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Did it For Chicks, Not Anymore...

I have the strength of a girl. That was okay when I could fit into my 115-lb girlfriend’s jeans, but now that I’m a bit bigger and have spent significant time training, it’s just downright shameful. Where do I begin? I need a strength training for dummies.

Here’s the deal. I got into lifting weights about 3 years ago because my university had a very nice facility, and because I wanted to look ripped. Since I discovered the weight room, I’ve been going routinely, probably three to five times a week depending on what my current routine is.

My focus has always been aesthetics; I’ve tried to be a body builder, not a strength trainer.

When I started lifing, I was 155 - 160 lbs (at 5’11"). Now, and a few mild AAS cycles later (please, don’t get started on me), I’ve gotten up to maintaining 200 lbs. with the same 10 - 11% bodyfat I’ve always had. Although my muscles have gotten bigger, I’ve come to realize that I really haven’t made all that much progress in lifting heavy objects.

My bench has barely gone up since I started, my deadlift has done okay, and my squats are still embarrassing–especially for the son of a professional cyclist.

Today I read somewhere that an experienced lifter should be able to bench his weight, deadlift double his weight, and military press just about his weight. (What about squats–didn’t see that one?) At 200 lbs, I’m nowhere close.

Off cycle, my max bench (although it’s hard to really know what max is because I don’t have a training partner–thus no spotter) is about 165 lbs (< 200 lbs.), my deadlift is 275 lbs (< 400 lbs.), and I can barely squat 175 lbs.

Everything I learned about weight lifting has been online or from watching others. I have no formal education. I’ve never had a personal trainer. (How can you find a good one? Everyone seems to have advice about the gym, but only about 10% seems to be worth anything.) I don’t know much terminology used in body building/weight lifting articles. I have no friends who know anything about lifting.

I don’t know how to do olympic lifts, but do try to focus my routine around compound exercises (e.g. military press, bent-over rows, upright rows, pull-ups, deadlifts, squats, etc) and usually train to failure or near failure on exercises.

Where should I start? With my experience, what should my numbers be? What lift or lifts am I probably lagging the most on (i.e. where should I focus my efforts)? How should I go about increasing my strength?

I want to begin training not muscle size and appearance, for the first time in my life, but really feel lost and confused.

How can you be 200 lbs. and have 10% bodyfat but not be able to bench 200 lbs.? Not too mention having juiced for a while…

Man, I’m confused…

Thats a 2xbody weight bench, and 3xbodyweight squat and dead.

Sometimes to get stronger, you have to put more weight on the bar and push harder.

Thats about it.

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
How can you be 200 lbs. and have 10% bodyfat but not be able to bench 200 lbs.? Not too mention having juiced for a while…

Man, I’m confused…[/quote]Yeah, tell me about it.

[quote]SkyzykS wrote:
Thats a 2xbody weight bench, and 3xbodyweight squat and dead.

Sometimes to get stronger, you have to put more weight on the bar and push harder.

Thats about it.[/quote]How much more, and how frequently should it be increased? Like, is there a certain pace I should aim for? Should I expect to add 10 lbs to my deadlifts every two months–or every six months? Etc.

[quote]vnv wrote:
SkyzykS wrote:
Thats a 2xbody weight bench, and 3xbodyweight squat and dead.

Sometimes to get stronger, you have to put more weight on the bar and push harder.

Thats about it.How much more, and how frequently should it be increased? Like, is there a certain pace I should aim for? Should I expect to add 10 lbs to my deadlifts every two months–or every six months? Etc.

[/quote]

Go check out either Joe DeFranco’s Westside for Skinny Bastards or Dan John’s One Lift a Day.

Both did wonders for my PR’s.

Sorry man, but the only way that you get that way is by pussing around in the gym instead of coming to work hard. You are NOT experienced, unless you have made significant progress in numbers. I can’t even fathom how–wow.

So, here’s what you do. You stop taking the AAS because you don’t need them. Then, you come to the gym to work hard. Don’t talk, don’t oogle girls, don’t bring a cell phone, don’t shoot the shit with anyone, don’t pussy around, work hard.

Bury yourself in some hard metal tunes. Get under heavier iron. Like, 5x5, 5x3, or start doing a Westside style powerlifting split. And start reading Dave Tate’s stuff. First read all his articles here, then move to elitefts.com and start reading everything they have on powerlifting.

thats weird as hell that you can be 200 pounds 10 percent bodyfat and not be stronger than that. are you like 7 feet tall. that could explain it lol.

explain your routine and how youve gone about progression in it and im sure we can help you

[quote]vnv wrote:
SkyzykS wrote:
Thats a 2xbody weight bench, and 3xbodyweight squat and dead.

Sometimes to get stronger, you have to put more weight on the bar and push harder.

Thats about it.How much more, and how frequently should it be increased? Like, is there a certain pace I should aim for? Should I expect to add 10 lbs to my deadlifts every two months–or every six months? Etc.

