T Nation

Starting Scrawny to Brawny


First off i think think starting strength is a great program and I have gained roughly 10 pounds on it, but the past month or so has been almost totally stagnant, no increases in BP, Deadlift or Squat... more importantly though my motivation for starting strength is pretty damn low now and i seem to have trouble with fatigue recovering from one session to the next now.

I bought Maximum Strength by Eric Cressey which is an excellent book and I have no doubt it would be highly effective for me and the warm-up's are what i'm using from now on, but Scrawny to Brawny by John Berardi seems to be the exact sort of thing i was looking for.

If i focus on getting the nutrition down to "Berardi extremes" am i right in thinking this is a great program to move onto now?

I need advice from anyone who has completed this program especially.

Phase 1: I'm going to redo my tally one more time with a partner to make sure i'm not underestimating how much corrective work i need, but i seemed to score 0 points, even if it is slightly more in reality, these problems were very slight or i would have noticed them for sure, i've always trained balanced though, so it is definitely possible.

So basically i'm a bit stumped as to exactly what is best to do right now and how long for, after all, if there's nothing much to fix up, in terms of inbalances physically noticable my left arm is maybe half an inch smaller and my left lat slightly smaller too, my shoulder also 'clicks' when pressing are these things that need to be adressed?

My only other question for now is this: with no swiss ball, limited weight dumbells, no cable pully, no trap bar, no roman chair and no machine calf raise, would this program still be possible with some sort of alternatives, eg. normal deads, wooden calf block... that would still leave me without any of the cable pulley exercises (like the pull-through, cable rows, external rotation, cable to neck), without being able to perform any the swiss ball exercises, no reverse hypers, no back extention and with having to attempt every dumbell exercise with a barbell instead.

Above are the disadvantages with working out at home...


Well shit pick a program that fits within the parameters of your equipment i mean really not that hard...

And Kid just eat ive learned to give up on counting calories its way to much to stress over when your living with your parents since they cook meals and shit for you and you dont know the calories just eat(hate to use that mantra).


I'm trying to find experiences from those who have done this specific program, because lets face it very few people have a completely equipped gym and I was wondering how limiting my lack of equipment would be in this particular case. Simple as.

Has no one had experience with/completed scrawny to brawny here?

With regards to eating, i'd rather take the more commited approach of calorie counting best I can as only 1 of my meals a day is prepared for me and its usually a pretty healthy/balanced one too. I'm aiming for 3300 cals rest days 3800ish workout days, which I have worked out from the various equations in Berardi's book.


I've got the book, but haven't actually tried the program.

The only advice I can really give you is to try it for a month and see how you get on with it. What works for someone else may not work for you (and vise versa).

Swiss balls are relatively cheap, I find they're good for corrective exercises and to help with stretching. If you think you need one, then get one.

External rotation exercises can be done with bands (also relatively cheap to pick up).

Cable rows you should be ok substituting for bent over rows. Likewise pull throughs you could do stiff leg deadlifts (or romanian deads, never exactly sure what the difference is).

Every exercise has alternatives. Although they may not hit the same muscles, with a little inventiveness, you should be able to come up with something (a friend of mine couldn't afford weights, so he used to use a parasole pole with sand filled backpacks on the end for deadlifts).


Just like to add that if you are not gaining weight after 4 weeks on your current program of eating then increase the calories. Berardi's equations are a good starting point but make sure to notice when it isn't working. Here are some equally important equations:

Training Hard + Not Gaining Weight => Not Eating Enough
Training Hard + Eating Enough => Gaining Weight

People are often surprised by how many Calories "Eating Enough" is. Just bear this in mind when you are training and eating. Also the weight you gain will never be 100% muscle, so don't worry too much if you gain some fat. Good luck!


Lack of progress in your lifts would generally point to not eating enough.

There is so much you CAN do with just a barbell, a bench and a squat rack. This isn't rocket science, just substitute exercises you can do with your equipment.

Push yourself harder. I am 99% sure that you are not pushing yourself hard enough.


@ Roual: Thanks, that's what i was looking for, just some suggestions, i want to make sure if i do the program im doing it right and giving it a fair shot.

