T Nation

My Main Goal is Weight Gain

Alright, so I’m not really a beginner (been lifting for about two years). I’ve gone from 150 to 165 at 6’1". But I’m still short of my goal of 180. I want to go beyond that but if I can reach 180 I will be verrrrrry happy and anything after is icing on the cake. I think that is a realistic goal. Yes?

Like I said, I’ve been working out for about the past 2 years(well, I’ve lifted before that but never on a strict plan with a goal). Been doing a lot of program hopping. Started out with John Berardi’s program and began with 5X5. Noticed some good gains here but plateuad very quickly. Continued to make REALLY GOOD improvements in strength but my scale weight was not going up. Eventually took a step back and re-evaluated, started doing more research into hypertrophy and periodization.

Long story short, I’ve “re-evaluated” too many times. I’ve done so much research and reading and have found A LOT of conflicting opinions about mass gain for the skinny bastard. Some stress the Low reps, high weight scheme. But again, I performed my own experiment here and found that my strenght improved but I did not gain as much as I wanted. I can’t knock it too much, I seemed to make the best gains on the 5X5 program (about 10 pounds). But strength is NOT my main goal.

I will be frank and truthful, my main goal is weight gain NOT STRENGTH GAIN. Again, yes I’ve read articles that state that the two go hand in hand. And yes, I’ve seen PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD pop up in numerous articles as well. I’m not debating either one. All I’m saying is that I do not want strenght to be my primary focus.

I have little use for great amounts of strength. I’m not a logger, or a firefighter, or a UFC fighter. I am realistic about what goal will benefit me the most, and it’s not lifting a ton of weight. I could care less about the AMOUNT of weight that I can brag to others that I lift. I am more interested in building the size of the muscles, more of the artistic and aestetic side of lifting. As a matter of fact, when I record how much weight to use the next time in my workout journal, I don’t write down the TOTAL weight.

Instead I just write down how much weight to put on one side of the bar. Example: I will just write 57.5 in the block I have in my spreadsheet for bench press. This doesn’t mean I’m benching 57.5 pounds, it means that’s how much I put on both sides and then add in the bar weight. This is how little I care about how much I can lift. Hell, when someone in the gym asks me how much I’m lifting I have to pause for a second and do the math in my head because I honeslty don’t know (or care) the TOTAL weight. I DO CARE however, about progression.

And this is the very reason why I keep a strict workout journal recording my weight used and how many reps I managed for each set. Once I reach my target reps for all sets, I bump up the weight and write down what I WILL lift during the next workout. Ok, I think you get my point…blah blah blah. Sorry if I got a little wordy. Any way here is my current program, please critique and give this frustrated guy some constructive criticism:

I do 3 full body workouts per week. I do sets with an aim for 12 reps on one day and then on the next day (one day’s rest between) I do sets with an aim for 6 reps…keep flipping from one rep range to the next every workout. So basically I have two workout Journals as follows:

WORKOUT-1 (12 rep day):

(CHEST) flat bench-3sets X 12 reps (w/ 60-90 seconds rest between sets)

(BACK) V-attachment cable pull/row 3 X 12 (same rest)

(QUAD) Squat 3 X 12 (same rest)

(SHOULDER) standing barbell press overhead 2 X 12 (same rest)

(HIP/GLUTE/HAM) Stiff deadlift 2 X 12 (same rest)

(BICEP) E-Z Curl 2 X 12 (same rest)

(TRICEP) Close grip bench in smith rack 2 X 12 (same rest)

WORKOUT-2 (6 rep day)

(CHEST) flat bench-3sets X 6 reps (w/ 90-120 seconds rest between sets)

(BACK) Weighted pull-up 3 X 6 (same rest)

(QUAD) Squat 3 X 6 (same rest)

(SHOULDER) standing barbell press overhead 3 X 6 (same rest)

(HIP/GLUTE/HAM) Stiff deadlift 3 X 6 (same rest)

(BICEP) E-Z Curl 2 X 6 (same rest)

(TRICEP) Close grip bench in smith rack 2 X 6 (same rest)

OK, there it is. I can usually have either workout complete in under 1 hour. I’m currently on week-2 and after 4 weeks I will chose different exercises and/or change the order I perform them (I will always do the squat no matter what though…it stays!) I always aim for the maximum number of reps I have designated for each set. Once I get all sets at the max reps, I bump up the weight for the next workout. I began doing this program after doing a 3-day split routine (Chest and Biceps, Back and Triceps, Shoulders and legs) where I was working in the 12 rep range for one week and 6 the next week back and forth.

