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Overwhelmed by all the Info... Need Help!


I’m male, almost 25, 6’0, and 175lbs. I’ve always been super skinny but have put on about 15lbs since I stopped swimming competitively about 18 months ago. I’m looking to increase size, strength and get back down below 10% BF. I have a pretty good handle on diet. My calories are 30%protein, 40%carbs, 30%fat of clean food. I really do not have much experience strength training and need help putting a program together. I’m willing to train 7 days a week if the proper program is put together.

It’s clear to me that squats, DLs, bench, and overhead press need to be incorporated into my program. My strength coach in college had me doing these MWF every week. From what I’m reading that is not recommended. I was thinking doing a 5x8 for work sets on the compounds.

Beyond that there is so many isolation exercises I really don’t even know where to start on choosing these. How many is too much for a muscle? I was thinking if a compound hits the muscle to just add one isolation exercise. But then there are also other muscles worked in the isolation exercise…should I still find an isolation for that muscle?

How much cardio can be done without interfering with gaining strength and size? I know upping caloric intake will help with this but when will it interfere with my recovery? I like to run 2-3 miles at a time, swim hard for an hour, and go on 30-40 miles bike rides.

Any help is much appreciated


Just find a proven program and stick to it for 6 months. I recommend this…


Chill down. Since you already know your training should be build upon compounds you’re in a good position. Hard work is what pays off, and you’ll learn many of these things your worry about by trying and training. I would also suggest to do ready_proven_ programs for first couple years.

If you’re feeling that the amount of information is overwhelming, narrow down your focus to couple writers (since there is so many different routes to get big and strong). Just make sure these guys are appreciated and successful in what they do. For example Dan John (its his program above) and Jim Wendler are definitely worth reading. I also like Thibaudeau, even thought my training is not based on his methods.


I’ve read a bit on Rippetoe and his program. What are your thoughts on his starting strength?


It’s OK. I have heard that the book is great.


If going to go the Rippetoe route do Texas method.

Starting strength is really for absolute beginners to learn the main lifts and leads to 90% of people stalling hard after a couple months


Do you have a link for the Texas method? Thinking I’ll go with something 5/3/1 based. I’ve tried rippetoes and agree about stalling after a couple months which just led to frustration. I’ve read his basic barbell training. If the program is just alright what is good to incorporate from the book other than teaching form and such?


5/3/1 is a great way to go. Make sure you understand the main principles (TM and such) and do the beginner/prep program first.

Good luck!


Thanks man. Do you have a good link for the prep program? And what do you mean by TM?


It’s basically 5’s PRO +5x5 FSL for main movements with bw-assistance and speed work.

First you’ll need to understand the 531-method. Read Jim’s article (531 for raw strength) from here (use search) and buy beyond 5/3/1 and/or 5/3/1 2nd edition ebook. After you have gone throught the book and understand the importance of training max ™ etc… use the famous search option again and type “5/3/1 for beginners.” There you can find template/templates Jim recommends when starting 5/3/1.

Also visit Jims website and read “2016- help a friend to get stronger”.

First understand the method. Then make a plan, work, and rule.


Texas method…

(start with a very conservative 5RM)

also FYI the link I originally posted is a variation of 5/3/1


There’s nothing wrong with a simple plan that hits the basic exercises three days a week. Starting Strength, Dan John’s Southwood program, and plenty of 5x5 routines work on that principle. If your goal is to increase size and strength, that’s the kind of approach that’s worked for decades.

Don’t think. Pick a pre-designed program and follow it to the letter. Almost any program on the site will be fine. Starting Strength (I disagree about the stalling. Nothing wrong with running it properly for a few months and then moving on. It’s not a long-term plan), 5/3/1, the Southwood or 5x5 plans linked earlier, almost anything you stick with for 90 days and complement with enough calories to see weekly progress on the scale.

Yes, doing that much cardio will interfere with recovery and progress. You need to decide if you “like” doing that cardio more than you like building strength and gaining weight. I’d suggest limiting cardio to 1-2 hours a week, total. Your cardio conditioning won’t wither away if you prioritize strength for a few months.

Are you still skinny/lean with definition? Just trying to get an idea of where you are, bodyfat-wise.

For a 6’ tall, 160 pound guy to gain only 15 pounds in 18 months, I’d say you do not have a good handle on diet. Young, underweight guys can gain that much bodyweight in a fraction of the time it took you. So I need to ask… what, exactly, did you eat yesterday?

In the months you did the program (what’s a couple, 2? 4?), how much bodyweight did you gain and how much did your strength progress in the squat, dead, bench, press, and clean?


