T Nation

Looking for Some Direction

First post. I’ve read up on some of the stickies, but undoubtedly have missed much. Please be gentle. It’ll be a slightly lengthy post, but I will try and be concise. Thanks in advance to those who have the time to spare.

I’ve been a classic skinny kid my whole life. While I do truly believe that I have a very active metabolism, I also know that my problem is also simply not eating enough. I lifted for about ten months something like two years ago, and went from 5’10" 140lbs to a fairly lean 160 lbs. I began lifting again at the beginning of January. For about four weeks before I started I did a lot of bodyweight exercise, then did a week of full body workouts on the machines, then went back into freeweights. In about three months, I’ve gone from under 150 lbs at 27 years old, to 174lbs. Muscular improvements are obvious, but my waist size has also gone from 31-34.

My diet is pretty straightforward. I eat anything I can as often as humanly possible, and it’s absolutely filthy food. I’m a competent cook, with a reasonable understanding of nutrition, but I’m in a situation where I have access to a lot of prepared processed meals. I’m just so incredibly tired of being such a little guy and I feel as though I’ve made really good progress. However, this is a point where if I want to keep going forward, I believe that I need some direction or I’ll start doing more harm than good. No one wants to be that guy.

My routine needs a lot of work and organization, and constitutes my first few questions. Currently I do a three day split of my own devising, chest/shoulders and arms/legs and back. I do about 2-3 exercises per body part, 3x8. I’m just an itty bitty guy, so be gentle here- Squat is coming very slowly, I’ve worked my way up from 135 to 175, but I’m still not completely comfortable with my form, and the last set usually ends on the fourth or fifth rep, a few shy of what would be closing in on failure. DB flatbench I went from 45lb dbs to 65lb and managing 3x8 without much trouble. BB flatbench is hard for me to do 3x5 at 165. Deadlift I have a lot of confidence on my form, but I’m always so spent on squats that I never go over 2x8 at 155. There are a myriad of other exercises I do, I just wanted to throw some numbers out for reference. I rest between sets for about 90 seconds, and take little to no additional rest between exercises. I’m out of the gym within about an hours time.

Questions: I have no frame of reference- Am I about where I should be at this stage? What routines personal or otherwise, or books can be recommended? I hear a lot of names and acronyms dropped in these forums, and I’ve done some surface level digging on them, but I’m still uncertain where would be best for me. My ideal goal, if possible, is to eventually reach a body weight of between 180-200 pounds while keeping a healthy level of fat. Powerlifting is not my current aim.

As far as diet, I do not track what I eat diligently. Mental math consistently puts me at around 2800-3400 calories, but this can come from things as varied as breaded frozen fish and chicken, to lean steaks and roasted chicken breasts. I’d say that all things considered, fruits, vegetables, protein, high and low GI carbs in mind, I eat clean about 50% of the time, and put down a little over 1g protein per lb of weight. I supplement whey protein in the morning, casein at night, creatine before workout and a 600 calorie maltodextrin based mass gainer w/ whey protein included post workout.

Questions: Is it possible to get where I want to be without strictly planning my macronutrient breakdowns and recording them daily, or is that something that will be absolutely essential? I am capable of incorporating aerobic exercise on top of lifting when I grow a bit more, and being more mindful my choices, but will that be enough to keep me away from turning mealtime into math exercise? Are there any supplements I absolutely ought to be taking, or am taking at the wrong time, or shouldn’t be taking?

Huge, giant, enormous thank you to those who took the time to read. Apologies for the length.

Welcome to the forums buddy. It seems you’ve been pretty inconsistent with your routine, as for your diet I’m one of those people that just eat whatever I see. Yes your waist size goes up but so should your arms and legs. I’d rather be a bigger, fatter person than a skinny 130 pound kid who has a 6 pack.