@wushu: Thanks again, i agree and Berardi does go over that, saying to add 250 cals if no weight increase in 2 weeks. i found i was eating around 3100 a day or so, ive worked out i want at least 3300 on non work out days and 3800 or so on workout days. Basically i'm trying to add in lots of fruit and veg and change some of my choices to better options, I am quite tolerent of carbs though so i will only be cutting the carbs on my last meal of the day generally.. i would be be better of substiting my bread/wraps for similar low g.i. options i assume, any advice on this? i like to have my meat in wraps/sandwiches.. now im basically adding loads of salad and fruit.

wedge: I know i know, maybe a bit lazy on my part when researching into alternatives, just wondered if anyone had actually had experience with S2B before. My head is in a bad state at the moment in terms of training, seem to have negative thoughts as my lifting for the past month has been very dissapointing, I love pushing myself to the edge and would LOVE to go back to the days where the last reps of a 3x5 squat were extremely tough, but just about possible... but now its almost as my CNS is giving up wayyy before my muscles!

At my best i put up 67kg bench for 3x5, 3x5 107kg squat and 135kg for 5 on the deadlift, today my body "wouldnt let me" even dead 137 for ONE rep!?! so i dropped to.. 125.. and still my body just wouldnt let me.

Considering the amount of research i do and the fact my nutrion and recovery is just getting better and better it just seems nonsensical sometimes.. this really is the part where i have to just "grind and keep going" i think..


Since you are bulking there is no need to worry about cutting carbs, especially if you are quite tolerant. You often need carbs for refuelling and the like.

How much protein do get in a day? Upping protein intake to 400g a day should recovery and training loads. Also I try and get that 300g from meats and eggs not protein powder. Nothing wrong with the powder just make sure you get +300g protein from food first. Try and get at 70g protein from each meal. More if you can. I think Berardi agrees that no one gets enough protein.

As was said earlier in this thread training going badly can be a sign of nutrition gone wrong. Especially I feel Deadlift is a great litmus test for nutrition. If you are eating enough you should never have trouble with deadlift [as a beginner].

I would recommend eating more. Just try it out for a few weeks. Try something like:
Workout days: 5000kcal Prot./Carb./Fat = 400g/400g/200g
Off-days: 4600kcal Prot./Carb./Fat = 350g/350g/200g
(the fat carb breakdown isn't as important as total kcal and protein)

Just give it a go you might be surprised that you were eating too little before.


I'll forget about cutting the carbs then, doing so admitedly makes choices a little tougher, though the slow gi. carbs would be better for my progress, so ill gradually start to exchange my choices, making sure to still get cals.

Protein per day probably only 200g-230g on non workout days and maybe 270ish on them. Without getting a job upping the calories by that much extra a day might not be very easy, but if i aim for at least 5 meals of 700 calories, at least to start, when i can hit that consistantly im sure i will make gains.

I am converting my diet though gradually, so its just a case of adding more if im not gaining really. I was actually a few pounds above what i am now at the end of 2/3 weeks of drinking maybe 5 pints of milk a day, the problem is.. milk really didnt agree with me at all, and there isnt a replacement for milk, looks like ill just have to eat more. Damn.


If you are stuck for cash, then "Tesco Value Eggs" are for you. £1.50 for a pack of 15 eggs. You can hard boil them and bring them around with you. Each egg is about 6.5g protein, eat +15 a day if you have to. Its one of the cheapest high protein foods around.

Also sausages, Sainsburys are doing a special at the moment, £1 for a pack of 8. Each sausage is about 8g of protein. Have fried eggs and sausages, brilliant for a cheap high protein bulking meal.

Also tesco sardines, 3 for £1 (or .44 each). Each pack has 18g of protein. Tesco usually does an offer on chicken as well, like 3 450g packs for £10. What I sometimes do is stir fry a pack of chicken in Cajun spices and use it for salads later.

You can get tesco value chicken drumsticks as well, buy some Cajun/Jerk spices separately and oven cook it for a cheap high protein meal.

Admittedly it will cost more but if you shop smart it shouldn't cost more than £40-50 a week for your groceries. The biggest cost will be buying more meat. Remember Tesco Value meat is better than no meat!


Thanks a lot mate!

I'm going to have a look at some of these deals, work out what i can start relying on. This is really good stuff though, at least while im still living at home (next few months) i should be able to get some extra meat fairly easily on top of what we already get every week. £40-50 at uni aint gonna be too pretty but you've got to do what you've go to do to put on weight! + ill save half that from barely drinking compared to everyone else :wink:


Good stuff! A trick for when you are out is you can ask for a pint of blackcurrant and orange cordial (with water). About 0.50-1.50 depending on where you are.

In Sainbury's today and the special on sausages is gone :(. Another good one is to get some frozen beef quarter pounders and grill them. From Tesco "Tesco 4 Quarter Pounder Beef Burgers 454g" for 1.60. Each burger has about 18-20g protein after grilling.

Frozen veg is a really good price as well.