time or energy on trying.

That program is ABSOLUTE shit, and that is why you are still skinny. You obviously have something against lifting heavy shit and eating a lot and all around being a man. When your balls drop, and you are ready to put in some work, then come back and ask for help again.



Seriously the push ups and pull ups are fine, though don't take every set to failure. The reason for this is that it will end up being counter productive as you will get sorer and take longer to recover. So only the last set to failure or don't take any to failure, this is fine to.

Also place less emphasis on the curls, your bicep is tiny muscle compared to your LEGS. Do them if you want but not at the expense of heavy compound movements.

So like everyone says, TRAIN YOUR LEGS now!

Q. How to train legs?

A. Use your dumbbells. Hold heavy dumbbells by your side and squat.
For variety hold then in a different position, say racked by your shoulders. (Then you could do thrusters)
Another way I like is the goblet squat (hold one dumbbell in two hands by your chest and squat)

Use as heavy weights as you can, ideally so you can get no more than 8 reps.
Stop before absolute failure.
Repeat the squatting.

And finally EAT LOADS and drink glass after glass of milk.

Good luck man.
Feel free to post how the workouts are going, how many reps, what weights you are using etc.
This will help to keep you motivated.


I would echo what dankid is saying here.

I hope this thread is a bad joke, because if it isn't this is really pathetic.


http://www.tmuscle.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/training_advice_for_generation_ent sandbags n tire/sledgehammer.. you should be able to find those on a farm

i think you gotta go heavier dude


Excellent article.
Scratch whatever I said before and do that.
And eat lots.