T Nation

Scars Newbie Advice on Bulking

You ever heard the term "Built like a brick shithouse"?  I've seen many brick outhouses, but they do not remind me of a well build body.

I’ve always considered myself one of the unlucky ones when it came to building a muscular physique. Through High School I was always small, short and skinny. I wasn’t the smallest kid on the football team, but let’s say I was always in the front row in team pictures, you know the 5’’-7" or less crowd.

I was also on the wrestling team and was in the 135 weight class. All the guys would spit in cups all day and not eat in hopes to make weight. I’d sit back and gulp down my burritos, bagel dogs, chips and soda without a worry and still have a few pounds to spare.

No matter what I did I always seemed to never break 140. I even took some notable spots on the weight room wall of fame for my lifting numbers. My strength to weight ratio was the best on the team! But I could not get bigger, no matter how hard I worked out!

After High School I went off to college, living on my own with fellow roommates…the basic college gig. I worked part time and my parents made sure I ate and had the rent paid. Everything else was on me for the next 4 (which turned into 5) years of life.

I joined a gym and continued to work out. I watched my roommate drink these shakes every day that I could not afford, and I passed it off as nothing. I saw him eating special meals. I saw him grow. He definitely had better genetics I thought.

I continued the college diet, and ate anything I wanted. I probably ate 2-3k calories a day, but I did not understand nutrients and rest. I made it to the gym with a partner 3-4 times a week and we crawled out of that place sometimes, working out to failure.

My partner grew, had 16 inch biceps and was 160 lbs. I had 13" biceps and 140 lbs. Sure I was strong and ripped, but I still looked weak. I saw cross country runners more ripped and sizable that I. I passed this off and used it as an excuse to bring in my bad genetics. I told everyone else I’d never be fat.

I got a steady woman, moved in with her my Junior year, and quit going to the gym.

Fast forward 14 years. 135lbs, skinny weak, 33 years old. Pizza, Mexican and beer were the main staples in my diet, yet I did not put on weight. I started to get a small beer belly, but the scales remained steady 140-145. I felt awful, and had no energy to even do chores or play with the kids…but I could sure take my beer.

I decided I wanted what I had before. Besides, I was ripped with a nice body before I thought. But this time, this time I would do research. I found T-Nation and prowled there a few months. It changed me forever.

I applied a few things and I blew up 30 lbs in less than 6 months, mostly muscle.

1.THE BUILDING MATERIALS CALLED FOOD:

I learned finally that this time I needed to approach training as if I was building a house. I needed drive (Labor), materials (food) and rest. I always thought I ate enough, but I was eating the wrong things and at the wrong times.

In order to build my house I needed materials and the right kinds. I never realized it was the meats and dairy I needed to actually build size. I never tracked carbs to protein, nor did I really know what foods were which!!! I sure paid attention in Health class.

WOW! PROTEIN! The key to my failures surely! I needed it often and at the right time. Eating 1,500 calories 2x a day was not going to cut it. I had to have some kind protein in my body at all times. I made it a point to eat 30-40 grams every 2-3 hours. Through this method I did not have to count calories so much as protein.

I added Milk and high calorie milk/protein shakes at least 3x per day. This way I did not have to scarf large amounts of meat. I could and easily ate 5,000 calories a day.

I used an MRP with 40Protein/40Carbs upon awakening, had a breakfast at 10am, lunch at 12, shake at 3 (GYM) then Dinner at 7, and a mega milk/ice cream, berries, yogurt and banana before bed at 10pm.

I kept a food log tracking daily protein, calories and morning scale weight. I usually met my calories through enough protein (1 gram per pound of bodyweight), so I soon stopped counting calories. Keeping this log kept me honest and it should be a staple in anyone’s process if you are serious about putting on some mass.

Knowing when and how much you eat is critical and a mental confirmation that you are getting the right materials to build your house.

Supplements like Creatine, Fish Oil and Mutivitamins are a good thing to have as staples.

THIS eating process more than anything contributed to my growth. I believe food has 70% importance overall! The remaining 30% is the workout program and rest. Supplements should be just that. Never rely on them to do your work with eating food for you.

2.THE PROGRAM: Keep it Simple Stupid!
The second thing I discovered was less volume and heavier weight. When I began I tested all my max efforts for:

Bench
Military Press
Lat Pull Downs/Rows
Deadlift (I did not due to back issues)
Squats (I did not due to back issues)
Curls

I took 75% of that max, used it in a 4x6-8 routine. The first sets were 8, and the last were about 6. I found my strength and size responded IMMEDIATELY with the proper building materials (food) combined with heavy weights. I also learned thatless is more. I didn’t have to follow some complicated rotating regimen.

I took on a 2 day split like this:

Day 1 Monday: Chest, Triceps, Legs 75% of max.

