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Ex Martial Artist Seeking Help to Get Big

Hello everybody.
I know you guys read noob posts every day, but here is the good news:
You’re not reading a post written by a complete noob.
I know how to do the big 3, a variety of hardcore calisthenetics (One Arm Pushups, Jackknife Pushups, Rockbottom Pistols, 2 Finger Pushups…) and I know how to deal with Kettlebells.

Just a short background story:
My name is Tony. I’ve been training in martial arts since the age of 9, starting out with asian striking arts, then advancing to Jeet Kune Do and finally getting into full contact training arround age 16: MMA and Taijutsu. Those 2 martial arts have been the cornerstone of my repertoire.

I started competing in the Ring and on the mats about a year ago.(2 Grappling tournaments, 1 local Kickboxing event) But after suffering an injury of the thoraric spine in grappling training I looked back on all the things that I did and really spend some days just reflecting where I would be going if all of this continued. I suffered several minor injuries of the lumbar spine before, one of them at age 15, which was so severe that the doctors told me I would never be able to practice any kind of training again.

Lucky for me a therapist helped me to overcome the injury with the help of weight training.
Anyways. I decided that I couldnt go on training in martial arts because of the pain that I felt up from now in my spine every Stand Up or Groundfighting Session. So I resorted to the one and only think that has been my therapy, and kept me on my legs since the age of 15: Strength Training.

Now I prepared myself with a lot of knowledge during the last couple of months, I read all the books by Pavel and most of the articles written by Dan John, Ben Bruno and Chris Colucci(if anyone of them is reading this right now-thank you!!!)

It seems like weight lifting is all i want to do right now to stay healthy, but I have a couple of Questions that are not being answered anywhere. I guess you need a small collection of my PR’s and physical feats to get where I am:

Bench Press 1 RM: 77,5kg/170.5lbs
13 clean One Arm Pushups each arm
11 clean 2 Finger Pushups
Deadlift 1RM: 102.5kg/225.5 lbs
Full depht Back Sqat 1RM: 73.6kg/162lbs
9 Rockbottom Pistol Squats
21 overhand grip Pullups
354 Swings in 15 minutes with a 24kg Kettlebell
1 Get Up each Side with a 32kg Kettlebell

Because of the latest injury my spine is not yet ready to carry near maximum weights, so to stimulate the muscles enough I have to do Single Limb and Dumbell exercises.
A casual bench press will turn into a Dumbell Bench Press, Back Squats into Split Squats and Barbell Deadlifts into One Legged Deadlifts.

No I wont resort to machine training and no I refuse to join a yoga/Pilates class to “gain back flexibility and get that toned look”. As a matter of fact I can do Roadkill Splits, Front Splits, Back Bends to full depht and kiss my shins standing. Flexibility and technique concerning the lifts are not a problem so far.

I weigh in at 161 pounds, 182cm height, about 10% Bodyfat, and would like to gain about 30pounds of lean mass in 2013, as well as getting back to the basic lifts and improving my numbers in the big 3. Nutrition is not a problem: For 2 months I have been on the Anabolic Diet now and I dont drink, smoke or do drugs.

What lacks so far is the right plan, and the set/rep ranges for mass gain with these exercises.
I would like to do a simple Powerlifting Split with few compound exercises regarding my unique needs in termes of weight compression of the spine.

Thaks a lot for helping and Happy New Year

The bad news is: You’re not a young and untrained grasshopper. Those lean 161 pounds on you have been earned through training MA for a loong time, so don’t expect the typical beginner gains next year. 30 LEAN pounds is an ambitious goal, especially since you have an issue with back squats and deadlifts.
The good news is: there is always a way around such problems. I would suggest you go to the weight room and do whatever you can do two times a week AND do this

to get you started. Oh, and find out if your back is really that bad. Because, seriously, being able to back squat and deadlift would be a massive step forward.

Hello nighthawkz, thanks for your quick response!

I forgot to mention something above: Those 3 months after the injury I only practiced pullups, one arm pushups and Pistols in Latters. Those were the only exercises I performed except for swimming.

greasing the groove with 200 pullups a day, 6 days a week was just average. Sometimes I did up to 300 pullups a day, clearing the bar each time with my chest.

I really dont want to continue with excessive bodyweight exercise practice, it starts to bore the hell out of me. (even after changing up the reps/sets/leverage/ROM etc.) I really feel like being able to tackle the weights. Done this once before and I will be able to do it again.(never give up right?)