[/quote]

As much as you can, as frequently as you can. You’ll stop eventually, then it’s time to change main exercises.

[quote]vnv wrote:
SkyzykS wrote:
Thats a 2xbody weight bench, and 3xbodyweight squat and dead.

Sometimes to get stronger, you have to put more weight on the bar and push harder.

Thats about it.How much more, and how frequently should it be increased? Like, is there a certain pace I should aim for? Should I expect to add 10 lbs to my deadlifts every two months–or every six months? Etc.

[/quote]

Like everytime you workout if you can, if i can add 5 pounds to one of my compound lifts a week i will do it til i get stuck.

I’ll second Fightin’Irish’s suggestions.

And I have to say it too…I’m damn confused as to how that could happen. Can you post a picture of yourself? One of the few possible thoughts I have as to how this could be possible is if you are definetly not around 10% BF and are in fact very fat with little muscle.

What does your training look like now in terms of sets/reps, exercises, etc.

In my opinion, the main problem with AAS use in newbies (other than side effects) was that you can basically do anything and make some progress. Therefore, learning about proper nutrition, recovery, and training becomes less necessary to make gains. Therefore it becomes harder for the user to gain while “off,” not only because they don’t know how they should be eating, training, and recovering, but also because they don’t necessarily have to bust their balls as hard to get results while “on.”

My suggestion would be to stay off the juice for a while and learn how your body works.

-Matt

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
vnv wrote:
SkyzykS wrote:
Thats a 2xbody weight bench, and 3xbodyweight squat and dead.

Sometimes to get stronger, you have to put more weight on the bar and push harder.

Thats about it.How much more, and how frequently should it be increased? Like, is there a certain pace I should aim for? Should I expect to add 10 lbs to my deadlifts every two months–or every six months? Etc.

Go check out either Joe DeFranco’s Westside for Skinny Bastards or Dan John’s One Lift a Day.

Both did wonders for my PR’s.[/quote]

Up the weight and drop the reps. Start using heavier weights. I found that I saw lots of improvement in my overall strength by using lots of compound exercises and using the 10x3 rep scheme for the big 3 (bench, deadlift, squat). 5x5 is also great for strength gains.

Start doing weighted pullups and dips also, those exercises are awesome. Dont worry about the military press as much as the others, especially when you start heavy benching, i found it was too taxing on my shoulders to do both heavy.

When you start an exercise, ie bench, start off with a light weight and warm up, up it drastically for the following sets and then continue to use this weight for low reps. The 2.5lb weights may look girly, but they are your best friend when it comes to getting your strength up.

also, get get stronger by using explosive movements. For example, even though you are squatting or benching 50% of your max, explode up like you are trying to put that weight through the fucking roof.

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Okay, the routine is below. Sorry if the formatting is confusing. As far as a picture, I could probably take one in a couple days. I was always a very skinny, unmuscular, weak kid before I started lifting.

I did a test-only cycle for 6 weeks after a year of training and jumped from 165 to low 180s. It’s like my strength is where it should be at for my NATURAL stats, but my muscle size isn’t. Just for the record, I’m not doing another cycle if/when I figure out how to get my lift PRs up.

For training, I do a 3-day split for about 3 weeks to 4 weeks:

Day 1: Back
Day 2: Off
Day 3: Legs
Day 4: Off
Day 5: Chest, arms, shoulders

Then I’ll do a week of something to mix it up–full-body workouts three days a week, workout everyday with lower weight and higher volume, misc. exercises I miss doing, or a week off.

On back days, I"ll do 3 or 4 of these, 2 sets or 3 sets, 6 - 8 reps–although I fail to get 6 sometimes if I’m on my 3rd set:

-Deadlifts
-Barbell shrugs
-Upight rows
-Bent-over rows, or cable rows, or t-bar rows
-Cable lat pull-downs (prefer behind the neck)
-Pull-ups

Legs days, I do 2 sets of all three:

  • Hack squat
  • Leg press
  • Squats

Upper-body day…

Chest:

  • 2 sets for 6 - 8 rep/set of dumbbell or barbell incline or flat bench
  • as any dips as I can (not weighted)
  • A dumbbell fly, incline or decline, 2 sets of 6 - 8 reps/set

Traps:

  • Dips, as mentioned
  • 2 sets of 6 - 8 of cable push-downs or 2 sets of 6 - 8 kickbacks
  • Either 2 sets of 6 - 8 skull crushers, close-grip bench

Biceps:

  • Standing barbell curls, 2 sets 6 - 8
  • Pull-ups, as many as I can and I’ll often hang on the last one for as long as I can

Shoulders:

  • Seated dumbbell or standing barbell presses
  • A dumbbell raise (e.g. lateral, side)

By the end of the workout, I’m usually shaking uncontrollably and wobbly. I try to go to failure as much as possible (if it won’t possibly injury me, depending on the lift).

