T Nation

Not Satisfied with My Physique Progress

I started lifting for the first time in February of this year. My stats then were:

Age: 24
Height: 6’3"
Weight: 168lbs

Squat: 95lbs
DL: 135
Bench: bar (I began using bar because that is what the program recommended)
Press: bar (bar was actually a challenge on this exercise at the time)

I have changed a lot since then, in weight and strength. Current stats are:

Weight: 216

Squat: 295
DL: 335
Bench: 185
Press: 115

Here are two pictures for comparison: (nothing shirtless)

But I’m really not satisfied at all with my progress as far as my physique. First, I’ve added a lot of weight and while I’m more comfortable with my body now, I am carrying a lot of excess fat around my ass. I have a slight gut too, but it doesn’t bother me as much. Second, I am unhappy with my upper body progress, pretty much all of it, including my back.

So my goals are still to add size, but I want to add more volume and focus especially on my upper body. I am going to start by focusing on my back. I found this routine that C_C posted in another thread that is on point for me. This will differ quite a bit from what I’ve been doing, which is basically a 5x5 with a couple of accessory exercises.

  1. Chest and tri’s (first and after off-day because a fatigued back = weak setup on the bench = easier to get injured and mediocre performance)
    A)Incline BP (possibly DB)
    B)HS Chest Press
    C)Pullover+Extensions (retracted scapulae), upper arms stop at angle, not vertical, or DSE’s or JM presses in HS incline machine (not wide incline)… Or In-Human press.
    D)DB Extensions, lying, upper arms stop at an angle, not vertical
    (E) possibly pec deck…)

  2. Back and Bi’s

A)HS low rows or whatever, mind the retraction part. Or T-bar rows.
B)HS High rows or HS Pulldowns or some other width move
C)Shrugs only as activation exercise (want fresh traps for leg day), i.e. explosive triples or so, only a few sets, not maximal weight. Or none at all.
D)EZ or Alt. Curls
B)HS Curl machine / Pinwheels / Hammers / Conc. Curls… Whatever.


  1. Legs and abs
    A)Sumo Deadlift (ramped in threes, dead stop, smaller weight jumps, to max force point… Then do doubles at that weight or drop 20% and rep out touch and go or so) or regular deadlift (if you must)
    B)Leg Press or Hack Squat Machine
    C)Leg curl or Hamstring leg press or Reverse Hyper Machine
    D)Ab Wheel Roll-outs
    (you can add some extensions after leg press/hack if you must… I don’t use them much… Would rather go all out on the leg press/hack)

  2. Shoulders (add a bit of tri work if you wish)
    A)Seated shoulder press
    B)Machine Lateral Raises
    C)Face Pulls or Reverse Pec Deck

  3. Back and bi’s
    A)Rack Chins (pronated)
    B)Seated rows (mind the retraction part)…
    E)Shrugs (might not do those due to sumo deadlifts)
    C)Pinwheel or Hammer Curls
    D)Preacher Machine or Cable or whatever


I’m essentially wondering how much I should expect to progress on the isolation exercises from session to session. On the compound movements, I kind of understand that I should try to add 5lbs per session for as long as I can, and then slow it down to maybe five pounds every other week. But with the other exercises, the dumbbells or plates don’t go in small increments. So I have in the past found myself to make zero progress. What has worked for others?

Here’s the comparison shot:

Oh and this is a few months ago when I was around 200, but honestly i don’t notice much difference between then and now.

What’s your diet like?

That routine is just an example… And looks like either a back spec or a rolling routine, I don’t remember what I made it for exactly…

I’d use a somewhat different one in your case… Something reasonably simple still, and one where you know what to do in terms of sets and reps etc…

There are some ways to allow for fairly rapid progression on smaller exercises, but if I were to try and explain them all now, you’d probably just get confused (i.e. how to incorporate them and so on).

For now, you need to get your diet down first and foremost, then setup and execution on all primary exercises you do… And finally watch the videos in the Dorian Yates 2010 thread (BB forum), including the “dorian’s tips” one.

You don’t need to use the same split as shown in those vids, but they should give you a general idea of what to do… Really no point in me writing it all out again.

Also, read through the threads referenced in the “best of T-Nation” sticky thread at the top of the BB forum, especially “Professor X: A request” and the bodybuilding bible and so on.

My diet is pretty unorganized. I am gaining about 1 lb per week, or have been for the past five weeks or so. The only set meal I have is breakfast + snack after breakfast. After that, my diet is a mess, but since I’ve been gaining, I’ve not thought enough about it. Here’s breakfast:

4 scrambled eggs with cheese
2 turkey sausage links
2 waffles with butter
1 glass orange juice

Then at around 10, I drink a shake with about 700 calories in it (milk, strawberries, banana, protein powder, and oats)

For lunch, I either eat leftovers or a fast food meal. Last week for example, I had this one day:

1 salad from McDonald’s with grilled chicken
2 double cheeseburgers

Then at dinner, I will eat something random that my wife and I have cooked, say 2 heaping portions of tuna casserole.

I also drink one or two protein shakes with 1-2 scoops of the powder and water. I’m also taking fish oil supps that I got from Wal-Mart.

