T Nation

Evaluate One Year's Progress


#1

Disclaimer: My post is long and somewhat complex. If you can't be bothered, then don't bother.

Hi folks, long time lurker, first-time poster.

I've been taking weight training seriously for a little over a year now and am looking to see what guidance others can give me at this point in my progress. First, here's the break-down of what the last year has been like for me:

I started going the the YMCA weight room in town in mid-August last year. I was about 177 lbs at 13-15% bodyfat (estimate) - and I'm 6'4", (with a 6'4" armspan) so you can see I had quite a deficiency. My arms were about 12" flexed. Rather laughable, yes, but at my skinniest about three years prior I was in the low 160s. My wrists measure a whopping 7", my ankles 9.25" - so yeah, I'm a bit of an ectomorph. I have a normal waist though, 34" - go figure.

The approach I was taking was based around Anthony Ellis' methods, I was usually doing pyramid sets: 8, 6, 4, 2/1 most often.

I was usually doing two days a week in the gym, sometimes three, for about the next four months. Mostly upper-body stuff. I was on a seefood diet, and drinking ON Serious Mass weight gainer shakes. I was also taking ON CGT-10 (Creatine/Glutamine/Taurine); like a moron I was only using both of these things on training days. I doubt my net bodyfat % went up much at all. However, I did get up to about 202 lbs by the start of December. Finals and crap kept me away from the gym and then I went north to Indiana to visit my family for the holidays, so I probably didn't get more than 4 sessions in the whole month.

I think the break worked for me, because I started back up in January of this year and by the middle of February I was tipping the scales at 214. I was definitely stronger than I'd ever been, maxing my bench out at 245. Keep in mind, not 6 months earlier my max was probably 165. However I went in sick one day and did my max - and pulled my left AC joint and to a lesser extent my back. I didn't dislocate it by any means, but the sprain was very painful and any manner of press movement would agitate it. I had trouble sleeping because of the pain, and stayed out of the gym until I got over the cough. In less than two weeks I had dropped to 205.

I altered my training style around my hurt shoulder, staying off the bench, barbell and dumbbell alike; not much pressing movement of any kind. I started hitting the cardio end of things a bit harder, and lowered my resting heart rate considerably. Around the end of April I was at 210-211 and a personal trainer measured my bodyfat at 11.3%, which may or may not have been underestimated, but I've used it as a reference point.

The PT also gave me a program based off of 3x10 with a focus on reducing my shoulder problem. For the first part of the summer I was basically doing said routine every three days or so:

All exercises are performed in 3x10 unless specified
Lat Pulldown
Chest press machine
Internal shoulder rotation with doubled-up black band
External shoulder rotation with doubled-up black band
Expand with doubled-up black band
1-arm pullbacks with doubled-up black band, 2x10
Empty can
Chest fly
Dumbbell curls
Tricep work on cable machines

I gained some new muscle tone and definition out of this, most notably in my triceps. For a reference, my arms were up to 16". Vanity started to nag me that I should try and lose bodyfat directly at this point, and I started to do an interval run over to the highway and back for a total of about three miles. Believe me when I say I've always hated running.

In my teen years I was pretty sedentary overall, except for PE in 9th grade, and weight lifting class in 11th. I couldn't chase my dog around the neighborhood without getting wheezy and winded. And I was slow. Biomechanics be damned, I am just not a natural runner. The first time I did this run it was all I could do to sprint one street lamp to the next, then walk the distance between two, and repeat. But the next few times I found myself able to do a 1:1 walk/run setup. But, the impact on my ankles, knees, and hips is noticeable, so at best I can only do this twice a week.

I've been keeping an eating/training log for the past month and a half. I usually don't get the 3500-4000 Cals and 200+ grams of protein I need per day but I am trying. Recently, I got religion about legs. Yes, like so many of the people that get dissed on this site and in gyms worldwide, I usually neglected my leg work. Partly because of the prolonged soreness that would transpire in the days after a leg session, and mostly out of laziness. I have no excuses to provide at this point and have been hitting myself hard - but maybe too hard. That will lead me to my first real question, but first, here's a recap of where I stand right now.

6'4" tall / 7" wrists, 9.25" ankles
~208 lbs, 23 years young
10-11% bodyfat (estimate)

My shoulder is -mostly- recovered.

Bench press max: Unknown (have not tried for a max) More than 205 though.
Deadlift max: I do 225x8 for 3 sets so this would dictate my 1RM is 280. Edit: Just did 275x2.
Back squat max: Unknown, I don't do traditional back squats. Theoretically I should be able to do 220. See following comments.
Pullups: I can do 10 on the first set, about 6 on the second, and then maybe 4 on the third.