Oh one last thing about my routine. I notice that if I always start back day with deads, I can make progress over a month–increase 5 - 12.5 lbs.

BUT, as soon as I have started back day with deads for a month and made progress, I’ll switch to something else like bent-over rows for the first exercise, and as soon as I do that, I’m no longer able to do deads with that 5 - 12.5 lbs I added.

It’s like, as soon as I make progress and try focusing on another lift, I loose all my weight increases on the others.

Thanks for your comments guys. I know the last thing you want to do is figure out what some newbie is doing wrong when this stuff is more obvious to you. Like I said, it’s been a long road in trying to learn how to lift weights correctly, as I pick up bits and pieces of information along the way.

Irish,

I looked at the One Lift a Day article and like it. It’s on my “Options for fixing myself” list, definitely. I’ll check out the other one next.

Aragorn,

I know what you envisioning by your description, but really, that’s not me. I’m the guy wondering why they don’t take the TVs out so that people actually workout at the gym. Perhaps I could focus more on the mind-muscle connection though. Re: Dave Tate–I’ve heard the name and am looking up his articles.

baretta,

I’ve always believe in more intense, lower-rep sets and have tried to follow that. My warm-up routine may be a problem though. At most, I’ll do two warm-up sets. Really, I just want to get to the balls-to-the-wall sets and maybe bypass a proper warm-up.

Also, the explosive movement concept isn’t something I’ve used. Overall, my reps are pretty slow. Always feels like this rep could be the last and I can barely eek it out.

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Frequent lifting with heavy weights will do wonders. The key is not to tax yourself too hard on any given day, and have the next day be a recovery day with low weights and high reps. Worked great for me. As long as you don’t burn out your CNS by not going to failure, you should be able to keep it up for a while.

Charles Poliquin wrote a good article on why heavy training is a must, even for aesthetic purposes.
http://www.T-Nation.com/findArticle.do?article=1maxim

His recommendation’s on training will probably work for someone as neurologically inefficient as you.

Otherwise Westside for skinny bastards is fun, and people seem to get awesome results.

Bill Starr’s basic templates are also great. I made the best gains of my life on it both in mass and leg strength.

In my opinion, the best program for a wide range of athletes, from beginners to elite level athletes, women, men, anyone…

The 5X5:

Monday:

Olympic Squats 5x5 (same weight)
Benching 5x5 (flat, close grip or regular)(same weight)
JS Rows 5x5 (same weight)
Accessory (low volume triceps and abs)

Wednesday:

Olympic Squats 5x5 (reduced 15-20% from Monday) or Front Squats 5x5
Standing Military Press 5x5 (same weight)
Deadlifts 5x5 (same weight) (if you pull 2.5x bodyweight do 3x5)
Pull ups 5x5 (use weight if you need it)
Accessory (biceps and abs)

Friday:

Olympic Squats 5x5 (working up each set)
Benching 5x5 (flat or incline)(same weight)
Rows 5x5 (same weight)
Accessory (low volume triceps and abs)

The idea is simple: pick a weight you can do for 5 sets of 5, and if you complete all the sets and reps, then next time bump the weight up 5 or 10 pounds.

Before beginning the program it is important to establish 1 rep maxes for the squat, bench press, military press, and deadlift, and 5 rep maxes for the squat, bench press, rows, military press, and deadlifts.

The first week, it is important to begin very conservatively and prepare to set new 5 rep maxes on about the 4th-6th week, rather than the 1st or 2nd week. It will take some time for your body to grow accustomed to training this way, and in the beginning you?re gonna be sore as hell.

If you get all the sets and reps, then you increase the weight (5-10lbs) for the next week, and if not, you keep the weight the same.

Try and set new 5 rep maxes on weeks 4-6 for beginners , and weeks 3-4 for veterans and then move to a 3x3 for 2x per week.

Run the 3x3 for 2-3 weeks, drop the squatting frequency to 2x per week (or even every 4-5 days if you need the additional recovery), and try setting records on the 4th or 5th workout. (Also, weight increase are the important thing here).

Then cycle down to 1 set of 3 for 2 or 3 workouts, and maybe even go for a max single at the end.

So basically what you get is a 4-6 week prep phase, followed by a 3-5 week peaking phase.

One point ? during the initial phase where 5x5 is being used you MUST stick to the required volume and frequency. Back off the weight if you have to, but always get in all 5 sets of 5.

[quote]vnv wrote:
Also, the explosive movement concept isn’t something I’ve used. Overall, my reps are pretty slow. Always feels like this rep could be the last and I can barely eek it out.[/quote]

That is something.

Without a crystal ball I can’t say that this is the main culprit, but with the sets reps and exercises that you have laid out, I’ll venture a guess.

You may benefit a great deal from increasing speed.

Try reading up on motor unit recruitment, explosive strength/speed. It realy is a valuable tool in increasing your strength.