The reason I switched to the full body was because I didn’t feel that stimulating the body parts just once per week (as happens with the split) was sufficient. I did more sets and exercises for each body part while on the split (Typically 6 to 9 sets per bodypart and 2-3 exercises per bodypart). Since I am now doing the full body and will be stimulating every muscle 3 times per week instead of just one, I reduced the number of sets per body part to 2-3 with just one exercise per body part (please note above that I do switch bewteen v-attachment rows and weighted pull-ups depending on the rep range…I can’t do 3-sets of 12-reps of weighted pull-ups just yet but I can do three sets of six with weight so that’s the reason why).

Ok, my main question in all of this is: What is the better periodization principle to use? Switch rep range (and therefore the % of 1 rep max) every other workout day like I am now? Switch rep range every other week like I was doing? Or stick to one range for a few weeks and then switch to the other for an equal number of weeks? I feel that doing it every other workout day, or every other week at the least, is best since it provides enough variation throughout the week(s) to keep me motivated instead of getting bored. I just recently started adding some priodization into my routine.

I think this may be a key factor that has been holding me back for far too long. I kept searching for that “magic” rep range and finally (after two years if beating myself up) I’ve come to realize that variation is key. Yes, I have also researhed the different muscle fibers and stimulation of CNS and release of HGH and Testosterone. I realize that heavy weight is key to CNS and growth hormone release.

However, I also realize that if the weight is too heavy and the reps are too low that this is more power lifter/pure strength training and will not lead to optimal growth (although the CNS will be kick-ass!).

So there it is, feel free to rip my program a new arse-hole. I just ask that you do so constructively. AND, keep in mind my goal which is: 180 pounds (at least), not interested in pure strength. (Don’t get me wrong, strength is fine if it comes along with my goal, but I will not sacrifice my goal for simple strength gains…been there done that). Thanks in advance. Also, if I came across a little rough it’s just because I’ve gotten so frustrated with all the conflicting arguments/data. 180 pounds or bust!!!

Uh… how much do you eat?

With very little exception, the amount you eat dictates how much you grow.

You probably need to eat more.

As far as how fast to adjust your rep-range… you want enough time to adapt, but not enough time to get comfortable. I personally go for longer periods, 4-6 weeks. You seem to have program ADD, so you may need faster change, but make sure you keep doing the same thing for at least two weeks, so you can successfully adapt to a stimulus before moving on.

Oh, and get stronger. Foolproof way towards long-term mass. Skinny bastards who can bench press buicks are the exception because they have to WORK to NOT get larger.

Lastly, set a goal to get quite a few pounds heavier. At your training age, you’ll probably have to put on a bit of fat to get the LBM you’re looking for. I’d shoot for 200, and then diet back down to get a clean 180.

Good luck.

Wow, 165 at 6’1’’, you are a skinny bastard.

DIET? This is of paramount importance.

Progressive Overload is a basic principle of training, not just applicable to strength gains but is also the main principle behind hypertrophy training.

In all honest I believe that you are worrying far to much about your training to the neglect of your diet.

A not on training, how long have you been on the 3x12 set/rep scheme. If it has been longer than two months I would most definitely drop down to an 8x3ish scheme. Sure way to make your hypertrophy training more effective is to use more weight. Sure fire way to use more weight is to get stronger.

Eat and train, post your diet information.

You can not ‘outtrain’ a bad diet.

Rep range of 6-12 is good for hypertrophy.

Training 3x per week TBW is good, but after 2 years of lifting experience you may want to try out upper/lower or push/pull split training 4 days per week.

But as the previous posters said, whats holding you back is most likely your diet.

Thanks. Yeah, no question about it I do need to make diet adjustments. There was a point in time back when I was doing the 5 X 5 that I would prepare my 6 “meals” the night before everyday and load them all into my lunchbox (and I’m talking good clean food: cottage cheese, boneless skinless chicken breasts, rice, yogurt with scoop of protein powder and prunes mixed in, steamed vegetables, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, etc…). That lasted for all of about 3 weeks.