I have read all those threads, and really I just come out of them confused. I’ll watch those videos. I’ll go ahead and just follow all the exercises in there; I don’t know enough to go picking anything out.

I do appreciate you replying though. Thanks a lot.

What exactly did you find confusing about them?

On the yates routine btw, you add weight whenever you hit the top of your rep range… Or sometimes if you feel particularly strong that workout…

FWIW., if you decide to follow yates’ program exactly, I’d suggest training hard for 3 cycles (one cycle on yates’ routine is 6 days) or so, then light for one week (just pick some landmark weight or a generally lighter weight than you’re using on heavy weeks and go for high reps…

Say, someone benching 185x6 or so would do 135 for whatever he can get (not to failure though, keep a rep or two in the tank, the light cycle is just to keep you from stagnating on the heavy ones and to allow for a little rest).

I don’t think the threads themselves are confusing. For the most part, I’ve read a lot of bulking threads and I understand Prof. X’s view (eat whatever puts on the most muscle the fastest) and your view (eat a lot, but really hammer the protein). With diet, it’s really just a lack of planning and execution on my part–I pretty well understand what to do.

With the lifting part, I’m a bit more at a loss. For the most part, since I started, I thought that a 3 full body workouts were the best thing for a beginner. But after reading a lot of threads here in the BB forum, I understand that more volume is necessary. So I want to switch from the routine I’m on, and have been on for a while, to a new routine and really try to focus on my upper body. But then I just can’t decide what to do, especially with all the possibilities like pre-fatigue, post-fatigue, etc etc. It’s not confusion so much as I really want a simple split with clear progression goals. It works the best for me–I can’t fathom trying to implement some things like autoregulation, which CT has advocated.

I’ll follow your advice on the light week. Thanks for the tip. What would you suggest for me diet wise?

i personally prefer doing higher reps on db exercises 8-12 reps…

i will usually not bump up a weight on dbs until i hit 10+ reps…and i won’t bump a weight on laterals/rear delt raises until i get 12+ solid reps…

here is an ex of me progressing on a db exercise i was doing…

week 1 - 70x7
week 2 - 70x9
week 3 - 70x10
week 4 - 70x9(wasn’t feeling too strong that day…no big deal push forward)
week 5 - 70x12
week 6 - 75x6

so for an isolation exercise…just focus on increasing the reps until you feel confident that you will be able to handle a weight increase…

Thanks d-public. I think you answered what was in my head, which was, what should I expect in terms of progressions on DB exercises especially.

So, the first thing I did this week was to set myself up on a diet where I eat a similar amount at similar times. Keep in mind, while I want to add mass, I am wanting to go for about four-five weeks dropping some unnecessary fat that I’ve put on. I’m going to deal with that first, and then move on to adding good weight. Here is what I’ve been doing this week:

Pre-workout, 5:15am: 1 cup Fruity pebbles cereal (I figure this isn’t the best carb to be eating period, but I wanted some carbs before workout and I had this and need to eat it; when it’s gone, I’ll change this up)

Post-workout, 6:30am: 2 scoops protein powder + water

Breakfast, 7:30am: 5-6 scrambled eggs, 2 turkey sausage links, one glass OJ, 2 fish oil supps

Snack, 11am: 3 scoops protein powder + water

Lunch, 1pm: one helping of stew or spaghetti meat sauce + some carrots

Afternoon snack, 4pm: 2 turkey sausages (brautwursts) or 4 boiled eggs

Dinner: 2 helpings of whatever is around, tonight will be greek style chicken (very few carbs, no rice) + some green olives and 2 slices swiss cheese

Bed time: 2 scoops protein powder + water

So that’s what I’m doing diet wise. I’ve also switched my routine to the Dorian Yates routine C_C kindly posted for me, and I will basically be in the gym 6 or 7 days a week because I’m also adding in 2-3 days moderate running. With the routine, I’m going to try to increase weights as much as I can, but I am probably not eating enough to support a big gain. In a few weeks I’ll change that and really make an attempt to progress on my lifts.

Any comments would be appreciated.

You don’t look like you’re carrying too much fat in your 2nd picture. Infact, you look like you’re still scrawny.

If you try ‘cutting’ now, you’re going to lose all the gains that you’ve made so far. Srsly!

I think you are overthinking things man.

Training wise, you are still weak. Focus on getting stronger for reps. Much stronger.

Diet wise, at a glance, it looks like you are overthinking again. EAT A LOT. You are scrawny. Eat more (but be somewhat smart about it). Don’t be like “hmm, ok, my diet says eat one serving of pasta, and 4 oz. of meat” or w/e. Just eat a shitload of pasta and a shitload of meat! 3-5x a day! Do this every day for 5 years, eating more and more, getting stronger and stronger, and eventually you will look “big”.

Also, you’re tall, so it’s going to take significantly longer to fill out. I’m 6’1", so I don’t have it as bad as you, but dudes that are under 5’9" get that “big thick filled out” look much easier.

You’ve only been at it for 9 months or so. Rome was NOT built in a day.

Good luck dude.