T Nation

I Don't Want to Spin My Wheels


#1

The more I read, the more I get confused.

I'm 37, 6'4", 195 lbs, probably about 20% body fat. I'm weak and I want to be strong. I joined a gym and started lifting weights on June 1, about 6 weeks ago. I've been using All Pros routine from Bodybuilding.com. My first month, I didn't lose any weight at all, but I got stronger.

I first joined a gym 10 years ago, when I weighed about 250 lbs. Once I got to 200 lbs, I lost interest and pretty much remained that weight. For the past 10 years, I would sometimes see a movie and decide I wanted to see my abs, go gungho for a month at the gym, get burned out (energy-wise) from going all out, and then quit again.

This time, I decided I wanted to be strong. I'm weak. I couldn't do a regular pushup when I started 6 weeks ago (now I'm up to 5) and I still can't do a chinup or pullup.

I don't want to spin my wheels with this. A friend of mine locally is pretty built and he started out with a gut as well. His advice was just to eat, lift, sleep, focus on getting stronger, don't worry about having a gut or getting a bigger gut. That it'd take care of itself later. That if I cut my gut now, I'd be nothing but a tall, weak stick, because there's nothing to cut down to.

Should I be eating at a surplus, getting my protein in, lifting heavy weights in order to build muscle (I realize that I'll gain some fat doing this as well)? Should I be eating at maintenance, trying to gain muscle and lose fat at the ame time? Or should I be cutting, focusing on getting rid of the gut, but sacrificing building muscle?

Again, my goal right now is to be strong. Of course, I want to be aesthetic at some point, but for now, I just want to be strong. I also don't want to get too fat in the process.

To me, I look exactly the same as I did 6 weeks ago. I'm definitely stronger and my wife has commented that I have some muscle definition. I've attached a current photo. Any advice?


#2

If you want to be strong, pick a routine that excites you and follow it diligently for at least the next 3 months. After 3 months, evaluate your progress and level of motivation and proceed accordingly. However, realize that if you want to build a strong and attractive physique, you should be thinking in terms of years rather than months or weeks.

As far as eating, I don't think its useful for you to think in terms of "cutting" or "bulking." Just eat well, and make sure you're eating enough to get stronger. You'll probably slowly add muscular weight, which is good. However, if you put on more than a few pounds a month, you might be getting fatter, so take some pictures and be willing to make honest judgements about how you're looking and feeling.

Get in lots of protein, vegetables, and water. Also eat some carbs and fat, but minimize junk food and mindless eating.

Do not over think this. Just find a program, pick a course of action, and implement. Make small adjustments as needed. Good luck.


#3

The goal should determine the approach. You say your goal is to be strong, but then you mention that you don't look different than you did 6 weeks ago... and ask about cutting fat now vs building muscle later, etc. If your goal is strength, then what matters is getting stronger. And you say you have been getting stronger. Anyway... clarity in terms of what your goals really are will be helpful going forward.

As far as practical advice, keep lifting heavy weights, trying to get stronger. (I think I saw the All Pro routine on bodybuilding.com like 8 years ago, funny it's still around.) Your approach to training should be based on progress on the big compound movements. Really, the variables factor into diet.

1) You can eat at a deficit to lose fat now. 2) You can eat close to maintenance (either slightly above or below) to more gradually recomp. 3) You can eat at a surplus to maximize muscle growth and strength progress.

Which of these you choose should depend, again, on your goals. If your goal is strength, then choose Option 3 (obvious, right?).


#4

Follow a proven program that'll get you strong. From what you're saying, I'd say go with Starting Strength for three to six months, then move on to 5/3/1 when you start stalling. If you're worried about appearance, just watch the quality of your food but make sure to keep up high quantity. This site has plenty of great information on how/what to eat. You'll figure out over time which foods work best for you.

