T Nation

Long Commute, Squat Bod, No Definition

This site is a gold mine. Thank you.

Dilemma: I look terrible. My shoulders are looking wider but not defined, my neck is slender for no reason, only the lower part of my bicep seem to be gaining, and my chest is filling out in the middle of each pec with no definition. I look squat with a fatty chest. I need to slim down and figure out what I’m not doing to get fit without looking like a mutant.

I cut junk food, most coffee, sodas, everything! and I don’t see any difference in my midsection.

How do I fit cardio and abs in with my current schedule, and why are only parts of me gaining muscle? I’m certainly not getting the 360 degree workout out of my gym time and I’m frustrated.

My situation: round trip work drive of 3 hours Monday through Friday. Wife goes to school at night while play Daddy to my 3-yr-old. Weekends are hectic as the week allows no time for anything.

Physique: 5’ 7?, 160lbs, 38 yrs old.

I train 5 days a week during my 1 hour lunch (about 40 minutes worth). No other time to do it as my gym is an hour and a half away on the weekends.

M and TR: Chest and Triceps ? 3 sets of 8 to 12 incline dumbell press, incline flies, flat bench presses and flies. Maximum weight I can lift on bench press machine, declining in weight, lifting to fail each time. Skull crushers, press downs, kickbacks, rope extension.

T and F: Biceps and Back: Barbell bicep curl - 5 x 10 reps, Seated dumbell curl on incline bench - 3 x 8 reps, Barbell preacher curl - 3 x 10 reps, Reverse barbell curl - 3 x 12 reps.

W: Rest or legs.

My diet:
Breakfast: Kashi Oatmeal and a banana.
Snack: Apple, a few almonds, a handful of Kashi Autumn Wheat cereal (dry).
Lunch: Turkey on whole Grain Wheat bread (dry), or maybe a PB&J, plus a handful of veggies (baby carrots, broccoli, cauliflower).
Snack 2: an apple, sometimes cliff bar.
Dinner: whatever is waiting for me ? chicken dishes, fish, beef, all with veggies and a potato or something. I also sip black tea in the morning and grab a no fat latte with protein in the afternoon if I can. I drink a lot of water throughout the day.

did you forget to list back exercises, or is back/biceps day really just 4 curling moves? and are you 1 rep maxing on bench every workout? and if yes, why?

pick 2-3 exercises per body part (depending on the amount of time you have, i understand that longer workouts are not in the cards for evryone) and start progressing on them. or choose a good beginner routine from the article listings, as you dont seem to know what you’re doing, routine wise (no offense meant, we all were there at some point).

and do something for your legs. heck, you could even do bodyweight or sissy squats at home while you watch your daughter - better than nothing.

good luck in your efforts.

To add what hypnotoad said,

Get a pull up bar and jump rope and use it on the weekends when you get 5-10 minutes here and there.

Please start training your legs, preferably squats and deadlifts, even if that is all you do, in the gym w/ a barbell. For time/benefit ratio, you will get the most out of them.

Get some whey and have a protein shake w/ your snacks.

Thanks for the prompt reply, I’m late out of the gate on this stuff so I appreciate the help.
Should i do 2 leg days then, maybe with shoulders? I use the machines for legs - plus calf raises. 3 sets of 8-12 on every leg machine I can find.

re: 1 rep max - no. After all the other chest exercises I go to the bench machine, choose the heaviest weight that I can push at least 8 reps. Then I drop the pin to, say 75 lbs, push it to fail, drop to 50, push it to fail, 25 to fail. Something another guy thought I should try.

I’m learning loads of information on this site, so thanks again in advance.

DL variation
row variation
chin variation
curl variation

Bench press variation
overhead press variation
rear delt flys
fly variation

hack squat machine/leg press
glute ham
leg extention

Take out one back/bi day and add a leg day, squats are a must and avoid machines. Make sure you’re doing deads on back day. Also, you shouldn’t be training to failure every set or indeed every workout.

