T Nation

How to Get from Level 2 to Level 3?


In regards to this article and thread:

I've been training a good while now and have made it to the Level 2. A bit smaller but I think a bit more defined than the photo but definitely in Level 2. I'm looking for what I can do to get to that Level 3.

  1. I work a lot and live in a 3rd world country as a volunteer. So my funds, gym time, and ability to get supplements or equipment is very restricted. So far I haven't taken a single supplement including multi-vitamins.

  2. I get to the gym about 2 times a week, 3 when I have time but its very rare.

  3. I'm doing this yes to push myself to better physical shape but also because when I'm finished volunteering I plan to apply for Marine Corps OCC. I run about 2 miles, 3 times a week at OCS Pace (6min miles) and then a lighter 30-40minute run once a week.

  4. I don't have access to anything for pull-ups but I try to do a good number of push-ups every morning. Currently I'm doing 10 Ballistic Push-ups followed by 60 regular pushups broken down (20, 15, 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1). In the morning and then at night one set of max push-ups.

Any advice would be great, is getting from level 2 to 3 mostly dietary, more cardio, heavier lifting? What's gonna get my physique to that next level.


Your doing wonderul for your restrictions all I can reccomend is eat more research nutrition and I know you'll do better

great job man under your conditions just keep eating protein and lift regularly TBT is your only option


You buy more stuff from Biot...wait what?


I don't know what you mean by TBT or what Nyral means by Biot?

Here is a much more detailed outline of what it is I've been doing. It's all rough figures because of how often things get changed here. Like right now the gyms been closed for 2 days due to government and not sure why they didn't open on Saturday... its also monsoon season so sometimes its pouring and disrupts my running.

Anyways typed this up to post:

A bit more detailed information:

I am 24, 147lbs at 5'10. My weakest part are my wrists. I started working out regularly about 5 months ago and have not lost any weight but changed my waist size from a 34 to a 28. I take no supplements, vitamins, or shakes. I can't afford them.

Typical meals:
Wake up at ~5:45am

Breakfast ~6:45am
2 pieces of whole wheat bread with peanut butter on both pieces and lettuce in between as a sandwich.

Lunch 1 ~11:00am
Another peanut butter and lettuce sandwich

Lunch 2 ~2:30pm
A sandwich of 2 pieces of ham, some cheese, and lettuce (no other sandwich meats exist in this country)

Dinner ~7:00pm
Option 1: Fresh tuna on a bed of lettuce
Option 2: Chicken on a bed of lettuce
Option 3: Dhal Soup (All natural can of soup containing 26.6g protein, 35g carb)
Option 4: Can of Chili (not sure the details and don't have any cans right now)
Option 5: Canned Tuna with frozen vegetables and lettuce (when the market tuna doesn't look good or is out)

After Dinner ~9:00pm
A bowl of oatmeal

Bed ~10:30pm

I only drink water or fresh coconut straight from the tree

Typical Gym Routine when I get to the Gym (twice a week):
(in between each exercise I perform 10 hanging leg raises)
3 minutes Jump Rope
Max set Pull-ups
1 arm dumbbell bench (3x8 each arm)
Farmer walk (3x30sec each arm)
10 Candlesticks and on the 10th one do a body lever negative then 10 pushups then repeat 5 times
Decline bench with 2 dumbbells doing ab twists in between set holding 1 of the 2 dumbbells for 20 twists.
Planche 1 minute on medicine ball
Side planche 1 minute on floor (each side)
Jump rope 3 minutes
Work the heavy bag doing both kicks and punches for about 15 minutes
Dips 3x10
Not sure the name but take the EZ-Curl Bar while standing and lift it up to face with elbows pointing out for 3x8
Chest fly 3x8
Plyometrics (various jumping techniques and jump kicks)
Another max set of pull-ups
2 minutes Sit-ups
Then typically go for a 15 minute walk.

Sometimes I do squats or leg press but usually I focus on upper body with weights and let my martial arts, running, and plyometrics take care of my legs. This probably is a mistake but I have limited time at the gym and already do running and martial arts 3 times a week.

