T Nation

Goals and Planning


Basic info: Male college Freshman, between 145 and 150 lb and 5'10 I'm estimating 16-17% bodyfat. I've only been lifting seriously for the past 6 months. The highest (front) squat, deadlift, and bench I've ever done have been 145x5, 150x5, and 110x5. I usually do full body 3 times a week. I don't usually count sets, I just go for a total of 30 heavy (well I think they're heavy) reps on 3 main lifts and increase the weight when I can. I'll usually do one or maybe two assistance exercises to finish up. I eat roughly 2400 calories a day which is about maintenance, maybe a little more.

My problem at this point is that I'm just stalling. I can't seem to break my long term goal down into short term goals. Like any skinny fat guy, I want to be bigger, stronger, and leaner than I am now. I feel that I'm too fat to put on weight and too skinny to take it off. I have no idea how to arrange my short term goals to reach my long term goal, and because of that I'm not making any progress. I understand that getting stronger is key, but other than that I feel pretty much stuck. I understand that my problem is pretty vague, so it's hard to offer advice. Any help is welcome.


Something seems a little odd here. You give your bodyweight in lbs, you say you've been lifting seriously for six months yet the highest deadlift/squat you've ever done is 145 x 5 and 150 x 5? Have you changed to kilograms here? You also say you do full body days so you are still a beginner. A beginner should be able to more than double their deadlift/squat in six months. Shit I'm a freakin weakling but I'm deadlifting 60lbs+ more than I was last month.


At 150lbs, you're not too fat. Eat. Start by eating fairly clean. It's damn near impossible to eat enough to get fat while eating clean, so eat everything decent that isn't nailed down. Once your body weight stalls on this diet (mine stalled at 195) get as dirty with it as you need to. If you're not gaining a pound or so per week, eat more.

We do not "increase the weight when we can", we increase the weight. If you want to force a change, you don't ask politely, you demand it.

Read this:

Just read the first post and follow it. Combine it with the diet advice above and you are set for a good long while.


So if I'm getting this right, you expect a 150lb 18yo to deadlift 2.2xBW for 5 reps in six months? Or were you just trying to be condescending for the sake of stroking your ego's dick?

I started with a DL somewhere around 250. Should I have been pulling 500 within six months?

Let me directly quote you from another thread:

Unplug your keyboard for awhile, would you? Some of us are getting pretty damn tired of politely asking you to STFU.


Regarding setting goals, I have always found that focusing on just getting stronger at 2 or 3 lifts for a period of time to be effective. For example, I go through fazes where I will focus on bringing up my squat + deadlift over 12 to 16 weeks. The switch focus to dips + pull-ups. Then switch focus to rows + bench + shoulder pressing but I align this with what my goals regarding body composition have been.

I try and focus my strength goals with times where I am eating a surplus of calories. The reason being, all of my minor training injuries are attributable to 'cutting' phases where I try and push new PRs.

So a typical year for me might look something like this:

Jan - Mar : 'Bulk' phase focusing on squat + deadlift progression
Apr : 'cut' phase focusing on maintaining strength as best as I can
May - Jul : 'Bulk' phase focusing on pull-ups + dips progression
Aug: 'cut' phase focusing on maintaining strength as best as I can
Sep - Nov: 'Bulk' phase focusing on barbell row, shoulder press + bench press progression
Dec: 'cut' phase focusing on maintaining strength as best as I can

Although it doesn't always pan out this way. This is actually how I am planning to set it up once I get back to 100% from the flu and my elbow injury.

Please anyone feel free to criticise! :slight_smile:

Edit: What I tend to notice is I make better gains on the focused exercises, and marginal on the less focused ones. The net effect is always significant though.


Where did I 'give any advice'? I just find it difficult to believe that after six months of 'serious lifting' this guy's PB for the deadlift is 5 x 150lbs. I was wondering if he meant kilograms. In terms of weight lifting I don't have an ego. Merely self-deprecating humour. And regarding starting at 250lbs your ego should be super spruiked because here are the un-trained(i.e. beginner) weight lifting standards in lbs for the deadlift by bodyweight:

Bodyweight Un-trained
114 97
123 105
132 113
148 126
165 137
181 148
198 156
220 164
242 172
275 176
319 180
320+ 183

I would suggest that if you began deadlifting 250lbs that, contrary to being a beginner, you were in fact already strong and had gained strength from sports/physical labour as opposed to someone like me or the OP. If you look up these standards you will also see that the weight increase from 'un-trained' to 'novice' is virtually double. So, let's not ruin another noob's thread with this silly bitch slapping eh?



Is that the same planning that got you over the 200 barrier? Or did you bulk for a long time, and then start this type of periodization?


this! definitely!

and maybe do upper/lower, focus on progressing in big three and at the end of each workout do more compound exercises to beat the shit out of you and that's all I believe.


<--Started at 155 earlier this year, currently at 188 and have gotten considerably stronger. I don't care about this particularly, but you may that I still have a six pack. I am definitely still a beginner to lifting, but I've been seriously training at other things for about three years. As such, take what I have to say with a grain of salt:

First, you should start counting sets. And better yet, you should put yourself on some sort of program. You don't have to follow the program exactly if you don't have access to the equipment etc. Read the posts from guys who have gotten big and strong on here (not me). When I walk into the gym every day, I know more or less exactly what I'll be doing and how much of it I'll be doing.

Three times a week is sub-optimal. Like guys have said here, find a split that you like and that the person propogating it has a physique that you admire/appreciate. As much as people are recommending the "Do this routine," you might be better served with 5/3/1 because it would address your problem of not knowing HOW to progress.

