T Nation

Drawing the Line


Not the typical "critique my routine" thread but...

Well I've been chewing into this whole fitness business lately, going from 118 to 136 (18 pounds) in 11 weeks, eating well (99.9% :p), working out hard (at least in my opinion), all that. I maintain strong singleness of purpose (get stronger, gain weight), but after reading various articles on this website I'm starting to get philosophical.

It started with reading about diet on the site. It seems that I find two different schools of thought - One seeming to say that stuffing your face is the only way to build muscle and the other seeming to dictate that unless you keep carbs under 150g per day, you'll never see your wee-wee again.

Then the workouts themselves were in question. Once again, two different ideals. Some say it's all about "training like a man", while other points of view seemed to pride themselves on doing LESS work. German Volume Training (10x10) vs. 5/3/1 (3x5 + assistance exercises)

My question is, where do I draw the line as a beginning hobby lifter? When does "bulking phase" become a six-month health-food binge? When does "training like a man" become an over-draining workout that, as one poster here put it, "a penance for sins" instead of a legitimate workout? What's the difference between "fat but strong" and just fat?

Is there even a definite answer to all of these questions, or does it all just come down to if the individual lifter himself knows, likes, and/or is able to rationalize what he's doing?


Stuff your face with healthy food (Whole milk will help you get in enough). I'm a novice teenager, but if I'm not gaining two pounds a week, I add more food/milk. Here's two tips that I've picked up from articles here to make sure that the food goes to muscle and not to fat. Eat/drink something high carb, highish protein, and low fat during and after training (I use skim milk because I'm too poor for supplements). Eat/drink something low carb and high fat right before you go to bed (I like heavy cream).

The more you train without exceeding your capacity to recover, the more you'll grow. - Christian Thibaudeau. From http://www.T-Nation.com/strength-training-topics/459

There's no such thing as over-training, just under eating and under sleeping. - The Barbarian Brothers (anecdotaly).

A great way to get in more work without "exceeding your capacity to recover" is to do eccentric-less work. Eccentric-less work apparently doesn't damage your muscles at all. If you have a sled/prowler you can hammer away with no limit as far as I can tell. Christian Thibaudeau has gone into this on this site, so if you don't know what I'm talking about, just search the site and you should find some info.

Also, all other things being equal, the less advanced a lifter you are the faster you can recover. That's why Starting Strength (a very popular beginner program) has you keep adding weight every session, while something aimed towards intermediate lifters like 5/3/1 has you adding weight more slowly.


hastalles - 2 lbs a week is too much. It's at least 50% fat at that point. Trust me - dial it back to 1lb a week and you'll spare yourself a lengthy cut without sacrificing muscle gains.



Unless you have a hard time gaining weight i don't see the point of gaining every week. Every month while keeping track of what you eat would be better, gives you more data to adjust and a longer period to see how your body comp changes.

IMO it's just asking for trouble when your treating your weight gain like it's a linear process.


It's worked for me. I've gone from reasonably visible abs to a little blurry. I think being 18 has a lot to do with it.

You're right, I guess there is a theoretical CNS limit for the prowler. I've certainly never gotten there. I've been doing a lot of farm-type work for most of my life, so again, I might not be a perfect example.

Hormonal limits? I fucking piss testosterone.

Thanks for helping though. I appreciate it!

EDIT: Didn't see your post, Kman. I do have trouble gaining weight. I hate eating, which is why I used to be 115-120 lb. If I don't keep myself on track, I fall back into eating too little.


Oh, crap! I've been gaining 2-3 pounds per week the past couple weeks. I'll experiment with carb/calorie cutting until I'm not packing on weight so fast.


DON'T. You are making progress with singleness of purpose. At your stage, you will have a harder time finding a program that WON'T allow you to progress than one that will. Continue what you are doing.

Show me someone who has been weight training for only 6 months and knows all the ins and out of carb-cycling, cluster-training, drop-sets, blah blah blah, and I'll show you a scrawny little bitch who thinks he knows but has nothing to show for it progress-wise. It is always the smallest, weakest guys that talk to me at my gym who seem to know all the specifics, while the biggest and strongest just show up and lift and eat what is necessary. Usually they haven't heard of carb-cycling or drop-sets, lol.


Wow, that was the slap in the face I needed. Thank you.


If something is without question working FOR YOU, don't change it just because someone else says it can't work.

(Although, as you get past your newbie gains you may need to cut back a tad.)


What ever you do, don't try to do some kind of mini-cut. It will waste your time. Do what you posted above and just tone down how much you are eating. If you are gaining that much, you can likely afford to cut 250-500 cals a day. I would make small changes though, you do not want to stall your progress.

This is an excellent post.

I was the former for years. I have been reading here since 2006 when I was in high school. I have read hundreds of articles and possibly thousands of threads. The reason I never made progress was because A) I over analyzed things and B) I lacked consistency. The vast majority of the material on this site is geared for people with 3-5 years of serious training behind them. Just keep doing what you are doing.

So basically, don't make the same mistakes I did.


I lol'ed.


No slapping here. It was a well posed post, and it is a good thing you are letting yourself be aware of intelligent training systems out there. Singleness of purpose is gold though. As far as "drawing the line," you've found a new passion and it's going to be impossible not to read about new methods, diets, etc...If you're going to fill your head with something, right now focus on learning as much as you can about mobility and injury prevention. That's the kind of knowledge that won't paralyze progress.


X Xe

bear with as I am typing from my phone. I DEFINITELY sympathize with you. I honestly believe this train of thought you are following leads one of two ways: a) the person puts a really good amount of thought into what he/she is doing and learns a TON, making mistakes along the way but moving forward and eventually reaching veteren status and their goals.....

Or b) they get lost in analysis paralysis and forget the first rule to success is busting gut wrenching ass 100% at all times. Singleness of purpose, as you so succinctly put it. Singleness of purpose drives everything, at all times. Not just in fitness but everything: basketball: MJ. business: Gates, buffet. War: ancient sparta. Physics: Einstein. Powerlifting: louie simmons. Bodybuilding: Arnold.

If you couple singleness of purpose with critical thought and creativity, you get a monster in the best sense of the word.

Mistakes in training too little or too much are bound to happen, it is what you take away from them that matters most. Same with diet. A very smart man once said "martial arts is like a suit. I wear a suit. It's tailored to fit me, to my measurement and my movements. a lot of teachers try to take their suit and give it to you. But you are not built the same as them, so it won't fit. Instead, try to learn how to measure for yourself. That is what I am trying to do" paraphrasing obviously. Same goes with fitness.

Put it this way--philosophy is good. Thought is good. Necessary, interesting in its own right even. But it only really comes into it's own with action. The ONGOING STRUGGLE in 100% action is singleness of purpose. Ecerything else is secondary, however useful it might be. You never learn how to play a game sitting in the stands watching. You may get conflicting advice from your coaches but you will never know what to do until you take action yourself and try one of the coaches advice.

In all that you read on this site and many others, there is one CRITICAL question to bear in mind while reading--ask yourself what the target audience is. What's their background and likely problems? That will help you sift thru these things, because articles have to be targeted to somebody.

Couple singleness of purpose (100% committed to the struggle style action) with self-education/critical thought, and creativity. But never EVER lose that singleness of purpose. That is what everything else builds off of, even mistakes made and learned.

Without it, you have nothing. Keep hustling!


Great post, Aragorn. Thanks.