Strong Yet Chubby, Help

hi there, i’m a 29 year old gal who used to train (amateur level) in powerlifting on and off for a couple of years, and while seeing gains in strength, i’ve always been on the chubby side (5’7 and 165 pounds). i’ve recently joined a crossfit box, and i half-ass (once a week for lack of motivation mostly) a 5x5 program that includes mostly back squat, military press, sumo deadlift. needless to mention i’m treading in place training-wise and very dissatisfied with my body. can someone please help me write a program ? i’ve read dozens of articles and i’m kinda lost

A couple thoughts:

  1. With a background in powerlifting (even half-assed powerlifting a few years ago), you are likely well positioned to make some strength gains quickly.

  2. One theme in my time bouncing around these forums is that, until you are approaching pretty high levels, the specifics of programming are much less important than consistency and effort. There are a bunch of really strong guys bouncing around these forums, and no two of them train exactly the same.

  3. With that said, it sounds like you’re kinda lost right now. You’re doing a 5x5 program, but you also recently joined a CrossFit gym. I have some issues with CrossFit, but I also admit that they create a fun/competitive atmosphere which works really well for a lot of people and they emphasize barbell lifts along with gymnastic movements and overall athleticism. I’m a pretty self-motivated guy and I’m little too stubborn to just show up and do whatever the CF coach recommends, since it may be contrary to some of my personal preferences and goals. However, in your situation - struggling a bit with motivation, uncertain what to do next - it might benefit you to go ahead and just do the CrossFit box’s group programming for a few weeks, then decide if you’re all-in CrossFit or if you want to shape your own programming, possibly incorporating things that you liked from CF.

  4. Whichever direction you go (full-on CrossFit, fully self-coached, or a hybrid of the two) there’s one critical thing in your post:

Biggest issue right here is to get in the gym regularly, put in some effort, and believe in what you’re doing. That doesn’t mean every workout has to be a killer. Most of mine really aren’t; four or five days per week I’m in the gym just “punching the clock” or “building the base” with a real breakthrough workout that seems to come along every week or three.


Second 100% of what @ActivitiesGuy said on training. Body comp has a lot to do with diet. Pick a combination of diet and training, stick with them for 8-12 weeks and evaluate. Change up as needed. It’s about finding what works for you.

1 Like


I’ve always been strong but chubby myself. I have my best weight loss without sacrificing strength by making Olympic style lifts and squat variations the first two exercises for most of my workouts.

When I was only a little older than you, I did a 21-day squat challenge, going to the gym every day and doing heavy or light squats on alternating days for those 21 days. I gained weight and people complimented me on losing weight.

1 Like

If have powerlifting background this is great…

Could just start off twice a week even and will see results

I was thinking of sticking to the 5x5, I like the simplicity. Any thoughts?

Do what you enjoy! Any program that you loathe will fail you. On that note, if your enjoy what you’re doing then why are you half assing it?

Read your original post and I bet you’ll find the answers to your lack of progress/results.

Physique has a lot to do with nutrition so start paying attention to what you eat. You don’t have to go crazy and weigh your food like me but be aware of what you’re consuming.

It’s cliche, but the best program is the one you’ll stick with. Although I would amend that slightly to say “If you’re getting into the gym regularly, and you’re including some kind of squat, press, and pulling exercise done for a couple sets at a heavy-ish weight a couple times a week, then WTF does it matter.”

I’m not going to point to my training log and say that it’s the optimal way to do things, but I’m currently squatting in the low-400’s and deadlifting in the upper-500’s without following any specific program over the last two-plus years, and I’m no genetic freak. Some degree of progress is clearly possible regardless of programming as long as consistent work is there.

So go ahead. Do 5x5 for a little while. Then start to tinker if you feel like it. Just get in the gym and do your squats and deadlifts. At the same time, if leanness is a major goal for you, that’s going to be a diet issue, so find something that works there.


I agree with that!

If like 5x5 try this, gives very consistent results…

(can switch from6x3/just do all 5x5 on heavy day)

Madcow 5x5 another option as first 6 weeks very easy -nice way to ease in to things

As others have said just turning up to the gym consistently comes before everything else.
If you’re over 25, naturally a big girl and “half-ass it, once a week” youll get absolutely nowhere in terms of body composition.