So here's the deal with my legs: I have a long torso and long femurs, with comparably shorter tibias/fibulas. This screws up my balance on things like back squats. I either wind up putting too much stress on my knees or my lower back. Instead, I do Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats (aka Bulgarian Split Squats), the kind recently espoused by Michael Boyle in this article: http://www.tmuscle.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/build_bigger_legs_one_at_a_time Before you slam me, read his article.

These work for me and spare my back and knees. Here's an example of a recent leg day:

Bike ride to gym (4 miles)

Leg Press 180 x10; 270 x15, x10, x10
Calve Raises loaded with 100 x15; w/ 120 x10, x10, x10
Prone Hamstring Curl 95 x10, x10; 80 x10
Front DB Squats 80 x10, x10, x10 ATG
Hack Squats 135 x5, x5, x5
Leg Raises x20, x15, x10, x10, x10
Squat Machine (the one with the pivoting arm) 180 x10, x10

Bike Ride home (same 4 miles)

And the next one:

RFESS 95lbs x6, x5, x5, x6 each leg
directly to Front squat 95lbs x6, x6
directly to Leg Raises x20
Leg Press 180lbs x10 warmup, 270 x10, x10, x10
Hack Squats 145lbs x8, x7, x6, x7
directly to 2 sets reverse crunches on bench

Now, my legs aren't new to training pain, but I have a suspicion that I may be overtraining them. I've had pretty major muscle soreness for 3-4 days after each of these sessions. What do you think? Am I overdoing it? It's at a level where I can't run because of it.

A far more minor concern I have regards my calves. My right calf muscle is .5-.75" thicker than my left. Any suggestions?

On to other body parts:

Chest:

As I mentioned before, there was a good stretch of time when I was limiting my chest work, staying away from any press variation. I am working on bringing it back up to par, and don't have too many questions about it overall, but do have a specific question. I have a muscle imbalance in my pectorals, which probably contributed to my injury. My left side was (maybe still is?) weaker than my right (makes sense as I'm right-handed). There is actually a noticeable difference in the shape of each. The bottom of my left pec is straighter and the right more rounded. How does one go about promoting better symmetry in this kind of situation? I have been using plenty of DB bench exercises since they eliminate compensation.

Sample chest routine:

Warmup with black band
Decline BB bench 135 x10, x10, x10
Decline DB bench 55s x10, x10, x10
with decline situps with 25, x10, x10, x15 in-between the DB bench
Flat->Incline1->Incline2 DB bench 55s x9, x8, x6 (to failure on each)
Standing cable flyes 40 x10, x10; 45 x8-> 10 second rest then 3 more
Calve Raises
Seated cable flyes 60 x6, x5; 50 x4

I would do wide-grip dips but the Y only has a close-grip setup.

Arms/Forearms:

I think I've mostly got this down. My upper arms are measuring 16.25" and my forearms 13". We don't have to discuss curls if you don't want to.

Back:

Perhaps my strongest link (upper back anyway). My traps are pretty decent-looking. My back is fairly wide, at least I think. (I measured my chest circumference at 45" and my back lends a big hand to that). I can list examples of my routine if requested. I incorporate Seated Cable Rows, Bent-Over BB Rows, DB Rows, DB shrugs, EZ bar tucks, Lat Pulldowns, Pull-ups, and Deadlifts. I would like to increase my deadlift numbers, and I figure that my weak legs are what are keeping my numbers so mundane. Is that a correct assumption?

Shoulders:

I've recently realized (within the last two months) my front delts were decent but my rear delts needed some work, so I've really been trying to work on them. I've seen some progress. I do Lateral Raises, Front Raises, Empty Can, Band Pulls, Rows, and Lateral Raises hanging off the Smith Machine. I'd welcome suggestions regarding extra ways to improve my delts. M. Press, Shoulder Press, what?

Abs:

I've only done sparse training of them until recently. I wasn't worried with doing 1000 crunches because I knew that they were worthless without low bodyfat. I tend to do 8 rep sets with a heavy weight to encourage hypertrophy. Med ball slams, Leg Raises, Decline weighted situps, wood chops, DB oblique crunches, reverse crunches make up what I'm doing here. My abs are okay. Not tank-tread, but they are visible. If I could make it down to 8% bodyfat I bet they'd be worth mentioning.

Now for my goals:

My immediate goal is to get back to 210 while increasing strength. My medium-term goal is to get to 220 at 8% bodyfat, and my long-term is for 230 at 8% or less. I want to maximize my strength potential at these levels. I am aiming at bringing my chest, deltoids, and legs up to part with the rest of my physique. I am and will remain natural, because:

a) I am a poor college student (about to graduate)
b) I don't know a thing about steroids, or how to get them
c) Respect for the process of Natural BBing
d) I don't have any business with them having only trained 13 months

I realize that to get under 10% bodyfat I will need to tighten up my eating into a real plan. I currently monitor my intake and try to correct deficits. I eat very clean and reject fast/fried foods, I trim the fat off all my steak, I get a lot of fish. Oatmeal every morning. I get healthy fats from olive oil, coconut milk, and nuts. I usually drink a calorie-rich shake a day in addition to eating 4-6 times. I'm aware that when I don't eat enough I am undermining myself.