I think that KoB's "Do this routine" assumes that the person doing it knows how to progressively overload their muscular capacity. 5/3/1 makes no such assumption--it gives you rep and set ranges and includes the load that Wendler suggests you do.

You can do the 5/3/1 on a 4-day split. If you do so, one thing worth doing would be to read some of the training logs that others have put up who use 5/3/1. It's very popular on these boards.

Next is eating. 2400 might be "above maintenance" by calculators, but you need to start listening to your body. When I was 155, I was eating in the 4k-5k range every single day. Also, what are you eating? What does a day of food look like for you? You should be able to give a basic calorie and macronutrient breakdown of your daily diet.

Lastly, start writing stuff down. Write down what weights you use. Write down your workouts. Write down what you ate each day.


I typically bulked for 3 to 5 months, followed by a 2 to 3 month cut. I did get fat on the bulking, which is why the dieting was longer than I'd liked.

Through 2010 I spent most of my time cutting as I was playing around with different diets - keto, carb cycling, portion control, etc.

Now that I know what approaches work for me, and what foods keep me lean, I'm going with the above posted plan. But like I said, first I need to get over my injury which was a real set back.

FWIW - in my avi I only weighed 193 lbs if I remember correctly. I don't know what bf% but I had veins running up a few inches in my abs and the lower back was slowly forming into a christmas tree. I also don't have the greatest 'muscle maturity' either but had pretty evident striations in my shoulders, upper chest, biceps (which were splitting). Right now I'm about 210 or so, not entirely sure as I haven't weighed myself in a while.

What I will say that got me to where I am at today is determination, persistence and consistence. Small steps leading to giant leaps.



I've pretty much been bulking non-stop, with two re-comps thrown in for damage control. Right now I'm around 215lbs and ~13% by caliper measurement. Coming up on three years training.

I was just curious if you've been using that plan the whole time because I had thought about using a similar plan. My first re-comp was a quick one. Blasted 10lbs of flab off in about a month, and got a great rebound off of it. I might try using a quick fat-blast every fourth month after I achieve my current goals.

DISCLAIMER: That was after I had already passed the 200lb mark by following the exact advice I posted above.


First of all, thanks for all the advice. My question wasn't really about which program to do, but more about whether or not I should focus on size/strength/body comp. first, since I want to do them all. That question has definitely been answered, although indirectly.


I need to stop being afraid to get bigger, and get my lifts WAY up. I'm going to do Dan John's Mass Made Simple. I've wanted to for a while, but like I said I was stalling because of my fear of getting big and fat. It's time to man up and stop whining.

I'm going to start MMS when I get out of school which will give me time for the goblet squat based preparation program. The book specifically says not to do other leg training but recommends upper body strength work, so maybe a 5/3/1 pattern for the three non-squat lifts?

Carbs make me feel bloated and I know they aren't essential, so I usually stick to veggies. Macronutrients for a typical day look like PRO/CHO/FAT = 185/35/165 give or take small amounts. I eat a lot of eggs (usually 12 a day) as well as chicken, olive oil, beef when I can get it, cheese, and peanut butter. Typical bodybuilding staples.

I'm going to bump up calories by 150 a week so that I can start gaining. I'll throw in some fruit and oats to even out my macronutrients a little bit, too.

I will be keeping a log of both my training and eating to keep myself focused and accountable. If anything seems wrong about this plan, let me know.


Only thing I would say, NowhereMan, is that 150 calories is nothing. If you're only eating 2400 right now, try eating 3000 and see what happens. Just weigh yourself weekly or pay attention to the mirror. Honestly, even 3k isn't that much. 150 calories a week just isn't going to get it done. Also, start eating somewhere between 1.5-2x bodyweight in protein.

One other thing I would say is to be careful at first that you're eating that much EVERY DAY. It's easy to eat 3k calories in a day starting out, but what's hard is eating 3k the next day and the next day. Until your body adjusts, it will almost certainly involve eating when you're not hungry at all. Not to say that you have to force feed yourself, but hit those calorie levels every single day.

The last thing is that outcomes will usually be dictated by the intensity of the training. BBB, 5/3/1, Mass Made Simple, Body Part Split--whatever. I don't know much about Mass Made Simple, so maybe someone else will chime in on that one. Either way, lift your balls off every day you're in the gym.


Don't stress about putting on some fat. Keep yourself monitored. Mirror and waist measurement. If your waist is starting to increase significantly, then add in more physical activity to compensate on your higher calorie days. It goes a long way, really isn't too much trouble and will let you gain weight for longer before dieting. I play basketball regularly in the back yard, works a treat and keeps me as mobile as possible as I gain weight. I can comfortable dunk a regulation size ring at 210 lbs and 5'11"!

You will probably find you won't put on as much fat as you think, particularly if you are on point with ramping up your calories strategically. I.e. adding in another 100 every week or so, and doing your cardio when you significantly overeat.

One thing I will suggest is to eat carbs dude. Seriously, it makes gaining size SO much easier. Just make sure you aren't eating refined sugars, trans fats and high sodium foods. Those are the biggest culprits when it comes to bloating.

I can eat a shit tonne of potato despite being carb sensitive and not bloat too much. It really isn't even that noticeable tbh.


I thought it was better to slowly ramp up intake over the course of a couple weeks. I guess 300 a week is more realistic, and will get me to 3000 by next week. I'll start keeping a log so I can be completely sure I'm getting enough. I'll start eating carbs, and get them from oatmeal, fruit, and all the good stuff.

I find that my intensity is completely dependent on motivation, which I've been lacking recently. Having a plan and a goal should fix that.