T Nation

Help Me Get Bigger


Guys, i've been training for many years (5+) trying all kinds of things that i've researched, but have always struggled to gain any real size, keen for anyones thoughts maybe i have overlooked some things. Key things to note:
- Objective is muscle gain, mainly arms/calves
- i'm 85kg at about 5'9, but probably 15-17% BF as i've been trying to bulk for a few years now! I think i have a dense body though as i look smaller than most of my friends of similar weight
- I have a chronic shoulder injury which impacts bicep tendon/scapula/teres minor and a few things around there - it is sort of manageable if i go to the chiro every 2 weeks but i probably only get 2-3 days in this time of proper training where i feel great and the rest is OK but maybe 70-80% because of injury, sometimes it's terrible. I've tried a lot for the shoulder including taking 1-2 months off and it seems that, while not a perfect solution, fortnightly chiro seems to be the best i can get it to be
- i'm basically willing to try anything except juice, so happy to take any ideas really

I train on a strange cycle - I go to chiro every 2nd wednesday and need to take 3 days off afterwards so typically i train straight for ~10-11 days then have 3-4 days off. cycle is as per below:

day training
M arms
T back
W legs (quad/calf)
T abs/shoulders
F arms
S legs (hamstring/calf)
S chest
M arms
T back
W legs (quad/calf)
T rest
F rest
S rest
S chest

If i don't feel great i will take a day off in the middle as well.

I struggle to grow on limbs such as arms and calves which is why you will see more training days for these bits. because of my injury shoulders can be a bit taxing so i stick to DB shoulder press/machine shoulder press only and hence i combined with abs.
I won't go through each exercise unless you guys ask but typically i train between 20-30 working sets per session and typically in the 8-12 rep range which is consistent with everything i've read re gaining size. Cardio wise i ride 10km 4x per week and play tennis 2-3 times for about an hour.

My diet is pretty good, i typically eat like so:
training days: 3500 cals / 330P / 330C / 80F
Rest days: 2500 cals / 260P / 230C / 50F
Primary food sources: chicken, salmon, eggs, oats, sweet & regular potato, mixed veg, blueberries. Weekends are not quite as clean, bit more steak/rice and chuck in the occasional burger!
I typically break the above up into 4-5 means + PWO shake/carbs
Sups: pretty basic - whey, glutamine, leucine, vitamins

Thanks for viewing, look forward to some ideas


now I would never tell you not to go see a chiro...


is the whole point of going to any medical professional not to actually fix you? Seems to me like your chiro is treating you as a cash cow, and sucking the delicious money from your milky teats.

Now to the matter at hand:


To put it bluntly, your diet isn't as good as you think it is. You would not believe how many posts you get on this forum where someone says he is struggling to put on weight but that his diet is perfect. The two statements cannot both be true.

Yes, you probably think you eat a lot, and you probably make pretty good choices, but if you are not getting bigger then the amount you are eating right now IS NOT ENOUGH. It's just not.

So eat more. If you increase your consumption and you're still not getting bigger? Eat more. Continue to eat more until the growth happens. Don't be a dick about it and start eating like 6000 calories a day, getting fat as fuck. Bump the calories up slowly.

Your routine kinda sucks, but even if it were perfect, without the right diet it won't make a damn bit of difference.


^^Good points.


Go see how much some of the guys at your bodyweight eat.

Experienced guys please feel free to contribute.

What are your lifts, OP?



I'm a big believer in people not eating enough to grow. If you eat enough then you put on weight. It doesn't matter that you think you eat a lot. The fact is it is't enough if your 7 day average scale weight doesn't go up. If it was you would be consistently putting on weight.

Slowly does it. Keep increasing slowly to find a point that suits your lifestyle (physical job, amount you train etc)



thanks for the responses guys.

Ok yall have me pumped now, will up to 4000cals - what is a good trial period before upping again, a month? Also are the ratios pretty good?

Yogi you made the comment that my training is crap, do you have any specific ideas/comments?

specifics below :
reps / sets
conc curls 8x3
V-bar cable 21s 21x3
V-bar cable curles 8x4
Isolated bicep curl on bench 10x7
Rope PD 8x4
Overhead rope extension 10x4
one arm cable PD 10x2
db French press 10x7

Incline DB press 10x4
Machine flye 6x4
Isolateral press 10x3
Isolateral incline press 10x3
Cable flye 10x7

Legs 1:
Squats 3-10x5
Leg extension 12x5
smith machine calf raise 10x5
Leg press calf raise 15x5

Legs 2:
Hamstring curl 10x5
Standing calf raise 10x5
seated calf raise (leaning in) 10x5
seated calf raise (leaning back) 10x5

Lat PD (reverse) 10x5
BB row 10x5
Hammer grip row 10x5

Ab wheel 10x5
Wood choopers 10x5
shoulder press DB 10x5
Machine press 10x5


yeah that routine's not great. You have 8 exercises for your arms, and 3 for your back. What're you thinking?

