T Nation

Ran Into a Wall and Sad about It

Somewhat new to lifting. Less than 5 months. Did other sports in high school and college, not lifting intensive. Conditioning is pretty good. Good run times, though hampered now due to plantar fasciitis.

Now would like to be bigger while also seeing more muscle definition. Trying to do starting strength, but ran into an issue tonight that discouraged me to the point of just quitting the workout after 1 terrible and utterly defeating squat at 200lbs… This was just my fifth session.

Tonight was bench, deadlift, and squat, with accessory work after if I felt up to it, which I usually do. Though didn’t tonight.

Started bench. Bench was fine until last set. Missed the last 2 reps.
Went to deadlift.

Deadlift was good. 240lbs. 5 reps. Felt fine. Might have used too much back, but didn’t feel it, just a hunch.

Squats. Oh squats… Went up to the rack after warming up with the 200lbs on my back and it felt like I was holding up a freight train. I went down once, and didn’t get back up. Thought maybe I slipped and reracked. Sure enough, I attempted again, went down, got one up (going purple in the face), and knew I was more likely to go through the floor than I was to lift another 200lbs.

Discouraged and bruised, I decided to go down to 185lbs. Well, I tried that and after 2 reps, I was done. Spent. Depressed. And out the door.

So what happened?

For those interested, here’s the necessary background.

My stats from the previous Wednesday workout using the Practical Programming Novice Program routine because I love pull-ups and chin-ups:

195lbs Squat 3x5
195lbs Bench 3x5
235 Deadlift 1x5 (actually went back and did two more sets, felt so happy with these).

145-155lbs fluctuating (this Wed was 152, last Wednesday was 154, previous Wednesday was 145 exactly)
~15% bodyfat (pure estimate at the moment) and would like to get down to 8% (I’m sure some will highlight this as a root cause of my lifting failures).

I’ll star this section because I’m sure it’s probably the cause for a lot of my lifting issues.
I’m trying to lose body fat simultaneous;y, so have only been eating maybe 2000 calories and often probably less (maybe as low as 1700). Intermittent fasting, 20% Carb, 40% fat, 40% protein. Probably had been eating more calories before that, maybe 2300-2400. My BMR if I were to lay in bed all day is slightly north of 1700 calories.

So I realize I’m all out of whack here. I probably won’t be able to see too many gains eating like this, but I don’t want to bulk out and go up in body fat % anymore than I already have. The time to do that was winter. think. So please. Lifting experts, I ask for some advice. What do I need to do here? I really, really want to get big, without gaining body fat, but if I had to choose I’d choose losing body fat over getting big until Septemberish.

[quote]handbanana wrote:
So what happened?
Option 1:
You burnt out from eating too few calories for 5 straight weeks while running and lifting.

Option 2:
You’re 22 and just broke up with your girlfriend or got bad grades on a test or some other situation you think is life changing. To compensate you decided you were going to jump into fitness and get jacked while losing weight. That isn’t happening as fast as you had hoped so you are falling back into the depression some girl or shitty grades put you in weeks ago. Because of this depression you are starting to question life and going to philosophy seminars.

The seminars are making you think you’re a snowflake that really understands the world in a way few will. This new understanding has you asking fitness forums for answers to seemingly complex problems that could only effect a man of your mental capacity. But in the end you are eating too few calories while trying to lift progressively heavier weights each week.

Take your pick

You’re doing SS wrong.
–You always squat first. It’s the most important exercise and you should do the workout in order.
–If you reached a weight that was challenging after 5 workouts, then you started too heavy. Drop the weight and build back up. Drop it a lot. If you want long term gains, you could start with the bar and be in a pretty good place in a couple months. If you want something next week, you’ll be right where you started in a couple months.

Beyond that, you’re doing your diet wrong. You’re 150 lbs. You didn’t say how tall you are, but unless you’re under 5’2", you’re on the lighter side. There is no reason why you should be trying to lose weight. Eating below maintenance will cause you to lose weight. If you maintain your current weight and build muscle, that would mean you are losing fat. Even if you are getting heavier you could be losing fat. Even if you gain some fat, you’ll end up looking better because of the muscle. Eat more.

Also, eat more carbs. Getting 20% of your calories from carbs at 1700 calories is only 85g of carbs a day. That is why you have no energy when you work out.

How in the world does one shitty workout cause you to feel that much emotion? Your muscles aren’t machines. They don’t work exactly as you would like every time. They don’t do linear gains. If they did, everyone would have 300+lb bench, 400+ squat, what have you.

Did you even read Rippetoe’s write up on Starting Strength that is online? You are expected to fail at some point. Ideally that some point is far, far away, but it is supposed to happen. There is no way you’re going to make 10lb gains every session and not stall eventually. When you fail, you deload to a certain % (I forget which), and then you go up again. If you fail a second time, then you either go onto another program because you milked SS for all its worth, or the weight is MUCH too high for you and you should have been less of an ego man and started lower.