As a matter of fact I started 2 weeks ago training split squats with the bar on my back and i can get a quality leg workout with 5x5s (weight arround 30kg). Anything above 40kg in Deadlifts and Squats makes my back feel bad.

You clearly have a point that it is not going to be easy to add 30 pounds of lean mass with One Legged Deadlifts, Split Squats and Dumbell Bench Presses. Though I still have some hope left:
I have NEVER in my entire life really trained for Hypertrophy. My chicken legs, noodle arms and pawny shoulders confirm that :wink:
Also weight Training back then was done only for low or high reps (max5 min 30), and in combination with a lot of GPP Exercises for the specific martial arts plus running, sprinting, swimming etc. That’s why I sort of have some hope left to gain mass cause my body is almost completely new to the stiumulus of hypertrophy training. Also I cut out most of the cardio.

The response I’m hoping to find here is a good shedule I can follow for at least 6 months, which helps me to work up my poor excuse for the big 3 and finally get back to real exercises.
For Mike Bridges Shedule:
Squat on monday and Fridays, Deadlift on Wednesdays and bench on all three days.

Now I do not know what kind of rep and sets you would recommend for mass gain(i ve read that it is actually possible to gain muscle on 20x5s, maybe because of the amount of TUT?) and where to put what kind of isolation exercises but I would be glad to get some advice !

Thanks a bunch!

Well, admittedly the Waterbury program won’t help you then. what you COULD do is read through Ben Bruno’s articles (since he’s the go to guy for single leg training, so to speak) and see if that helps. After that, you could basically take every decent program and modify it - but I recommend a 3x/week full body workout at first. Single limb exercises are tricky and you need some frequency to get good in the movement pattern.

I’m a Jason Ferruggia fan, so I would always advise ‘beginners’ to start with the 5-8 rep range and focus on getting stronger while eating 1g/lb protein, 2.5g/lb carbs and 0.7-1g/lb fats. Hypertrophy is often a matter of volume+calories, really. you could, for now, do something like this:

A: split squat 4x5-8, bench press 4x5-8, dumbbell row 4x5-8
B: one leg deadlift 4x5-8, military press 4x5-8, (weighted or advanced) pull up 4x5-8

And maybe try bodyweight back extension, but be careful. You’re a special case and you should consult a doctor before starting a routine.

Hey man
Thanks a lot, you might not know it but your last post made me catch a pretty good idea.
I have been working out a lot with Pavel’s routines out of PTP, but never stayed on a certain program for more than 4 weeks.(that was dumb of me)

I own all of his books and your comment about alternating 2 routines for 3 workouts a week seems pretty cool to me! So this morning I picked up his book Beyond Bodybuilding and found a fatigue cycling based powerlifting program that I’m going to adapt. It looks like this:
Workout A: BP 6x4, SQ 3x4, DL 3x4
Workout B: SQ 3x4, DL 3x4, DL 3x4
Workout C: DL 3x4, SQ 3x4, BP 6x4
Definitely going to use this program up form now, thank you so much for giving me that kind of advice :slight_smile:

Now I would love to just train the sh*t out of the big 3, but I know that low volume training will not result in big muscle gains. So I thought about doing the following:
Alternating 6 weeks of Powerlifting Split with 6 weeks of the “Squats and Milk” Routine (whole milk included) for the next year. I guess this will get me strength as well as mass wise pretty far.
What do you think?

Concerning Cardio: I guess light to moderate Swings and Get Ups with Kettlebells on off days during the Powerlifting routine would be good.
Please give your opinion on that too-thank you!

[quote]Quiet Warrior wrote:
I read all the books by Pavel and most of the articles written by Dan John, Ben Bruno and Chris Colucci(if anyone of them is reading this right now-thank you!!!)[/quote]
Okay, two things right off the bat. You seriously started my year on a high note, so thanks. Glad to help. But really, it’s like you’re saying, “I listen to comedy from George Carlin, Richard Pryor, John Belushi, and Carrot Top.” One of these very much does not belong in the same sentence with the others. :wink:

Did your therapist clear you 100% for unrestricted exercise and relatively-heavy lifting?