Too much damn planning and preparation. And it really peeves me some of the guys I work with who might have a donut for breakfast, skip lunch all together, and really just eat a big dinner, and some of these guys are huge! Here I am busting my hump trying to prepare/time/eat 6 meals per day…this is BullShizzle! But, certainly there is room for improvement in my current diet. I knew that DIET would come up in one of the responses considering I failed to put (Just rate this workout, I’ll analze diet separately).

So, I do apprecite your comments. However, I like to single things out one by one and go in for the kill. I will give my diet due consideration. In the meantime, how does the workout look. I saw one reply above stating that I may not want to switch up rep ranges so often…OK seems to make sense…I may not be giving my body any time to adapt by switching every other workout. Saw another response that stated looks like I have program ADD. Can’t argue there, but that’s what happens when there is so much conflicting opinions. You don’t know who to trust, and then when you ask more experienced lifters about it and tell them about everything you’ve tried and they get annoyed your like WTF??? Gettin peeved just thinking about it…hold on I need to go shoot something…ok I’m back. Actually, now that I think about it…maybe I should just say SCREW everyone elses’ advice and keep doing trial and error. Thomas Edison didn’t find One way to make a lightbulb…he found 1000’s of ways not too. So, either I eventaully hit the nail on the head or I’ll just find something else less anger inducing to occupy my time. What sucks is I’m 27 and I know that the more time goes by the harder it will get. Then again, maybe it will get easier since metabolism slows every year…blah blah blah. Screw it, thanks for the advice guys but the only way I’m going to learn is through trial and error.

It looks like it might work well IF you have a good diet behind it. You may want to single things out, and that’s fine, but you should be singling out your diet first, since that is ultimately what is going to control how much weight you gain, and how fast you gain it. It’s like saying, “I know my car doesn’t have a good engine, but how fast do you think I can go with these tires?” As far as food prep taking to much time, I’ve found that cooking a metric assload on the weekend is much easier then trying to do it every evening. It normally takes me 4 hours on saturday with shopping, and then I can just grab and go during the week.

Actually, it only gets harder as you get older, largely BECAUASE your metabolism gets slower every year.

It’s also worth pointing out that if you want to gain, you don’t necessarily NEED to plan and prepare… you just need to eat. The general rule is bodyweight x 20 in calories, and then +500 when you stop gaining weight. Depending on how long you want to grow, this could add up to a whole bunch of food. A little junk goes a long way, just don’t let it become a staple.

There’s an entire thread stickie’d to the top of the beginner’s forum on bulking. It would do you well to read it.

Also, don’t dismiss your eating habits. You apparently missed the point the rest of us are making; Your training is probably fine. If you’re busting your ass, and you’re getting stronger, your training IS NOT YOUR WEAK LINK.

Your diet needs to get bigger. And then you should see results.

Thanks for all the replies gents. I am re-evaluating my caloric intake currently. I’ve decided to just go by the KISS (Keep it simple, Stupid!) principle. I’m going to train heavy like I used to. I really don’t think training in the 12 rep range is smart for me right now. Honestly, I really enjoyed lifting back when I was on the 5 X 5 protocol. I think I actually enjoy doing heavy lifts more than anything, so I’m going to stick with them. I have a long ways to go seeing as how I’m so skinny.

So I will concentrate on the major lifts (hang-clean-press, squat, deads, bench, dips, chins, pull-ups) with heavy weight in the 5 rep range (around 4-6 reps). Once I’ve gained some appreciable size and strength increases down the road, then maybe I’ll incorporate a little bit of higher rep training here and there. I will scrutinize my diet. On a positive note, I currently weigh 168. So, that’s a 3-pound increase over the past 2 (or so) weeks.

And I’ve recorded this weight for the past few days, so I know it’s not just from fluid weight or having to take a 3-pound crap. Just completed a heavy full body workout yesterday in the 5-rep range. Did bench, hang-clean-press, squat, stiff-deadlift, weighted pull-ups and two sets of 6-8 each on E-Z curl and close grip bench. I’m going to heed the warnings of others not to do much direct arm training and leave it predominately to other pulling and pressing movements to take care of arm training. I feel great and am re-motivated. Heavy feels good, I’ll stop second guessing it!