Ideally get in 3- 4days. You can also make progress just 2 days if crush it on both.

the reason i was half assing isn’t it a good one (no excuse ever is), it’s that i started obsessing about what’s the RIGHT way, you know? i read lots of articles trying to figure out the smartest way to train and i ended up just sticking to what im comfortable with and good at, which is the squat and deadlift…i’ve been negelecting my upper body since forever, so no i hope that’s finally gonna change.

it’s funny that you mention going crazy with measuring food intake…in the last 6-7 years i’ve had bouts of very disordered eating…last year i wasn’t training and i was about 20 pounds lighter by basically starving myself. then i started training again, was strong and healthy, and then six months ago i stopped again and just started over-eating …fast forward to now, i’m 172 pounds, which is the heaviest i’ve ever been, and for the first time i’m taking nutrition seriously and not letting my " starve yourself you fat b**** " demons get in the way. i eat low carb, with a sort of bullet proof coffee in the morning and then lunch and dinner are protein, fat and veggies. the reason for these violent swings in lifestyle turns out to be a personality disorder i was recently diagnosed with, and that was actually a huge relief…i now know that i’m prone to being unstable with EVERYTHING in my life, and i’m just going to have to pay extra attention. sorry for the TMI :laughing:

That’s OK. Having diagnosed that about yourself, now you know that training hard-but-imperfectly is OK while you try to figure out the “RIGHT” way. I’ll merely add that there is more than one “right” way, so just get into the gym consistently and squat, push, and pull something regularly.

No worries on the TMI. I have one very good friend who has struggled with the same kind of issues. She’s absolutely gorgeous, but has always battled body-image demons and has had periods of severely disordered eating on and off for years. I am no expert in this arena, so I’ll not pretend to have the “answer” for you here. In a very generic sense, I believe that people with this sort of extreme personality tend to do well when they focus that sort of obsession on some healthy habits, so perhaps a focus on training will serve you well. I don’t know whether adopting a specific diet plan is a good thing for you or not. It seems like the basic approach with a few centering points (like you’ve already got: bulletproof coffee in the morning, quality protein and veggies for lunch and dinner) is the way to go.

Best of luck. Start a log in the Training Logs section. Many good folks posting there.

1 Like

I don’t have anything to add. @ActivitiesGuy covered it. Sometimes half the battle in life is realizing your weaknesses and adjusting to live a fulfilling life in spite of them.

My family has a history of alcohol abuse (whether they admit it or not) and I can see some of the tendencies in myself. I still drink fairly regularly in modest amounts but occasionally I feel myself getting carried away and I have to pump the brakes.

It’s not a good tendency but by being aware of the issue I can prevent it from becoming a serious problem (hopefully).

is it ok to train heavy on consecutive days? or let me rephrase my question - these are the exercises i’m doing, and i can’t decide on their weekly order \ grouping in training…based on 3 or 4 trainings a week, how would you group the following :
squats - front, back and split.
sumo deadlift and romanian.
bench , military press.
bent over row.
power clean\ snatch.

thanks ! :slight_smile:

It depends on your recovery ability really. If you can handle the load, then go for it. If not back off a little. You know your body better than anyone.

1 Like

I like a push/pull split. You could alternate back and forth each time you train and it wouldn’t matter if you did three or four sessions a week.

If you train hard on Monday and go back Tuesday then you could do a lighter session.

As stated above, it’s up to you and how you feel.

Personally I would do this:
Monday: heavy squat or front squat and heavy bench
Wednesday: heavy deadlifts, RDLs, rows (optional light cleans/snatches/pulls after deads)

Thursday: heavy overhead press, moderate split squat

Saturday: power clean or snatch, sumo Deadlift based on feel, rows.

You could easily switch the days to pull on Mondays and Thursdays and push on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

That’s just my personal approach. I like that split and I go harder early in the week and back off the second time through. Doing the faster, lighter clean or snatch movements doesn’t overload me after doing heavy pulls earlier in the week. The same goes for split squats–they’re not as physically demanding as squats so they’re a good choice when you’re already a bit fatigued.

Squat, rdl, split squat
Bench, press, row
Sumo DL, front squat