T Nation

Help Me Beat the Odds!

Hi all,

This is my first post. I am 22 and have been lifting for a few years, but frankly I had no idea what I was doing. I am approaching this now as a total beginner.

I want to gain bulk and strength. I am 6’3", 180lbs and according to some dubious online test about 11% bodyfat. I have always been skinny and I have always been weak. I am pretty athletic, until recently I was swimming at a pretty high level, but I’m fed up of being tall and skinny- the beanpole look is not good.

I have read a lot of articles on T-Nation and elsewhere, and I think I have the idea when it comes to nutrition, but I am a bit confused about supplements and a routine. In terms of supplements I am a beginner so I don’t know if I should even be using them, but any advice on what might give me a bit of extra help to grow would be appreciated.

Much more importantly I need to sort out a routine, and the odds are stacked against me. Firstly I live miles from the nearest gym, so I have to lift at home. My home gym is a barbell, some adjustable dumbells and one of those adjustable smith machine weight benches. Its not mine but I can use it. I also have a chin/dip station on the way. My budget won’t stretch to any more majoy purchases so I’m about stuck with this.

Secondly I am a field research assistant, and I work in the uplands. This means that more often than not I spend my days walking miles across some really tough terrain, often with weight on my back, so this is obviously eating into my calories.

Since about new year I have faffed around firstly with Power to the People, then with Stronglifts 5x5. The second one was going OK but as the weight on the squat got higher I think I have injured myself. As I don’t have a squat rack I was doing front squats, and I am suffering with some kind of nerve issue in my left arm, which I think may have been caused by front squating so often. My housemate, who has been training way longer and better than me is not training his legs at all, because of all the walking we do. Is this a good idea?

Basically i would appreciate any advice or links on a decent routine for a beginner looking to bulk but also build strength (I am getting into JJJ and BJJ, so practical strength is a factor!) with this seriously limited kit, plus any thoughts on supplements although this is a secondary issue and I can probably figure it out with some better searching of the archives.

Cheers.

[quote]Roundhead wrote:
My housemate, who has been training way longer and better than me is not training his legs at all, because of all the walking we do. Is this a good idea?
[/quote]

My brother doesnt squat or deadlift. He runs instead. The muscles that those lifts work are noticeably small on him. It looks like he just benches. I also think he’s a pussy. :wink:

I mean, if you don’t care about being able to move heavy furniture easily up stairs, or developing the musculature thats worked with those lifts (EVERYTHING) then don’t squat or deadlift.

And stronglifts is a good program. As is the “starting strength” program as written up on bodybuilding.com somewhere in the forums. Use google or something. :slight_smile:

  1. Skipping legs bad idea
  2. Read the bulking tips sticky at the top
  3. Read the beginner sticky at the top
  4. Don’t necessarilly assume a pinch nerve is from Front Squats
  5. Join a gym if you have limited equipment
  6. Stick with the 5x5 program longer, substitute where you need to
  7. If you don’t want to stick with the 5x5 then pick another program
  8. The only necessary supplement is protein and if you diligent enough you don’t even need that
  9. Pick a program that appeals to you the most, then ask for critiques or modification help
  10. I like lists
  11. Best of luck

[quote]yasser wrote:

  1. Join a gym if you have limited equipment

[/quote]

I’m pretty much anti-gym for lots of reasons. One is that I’m ugly, and none of the cardio bunnies ever look longingly at me. Another is that I’m cheap.

For Stronglifts, or Starting Strength, the only thing you really need that you don’t already have is a squat rack. Craigslist (or Freecycle, if you’re lucky) makes acquiring a squat rack less expensive than a few months at most gyms.

Don’t join a gym…because of what others think. With that logic you should cheat on all your lifts because you don’t want to look like a weakling lifting less with proper form. You should probably also never show any sort of uniqueness for fear of rejection!

On a more serious note, the pinched nerve could be the result of something else. Maybe get it checked out? You can do lunges or something in the mean time for leg work just so you’re doing something instead of nothing. If you set your mind to it you could probably make some ghetto supports for a barbell.