If the goal is muscle growth and we’re dealing with an injured bodypart (especially one as critical as the T-spine), you don’t really have a legit basis to exclude these exercises. Dave Tate, who knows a thing or two about building muscle while injured, talked a bit about this:

Flexibility and mobility are two different, but similar, things. It’s possible to be flexible and still have mobility issues. Since it sounds like your back is all kinds of screwed up, I’d give these a read and make sure you’re on the right track. (Related note, a high degree of flexibility can sometimes be related to a lack of stability, and that can cause further problems).


Priority-wise, which is number one, working towards gaining 30 pounds or improving the big three?

Not to be Bobby Buzzkill, but if squats and deadlifts cause you physical pain past a certain load, I’d say consider putting the big three (err, two) on hold for a while longer until you’re able to perform at 100% without a need to scale things back. You’re still a young dude. It would be absolutely the worst case scenario for you to push things and end up making the back issues a chronic problem.

On the bright side, you can absolutely get bigger without squats or deads. They’re great, efficient exercises, but they’re not magical. You just need to be that much smarter about training and that much more on point with your nutrition.

[quote]So I thought about doing the following:
Alternating 6 weeks of Powerlifting Split with 6 weeks of the “Squats and Milk” Routine (whole milk included) for the next year. I guess this will get me strength as well as mass wise pretty far.
What do you think?[/quote]
I think if you were 100% healthy and could lift heavy without an issue, it might be worth considering… but you’re not, so it isn’t. Really, you’re at a place (development-wise and experience-wise) where sticking to a “traditional” bodybuilding program for 3-6 months straight would probably be a good bet, with prehab/back-health work included all along the way.

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:
Okay, two things right off the bat. You seriously started my year on a high note, so thanks. Glad to help. But really, it’s like you’re saying, “I listen to comedy from George Carlin, Richard Pryor, John Belushi, and Carrot Top.” One of these very much does not belong in the same sentence with the others. ;)[/quote]
I did not want to offend you, I’m sorry :wink:

no he did not completely. The last time we were talking he told me that single limb exercises would be a good idea if I wanted to work back to the actual big 3 because of the decreased poundage. That was about 2 weeks ago and I’m propably going to be clear with heavy ass lifting in 15 to 20 weeks. It really depends on how my rehab is going.

[quote]
If the goal is muscle growth and we’re dealing with an injured bodypart (especially one as critical as the T-spine), you don’t really have a legit basis to exclude these exercises. Dave Tate, who knows a thing or two about building muscle while injured, talked a bit about this:


That’s a good point but I hardly believe that my case requires any machine training so far.
Maybe you get an idea of the injury if I give you more details about it:
During a grappling move I had to do a backward roll over my partner and did not throw my feet in the proper direction + got stuck in my partners gi. As you migh know bending over and twisting at the same time is not a good idea-guess what, I did both with enormous force. 5 Vertebraes + aligning ribs were locked and I had difficulties breathing, generally moving and carrying things arround. Today only the tissue arround the damaged area is still recovering and I do not feel any discomfort unless I have to lift really heavy .
Of course I practice different kinds of rehab exercises given by my therapist to help me get back to torque movements, none of them are machine exercises.

[quote]
Flexibility and mobility are two different, but similar, things. It’s possible to be flexible and still have mobility issues. Since it sounds like your back is all kinds of screwed up, I’d give these a read and make sure you’re on the right track. (Related note, a high degree of flexibility can sometimes be related to a lack of stability, and that can cause further problems).



Wow, thanks a lot for sharing those 2 articles. I start to understand more and more that the education on training I received is not even sufficient enough to work all of my weaknesses.
Hell I got to read a lot

[quote]
Priority-wise, which is number one, working towards gaining 30 pounds or improving the big three?[/quote]
To be perfectly honest I believe I am still way too weak to really get into pure hypertrophy training.(the total of my big 3 is way below 1000)Thus working BPs, DLs and SQs would be a pretty good idea, but my back would kill me if I started with lifting heavy weights now.
If Hypertrophy is possible for me with rather light weights I d go with that. If not, Im going to stick with the ingle limb exercises(that sort of provide a carry over to the real deal-I hope)until fully recovered.

[quote]
On the bright side, you can absolutely get bigger without squats or deads. They’re great, efficient exercises, but they’re not magical. You just need to be that much smarter about training and that much more on point with your nutrition.[/quote]
I would be definitely VERY glad about some advice on this topic :slight_smile:

If you say it’s possible I guess I can do it.
Do you have a “traditional” Bodybuilding program you would recommend?

Thanks again!

