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Need Some Help With My Goals

Hi all. I need some help with my goals, I’ll attach a photo of my current physique.

Some background: A few years ago I had a stomach surgery to fix my GERD and I lost a lot of weight in an unhealthy way (16kg in 2 months - 75kg to 59kg, at 183cm). I struggled with eating (physically) for about 2 years. When that was over I decided to gain back some weight, but went a bit too far. I got up to 80kg, still not a lot of muscle mass (clearly a lot more than when I looked like a skeleton), but definitely more fat than muscle. I cut down to 74kg and this is where I’m at now, still skinny, yet with lower body fat/love handles.

I’m having a hard time leaning down more, which made me think I just don’t have enough muscle to have anything to be revealed by cutting really. And everytime I try to gain some weight it all seems to go to my waist.

I’ve been eating at around 2000-2200 calories daily (1.8-2 grams of protein per kg) for the last 8 weeks, minimal cardio (but I walk around a lot for my job) and lifting 3 times a week full body routine.

My goal is to get leaner, get rid of that lower belly fat, but also gain a bit more muscle AND stay injury free. Both my shoulders are messed up (one from a lifting injury, the other from falling down a staircase). Back squats and barbell presses are out unfortunately. Deadlifts and dumbbells are fine. My gym also has a good selection of hammer strength machinery which helped during my recovery.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Hey man, you actually look a lot better than your description suggests. Great stuff!

Could you describe your training more specifically?

I would consider this a “soft goal” that will take quite a while to achieve. Do you have any more short term goals, that are more specific and measurable?

As a guideline, a good goal is a SMART goal:

Agreed upon with coaches, peers and mentors

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Thanks, that’s nice of you to say. To give you an idea of my starting point, I’ll attach a photo of me at 59kg (15kg lighter).

Currently my training routine looks like this:

3 days a week full body routine

Low incline (15 degrees) dumbbell press 3x8-10
Leg press (plate loaded - 45 degrees) 3x8-10
Hammer strength high row 3x8-10
Lateral raises 2x12-15
Triceps extensions 2x12-15

Hammer strength shoulder press 3x8-10
Deadlift 3x5
Lat pulldown 3x8-10
Dumbbell curl 2x12-15
Face pull 2x12-15

My legs seem to be doing just fine, strength and mass-wise (although I noticed I store a great deal of fat on my tighs and they lost some size while cutting).

For progression I just use simple double progression, trying to either add reps or weight and staying within the same rep range.

My ‘short term’ goal is to gain an arbitrary 6kg (to 80kg) while trying to get visible abs. I’d like to see where I’m at when I reach that weight physique-wise and set further goals (maybe it’s just maintaining that physique, maybe gaining more muscle) from there on. I’d like more of that weight (or better: muscle) directed towards my upper body as I feel it’s behind on my lower body. E.g. I squatted 100kg/225lbs for 6 reps before my injuries and still can deadlift 120kg/265lbs for 5 reps, but I never got passed 65kg/145lbs on the bench press.

Another short term goal of mine is regaining some range of motion in my shoulder(s) and hopefully being able to squat and bench press again without pain/discomfort. I’m working with a physical therapist for that twice a week.

I’m gonna come out and say it - you might not have an objective handle on your body image. And the advice you get here is going to frustrate you for a few reasons.
You are not in the starting position you think you are in. You appreciate you have no real muscularity to show. BUT you also think there is an amount of fat to get rid of. Honestly - you don’t.
The process of adding muscle is not as simple as train hard eat right and put on 10kg of muscle and loss 4kg of fat at the same time (not that you have 4kg of fat to lose mind). To get bigger - you need to get bigger. And some fat gain (especially if you’re quite small already) is very likely. Of course you don’t want to turn into a really fat git. But you are SO far from this.

So do yourself a favour. Get help with your body image. Go and see a doctor and tell them what you wrote above. Given the history with the op and weight lose - I think you might need it. You’ve been through a massive body transformation. And not by choice. That would screw with anyone’s head.

My advice on training / nutrition

Training looks okay. Its a simple ABA BAB. But that’s good. Double progression is also good. If you are making gains - don’t stop.
Over time see if you can find and use a safety bar for squatting. This is a real shoulder saver.