You can work with what you have, for example:
With your barbell/dumbells:
-Deadlift man, deadlift!
-Bulgarian Split Squats
-Sumo Squats

Also:
-Build a DIY drag sled, slap some plates in it, and go sprinting up hills forwards and backwards.
-Hack squats? I think you can do these in a Smith machine??? correct me if i’m wrong.
-Bodyweight Squats/deadlifts (see Ian Kings article on bodyweight exercises)

Get those wheels pumping.

Furthermore, for program advice - it totally depends on your goals.
You said bulk and strength, these are fairly general goals. Get specific with yourself, how much weight do you want to gain? etc.

I would recommend a general conditioning period to get your body used to the concept of exercise, and possibly a self assessment phase - to work out your flexibilities and weaknesses.

From personal experience, I started out just doing random lifting, then went to a Scrawny to Brawny routine, and am currently working on WS4SB (Westside for skinny bastards). WS4SB is a strong program and I recommend it once you are conditioned.

As far as supplementation is concerned, you can use it as soon as you wish, however it may be smart to get your diet dialed right in before you add supplementation to it.
If you’re in the states, why not use Biotest products, they’re excellent and well priced.

A lot of good advice here, especially Yasser.

As for a squat rack, Dan John, who sometimes writes articles here, reportedly uses two sawhorses as a squat rack. You have to pick it up from the low position, and you probably shouldn’t ever drop the weight with too much force, but this seems like a good, cheap option for doing squats at home.

It sounds like you can
-Squat
-Deadlift
-Pullup
-Bench press
-Military Press
-Row.

Assuming you have enough weight, You can do all the exercises you need to.

The main thing about getting big is to eat enough for a long enough time. I would advise keeping a record of how much you eat, both protein and overall calories. For starters, eat your bodyweight in protein (get 180g of protein each day) and 20x your weight in kcals (eat 3600 kcals… at least), and let it go for a while.

Vince Gironda pointed out that 85% of bodybuilding is diet. Yeah, bust your ass… but don’t forget to eat.

And eat big.

[quote]yasser wrote:

  1. Skipping legs bad idea

  2. Read the bulking tips sticky at the top

  3. Read the beginner sticky at the top

  4. Don’t necessarilly assume a pinch nerve is from Front Squats

  5. Join a gym if you have limited equipment

  6. Stick with the 5x5 program longer, substitute where you need to

  7. If you don’t want to stick with the 5x5 then pick another program

  8. The only necessary supplement is protein and if you diligent enough you don’t even need that

  9. Pick a program that appeals to you the most, then ask for critiques or modification help

  10. I like lists

  11. Best of luck
    [/quote]

  12. I thought so.

  13. Cheers, I have done that now, and have more questions as a result!

  14. As above

  15. I’m getting it looked at tomorrow, so I’ll know more then

  16. The nearest gym is over an hours drive away and I work some pretty weird hours!
    6/7. I am not sure it is the right program for me, I’ll say why in a second

  17. Tonights bedtime reading is Supplementation for newbies and Super Stacks. I have read all the Nutrition for Newbies stuff

  18. Yep, thats what I’m about to do

  19. Me too

  20. Thank you very much

OK, so I learned from my reading that I want to look like Christian Thibaudeau and that everything he writes that has the word “Newbie” in the title is solid gold.

In training for newbies, he says that for tall people with long limbs (me) unilateral work is needed to stimulate growth. I am afraid I have no idea what this means, but the gist I think is that compound movements aren’t going to work that well for me on their own. So I was thinking of trying to knock together a split out of the Loading Parameters for Beginners bit at the end of Training for Newbies.

Would this be possible with the kit I have? And which body parts should I pair together? It would be good if one workout per week could be done with just dumbells, as I often have to travel at the weekends and this is all the gear I have then.

In reply to the training goals question I want to put on about 20lbs of lean mass, although I know thats going to take a long time and a lot of work. Any ideas of what time frame I should work to?