[quote]Quiet Warrior wrote:

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:
Did your therapist clear you 100% for unrestricted exercise and relatively-heavy lifting?[/quote]
[b]no he did not completely.[/b] The last time we were talking he told me that single limb exercises would be a good idea if I wanted to work back to the actual big 3 because of the decreased poundage. That was about 2 weeks ago and I’m propably going to be clear with heavy ass lifting in 15 to 20 weeks. It really depends on how my rehab is going. [/quote]
Okay then. I wanted to highlight that part, because that’s going to color every bit of advice you get on this forum. Until your therapist, who knows your case and is seeing you in person, says “QW, you’re good as new, buddy. Get back into the gym and go balls out”, you’ve got to take online advice with a grain of salt, and consider running your plans by them first.

If The Mighty Stu, an experienced professional bodybuilder, can spend a few months post-injury being patient and just doing what his therapist says, so can you.

[quote]That’s a good point but I hardly believe that my case requires any machine training so far.

Of course I practice different kinds of rehab exercises given by my therapist to help me get back to torque movements, none of them are machine exercises.[/quote]
Fair enough about your current rehab exercises, though depending on the injury a lot of rehab work is machine based. And the point remains, machines can be an invaluable tool for building muscle. Saying something like “I won’t ‘resort’ to machine training” is not only cutting you off from several effective exercises, but it’s a general mindset that could slow down progress overall. I’ll make the general sweeping statement that routines involving free weights and machines have built bigger and better bodies than routines involving free weights and excluding machines.

Add in the fact that we’re trying not to directly load the spine, and you need all the tools available.

Being too weak to start training for hypertrophy is like being too hungry to fall asleep. They’re not exactly connected, but taking care of one will take care of the other good enough for now. If everybody avoided training for size until they reached a 1,000 pound total in the powerlifts, Powerlifting USA and MILO magazine would be on newsstands and Flex and Muscle and Fitness would be hard to find.

I would be definitely VERY glad about some advice on this topic :)[/quote]
We all generally understand that the big, basic compound movements are some of the biggest players when training for size or strength. They let us hit the most muscle and generally move the biggest weights to efficiently train those bodyparts. But even while the “big basics” are cornerstones, there are other exercises that are still along those same lines (arguably comparable) and let us hit a bunch of muscles and move a good amount of weight. Leg press, trap bar squat, front squat, dumbbell squat, etc. Not to mention single-leg compound exercises (split squat, lunge, and step-up variations) which will also train the entire leg musculature, and add in the large number of single-joint isolation exercises that will also allow progression.

If the goal is to get bigger, and for whatever reason we can’t do back squats or deadlifts, there are still plenty of legitimate and effective exercises available to work with. The hyper-macho attitude of “if you don’t squat, you’re shit” might sound hardcore, but when we look at the reality of it, not everyone is able to do every exercise for whatever reason (physical restriction, equipment issue, etc.). If someone is physically able to squat in a decent gym and chooses not to… that’s when they’ve got some explaining to do.

If we can’t rely on an increased load, we can either rely on increased volume/low-to-moderate load:

Or increased intensity/moderate load:
http://www.T-Nation.com/article/bodybuilding/pump_down_the_volume

Either of those methods will let you train primarily for hypertrophy without needing to go relatively-heavy. By using a higher volume and shorter rest periods or using intensity-boosting techniques like rest-pause or negatives, you can make the most out of a lighter weight and get a great muscle-building stimulus.

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:
If The Mighty Stu, an experienced professional bodybuilder, can spend a few months post-injury being patient and just doing what his therapist says, so can you.


I just read his log and will keep on training with isolation and rehab exercises like he does.
Concerning heavy weights right now: the risks outweigh the benefits by far. It’s propably a lot better to go easy at it for another couple of months and then return fully recovered instead of going hard now and risking a more severe injury.

[quote]
If we can’t rely on an increased load, we can either rely on increased volume/low-to-moderate load:

Or increased intensity/moderate load:
http://www.T-Nation.com/article/bodybuilding/pump_down_the_volume

[quote]
The article on pump training looks pretty cool! I m definitely going to try it this year.

Thanks again for helping me out guys!

[quote]Quiet Warrior wrote:
Concerning heavy weights right now: the risks outweigh the benefits by far. It’s propably a lot better to go easy at it for another couple of months and then return fully recovered instead of going hard now and risking a more severe injury.[/quote]
I totally agree. Best of luck with it all.