I am currently using Promera Con-Cret creatine, ASN whey protein, fish oil, and L-carnitine. I take melatonin to aid in sleep quality; I do suffer from impaired sleep about 33% of the time. This is likely a stress problem, as my last semester starts in a week. I realize this is probably countering a portion of my effort. I currently get in the gym 3-4 times a week. I've been trying to make it 4-5 but my energy levels get impacted by the sleep issue, and if I'm too sore I'll put it off a day.

Ideally, I would want to hear from fellow tall, possibly ectomorphic people, but will value anything intelligent someone has to say regardless. What can you tell me? What else can I tell you? Hoping you can help me step my game up,

HRM


#2

too much work. keep it simple, stupid.

keep reading. maybe the stickies?


#3

Too much work in the legs or overall?


#4

just overall. i think the stickies outline how to make a program. there are articles around here somewhere for that.

when i first started lifting, i did a lot of volume to failure. it went well until the weight increased to a point where i couldn't recover. your program kind of reminds me of it.

this site recommends 25-50 reps per muscle group per week... i think. it sounds right. you're blowing that away. ANY program you can find on this site has probably a third of the volume you do.

if you want to get stronger, do less work. look at SS, or Waterbury's Anti-bodybuilding hypertrophy. you won't get bigger in the gym.


#5

First of all, this is an internet forum. Computer screens are inherently difficult to read. If you're going to ask for advice, don't write a novel. I know you put a ton of work into that, but in reading through, you could have spared a lot. I'm sorry if I sound like a dick, but most folks will open your topic, skim it, decide tl;dr and click out.

Second, your height always equals your armspan. It's like that for every human alive that isn't deformed.

Last, since you mentioned your legs in your second post, I looked over that part. Fuck everything that you're doing, you need to learn to squat proficiently first. You're jumping into later intermediate/advanced programs without any decent background in lifting. If you can't pull or squat well, your ability to perform other lifts is just minutia. You can't even front squat half your body weight. That's a pretty serious strength deficiency.


#6

From what I can see you're doing too many exercises to accomplish their common goal. It's like when novice lifters go to the gym and do preacher curls, standing barbell curls, concentration curls, and close/wide grip curls ALL in the same day! There's really no reason to be doing all that, and it just becomes wasted effort.

I'd recommend picking a couple exercises and really just work on getting yourself stronger at them for a few weeks. Then, switch them out for a different set of exercises and get stronger on those.


#7

What a mess


#8

Thanks for the reply; and no, I'm not butthurt about that. I am aware that most people see more than a few paragraphs and go into an ADD-induced stupor. They're not the kind of crowd I'm looking to get a response from, though. I did edit everything up to make it anti-wall-o-text enough to be reasonably intelligible. I'm a descriptive person I guess. (However I can tell you that Tnation's background/text color scheme is designed to be easier on the eyes than a lot of what's on the internet.)

As for the front squat, I just used the 95lbs I already had on the bar. 95 isn't that far from 105, half my weight. I won't deny that my legs are weak, but I will say that I am working on changing that. I just want helpful input on the most effective way to do so.


#9

Also, I've seen more than one person on the forum with an armspan that didn't equal their height and that in some way affected their lifts, so I thought it worth mentioning.


#10

Alright, thank you sir. I've suspected overtraining was my problem for a while now. I'll look into it.


#11

I would agree with the consensus; you need to tone down the volume and get proficient and strong at some key indicator lifts. Save the advanced methods for when you are truly advanced.

As a side note: I think 4 miles of bike riding to the gym before/after a leg workout is counterproductive. I would also add in some walking lunges, reverse lunged, step ups or split squats (rear foot up and or down). And progress them as well.

My friend had the same calf problem you speak of...the only way he resolved it was extra volume on the lagging leg and maintence on the other.

That said you did achieve significant bodyweight increases in your first year so kudos for that.


#12

I believe you're right; I rode the bike that day because I didn't have my car available.


#13

that's one hell of a first post, not the easiest to read. but that's solid progress for your first year, of course it comes with a learning curve.

i have a very similar build and am progressing with a big diet and heavy compound lifts plus accessory lifts in higher rep ranges.

anyway, don't sweat the details so much.

also if possible try and ditch the bike, from experience after a heavy leg session that would be a treacherous ride home, and you also might be leaving a little in the tank while working out.

another thing, for me i was advised to squat with a wider stance than usual, helps with the long limbs.


#14

PM'ed you, Onwards.