Anyway, check out this thread:



You are definitely not eating enough. Also, if you are training 11 days straight and then resting for a few days, you need to over consume on your rest days so that you can grow. By cutting calories on the only days you allow yourself to grow, you are limiting progress. Also machine flys and machine pressing is generally worse on shoulders than using dumbbells and even barbells. Avoid them if you have issues.


All the comments made about your diet are absolutely spot on, and not eating enough is probably the biggest factor in you not growing by a long way.

Having said that, your routine is far from ideal as well. 8 different arm exercises (more if you count the contributions they make to other lifts), and only 5 sets of squats in 14 days? No deadlifts?


All comments about your nutrition are spot-on. "I've been lifting for years but can't gain size" is, 95% of the time, lacking in quantity and/or quality of calories. Dial that in, and stick to it seven days a week, and you should get back on track.

However, your training absolutely fucking sucks for someone with a chronic shoulder injury. You barely have any back work, and your essentially working the shoulders three or more times per week (chest day, shoulder day, and arm day) so you're overusing the joint. Your whole "train 11 sessions, take a few days off" is also kinda nutty and without rhyme or reason.

Get on a well-designed split with one or two non-lifting days each week; something with more back work overall, especially upper back work like face pulls, high rows, pulldowns/chin-ups, etc.; and something that cuts down the frequency of indirect shoulder work like either a chest/shoulder day, shoulder/arms day, chest/tris and back/bis, etc.

One last note: Sack up and do some actual leg training. 10-15 sets of calves per session but hardly any real leg work? C'mon, son.


My first thought on reading through this and looking at your routine is, 'well duh, of course you have bicep tendon issues'. Way too much volume for the arms. Reading through this site, you should have seen some great advice - you just aren't following it. I would say completely cut arms for a while, do a lot more back work and fucking SQUAT, man. Squats, front squats, deadlifts, bench, overhead press, pullups. Get off the machines and use the basic compound movements.

Take a week or so off completely, letting the shoulder rest and heal. Maybe do the chiro at the beginning of that week. During that time, dig through this site and put together a solid program - the info is all here, it's not rocket surgery. Starting strength, WS4SB, 531, etc, there are a ton of good programs out there, not to mention the ones Thibs has thrown out. For free. Repeatedly.

Want bigger arms? It is pretty much understood you have to gain LBM all over the body to gain inches on the arms. Squats will do this, best bang for your buck exercise out there. If your form is spotty (and we could all use a little tweak on our form periodically), dig through here, you can find descriptions and videos. If you are following a good, basic program focusing on the compound lifts, direct arm work isn't really necessary (doesn't hurt, but isn't really necessary - those will be hit by the basic lifts).


All valid comments re training that i will have to think about a bit more.

Note my arms are the smallest hence the higher volume, back is not too bad which is why i don't hit it as much, although i do agree that the back volume is too low so i will up this. I have done more conventional routines in the past with more even load across all muscle groups but again focus at present is on weaknesses (arms/calves) hence higher volume - or are you guys saying that it won't work even for that?

Legs: problem is if i do more quad load on a second day i don't seem to recover well enough to squat my heaviest, but point is still valid and i'll try to throw some more quads into leg day no. 2.

I am actually strong at deadlift (relative to everything else) but very heavy deads are actually quite taxing on the shoulder so i had to cut them out.

Interested in this comment about eating a lot on rest days... i've always eaten fk all except lots of P on rest days on the basis that carbs will just make me fat.... perhaps this logic is all wrong, so what would you guys recommend (in terms of relative calories for rest/training days?)


It depends. These are things you have to find out for yourself. All this is an on-going learning process, so let your results dictate your actions. If you can't figure this out, what will you do as you advance and gains come at a much slower pace?

Don't be afraid to experiment. Get to know your body better so you have the confidence to push the envelope with calories when you need to get past future plateaus.


Any chance you can toss a pic up? I'm having trouble picturing this physique.

Not sure you're really seeing the point. The point is, you're doing dickall leg training on either day (5 sets of squats and 5 sets of extensions is a barebones, borderline token, leg session). I don't believe it's a legitimate issue of "recovery". It has to do with your entire approach to training being inefficient and disorganized on almost every level - frequency, volume, exercise selection, etc.