I wouldn’t say tall guys don’t grow, it just takes ALOT more muscle to look like those midget hurcules you see on these sites.

I’m your height and I have noticed some sweet gains on legs, back and shoulders just doing squats, deadlifts, and rows for a few months. Point is don’t over think too much about body types; save that shit for 10 years down the road when you REALLY need to think about making gains cause your body is 300 lbs of granite.

OP: For some unilateral lifts that will be more or less complexes, check out this article.

The bonus is that these should also meet your DB only criteria for the most part.

-Good Luck

You’re arm problem is likely from cleaning the weight incorrectly or trying to catch it on the way to the floor. The clean is not an arm lift, as I have learned to my own chagrin.

Get some chains, carabiners and loading pins. Loop the chains over the sleeves of the bar and attach them to the loading pins which are loaded with weights. Adjust chain length appropriately. Put bar on shoulders. Stand up. Now you are squatting. Much cheaper than a cage and just as safe. Can be a bear getting under the bar though.

You can also build a serviceable squat rack out out sawhorses, depending on how much weight you use. If you’re lifting super heavy, this may not be the best option. You’d be doing bottom up squats, but they are squats. Platform snatch grip deads also involve a lot of leg muscle, as you have to squat waaaay down to pick the weight up.

Look up the jefferson lift, which also makes you use a lot of leg and costs nothing to implement.

As long as you have at least 3 alternative lifts for legs, you can make progress.

Cheers for your input everyone. I had a bit of a shock today- I’ve not weighed myself for a few weeks, and it would seem that I’ve added about 9lbs in three weeks. My bodyfat is at 10.3% and I’m at 189lbs. In this time I did two weeks of Stronglifts 5x5, then when I read about the long limb/unilateral work thing I switched to a 4 day split. I’m guessing this sudden mass gain is due to Stronglifts not my new split, would that be right? If so I guess I’ll switch back to it!

Thank the heavens, someone who actually wants to put on muscle! And one who decides to read the articles to boot!!

Unilateral = one limb at a time. Lunges, 1 arm press, step-ups, etc. Can be upper or lower limb.

You’re getting good advice here. Yes, you would probably be right about the Stronglifts adding mass for you.

Thibaudeau is one of my all-time favorite authors, and I pay close attention to everything he writes. That said, don’t ditch your barbell work. Thib’s point was more or less that short guys can hit everything at one time because they are so compact and that tall guys generally need to add stuff to get the same efffect a small dude gets from one big lift. Not so much in overall growth stimulus, but because the small dude will look bigger much faster because he’s so compact.

Basically, barbell work is amazing for you. But unilateral work is needed IN ADDITION to balance out the things that don’t get as much growth stimulus. Thibaudeau would be the last person on earth to tell someone to stop squatting or deadlifting. Well, there is Dave Tate and Louie Simmons…but the point remains.

Stick with what you like. Stronglifts seems ok to me. It seems to be working I guess too. Anyway, pick a program and stick to it for 6 weeks total or so, then switch exercises or programs. Keep reading in the meantime though, it’ll give you ammo for future programs.

Also, the nerve issue could be due to your backpack as well. Could just have taken time to crop up.

BJJ strength is best trained on the mat. Practical weightlifting can give you a larger reserve of strength, but learning to position your body to make the most of it is all mat practice. It’s not that weightlifting is “un-functional” so much as it is that there is a skill component to BJJ and without it all the strength in the world won’t do you any good. Learning the skills and conditioning will help you make more of your strength.

Also, backpacking can be good for you. But you need to eat enough to keep gaining because of all the cardio/hiking (Seems you are doing that though). Just ask this guy…

http://www.T-Nation.com/tmagnum/readTopic.do?id=582925&pageNo=6

He did fine with field work. Was a Powerful Image a while ago. Linked to Page 6 of the thread

Cheers Aragorn. I enjoy using the 4 day split so I might stick with it unless my lifts/stats stop going up.