Nutrition - you need to eat more.
I almost guarantee you this “great deal of fat” on your thighs was not real. OR any great level of fat anywhere really. I would imagine even at 80kg you where still not “fat” by any real definition.
You are in a good position believe it or not. You can attack this with some real venom. Work hard, eat 150g of protein a day and aim to gain 2kg a month. Don’t freak out as the scales go north. Some fat is acceptable. Then once you get to a good weight you trim up. Trying to lean up and get bigger at the same time is near enough impossible.

Start a log and check in regularly.

If you need any more help feel free to tag me.


Agree 100% …its completely unhealthy and it is a case of body dysmorphia IMO.

Whole heartily second that…

Damn good advice!


@nelg1993 this man speaks truth… Listen to what he says.


@carlbm I was never really aware of how I looked until after the surgery and rapid weight loss. I went from a size M to XS and even that was still loose around my body. At that time I was still playing soccer and the whole reason I wanted to gain some more weight was… Well to put some more weight into the game. I was weak as sh*t when I started lifting. I remember bench pressing the first time and I couldn’t get 10 reps with just the barbell. I did see someone at that time for some mild depression, probably caused by changes in hormones bc of my eating disorder bc of the surgery.

That being said… I do feel as if once I reached about 70kg, I didn’t really gain anymore muscle up until 80kg and most of it was fat. Looking back at my logs I think the lack of progressive overload while being in a (maybe too big) caloric surplus was the issue. I was dealing with the shoulder issues and I was kind of scared to lift heavier so that I wouldn’t mess up my shoulder again.

Would you advise me to do another training routine? Is this enough volume?

Concerning calories, I know that my maintenance calories are at about 2300-2400, what surplus do you advise? 150grams of protein is what I hit daily most of the time, sometimes 130 but that’s the minimum. Do you suggest eating more protein?

My gym only has one specialty bar, which is a hex bar. It does however have a hammer strength squat machine and a HS hack squat with shoulder pads…

Its 23.15 in the uk and I’m off to bed. I’ll reply tomorrow

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I see mental health issues / eating disorders like I see injuries. My first thought is - will this make it worse. And if I might make things worse I stay away most of the time.

I’ll carry on “helping” as you’ve been up front about things. But do your self a favour. If you’ve looked at the advice here and gone “The dudes right - I have no body fat” then great. But if you’ve thought anything like “They can’t see it, but I can. The photos just don’t show it. They don’t have the same level of expectation as I so. Or they are just being nice” then you could still have an issue. I can not help you with that.

Given you shoulder issues your training looks to be solid. I would add front squats if you can. Dr John Rusin has a way of using straps to hold the bar in place that might help given your shoulder issues. I’m sure its on T Nation.

You have a lot of machine in your work outs. Which I’m not a fan of. Try swapping the high row to one arm row. Or lat pull down to pull up. 3 sets of pull ups to failure is tough. And if you are not getting good number of pull ups - add a set of pull down to the end.

Eat 2600-2700 calories a day. 130g of protein is sound enough for your size. 150g is better, 180g even better. Get them from quality food. Ditch high sugar / junk. If you are struggling with calories - eat nuts. Protein and good fats. Great food to add a bit of quality mass.

Also last note - accept that to get from skinny to muscular in 12 months, the idea would be - 9 months of training hard eating big, gain maybe 15-18kg. Then 3 months of trimming up at the end.

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I was gonna reply to your post OP, but these guys have said everything I could have said 10 times better. Good luck!


OP: listen to @carlbm


Hey @nelg1993.

Just checking in - you still out there?

What was your verdict? Picked a plan yet?

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This is what I was going to say. Unless you are a competitive powerlifter or weightlifter you don’t actually need to squat with a straight bar at all. There are also other bars that would be easier on the shoulders, like cambered bars or buffalo/duffalo bars, but the SSB is probably the best option. Try to find a gym that has one. Also it’s possible that front squats would work better for you if you can’t find a gym with any other bars.

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Hi there! Nice of you to ask.

My shoulder is still a bit messed up, but if I avoid overhead/incline pressing it feels ok.

