T Nation

Some Final Advice on Bulking

To be blunt, I’ve been fooling around with weights for the better part of a year now, and have seen very few returns. I can do 100 push ups with relative ease, 10 pull-ups, 30ish dips, and an obscene amount of decline weighted sit ups with as much as 80lb. Unfortunately, I struggle to bench press 110lb more than twice, military press 75lb more than twice, and my form breaks down when I deadlift more than 240 or squat more than 185.

I am just over 6ft tall and I weigh 155 with a full stomach and shoes on. I will not bother to defend myself here, I concede that I’m skinny-fat. I have managed to develop some muscle on my abdominals and lower back, but this has ultimately only made me look worse.

I’ve been wary in the past of embarking on any kind of bulk as I’m frightened of becoming fat again, but I’m at the point where I would really like to look like someone who lifts weights. I have no outrageous aspirations of being a 250lb monster, but I would like to see myself with a respectable physique and big three lifts that are not shameful for my weight.

I have been following various programs for my weightlifting career thus far, and I truly enjoy working out. I probably do way too much work though, and I’m sure my form has often been less than stellar as I’ve struggled to add weight to the bar.

My determination is (many of you may point out that it should have been obvious) to follow a Bill Starr’s Linear 5x5 program, outlined by one MadCow here:
http://www.geocities.com/elitemadcow1/5x5_Program/Linear_5x5.htm

I recognize that I will have to eat a considerable amount of food. In the past I’ve been frustrated trying to eat “big” and have quickly felt fat accumulating and my stomach bloating. Liquid calories around my weight workout are probably a solution to this problem, though. My diet is exceptionally clean, but I have always just eaten a large bowl of oatmeal, a banana, and a scoop of protein powder after my workouts in the past, followed a half hour later by another relatively sizeable meal.

For those patient enough to read this far, I have a few questions:

  1. I’m very comfortable with pull ups, and can feel a mind-muscle connection very easily with them. Can I substitute weighted pull ups for rows in the program?

  2. In what way can I eat enough healthy calories while cutting down on that bloated, tired feeling? I think I’ve been discouraged bulking in the past because I seem to gain an incredible amount of weight very quickly right at my stomach.

  3. How much work can I do besides this program? I find that I really benefit mentally from getting my heart pumping for 10-20 minutes after a day of school, and would rather not spend 4 days of the week doing absolutely nothing. Additionally, I’ve become reasonably fit cardiovascular and would like to not jeopardize that. I understand that this varies from person to person, but what would be considered a universally safe guideline?

  4. My upper body has very little muscle whatsoever aside from my abs and lower back. From anyone’s experience, are there any tips I can keep in mind to coax some strength and size from my chest, back, shoulders, and arms so that they keep up with the other portions of my body?

Thanks in advance

To make any progress, you will have to confront your emotional connection with food. You’ll have to get over your fear of “fat” in order to eat enough to get big. This is doubly so for something like the 5x5 program.

[quote]virtualetters wrote:
To be blunt

  1. I’m very comfortable with pull ups, and can feel a mind-muscle connection very easily with them. Can I substitute weighted pull ups for rows in the program?
    [/quote]

No. If you read the site, the most important thing stressed is not to fuck with the program. You are already good at pullups. Attack your weakness and you will see the most progress. Do rows.

Increase your calories slowly. You will get bloated and you will have to deal with this to get big. End of story. You will feel sluggish from the food and still have to force more in. You will crap 5 times a day while your body figures out what the hell is going on. This is part of what makes it hard, and part of the challenge for ectomorphs like us to overcome.

Only your body can tell you this. I found the program to be very taxing after week 4. The off days I was happy to eat and catch up on sleep. Extra cardio means you have to eat more. Take the 9 weeks this program lays out and go through it without adding anything except food.

Stick to the 5x5 exactly. It will have you benching 3 days per week, rowing 2 days a week, and I believe there is some bi and tri work thrown in on Friday. Stick exactly to the program and eat a lot.

I honestly believe your biggest setback is your mental state. You are afraid of getting fat. If you only eat maintenance levels and follow a program that has you lifting max weights at 5rm 3 days a week, you will break down and you will fail to accomplish your goals.

Fat can always be cut later, but muscle wont grow without a bit of extra fat as well.

What are you willing to do to accomplish your goals?