T Nation

Strength or Bodybuilding...


Hello everybody,

Here is a part of my story.

At 19, I was 105 pds. Yes. One-O-Five. I was the skinniest guy on earth, height 5'9. I used to walk 4 * 20 min a day in order to go to college. I was fucking lean and had a huge cardio. I was a biking fan too, biking on road, sometimes 60 miles on weekends.

My physical condition was huge. Playing basketball or football I would be up and running after 2 hours of ful intensity game when other where unable to even move.

However I felt the need to see girls. And skinny guys are not the hype, aren't they ?

So I did what I felt right : took a yearly pass to a gym. I realize I did it totally randomly, and it was a "real" gym. Not those "tan bed hammam sauna" bullshit. Guys here were either huge or very powerful, and I was the little skinny.

My coach, bodybuilder in my country, was a good man. He learnt me every exercise, citing Rippetoe, Cressey, etc... He was good to me.

I trained for 6 months, sweating until total failure, and ate like never before, but a lot of carbs. After 6 month, I was 125 pds. Then I got a girlfriend for 2 years and stopped any sport that was not sex (which was sometimes very sporty...)

After that, I went back to the gym and kicked it hard again. This time I took creatine, whey, etc... but I was more sloppy (3 times a week).

After 1 year, I was 145 pds, with a lot of lean mass, I lost fat because I played basketball for 2 hours every weekend, and tennis for 1 hour every wednesday.

I had 6 month elbow injury and moved to another city, so I went to my new gym, which is a crappy sauna suntan cardio bullshit without squat rack I would like to blow with C4 due to the huge amount of ppl doing wrong here.

BUut here I am.

I am 156 pounds today.

Believe me, it s nothing compared to you guys, nothing. I admire you but I am quite proud. I got muscle. I gained a shirt size. I have strong chest and back. I have good physical condition. No pain, no injuries.

But a problem.

This problem is strength. Reading all that Cressey / Berardi / Rippetoe, etc stuff, I figured those things :

  • My bench, aftr 3 years, is still crappy
  • My deadlift sucks but I proceed slowly to learn perfect form
  • My squat is very good (i don't know why) according to my coach
  • I cannot do any large grip pullup
  • I cannot do any dip with acceptable amplitude

Everytime I "hang" on something and rely on scapula belt pure strength, shoulder strength in order to start a movement or to kick back, I suck.

I seriously can't do a large grip pullup, not even half one. For the dips, same. It feels like my arm would blow up my shoulders. And pullups are like tearing me in 2 parts.

I tried to check form, I tried assisted pull up. Even with 70 pds assistance I cannot do any one. But I can lat pulldown something like 150 pounds.

Maybe it is on my body ?

I got long arms, short legs, long torso. My forearms, wrists, etc are thin. Biceps are not very good.

Now I hesitate :
- should I continue BB program (basically a 4x8 split)
- should I start some strength program (like rippetoe program ?)

My goal is to have strong muscle. I want mass but I want strength too... I wanna be strong, I wanna feel that test I feel when I deadlift high, that feeling in my teeth wanting to rip that fucking bench apart.

I know I won't be able to have a bodybuilder extreme body as I don't have time and energy to eat so much, and to dedicate. Don't get me wrong, I respect BB as much as I can respect somebody.

But a Wolverine body would be great, with some power and strength.

I wish you all a merry xmas.

And thank you for your help.

Sorry for maybe poor english or mistakes, I am not from here, but I would like if you correct me. I am here to learn.

Have a good day


Also, question : creatine makes me gain mass, lean, but it s water I know it. Just like I would be bloated after not being able to go to toilet 2 days, but all the body.

But I don't feel the "20 / 30% strength gain". In fact I don't feel anything, maybe better recovery, but nothing crazy. I did with & without load phase. Normal ?


You've answered your own question. You need a strength program BAD. You need to lift heavy weights and get bigger. Check these out, all of them are great.

5/3/1 (my suggestion)
Starting Strength


Completely normal. Creatine is not magical, it will not give you a "20-30% strength gain", that's just shit they say to make you buy it. It will help you recover a bit and that's about it. In the long run, weather or not you took creatine will not matter.


At your level, strength and size are not mutually exclusive. Something like 5/3/1 will help you get stronger and pack on lots of mass. Eventually though, you're probably going to have to pick one or the other.

This attitude, however, is going to hold you back. Diet is extremely important, and the fact that you seem to have given up on it already goes a long way towards explaining your current situation. If you want to succeed in this instead of burning out after a year or two, you must teach yourself to cook and eat more.

If you want more detailed advice, your lifting numbers and at least a one-day food log will be needed.


Welcome, Tyro.

Please post your diet. Write down everything that goes into your mouth on a typical day. Do you have any food allergies? Any conditions?