I’ve been reading up on 531 b/c the program is built around submaximal lifting, which I think is a good thing for me as I have a tendency to overdo it. I also started a slightly modified (for now) version, without OHP day. Bench pressing (flat) feels fine & I swapped back squats for front squats. My main goal is hypertrophy and to avoid fuckarounditis I picked BBB with more focus on back and in a full body structure (as I read this is the latest update of the program.) Looks something like this:

  1. Front SQ 531
    Db RDL 5x10
    Lat pulldown 5x10 (2nd pull instead of push)
    Cable crunch 4x12

1 day rest

  1. Bench 531 with 20 rep face pull sets in between
    BP 5x10 at 60% (still testing percentages - 50 was too light, FSL 5x10 was tough)
    Db row 5x10
    Leg raises 4x12

1-2 days rest

  1. DL 531
    Bench press 5x10
    Cable row 5x10
    Single leg-leg press 4x12

1-2 days rest

If I have time for it I’ll do another superset of 3x15 biceps/triceps (some curl and a pushdown). In time, when my shoulder issues are cleared, I’ll add the ohp day back in.

For weight selection on accessories I do what the program dictates… I’ll pick a weight I can get 10 reps with max, leave those in the rack and take the previous set of dumbbells/weight on the machine. I feel as if I could do more weight but I feel a lot better after my session and the days after. I’m not feeling run down, yet my muscles seem to be worked just fine without reaching failure (also less aches and pains).

Diet-wise I’m eating 2500-2600 calories a day, haven’t missed a day yet. Least I got was 130 grams of protein, usually I get around 170-180 and I do notice a big difference as opposed to eating only 120-130 grams daily. Maybe mental? Weight has been the same, yet I look a little bit better (maybe just the increase in training volume and food again).

We’ll see how this plays out.

Got some advice regarding 531 BBB?

Thanks again.

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Stay the course for now. I always like to give something 6-12 weeks before changing it. And you are still new to this. There is still so much you will learn about you and your body.

All the mods you made to 531 will be fine. I would say look to do low incline bench. A very slight incline helps the shoulders a lot.

Maybe - but mental prep is real thing. My performance can vary 10% based on my head space. If eating more protein helps keep you in the confident “I can do this” space - eat more protein.

Early adaptation will allow you to eat at maintenance and get bigger, stronger leaner. Its a bad habit.
Add 250 -500 calories. You want to see 2-4kg a month gain. This will mean minimal fat.

It cost nothing to be nice - pass it on!


@nelg1993 My 2c as someone with body image issues is 1kg a month gain is also fine. As long as you are gaining that’s good.

And, it’s better to gain 1kg/month for 4 months than gain 4kg for two months and losing 2kg for two months. The scale net is the same but that’s the only thing that’s the same.

Find whatever rate you can comfortably continue to gain at. It’s alright if you have to start low, it might make it easier to become comfortable with gaining more per month later.

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Body Image is not something I’ve wrestled with personally. But I can 100% see the sense in this. OP - if this is what you need to do - then do it.

I’ll swap out the 2nd 5x10 bench for low incline db presses, see how that goes.

I’ll bump it up to 2700 and see what happens in a few weeks. My goal is about 1kg a month, if my lifts are going up at the same time most of it should be muscle. I’m not in a rush and cutting just sucks, with my current calories I feel great and can still eat what I want. By nature I’m a picky eater so I’d rather eat chicken and rice than something else.

I’d be happy with an extra 10kg in a year (83-85kg bodyweight) and a BP of 90-100kg, DL 150-160kg and front squat of 100-110kg (that should be the end numbers after running 12 cycles of 531).

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That would be a GREAT base for an impressive body. Some of the general strength standards are 1xbodyweight bench and 2xbodweight dead lift. So you will be in the mix for these.

Start a log on here. And then is you need help people can jump in an lend a hand. Its genuinely a life saver.


You’ve got 2*BBB in terms of bench. Once on bench day and once on DL day. That’s a lot but if it works for you then great.

When I had a shoulder injury I found cgbp and Kettlebell presses helped. Just a suggestion

+1 to @carlbm’s suggestion to do low-incline presses. I injured my shoulder a few years back, had to stop all pressing for four months, and have found the low-incline to feel much better on my shoulders. Good call to do low incline dumbbell presses for your second chest exercise.

A side note - I’ve no idea what you’re doing for physical therapy, but if you have room in your routine and your therapist agrees, do wide-neutral grip rows. My therapist found my upper traps were significantly stronger than my middle back muscles, which exacerbated my shoulder injury. I stopped all overhead exercises for around six months (both OHP and also pulldowns/pullups), got a cortisone injection in the injured shoulder, did PT and wide-grip rows, and my shoulders have felt great since. Perhaps that info will be helpful to you, too.