Based on the Training for Newbies and the How to Design a Damn Good Program articles, I’m doing doing 2-3 exercises per bodypart, with 4-5 sets of 6-8 reps on the primary lift, 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps of the secondary lifts and 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps of an Auxillary lift if applicable. The split looks like this:

Arms: Biceps- Barbell Curl then Concentration Curl
Triceps- Tricep extension then Skull Crushers

Chest and Back: Chest- Flat bench, then decline bench, then incline bench
back- Bent over row, dumbell row then bent over lateral raise

Legs: Quads- Front squat, then hack squat, then dumbell lunge
Hamstrings/glutes- Sumo deadlift, stiff leg deadlift, standing good morning

Shoulders: Military press, then arnie press then front plate raise

Sorry about the long post and all the info, hope that makes sense. At the moment I only get to MA training once a week, so I can fit all this in. Maybe in the summer when I am training MA more often I’ll rethink it. What do you think?

I have now read through the Training Method Handbook, another of Thibaudeau’s articles, and am even more confused. He seems to say in that one that an upper/lower body split is more appropriate for beginners, so I did an upper body session last night, but by the time I had done bench press and bent over row I was too torched to do a decent set of military presses. I was doing 4-5 sets of 6-8, doing flat bench, bent over row, military press, dumbell row, bicep curl and tricep extension. Is this right and how do you pace yourself through a workout like this?

Does he say newbies should train in an upper/lower split because one day of leg work a week isn’t enough?

[quote]palindrome wrote:
yasser wrote:

  1. Join a gym if you have limited equipment

I’m pretty much anti-gym for lots of reasons. One is that I’m ugly, and none of the cardio bunnies ever look longingly at me. Another is that I’m cheap.

For Stronglifts, or Starting Strength, the only thing you really need that you don’t already have is a squat rack. Craigslist (or Freecycle, if you’re lucky) makes acquiring a squat rack less expensive than a few months at most gyms.
?
[/quote]

I don’t get being anti-gym on a budget. In a lot of places (or at least the podunk places I’ve been all across the midwest) gym meberships are 20-30 bucks a month. So 360 bucks a year. What could you buy for that much? Maybe a barbell and plates if you find a good price used? Why not just take that money and go to a real gym where you will have benches, weights, bars, plates, cables and all kinds of junk. And I don’t know, make a friend or two?

I think most commercial gyms suck too, don’t get me wrong, but if my choices are a real gym or a couple barbells and plates, most of the time I’m going to choose the gym. Now, if you’re willing to spend the money it would take to equip your own serious home gym, with plates, bars, racks, dumbbells, cables, and the requisite basic machines and benches, then go nuts. But don’t expect to do it to save a buck, do it because it’s what you really want.

[quote]Roundhead wrote:
I have now read through the Training Method Handbook, another of Thibaudeau’s articles, and am even more confused. He seems to say in that one that an upper/lower body split is more appropriate for beginners, so I did an upper body session last night, but by the time I had done bench press and bent over row I was too torched to do a decent set of military presses. I was doing 4-5 sets of 6-8, doing flat bench, bent over row, military press, dumbell row, bicep curl and tricep extension. Is this right and how do you pace yourself through a workout like this?

Does he say newbies should train in an upper/lower split because one day of leg work a week isn’t enough?[/quote]

You can’t expect to do all out on your bench with 4-5x6-8 and then be able to do the same thing with military press. Think about it, how could you?

This is why guys usually have a couple “main” movements, and then their “accessory” work. So if your main work was 4-5 sets of 6-8 on bench and row, maybe next you could have done 2-3x12 of military press and dumbbell row.

Think about it another way: Why can’t you do 4-5 heavy sets of every different exercise in the gym? It’s obvious, you would be dead after the first couple things. It’s the same thing. You have to either hold back on your early things to have more juice for the later (which I don’t recommend) or be willing to go a little lighter on the later things. This is also why most guys don’t start their sessions with small exercises.

Make sense?