Outside of the gym:
Run 2 miles three times a week
Spar with my Taekwondo students once a week
Do sprints once a week
Swim once a week
and same day as the swim (sunday) I also do a longer 30-40minute run at a bit slower pace than the other days.
Pushup sets in the morning and max pushups at night.


Looking at the push up list reminded me of something I read in an article here. They had a push up routine where you would do 1 push up and pause 2 seconds, 2 push ups and pause 2 seconds, 3 push ups and pause 2 seconds and see how far you get but the catch is that you have to leave enough in you to reverse it on the way back.

So you'd go up in reps with a 2 second pause in between sets and then work your way back down to 1. Ever try that one? If I didn't have consistent access to a bench, I'd give it a try.




Make those two days a week at the gym count! It already looks like you are doing lots of cardio work - running, jump rope, heavy bag, 15 minute walks, etc. At your height and weight, you should be ripped to shreds with what you're doing.

In my opinion, for your case, you need heavier lifting to get to level 3. Where are the dead lifts and squats? Why the chest fly instead of the bench? Why only max sets of pull ups instead of weighted pull ups?

Also with all the time doing push ups, you could try adding in one arm push ups.


Rephore keep in mind he might not know what deadlifts and squats are

If anything he should prepare to do those workouts so he will have proper form

useless with bad form I don't even do them anymore because of initial lack of for

And tbt means total body emphasis so your best bet is to work everything whenever you go to the gym


From what I can see, you're doing way too much horizontal pushing exercises. Do some kind of rowing movement, a vertical pressing movement, some lower body exercise and maybe some isolation type of exercises for the arms, calves and maybe delts.

And you need to go as heavy as possible, it seems like the weights that you are using don't push you hard enough. Since you can only work out twice a week, like someone said above, do a Total Body Training type of program. So in a workout session, you might be doing these exercises or their variations;

Bench press
Shoulder press/Raises
Chin up
Bicep curl
Tricep extension

1-3 working sets each done in the 6-10 rep range. Make sure to warm up properly and learn proper technique before you start going heavy on any of the exercises.

Diet wise, it looks like you're not getting enough protein man, try to get some source of protein with every meal. Shoot for 150-200g of protein per day.


Thanks for the advice I sometimes do Squats but not very often because I feel sore afterwards and it sucks going to Taekwondo (I'm the instructor) or trying to run the next day. I guess I have to suck it up and do it though.

As for Chest Fly instead of Bench perhaps another pansy excuse but I don't have a spotter and as I mentioned my wrists are really weak so I try to do most of my work with dumbbells to prevent accidents. It actually feels harder when I do 1 arm bench than regular barbell benching simply because with barbell bench my wrist gives out long before my arm. I'll try to do more regular benching though. (Its why I recently starting doing the Farmer Walks)

Deadlift I enjoy and do sometimes but not consistently, I'll try to do this more.

As for the pull-ups I don't want to do weighted pull-ups until I can get out 24 unweighted pull-ups. Right now I'm averaging 13-15. When I started training I could do 6 or 7.

I think I have 2 more weeks of 2 days at the gym but then I think I should be able to get there 3 days a week the rest of my time over here (I go back to America in December). The days are Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Should I split up and do the workout I've been doing + Bench 1 day, +squats another day, and +deadlift the final day. Or should I do something like the workout I've been doing twice a week and then maybe Saturday just do Squats, Bench, and Deadlift? Which would be a more beneficial way of doing it?


The first time you hit a muscle group it's going to get sore for a couple of days. After working you're legs for a 2-3 sessions it won't get as sore anymore.

How about dumbbell bench press? When I said a variation of bench press, you can do either barbell or dumbbell, incline, flat or declined. One arm db bench press is harder because you need to stabilise it more. A great exercise for the torso but I think it won't stimulate your pushing muscles as much.

As for pull-ups, why not do both? Weighted in one session and unweighted in another? Shoot for 4-8reps with the weighted pull-ups.

For a 3 day routine, I suggest either still doing a full body routine or a 2-way split (upper body in one session and lower body in the next one then upper again etc) first and see where you can go from there. Just browse around the articles here, there are lots of programs to choose from.