-Bench 4x8
-Dips 4x 10
-Tri-Extensions or Skull Crushers 4x8
-Squat or Lunge 4x8
-Calf Raises- 3x20

Day 2 Tuesday: Back, Traps, Biceps, Shoulders.

-Pull ups or Seated Rows / Bentover Rows. 4x8 (Sometimes I did 2)
-Barbell Shrugs 4x8
-Curls 4x10 (I like more volume here)
-Sitting Dumbbell Shoulder Press 4x8

Day 3 Wednesday (Rest)

Day 4 Thurs. (Same as Mon)

Day 5 Fri. (Same as Tues)

Weekends off.

The program was simple and low volume, but I made it a point to go to or close to failure on all sets, since we are in the 6-8 rep range of max efforts. If I felt I could do any more than 8, then I raised the weight accordingly. I did not do 3-4 movements for each muscle group.

If I doubled up movements they were on chest and back only. I found this split to allow for 2 full days of rest and 3 on weekends. It made it simple. I had no charts to follow or sheets to track. Just balls-to-the-wall heavy, exhaustive lifting WITH GOOD FORM.

Recently I changed this up, but came back as it worked the best for me and still does.

3.ATTITUDE
The mind is an amazing thing. My attitude went from “I can’t gain no matter what I do” to “If I do these things, I do and will grow”. Keep a good attitude and don’t make excuses for anything! Know that the nightly protein intake IS fueling growth as you doze off when resting.

4.REST
Getting rest is critical. If you want to party and stay up, you won’t do yourself any good. The body needs to rest to build. If you do drugs or drink, your body will not absorb nutrients and will not grow like it could if it did not have to deal with toxins.

So, if you are a beginner, keep it simple and approach this as if you were building a house. The materials are very important. As important and in this case I believe more important that your contractor (Program).

You CAN build the brick shithouse. It’s a lot of work, dedication, mental toughness etc., but it is also very simple.

To Recap:

1.Building Materials are the Essential. You can’t build a stable and sturdy house with paper. You need the right foods at the right time, many times a day. Use MRP’s like Metabolic Drive to simplify the process. Keep that food and weight log.

2.Keep Your Program Simple. Avoid the paralysis by analysis syndrome many fall into. Lift heavy and do compound, classic lifts. No swissballs needed here.

3.Have a Positive Attitude. Knowing you are growing through the food log and training will produce results.

  1. Rest. Need I say more, get your sleep and fuel up beforehand.

It’s simple. These are the things I have personally found to work for me. I clamed myself to be a nongainer. I hope the beginner can find something useful. It’s time I shared some of what I’ve gained here in simple terms. We have a lot of articles that dive deep, but don’t get caught into thinking you need to do all these things that are said all the time. Take your info and incorporate it where needed.

Now I don’t claim to have the Shithouse build yet, but I do know what is getting me there.

Good post.

This is compulsory reading for newbies.

Someone sticky this, PLEASE!

Awesome post, and similar to my experience.

As an added bonus, you become a good cook. Ya know who likes good cooks? Good lookin’ women.

-Gendou

The simple act of mixing protein shakes and using Berardi’s calculator to see what my calorie intake should be improved my gains by a factor of 10.

That + an exercise log should help 90% of newbies people trying to add mass.

Can someone please sticky this.

Totally sticky material. Thumbs up on this thread, I’m sure new guys will learn a lot.

Nice thread. My problems were similar and seemed to be in stages. 6-4, 160 pounds in college. In high school, I was shorter and lighter. Complained a lot. Got all pissy when people would make fun of me for being so skinny. BUT, I didn’t do anything about it.

Mid 20’s- started lifting. I had to get over going into the gym and being the weakest person in there- not an easy thing- but something I now realize should not have deterred me for so long. I started on machines because, and I’m not kidding, I was intimidated by free weights. When I finally started free weights I worked with 95 pounds on bench.

Late 20’s, got a little stronger from lifting, but ate just like Rockscar described - two meals, not watching nutrients. Still scared of squats and deadlifts, still in the 160’s.

Early 30’s- Seeking advice, but not quite going far enough to implement it fully. 175-180

mid 30’s (now) Berardi and then to this site- Actually getting to the point where I bring a cooler full of food to work every day. Squat and deadlift. Lift heavy as a I can. Make sure I’m getting lots of protein. Cut back on driking. Tracking caloric intake. 215 and rising.

I’m sorry this is so long, but I’ve really enjoyed this journey and love talking / writing about it. My only regret is that I didn’t start earlier.

PGA told me it was his man juice that helped you bulk.

Seriously, good post.

Awesome post Scar. Should definitely be stickied.

Great ‘article’!
Should be on the front page with a small pic of you and a large one of your wife :slight_smile:

All kidding aside. Good stuff and great job turning your life around like that. Kids and wifey must love that too.

All the best,

Marc

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
PGA told me it was his man juice that helped you bulk.
[/quote]

Umm, that’s not something I’d recommend for the beginner for sure, or anyone for that matter!