Thanks for the help. I’m still skinny, not much definition though. I’m about 14-15% body fat. Yesterday I ate (in order):

4 eggs with baby kale and cheese

Smoothie - 1/2 cup Greek yogurt -1 cup of mixed berries - tbsp lemon juice - 25g whey - 3/4 cup milk

1 cup sunflower seeds

Banana with peanut butter

Tuna sandwich with wheat bread, tomatoe, onion, spinach and avocado

Greek yogurt, kefir milk, granola, strawberries

Banana with peanut

Salmon with 3/4 cup brown rice, asparagus, an orange

Protein shake with 1 cup milk

I gained 7lbs over 4 months. I put 25 on my squat, 35 on DL, 20 bench, and 15 on overhead press


Aaaaaaaaaaand we just found out why you “stalled” on Starting Strength.

Anyhow, I’m admittedly surprised to see your food choices seem solid enough (not just literally solid, but like, very decent). It’s super-common to see guys eating a fraction of what you are and still complaining about a lack of progress.

I’d say yours is pretty much an issue of quantity. Bump up the portion sizes throughout the day and you should be able to kickstart some size gains. If you are 15ish% and have “not much definition”, you might dial back the calories a bit on days you don’t train. but even that I’d play by ear based on the actual progress you see/track week to week.


Stalled because I gave up? Spent a little too long with the program? Lack of calories?

Also any suggestions you would make on my diet besides upping the portions? I can only eat seafood I don’t digest any other animal protein (hereditary). I think I got a pretty good handle on it. I took a few classes in college on nutrition and peak performance nutrition but that was a few years ago.


1 whole cup of sunflower seeds? I’m guessing it isn’t hulled.

Judging by your training progression, your routine doesn’t put in enough stress on the body to add size. I’m sure you’ve reaped other health benefits, but since your goal is to gain mass, I highly suggest you revisit your program.

I can almost guarantee, barring you don’t have a physical limitation, that your workouts aren’t intense enough… or that you mis-placed the emphasis.
The hard truth about the cardio is it won’t help in terms of you gaining mass. It is very possible, but you seem to enjoy cardio… Which means it’s going to counter your desire to gain size as well.
Running, swimming or biking for distance will send all the wrong signals to your body in terms of mass gain. Your body will not adapt to long distance cardio by adding mass on to your frame. At best it will maintain and even try to shed unwanted lbm (fat,muscle, bone).
However, perhaps you’d enjoy some sprinting, be it on a bike or the road, and keep it under 20 mins if possible…
Lance Armstrong would be an extreme example, but him putting on 20lbs of muscle wouldn’t be conducive to his sport. Nor would it be for a Michael Phelps, etc. Now if they tacked on 5lbs of solid adapted muscle to their frame to enhance certain lagging areas, that would be a different story.

Now your diet, albeit healthy, there just isn’t enough carbs in it. Gaining mass solely for the appearance requires you feed abnormally.

Try adding some white rice to your diet (brown rice is a fad), even some quinoa. Also, potatoes (white,sweet) and properly soaked beans. Just go a bit easier on the fats whilst ingesting more carbs. And lastly, time that high carb meal for your post workout.


And I forgot the second part to your question about isolating muscles.
You shouldn’t worry about it (atm) unless you are looking to fix an imbalance. With that said, nothing wrong with some biceps and triceps after your important movements.
And 7 days a week? I don’t know a single person that doesn’t move 7 days a week. Now, training 7 days a week? I personally train 6 days a week, and that’s because the gyms close on Sundays where I am currently. I squat, pull up, push up, dip, and row every single workout. No injuries, no nagging pains, DOMs, sitff joints, fatigue, lack of sleep, or any of that bullshit fat scientists tell you.


You seem to handle eggs and dairy, so you should be fine, protein-wise. Really, I still say it’s just a numbers game. Increased bodyweight comes from calories plus proper training. If the training is there, and bodyweight isn’t increasing significantly, it’s a simple matters of more calories.

Some toast and another egg at breakfast, a larger smoothie (a bit more of every ingredient), some protein source with the seeds and banana snacks (hard boiled eggs are perfect), larger/extra tuna sandwich, a larger serving of greek yogurt and fixin’s, and an extra slab of salmon and more rice would all be ways to bump up that snapshot meal plan a bit at a time and yield more total daily calories.

This article might have some info you could apply.

Another option to consider, though unpopular recently, is to have just three or four bigass meals per day instead of snacking nine times throughout the day. Eating large enough meals is one of the challenges to deal with when trying to put on size. Plenty of guys will say it can be as hard or harder than some training sessions.


Seems like most the intro programs hit the compounds 3 times a week so I’m going to stick with that…although I’ve been tempted to double it and do it twice a week. How long into training did you incorporate 6 days of squatting a week?


Thanks for the help. I’ve got a pretty clear idea of what I have to do for the next couple of months. I’m guessing I shouldn’t worry about body fat until I get my strength up?