Again, diet is important. To get lean, you need to eat with the aim of getting lean. No offense, but at your weight, it doesn't seem like you're carrying much muscle mass, so maybe you might want to consider bulking up a bit first?


Thanks Taufiq, so sounds like I might need to buy protein powder and try to find some additional protein to go with the peanut butter for my breakfast. I cant afford 1 scoop of powder every day, so should I take it on the days I go to the gym or the day after going to the gym? (It's about 10% of my monthly stipend for an 18 serving size container)

For doing a full body routine should I just add Bench, Squat, and Deadlift to all three days, split them up, or replace existing exercises with them. And if so which exercises do you think I should replace to make room for them?


Thanks Taufiq, so sounds like I might need to buy protein powder and try to find some additional protein to go with the peanut butter for my breakfast. I cant afford 1 scoop of powder every day, so should I take it on the days I go to the gym or the day after going to the gym? (It's about 10% of my monthly stipend for an 18 serving size container)

For doing a full body routine should I just add Bench, Squat, and Deadlift to all three days, split them up, or replace existing exercises with them. And if so which exercises do you think I should replace to make room for them?


You don't really need to buy protein powders, if you can increase protein intake through solid food, then by all means do so. Eggs, ground beef and canned tuna are particularly cheap.

I probably wouldn't do squat and deadlift on the same day, but yes you can bench on the same day as them. I'm pretty sure there's a lot of articles here about full body training, but the one that comes to mind right now is


I looked through my old training log, and this is what I did when I first started(I can't remember where I get the routine from so I apologise for not referencing it):

Workout 1

Chin-up supersetted with parallel bar dips

Workout 2

Weighted pushup supersetted with Dumbbell row (elbow in)

Workout 3

Pullup supersetted with Military press

Each exercise was done for 4 sets of 4-8reps each. ~90s rest between supersets and 2-3min rest between straight sets. You can add a variation of curl and extension in that workout to train arms directly.

I hope that helps.


Ah tuna is remarkably cheap but I have some concerns over mercury poisoning. I eat fresh tuna about 4 times a week. It costs me $3 a pound and is cheaper than canned tuna here.

Eggs cost 70 cents each. And quality ground beef is not available. Even milk costs $4.60 a carton which has cups in it making it a bit expensive too. Pricing out protein powders a serving of protein powder would be $4.30 a scoop but the directions say it should be mixed with milk and it gave really strange size. 1 scoop for 300ml of water. 300ml of water is really tiny though so not sure if this makes sense.


Hmmm...I don't know what cheap sources of protein are available at your place, but the eggs around my area is like 15 cents each and I thought that was expensive. $4.30 per scoop of protein powder? I think you're better off with other sources. And yes, 300-400ml is the normal amount of water/milk used per scoop. More liquid if you like thinner shakes and less if you like thicker texture.

What do you mean quality ground beef is not available? Are you saying that they contain high amount of fat? If so, maybe you can follow this guide to reduce the amount of fat by as much as 50%;


How about cottage cheese, fat free greek yoghurt, quark, poultries, other fishes, various nuts and beans?


I mean they contain an extremely high quantity of fat and taste terrible.

Cottage Cheese is around sometimes. Yogurt is not, fish includes canned sardines, canned mackerel, canned salmon, canned tuna, fresh mahi, fresh yellowfin, and fresh albacore. Nuts and beans are not available.

Thats a nice article I'll give it a try if I purchase ground beef again.

Did a workout yesterday that I think went well it was roughly:
Jump rope
Bench press / Bent Over Rows
Dead lift / Marine Press behind neck
Bicep Curls / Dips
Pull-ups / Push-ups
Took the ez-curl bar and raised it to face (whats this exercise called?) / Decline Press
Candlesticks / Body Lever Negatives
Jump Rope

Today or tomorrow when I get to the gym again I'm gonna try to do similar but switch Deadlift / Marine Press with Squats / Farmer Walk and instead of Raises / Decline Press do Leg Extension / Clean & Jerks


I think you're refering to upright rows. All the best with your training.