Do each rep as intensely as possible and stop around one rep from failure. A good starter rep range for most exercises is 6-8 though this varies depending on your goal. You should seriously read some beginning articles.

Your assumed goals: Lose fat and gain muscle to look better.

Therefore you want to build a metabolism. The largest muscles in your body will use up the most calories to build themselves up when they are worked. what are those muscles?


Therefore I’d say at your level [beginner] and available training time [40min x 5/week] you would be a fool not to train your legs at least somewhat up to 3 of those days of 5.

You will not only develop better work capacity and ability to recover but also you will get a far better hormone response out of heavy (sets of 8 with your 9-10rep max) leg work. At the age of 38 the hormone response will be very valuable.

So id start MWF with sets of squat variations. look for some good ones on exrx.net [maybe .org i forget]. After that pop some upper body work [1 or 2 big compound lifts like DB bench press and seated rows] and work them heavy and hard. get 5 or so sets of each in. You dont need lots of different random shit. just hard work in essential lifts.

On the T and Tr you should include any possible kind of interval training. go for 1 minute of 100% effort [sprinting, burpees, skipping, elliptical whatever you have access to and can go freakishly fast on] and then 90s break. repeat for about 12 times so about 30 mins. take the rest down 10s or so when you think you’re hard enough.

also, your diet is and absolute abortion. You need to drastically change that. It will be the most effective tool in changing your body composition and getting leaner.

You eat primarily sugar and fairy tales as it stands. what you need to be eating EVERY meal is animals and plants. So the rules are if it didn’t have parents and its not green, do not insert it in your mouth. And by green i mean vegetables and avocados etc. not the green marshmallows from the box of lucky charms.

No potato, no kashi ninja cereal, no cliff bar, no whole grain wheat bread, no P, B or certainly J, and definitely no damn fat free latte.

Buy cheap meats in bulk packages, any meat will do. buy cheap veggies [broccoli, cauliflour and spinach are pretty cost effective]. grill, fry, or whatever the meat and veggies and put them into portable containers and take to work with you.

makes sense to put this all together in the evening or while your at home with your kids. It only take about 30mins at most to make over 15 meals for use over 3 days. And shit if you have a slow cooker you can make the meals without even doing anything. cut and throw in.

keep the sugary sauces at bay. use vinegar and soy sauces. oil based sauce with little to no sugar is the key.

Good luck sir, take control.



Thank you for the candid response - I read so much garbage about nutrition, it’s frustrating. I have moved to 3 leg days, but to be sure I get enough upper body I do two five-minutes intervals of high intensity cardio M-F, at the beginning and in the middle of the workout session.

I’ll have to work up to your regimen as I think 30 minutes of that kind of intensity may kill me.

I feel I need to start over from the beginning and work my way up the right way - including busting down my eating habits to raw essentials. The last year almost seems wasted. I’ll check back in after that.


squat 3x5
bench 3x5
row 3x5

Deadlift 1x5
OHP 3x5
chinups 3x5

cardio- start easy but make it really intense eventually (i dont know ur current work capacity) e.g. eliptical machine-hill setting on max for 5 mins DONT use your arms

easy(well not really) and quick

Company_Man—Avocado had a good post. Lots of good advice here, I’ll just add my own 2 cents.

Free weights are far superior to machines in terms of calories burned and in terms of muscle growth. However, with only 30-45 minutes to train you need a very small learning curve because spending 30 minutes a day for 4 weeks learning how to properly deadlift and squat will wreak havoc on your overall volume of training.

I am assuming you will have to learn how to do those things on your own and from articles, with no one qualified to give you advice in person. In person it can be done easier, but it is very often confusing for beginners, even intelligent ones, to try and take written instructions and go from them.

You NEED back exercises–I didn’t see them listed at all. The back is more important for your physique.