Diet isn’t that hard, it’s just commitment and consistency. I made decent gains off a simple diet of 4 meals of chicken + rice/veggies, using only adobo and peanut oil to cook them. Of course I had milk. The amount you eat really just depends on the size of the person, I’m not an expert or even a decently knowledgeable person in nutrition.

I understand that you don’t aim to powerlift, but you do need compound movements. Military press, bench press, squat, deadlift. and also form form form form. Build a base for your nutrition and your routine then go from there. The key thing here is CONSISTENCY, quitting and jumping around doing useless exercises will not only waste your time but be counterproductive.

If you’re not comfortable with your sets/reps of your current program, find another one that has been used and proved to work. 5/3/1, SS, 5x5, WS4SB, I think there’s a thread on bodybuilding splits on here, try searching “do this routine instead of that dumb one”.

As for books, buy the Starting Strength book, I know you might not be going on the program but it is insanely informative on form and the reasoning behind it. There are russian translated texts, Westside Book Of Methods, 5/3/1 series of books. Nutrition books off elitefts are great as well. To be honest everything is on the web for you to know, buying the books just makes it easier for you, rather than searching for hours piecing information together. These books range from 20-60 dollars.

Thanks Zerpp,

I took a look at the “this routine instead of that dumb one” thread, and it has a lot of what I was looking for. I’m still growing comfortable with a lot of lifts, and it’s nice to have something like that available to help me cover my bases while I continue looking for credible information. There’s just a ton of stuff out there, and even after settling on a particular place to go looking for help, such as T-Nation, you’re then confronted with another mountain to climb through. I can see why a lot of the more experienced guys get prickly about questions that get asked a lot, or people who come here like myself asking sort of ambiguously for help, but truly, it’s an intimidating landscape to navigate as a beginner.

I’ve seen the Starting Strength program mentioned all over the place on these forums, so I’ll let your recommendation be the nail in the coffin and pick that book up off of Amazon tonight. 5/3/1. WS4SB and the intricacies of 5x5 are still a complete mystery to me though. Are they all simply variations of the same end goal and subject to personal preference, or are some of them more specialized?

Thanks again.

[quote]Halcyonview wrote:
Thanks Zerpp,

I took a look at the “this routine instead of that dumb one” thread, and it has a lot of what I was looking for. I’m still growing comfortable with a lot of lifts, and it’s nice to have something like that available to help me cover my bases while I continue looking for credible information. There’s just a ton of stuff out there, and even after settling on a particular place to go looking for help, such as T-Nation, you’re then confronted with another mountain to climb through. I can see why a lot of the more experienced guys get prickly about questions that get asked a lot, or people who come here like myself asking sort of ambiguously for help, but truly, it’s an intimidating landscape to navigate as a beginner.

I’ve seen the Starting Strength program mentioned all over the place on these forums, so I’ll let your recommendation be the nail in the coffin and pick that book up off of Amazon tonight. 5/3/1. WS4SB and the intricacies of 5x5 are still a complete mystery to me though. Are they all simply variations of the same end goal and subject to personal preference, or are some of them more specialized?

Thanks again.[/quote]

5/3/1 has MANY variations, you can tweak assistance exercises, to fix imbalances or for hypertrophy. You can change days per week that you are training, even up to 2 days a week during those busy times of your life. WS4SB is awesome for someone who has sports or team activities on the side. It allows you to grow and get stronger while being able to practice and play for whatever sport you’re in.

These two programs also allow conditioning which is essential for most sports.

As for 5x5, there’s less leeway for conditioning as you’re basically squatting 3 times a week and it gets really taxing on your body, not even counting the other heavy lifts as well.

I understand right now you may feel lost, but the longer you’re in this, the more in tune you are with your body. You’ll start to understand how certain intensities, frequencies or volumes you respond to the best. I’m a beginner myself, about a year in, and I’m still not necessarily sure what’s best for me. So stick with a program that helps you progress, and analyze from there.

Always happy to help, with what little knowledge I’ve gained so far.