As has been mentioned, there are tons of great plans here on the site and pretty much any one of them will be better than what you're currently doing.

Like dt79 asked earlier, what are your numbers on the basic lifts? (Squat, deadlift, bench, pulldown, row, shoulder press)


Did the chiro recommend a 3 day break after seeing him? I don't know what all he does to you but unless he specifically recommends 3 day recovery it seems a bit excessive, one day should be enough. try to set up the program so you don't workout on the day you visit the chiro, especial legs.

If you want to get bigger then workout less and eat more. 1 leg day, 1 upper push and 1 pull should be enough. get some heavy moderate rep 8-12 squats(front and back) and heavy deadlifts. heavy bench, incline and presses. heavy pull ups and rows. you'll grow great with some food.

just search the site for programs with the main focus on size. matt kroc has some great ones on here


I'm going to make this simple for you....

Bench Press

...with a focus on increasing your max lifts.

Consume more (good) calories.

take a week off from lifting more often.

But with the injuries and issues you listed, I can't think of alternate way to get bigger.


How much do you lift?

What are the specific limitations caused by your shoulder injuries? What can you not do?


It took me 14 years to figure a lot of shit out so be patient. 5 years isn't a long time in the grand scheme of things, so keep working. With that being said, if your #1 goal of goals is to increase size you have to EAT and increase VOLUME with basic compound lifts. You have to work the major muscle groups with movements that give you the most bang for your buck. Bench, Squat, Deadlift, OHP, Rows, etc... Or variations of the same to keep it interesting.

I really like GVT, or the 10 sets of 10 method. If you can stick something like that out for 8 weeks or so, you should see some improvements in size. You can even incorporate dips and barbell curls if you feel your arms are lacking. I have a hard to believing your eating 3500 plus calories a day based on your height and weight. Try actually tracking your macros and stuff for a few days to see exactly what your doing. Maybe it's not what you thought.


Guys, thanks for the feedback:
@Chris - good point, will up to 25 sets of quads per week.
Strength is like:
Bench: 100kgx6 - quite limited by shoulder on this
Squats: 132.5kgx4
deadlift: 190kgx5 - thats my best ever and was once only but have not deadlifted for ~6 months due to impact on shoulder.
DB shoulder press: 30kgx12 but again this is limited by shoulder.
Appreciate i am quoting different rep ranges here but this is what i would call me "strongest lift" on balance of reps/weight for each exercise.

To be honest i can probably bring the deads back just not push to max on them and i should be ok - so could up back to 20 upper back sets +5 dead lift

The more i read through the plans on the site the more i get confused as there quite a bit of variation but i'll just have to do some more research, also obviously has to fit in with my injury schedule.

@badwolf - he says 2 days - chiro is extremely taxing on the body, i find if i train even on the 3rd day i don't feel great. but i suppose i could throw in a smaller muscle group in on that day, so i will. Are you saying overall volume is too high though? because this is something i am continuously confused about as many articles here will say volume is king, but then you also hear talk of overtraining.

@Rsch - i eat the same thing every day so my calories were previously smack on 3500. I've uped to 4000 over the past week (again counted it out).

@dagil: good question - things that I straight out can't do are front/lateral raises. Anything very wide grip like lat pull downs are no good either. Things like bench are a bit hit and miss in that i can do them but sometimes they cause me a bit of grief, same as shoulder press. As i said i had dropped out deads but i'm going to bring them back. I also find if i train for more than 20 sets of most upper body exercises the shoulder will start playing up.

Generally comments are obviously focus more on big lifts, sounds fine - how many times would we recommend bench/squat/deads etc per week?


I think this shows that it's not your injury so much that's causing the issues, it's your injury in combination with inadequate warm ups/mobility work/form work. Address the second part and you injury will suck less.

Why do you feel the need to do more than 20 work sets in a single workout? I would guess that at least half of those sets are unnecessary fluff that you don't need to be testing your shoulder with.

Whatever your program says. I don't see any reason from what you've given so far that you couldn't do one of the hundreds of standard programs on this site.


Any one of the programs put together by any of the major T-Nation contributors will work well if you do it as written, just look at what the goals of the programs are, and pick one that aligns fairly closely with your goals. Just pick one program, stick with it for at least 6 months, and eat enough to sustain it. Which one you pick doesn't matter so much. 5/3/1, starting strength or Texas method, Westside, Christian T's programs... all will work if you do them as written.