Think of it this way–your goal is to burn fat and add muscle, correct? Then you should concentrate the most on the largest muscle groups and the least on the smallest. The largest muscle groups are your legs and back. They are most responsible for burning calories and fat. The bigger the muscle, the more energy it takes to run the damn thing, so the more calories it uses.

These, incidentally, also are responsible for posture and health in most otherwise sedentary individuals. The smallest are biceps and triceps. Use these facts to your advantage.

btw, I appreciate you reading the articles here and taking initiative on your own. We get a lot of people who ask all the questions but never get down and do something, or even try to read the articles on their own. Even if it isn’t ideal, it’s still SOMETHING, and something is better than nothing. Besides, educating yourself is the surest way to succeed at what you try, along with actually going out and doing it and persevering at it.

Also btw, it’s late and i’m sleep deprived so this post will be long, rambly, and maybe confusing. I’ll try to keep it sensical, or at least readable. :slight_smile:

You have 5 days a week-- use most of them for lifting and 1 or 2 for cardio. Serious weightlifting is the fastest way to change your physique: it burns calories and adds muscle at the same time. Running does only one of those. Of course, in order to accomplish this, you HAVE TO LIFT AT A HARD LEVEL.

Doesn’t mean maxing out or anything, simply that you can’t “mail it in” and expect results. Remember that always. Doing 3 sets of 20 reps is going to do next to nothing. Not saying you are making this mistake, just a friendly reminder that you have to bust ass to get those benefits.

Avocado has a plan for you to lift MWF whole body (meaning legs, chest, and back each day), and do cardio on the other two days. I like this plan a lot. It has a lot to recommend it, and if you choose it I think you will see results. Training the whole body at once has the handy benefit of an increased amount of calories burned over training only 1 or 2 body parts, because the stress on your system is not localized to only 1 or 2 parts. The more muscles you can work at one time, the more calories you burn.

Avocado’s plan is simple, direct, and effective. Body part splits can work really really well too, so if you prefer that route or are more comfy with it we can help you there as well. There’s more than one way to solve your problem. However, I think you should give it a shot his way.

The only thing I will say is that you should not do Interval cardio at his same level. It would kill you, as you have mentioned. Interval cardio is hard and really stressful, so you have the right idea about starting with 5 minutes and going up from there. Don’t sweat it.

As far as leg days, if you don’t have any knee problems you can squat that much, but I would be careful with it. Not because the squat is an intrinsically dangerous or unhealthy lift, but because your level of experience may lead you to make bad technique mistakes, and you are not used to squatting that often. I say you should squat one day of the week, and do lunges 2 times a week, OR maybe deadlift or rack pull one time a week…

So we have lunge, squat, lunge… or squat, deadlift, lunge.

Don’t do ONLY leg work on these days, do 1 leg movement, 1 chest movement, 1 back movement, then one leg isolation movement (leg press, leg curl, whatever), then if you have time do another push/pull exercise pair (can be chest/back, or shoulders/back).

Pick different exercises for each of the 3 days. Example:

Mon— lunge, barbell bench press, seated row, leg curls
Wed—squat, incline press, pull-ups (bodywt. or assisted), leg press
Fri-----deadlift/rack pull, decline press, row variation, hack squat machine.

If you have time Mon, add shoulder press and chin ups/lat pulldowns. Or dumbell bench/another row variation. Pair horizontal with horizontal, and vertical with vertical.

You can alternate exercises to make them go quicker–chest, rest, back, rest, chest, etc.

Tues/Thurs cardio and abs/calves if you want. Again, you have the right idea about going slow on the interval training. Start slow, work up the time period. You could even warm up with a “regular” jog or biking period, do your interval training, and then cool down with a slow/easy jog time. 5 minute warm up, 5 minutes intervals, 10 minutes easy cool down = 20 minutes cardio.

Or 5 min warm up, 5 min interval, 10 min easy cool down, 5 min intervals, 5-10 minutes relaxing cool down = 25-30 minutes.

Hope all that made sense.