If after looking at Startng Strength and 5/3/1 you think you'd rather jump into 5/3/1 straight away, that would work too. I just mention SS because based on what you've said it sounds like you're the kind of person SS was designed for.

The one thing to really, really hold on to is that as long as you are training properly (i.e. SS or 5/3/1, etc) and eating a bunch of QUALITY food you shouldn't worry about anything else for a good long time. Get stronger. Appearance will follow.


#5

Follow this man's advice to the bone!

Once I decided I just wanted to get stronger and more explosive, I stopped caring about my gut and body fat %. I stopped caring because I knew as long as you are eating as well as you can and cutting out the obvious crap your body will start to change and the body fat level will drop in time. You just have to stick to the process and trust that it will work.

So just:

Pick a good solid beginner program like SS. Eat well. Recover. Push yourself and stay consistent with the program and eating habits. In 3-6 months, you'll be A LOT stronger and will look MUCH different looking than you are now. Just don't give up and believe in the process, good luck to you brotha!


#6

If your goal is to gain strength, and you're gaining strength, that sounds like you've got it spot on.

If you're not happy with your progress, I would say you are either expecting too much (you're only 6 weeks into a process that takes years), or you're not being honest with yourself about your goals.


#7

keep it simple
almost everything worked for somebody
dont quit


#8

Thanks for the advice!

I started day 1 of Starting Strength this morning, and I really like it. It's less volume than AllPro's, and I was done and tired at about 45-50 minutes.

I wasn't trying to come off wishy-washy in my post. I just don't want to spin my wheels. I'm fine with this taking years, I have time. I'm glad that nobody brought up counting calories. I've done that for most of the past 10 years, yo-yoing in weight and I probably look the same as I did 10 years ago, just older now.

So now I know what I have to do. Eat enough quality food to make sure that I'm getting stronger each week and lift heavy. I gotta say, this site is way better than bodybuilding.com. I asked the same question over there and must've got 10 different answers.


#9

Solid choice. A beginner can't go wrong with this program if strength is the goal.

We rock here at T-Nation. We're all here to help and learn. No matter how experienced or knowledgable anyone is in fitness, there's always room for learning. There have been some great discussions from different point of views that has helped me learn a lot in such a short amount of time. The dudes over at bodybuilding.com just want to argue and claim they know everything there is too to know about training and nutrition. It's Jr. High over there. Another great choice you made.


#10

Good choice, and best of luck.


#11

You know what your goal is, which is awesome:) Your goal is simple to get strong. With that being said, eating in a caloric surplus is the best way to get stronger. Aim for a plus 500 caloric surplus from your maintenance caloric intake. Also lower reps and a view more sets will dial in technique. Again higher reps are beneficial and should be used, but if you want to get as strong as possible I recommend doing a lower rep range. If you have any other questions let me know, and I will answer them, good luck OP


#12

If you're trying to lean out a bit (it seemed like you wanted to based on your original post), add in some complexes AFTER being on SS for a month so you don't overload yourself. Use the search bar, there's tons of info about complexes on this site. Also, walk instead of driving. Those two additions made me drop from 12 to 8 percent body fat in eight weeks, and it hasn't come back. It's all about adopting healthy and sustainable lifestyle choices and applying them over time. There is no one-month fix-all for this. There's not even a one-year fix-all. Just keep going.


#13

I'm on the Greyskulls LP. The thing I like about it is that it uses micro-loading. So, your upper body lifts only go up in 2.5 lbs increments and lower body has 5 lbs incrememnts. I've found that this helps with the burnout problem. If you're just adding a little bit of weight at a time you're less likely to plateau as quickly and hence get discouraged.

My philosophy is slow and steady wins the race. I'm coming up to a year of lifting and I by no means have a stellar physique, but I keep adding weight to the bar or adding more reps, so I'll keep going. I'm sure most people would have made better progress than I did in a year, but it's working for me. I'm doing more of a slow recomposition. It suits my goals which is to gain strength with minimal fat gains.