I too was like you, skinny and weak. I remember how hanging on a chinning bar felt like I was being torn on the rack.

It's good that you've been shown squats and deadlifts. Barbell lifting will do wonders. It sounds, however, as if you're in rehab. For pullups, keep feet on floor and start body at 45 degree angle. For pushups, keep knees on floor. Dips you'll have to do with feet on something.

I agree with Cinnerian, you're probably holding back on effort. I was in that position, I thought I didn't need too much effort. Boy, was I wrong. It took years of no results to realized I just needed to push harder. I have to eat, eat, eat beyond reason. I've had coworkers grossed out watching my day-long feedings. I've trained insanely. And that was just to get up to a beginner/intermediate level.

Post your diet and we'll go from there.



Thanks for your advices

My usual day diet :

  • 6:30 AM - wake up, 2 eggs white + 2 full eggs + fruit (apple or banana) + oatmeal (30 g prot approx)
  • 8:00 AM - Workout 75 mins
  • 9:15 AM - I take ON After Max (40g whey + 40g carbs)

  • 12:00 AM - Either 2 sandwiches with loads of ham or poultry or restaurant at work (often rice + meat or pasta + meat with vegetables) + coffee (40 g prots approx)

  • 4:30 PM - (that s my weak point) cereal bars (not heavy on sugar)... that's all

  • 7:00 PM - brown pasta / rice at home with poultry or salmon or trout, cottage cheese (I try to have 40 g prot)

  • 10:30 PM - Whey shake or 3 cottage cheese before sleep (approx 30 g protein)

So here I am with 180g prots for 156 pds body mass.

I take Omega-3 fish oil + Multivit (Solgar Multi Men)

I do not have allergy however some shakes (prot mixes with not only whey etc give me bad acne reactions so I avoid them)

I avoid milk too

As for my routine, it is currently a 3 days routine done by my first coach, I slightly adapted :

Monday : Chest + Shoulders
- BP : 4x8
- Inclined Bench Press : 4x8
- DB Fly : 4x8
- Shoulder PRess : 4x8
- Shoulder lat raise : 3x10-12
- Shoulder front raise : 3x10-12
- Shoulder fly : 3x8
- Upper abs (2 exercises)

Wednesday : legs
- Leg extension : 3x15
- Leg Press : 3x10
- Squat : 4x8
- Leg curl : 4x8 (this one gives me cramps like hell)
- Deadlift : 3x8 (I m often dead at this level and DL with nearly no weight, just plates in order to lift the bar up, and focus on form because I had a tendancy of rounded back)
- Lower abs + obliques (2/3 exercises)

Friday : Back + Arms + Traps
- Large grip pulldowns : 4x8
- Seated row : 4x8
- Barbell row : 4x8
- BB curl : 3x8
- BB Cable curl : 3x8
- French press : 3x8
- Overhead extension : 3x8
- Shrugs (love that one) : 3x12 if my forearms are still alive

I always feel congestion like hell and I am gaining weight for sure.

Weight went from 102 pds to 158 this morning.
Body fat went from 8% to 17,9% (sigh)

Early Fat Weight : 8,2 pds
Today Fat Weight : 28,82 pds

That means 21 pds of fat gained, 33 pds of muscle. Sounds alright no ?

When I put the "athlete" mode on my calculator it says I m 10,9% BF but I don't know if I can be considered athlete and if I may have that kind of BF. I got some belly now...

Some 8RM I work with (and I get failure) :
BP : 110 pds
Shoulder Press : 70 pds
BP Curl : 45 pds
Squat : 190 pds
Deadlift : don't know
BB Row : 100 pds

I went from far... I was unable to 8 RM the bar only on BP... But now it feels weird. It feels it needs 2 month to gain 2 pounds on BP... Sometimes I cannot do the 110 pds...

I rest like 1 min / 1min30 between sets. Depending on how early i m here.

I would like to train my strength but keep becoming muscular and massive. Most strength articles seem to be for advanced athletes, and I don't feel like one. So I don't know if it s right.

I tried to workout on evenings, afternoons, etc... nothing changed.


Forgive my skepticism, but if you're 156 lbs and can't even do one assisted pullup, I can't see how you're doing 190 lbs squats. Are you just going down a couple of inches?

On the machines, the numbers they paint on the stack have little to do with actual pounds.

Pullups - are your palms facing away? I suggest chins, where palms face you. They're easier.

"Most strength articles seem to be for advanced athletes" . . . I think you're right on that, sounds like you have to start at the very beginning. That means lifting empty bars, coaxing the body into strengthening. Lots of sets and reps.

Diet: no idea what "loads" means, my experience is that cafeterias can be pretty lean on protein. It's fine for people who don't work out, but just a snack to someone who's serious.