What happened? You had a poor lift for whatever reason. I pulled 280x5 for my deadlift on Saturday. On Tuesday I did 285. Couldn’t get it up after two reps. Should I be as dejected and depressed as you seem to be? No, instead I should think on why I failed and consider deloading a bit or trying the same weight on my next deadlift day and see what happens.

If you reached 200lb on the squat after 5 sessions, then you must have either started really really high, or you made grossly huge increases in weight every session. Both are bad. You have to start very low (preferably bar) and maintain perfect form. If you do exactly SS exactly as it’s written, you’re going to be adding 30lb onto the bar a week. You’ll basically add 240lb onto the bar in just two months (4week/month). That’s bloody fast.

You’re only eating 2k calories? That’s asking to get hurt, esp on something like SS. SS is primarily a bulking program. Rippetoe wrote it with the assumption that you’ll at the very least be eating at a caloric surplus and getting 7+ hours of sleep a day.

Your bf % is not an issue. When I restarted lifting, I was fat. My thighs rubbed against each other and I had a round stomach with no ab definition whatsoever.

Two months later, I have a four-pack and my thighs are virtually all muscle. I tried to eat at a 300-400 calorie surplus and increased my intake when I decided that the heavier weights were finally getting to me. I didn’t bother to control my diet, and as a result gains in strength and physique are slower than before, but I can live with it.

There is very little reason to go on a deficit or low surplus while you’re on an intense lifting program. The act of lifting alone and the short, frequent cardio sessions you should be doing are more than enough to burn calories. You’ll naturally put on muscle, albeit slower than people who eat on a very high surplus, and virtually no bf. A couple of months later, and your bf % will become meaningless.

And how in the world does your weight fluctuate 10lb randomly? Water weight?

Now that that’s out of the way…

[quote]handbanana wrote:
What do I need to do here?[/quote]
Lots of good advice from sharp guys so far, so I’ll just add a bit.

You had a crap session. It happens. Forget about it by the next time you walk into the gym. If you’re trying to do the Starting Strength lifting program, you should follow what little nutrition advice Rippetoe actually offered. He says to ‘eat well’. He explains:

“Eating well means 4 or so meals per day, based on meat and egg protein sources, with lots of fruit and vegetables, and lots of milk. Lots. Most sources within the heavy training community agree that a good starting place is one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day, with the rest of the diet making up 2500-5000 calories, depending on training requirements and body composition.”

Now, he does also clarify that the milk is intended for skinnier guys trying to add size, so you can skip that part, no prob. But consider the rest of what he said. Meat and eggs. Fruit and vegetables. Plenty of protein. This is going to help you build strength and lean muscle which will, in turn, make you look more muscular even if it doesn’t specifically drop fat.

If you were to focus 100% on dropping fat until September (meaning if you were to design your diet and training for maximum fat loss) , you’ll end up as a skinny dude with abs and you’ll have lost several months of potential foundation-building training time.

Thanks you two. I appreciate the response. 5’9" on the height. Weight is definitely water weight, I need to get more accurate about my body composition and weight. Haven’t been weighing same time, same day.

I think you’re confirming that my hunch is right and I’m going to start eating more. 3000 calories sound about right? More? I had actually started lifting sometime late last year (early December/late November). But only found Starting Strength a month ago and decided to try it. New to lifting in general, so it’s kind of a pandora’s box opening up and I’m just now coming around to the conclusion that for what I want to accomplish, more calories are going to be needed.

Reading back to the book I didn’t take the sequence of weight lifting as seriously. I’ll try de-loading. I’ll do 180lbs. tomorrow and see how I feel. I could stand to use a form check as well.

Thanks again.

I had a nice, lengthy post written and then I hit reset by accident, so I’ll write a smaller version…

  • Don’t over do it with eating unless you plan on making a serious strength gain/bulking commitment. Just eat about 400-500 calories surplus if you want a good physique while getting progressively stronger. If you want to maximize fat-loss and good looking physique, avoid simple carbs whenever possible. They are not only useless besides just giving energy, they also encourage water retention. Water retention makes you both heavier on scale and make you look bloated in the mirror. It’s why I can go from having a near six-pack one day to looking like I’m pregnant the next. I happened to eat a lot of noodles one day while I ate no simple carbs for a couple of days in the next. It’s also why you see those fat looking people look ripped the next in those infomercials. They stuffed themselves with simple carbs and a lot of water, then spent a couple of days not eating simple carbs and allowed water to leave body.
  • Keep in mind that progress will be slow. It will take months before you see an appreciable different. That is fine; expect it. There are several ways to determine physique change/strength gain. If you are getting progressively stronger while your weight stays the same, then you are getting stronger while probably losing bf. Yay! Another method is to take a couple pictures of yourself and then compare them to your reflection every couple of weeks. If you like what you see, yay! If not, eat less or change something.
    -If you can, post videos. I have a suspicion that your squat form is not great, esp. since you went up to 200lb in just five sessions.

[quote]handbanana wrote:
so have only been eating maybe 2000 calories

To me, this sounds like you’re not tracking your calories accurately. Weigh your food and make sure that you’re eating enough - it’s easy to miscalculate calories.