Someone please sticky this.

Wait, nevermind. The people who would be helped by it wouldnt read it. Just keep posting about how they weigh 150 lbs and want to cut for summer so they can see their abs, but also would like to add some more muscle by then too.

Man thanks for this it’s given me a good idea of how I need to aproach it all. The optimism in this thread is contagious!

Training Tip:

If you use a split, and you are spending 50 minutes plus in the gym, you are doing it wrong.

Exhaust your muscle group with each set. Not always to failure, but just to the point you KNOW you will fail the next try.

You should be able to get 4-5 compound excercises completed with a 3-4x8. You should only be in the gym 40 minutes max.

Give yourself 1-2 minutes rest between sets.

[quote]Rockscar wrote:
Training Tip:

If you use a split, and you are spending 50 minutes plus in the gym, you are doing it wrong.

Exhaust your muscle group with each set. Not always to failure, but just to the point you KNOW you will fail the next try.

You should be able to get 4-5 compound excercises completed with a 3-4x8. You should only be in the gym 40 minutes max.

Give yourself 1-2 minutes rest between sets.
[/quote]

What do you say if you are working with a partner though? I always go with one of my friends and we’re usually in there for 80 minutes-ish. We usually do 2 to 3 lifts per muscle group, i.e. Bench, Incline, Flyies, Dips, Pulldowns. We’re also in a crowded gym but we can usually get what we want within a minute or two.

You think I should compound more? With my current set, I always work to failure but maybe I don’t need to work that much on so many different lifts.

[quote]Zero_Z wrote:
Rockscar wrote:
Training Tip:

If you use a split, and you are spending 50 minutes plus in the gym, you are doing it wrong.

Exhaust your muscle group with each set. Not always to failure, but just to the point you KNOW you will fail the next try.

You should be able to get 4-5 compound excercises completed with a 3-4x8. You should only be in the gym 40 minutes max.

Give yourself 1-2 minutes rest between sets.

What do you say if you are working with a partner though? I always go with one of my friends and we’re usually in there for 80 minutes-ish. We usually do 2 to 3 lifts per muscle group, i.e. Bench, Incline, Flyies, Dips, Pulldowns. We’re also in a crowded gym but we can usually get what we want within a minute or two.

You think I should compound more? With my current set, I always work to failure but maybe I don’t need to work that much on so many different lifts.[/quote]

2-3 lifts per group is too much IMO. No more than 2. Dump the flys. Keep bench and dips. Of coarse if there are 2 of you, then time is upped.

Chest / Bench - Dips
Back /Bent Over Rows, Pullups, Deadlift, dumbell rows.
Legs/ Squat, Lunges
Shoulders/ Dumbell press.

Do your bi’s and tri’s and isolation AFTER the compound lifts.

Make sure you are not 3-4 minutes rest between YOUR sets. If you BS with your partner, you are hurting your time in the gym.

It’s still good to go to failure maybe 1 time a month, but not always.

Good post. The only thing I can add is that of the newbie who learned a lot of these lessons early, it really isn’t THAT hard. The hard part is DOING it, but the basics are simple. That being said, I have to goto the market now, I’m away from home for the next week and don’t have any of my regular foods.

You say that at one point you stopped counting calories but kept a log…That is my real problem I have a really hard time counting calories and sometimes I wonder if it is really necessary to do it. It seems like a real pain in the arse to count everything (protein, carbs and fat) just before eating.

You seem like you simplified nutrition a lot so how did you keep track of everything? Did you just logged everything you ate and gaged if it was enough?

Was is the best newbie nutritional advice you could give?

Thanks

When I first started seriously bulking, I would calculate what I needed per meal/day for each week then I would stick as close as possible to that layout. I would figure it out on the weekends when I had some free time.

I didn’t need to be 100% precise, just as close as I could get to what I had figured. It worked out for me, but some peoble prefer to be very anal about it and record every little thing. Just personal preference I suppose.

[quote]neoplasme wrote:
You say that at one point you stopped counting calories but kept a log…That is my real problem I have a really hard time counting calories and sometimes I wonder if it is really necessary to do it. It seems like a real pain in the arse to count everything (protein, carbs and fat) just before eating.

You seem like you simplified nutrition a lot so how did you keep track of everything? Did you just logged everything you ate and gaged if it was enough?

Was is the best newbie nutritional advice you could give?

Thanks[/quote]

Yes, the log was to track mostly protein and carb intake. I didn’t track fat, but I kept an overall calorie count and at each meal I kinda knew where I was at in the day.

This process will not yield the BEST CLEAN results, and if you want clean results you will need to adhere to fat intake and carb intake.

The only problem I had was that my carbs and fats went pretty much unchecked and I had carbs almost every meal. In the end of over 2 years bulking, I had to shed only about 15lbs that I probably didn’t need to carry. However I’m of the mind to overdo it (eating) just to make sure your building blocks are in place.