My first impression on your diet: sounds fairly high in carbs, low in protein and fat. Sorry to break it to you, but cereal IS sugar, even if they don't add the white stuff. Diet point number one: you must be eating a MINIMUM of 2 pounds meat each day. And add in protein shakes as well. If you're sensitive to dairy, try an egg or beef protein.

Years ago, I ate much the same way you're doing. Didn't think I had any problems, but then tried Paleo and it made a HUGE difference. If you're soft around the belly, I wonder if you have a food allergy.

I suggest an experiment: go Paleo for a couple of weeks and see what happens. That means eating meat (beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, etc), nuts (peanuts aren't nuts), fruit and berries (not too much - lots of sugar), and lean veggies (I call them salad veggies). Don't eat grains (wheat, rye, corn, barley, etc), beans, dairy, refined sugar. If your digestion feels a bit queasy for a day or 2, that's normal. Be sure to keep protein up, including shakes. Fat is your friend - from meat, egg yolks, olive oil, a little butter. If that's OK, slowly add carbs back in. You need calories. You need to get to the point of "I can't possibly eat all that!"


^Since this guy has got your nutrition covered, I'll point out that your training is not set up well AT ALL to get stronger. Reps are too high, too many exercises, and there is no progression built into your program. Please look into the programs I listed. What you are doing is not going to work.


Don't fear to be harsch if needed, I take into account.

I know my program is bodybuilding and not strength. I am hesitating now, just like "is it the time to focus on strength ?"

I mean, form of most of my exercises is good, I gain mass, but I feel like I lack strength...

I'll try Paleo...

And certainly going to 5/3/1.

I mean, what I like is strength. I am not enjoying just muscle up for esthetics. I am sure strength will be linked to mass gain if I eat more.

Guys, I feel like I am going to slaughter poultry.

EDit : for the squat, it s my 1RM (mistake). But surprisingly, I think I can squat quite heavy on 8RM. I like that exercises. I like more squat / deadlift than benching.

EDIT 2 : by drastically lowering carbs, won't I be losing weight and not be able to build mass ?


Lowering carbs sharply can make you lose weight, but mostly fat loss. The higher protein will help keep muscle up. Really obese people can lose quickly on Paleo, not so drastic in your case.

Besides, lean is always better than pot belly. If you drop 5 or 10 lbs but strength stays about the same, great.

In a week or 2, start adding in one carb - rice or oatmeal or potatoes. Try at one meal, see what happens. considering how fast you put on belly fat, I'm curious to see if you're sensitive to any foods.

Fish oil and multi are also good (remember the magnesium).

Don't worry about strength vs size. Given your size and strength level, you'll be gaining both at the same time.

5/3/1 is good - lots of people here with years experience with it.

By any chance, could you post vids of your main lifts so we can confirm you're using the right weight?



I will be doing vids when I got back from my parents and start lifting again (got a one week break), for sure :wink:

Already preparing a buy-list and looking 5/3/1 and other strength program

Even when I was skinny, my belly was a bit fatty but I ate sooo much carbs...


At your strength levels you should definitely be hitting bodyparts 2x/week and not just 1x/week on a traditional split.


why would a skinny kid want to train for strength? so he can appear to have normal lvls of strength for the hour he's in the gym?



Hello everyone,

HolyMacaroni, honestly, I don't really care how I appear in the gym, but I want to do the right training.

I am confused about all the different articles I read by great people here and there, and there are sooo much different approaches :

  • Strength approach
  • Full body BB
  • Split BB
  • Bodyweight


I am hesitating between two options :
- 5 / 3 / 1 strength
- full body BB

And upping my calorie intake a lot, which is not easy because I have to avoid dairy... So the "drink a gallon of milk a day" is just gonna make my stomach looks huge and huge disconfort and I cannot take the health risk...

I am open to every advice.


dont go paleo if youre starting from scratch strength-wise




Fuck it, I will eat a ton and train strength till death 3 times a week for 2 months, will see the results.

Stop brainism

Thx all


Train for strength, and size will come. Don't be like the "bodybuilders" in most gyms that look the same year after year.


Honestly dude, do the strength side. If you love that stuff as much as you say, then just do it. I have done it for the 5 years I have been training and I have never looked back. As far as mass, it will come as you progress. I am now 190 @ 5'9" and I have only tried bodybuilding style programs once in a while. I dont enjoy them myself.


I personally feel bodybuilding training is overrated unless you plan on becoming a competitive bodybuilder.

If you're a dude with a life outside of picking up metal and putting it back where you found it, just train to be strong, fast, and badass. It takes less time and you'll be able to do anything without having to eat chicken breasts 14 times a day and looking at yourself in the mirror every 10 minutes.