Diet wise—while I wouldn’t call it a complete abortion, it does need work. You got the overall idea of eating more often, and eating healthier with no sodas or desserts or anything.

However, you are relying mostly on carbs/grains. As Avocado says, you should rely mostly on meat, veggies, and fruits. You need nutrients to sustain your new active lifestyle! Grains are not particularly good choices–there is a difference between calorie filled and nutrient filled.

[u]Protein helps you burn fat, please eat more of it[/u]. Also, after each of your workouts you NEED. NEED a protein/carb combo. Protein shake + carbs is good. 25 g protein + 40g carbs give or take. You need to start repairing your body from your workouts as soon as possible. If you also eat a real lunch (eg–turkey sandwich, chili, etc), don’t worry about the protein shake for now. If, however, you’re eating PB&J for lunch after training, get a protein shake instead.

Get the big stuff down, worry about details later

[quote]My diet:
Breakfast: Kashi Oatmeal and a banana.
Snack: Apple, a few almonds, a handful of Kashi Autumn Wheat cereal (dry).
Lunch: Turkey on whole Grain Wheat bread (dry), or maybe a PB&J, plus a handful of veggies (baby carrots, broccoli, cauliflower).
Snack 2: an apple, sometimes cliff bar.
Dinner: whatever is waiting for me ? chicken dishes, fish, beef, all with veggies and a potato or something. I also sip black tea in the morning and grab a no fat latte with protein in the afternoon if I can. I drink a lot of water throughout the day. [/quote]

cereal and PB&J is no good. Cliff bars are no good, but better than donuts or whatever you were probably snacking on before. Oatmeal is good, however. baked potatoes, while not fantastic, are fine if accompanied with lots of veggies, and not much/any butter or sour cream or calorie filled toppings. Almonds are good. Pecans, walnuts, most different nuts all good.

Black tea is fine, no fat lattes are not great because most variations of lattes come with SYRUP flavors, which is nothing but physique killing refined sugars. The skim milk they have is fine. So if you can get a latte without any flavoring in it, it’s ok. Make sure the protein they add is not soy protein please. Otherwise no protein in your latte.

Get the big stuff down, worry details later. Don’t sweat your potato or latte. Get rid of PB&J, dry cereal and cliff bars. ADD PROTEIN to every meal AND snack. Especially breakfast and your afternoon snack. Breakfast absolutely needs a good amount of protein. Eggs, lean sausage, ham, hell even lean hamburger. Snacks can have a scoop of whey protein, or more mixed nuts. Prefer whey protein for at least 1 snack–get a good tasting protein and mix with water or milk.

Ironically, healthy fats also help you burn fat. That’s why almonds, mixed nuts, pecans, et al. are good choices.

So far, I see 3 servings of fruit each day and 2 servings of veggies. This is a good start. A really good start.

Overall, you’ve done something about the way you look, and while there’s a lot that you can improve on, doing something is always better than nothing!!

What Avocado and Aragorn said.
I’d recommend scooting on over to www.marksdailyapple.com and reading up on the primal diet. Lots of good anti-ageing info there too.
And yes, eat fats! Crazy as it sounds, you need eat fat to burn fat (just as if you don’t drink enough water, you’ll retain water). It’s the carbs that are keeping you chubby.

As a side note the neck usually grows very quickly if trained directly. Just using bands for resistance in a couple of different directions should add an inch at least after a few weeks

Thanks again. Apologies for not checking in more frequently, I do read everything posted.

Aragorn, thank you especially for your insomnia inspired posts. I do have back in there, and have been doing much of what you have posted already. It’s all about nutrition and weekend bonuses at this point. I picked up Power Eating by Kleiner that’s been helpful - it’s just so damn time consuming to cook. At my age I need to be careful about the amount of red meat and eggs I take in.

And pull-ups are my new obsession. I pull myself up with such ease it must look effortless - better add weights.

Cprimero: Thanks, I’ve been doing weighted neck exercises a few days a week.