T Nation

The Education of a Bodybuilder

Ok. A few words to begin. Thanks for reading. I’m gonna list my training and thoughts as maybe it will crystalize my learning as I train day in day out. It will also be a record for me to come back too.

Some facts:

  • Strength training/bodybuilding for a year and a bit.

  • Ran for about two and half years until I realised that I didn’t really enjoy it that much, about 15/20 miles a week.

  • Have had four weeks off training due to a long vacation in the U.S.

Now I’m back its time to add some muscle to my frame. Jan 2nd 2009, I plan to do start cutting ready for spring. So three months growth/three months cut. I’ll lay down too much fat if I bulk for longer, and my metabolism will slow down too much if I cut for longer.

Bulking diet: 2500 kcal first week, and if no weight gain then a 300 hundred increase for each day of the week until I start gaining. So 2800 the next week, 3100 the next and so on.

Training: four times a week. Back, chest, shoulders, arms. Deadlifts and squats when I do back and shoulders. Abs with each workout. My legs are naturally quite big and I have a limited capacity to recover each week so the focus will be getting the upper body recovered asap for the next week. As I hopefully get stronger, I’ll increase both volume and intensity.

Ok I’m vain T-shirt muscles win this bulking session. Ugh. I guess I’ll have to do some cardio too.

Monday is chest. What a surprise! Bear in mind that I’ve had a four week break and I’m a bit of a wuss at the moment. So:

A: 5x10 superset dumbbell flyes and dumbell presses.

Incline bench, adjusted lower by a peg on each set. 1 set flyes followed immediately by 1 set presses, 2 mins rest, 100 reps. Making sure I feel the stretch on each concentric, pausing, holding the tension on the flyes as I raise my arms, exploding up when I’m pressing.

B: 2x9 Wide grip incline barbell presses.

Why 9? I struggled to get to ten on the first set, so it became 2 x 9.

C: 3x8 Cable Flyes.

I think I’m beginning to turn into a cable guy just simply because the tension remains through the rep. I mean why hammer curl with a db and the tension drops at the top when with a cable the same movement can be performed and your’e still under tension. Controversial. Possibly. That said cables will feature in my workouts.

D: Abs. Knee raises, 5 sets, 25 reps, 20, 15, 10, 5. 45 secs rest.

And that’s Mondays workout. I’ve really noticed my endurance drop over the break and its something that will take a few weeks to get back. Oh no weights measurements? Well that’s because I’m a wuss at the moment.

I still feel like a beginner and I’ve been training for over a year. Maybe mastery will always appear just that one step away.

Tuesday: Shoulders.

I left the gym wondering if I’d done enough. I did feel shattered, but I thought that must be the squats. However now a couple of hours later, my delts are starting to feel sore.

A. Military press, 4x10, 2 mins rest, then 2x5, 45 secs rest.

I hardly see anyone do this in my gym. Its so effective at hitting all the shoulders. This must be number one for anyone wanting to have massive shoulders.

B. Back squats. 3x8, 2 mins rest.

This is the exercise that always knocks me out. This must be the number one exercise for fat-burning too. I’m an ass to the ground squatter, none of this partial business, no vanity squatting for me. I don’t care how much the weight is, I care about its physiological effect.

C: Cable lateral raises. 4x10, 2 mins rest.

I’m significantly weaker with cables than with dumbbells when it comes to lateral raises. However, there’s no momentum. All you’re doing is swinging weights up and down with dumbbells. There is a massive difference in difficulty, hopefully I’ll have massive delts.

D. Cable upright row. 4x10 2mins rest.

The tension drops with a barbell at the top and bottom of the movements. I prefer this.

My purpose is too create as much muscle damage as possible, not lift as much weight as possible. As more muscle is created, I’ll lift more weight. It’ll be a great base for future strength training, but that’s a different goal.

Wednesday: Arms.

Ok this post is a day late, but I was gone after this session. Shattered. Accumalated fatigue. I hit my arms pretty hard, but three days in a row is what did it. But I get two days rest now till Saturday’s Back session, and then Sunday doing cardio.

A. Close Grip Bench Press, 4x10, 2 mins rest.

I like this, I get to hit my chest a bit too. I also get to add as much pressure on my triceps as I possibly can.

B. Barbell Extension 4x10, 2 mins rest.

I’ve already hit my triceps pretty hard, so I go lighter on this and I don’t reach failure. Nevertheless I still get a good amount of fatigue and my arms are starting to hurt now.

C. Straight Bar Cable Curl 4x10, 2 mins rest.

I had to go 5kg lighter than I expected and about 10kg less than with a barbell. By the end of the third set I had to rest-pause to get to ten and I took a couple of pauses in the last set.

D. Hammer Cable Curl, 4x10, 2 mins rest.

So now I’m wondering how I’m gonna get through these four sets. I had to go embarrassingly light. But it doesn’t matter what anyone might have thought. What mattered was the fatigue had accumulated and I just need to hit my biceps just once more from a differnt angle.

E. Rope pressdown. 1x50, no rest.

Here I went as light as possible push them to the limit.

F. Cable curl. 1x50, no rest.

Again to push my arms to the point where I knew that I had done enough this session.

Arms are something I haven’t trained much in the last year and are something I want to focus on and I reckon biceps are the weakest link in my chain of muscles. If I get them stronger, everything else will grow as a result.

Weighing day.

10/11/08 - 203.3 lbs - start
10/18/08 - 208.8 lbs - + 5.5 lbs

That’s a big jump. But I’m no fool. My carb intake has increased so more water is being retained and no doubt more is in my intestines. Next week the weight difference will be less.

I’m also monitoring my waist so if I see an increase in that I’ll cut back on the carbs. So the goal here is to see as little movement as possible.

10/11/08 - 94cm - start
10/18/08 - 94cm - no change

I’m taking photos each week, but I won’t be posting those until the end of the twelve weeks. Sorry but I’m a self-concious wuss.

I’ll review my nutrition of the past week on Sundays.

Saturday: Back.

Without a doubt the toughest of the week.

A. Deadlifts. 4x10, 3 mins rest

By the end of the second set, I knew I would just have to push through the last two sets using rest-pauses, 3 reps, 10 secs break.

B. Chin ups. 3x5 2 mins rest.

My weakest exercise. I was struggling on the third set. I’m not expecting great gains, I’ll try to add one or two reps a week. As my weight goes up, that will provide even more resistance.

C. Close grip Cable row. 4x10 2 mins rest.

I focus on squeezing the lats and maintaining good posture.

D. Wide grip barbell rows. 5x10 1 mins 30 rest.

Before this my arms were quite fatigued so I went lighter than I normally would and focused on good form. By the last set I was feeling it.

E. Straight arm pulldowns. 10x10 1 mins rest.

It seemed quite light for the first seven sets and the tightness started to kick in. I quite like 10x10 and I will use it more often.

Now its about 24 hours after the workout and I can really feel the tightness across my back. It was a good a workout.

Interesting program mate, will be following your progress. What’s the plan for cardio?

Nutrition review:

I said at the start:

Bulking diet: 2500 kcal first week, and if no weight gain then a 300 hundred increase for each day of the week until I start gaining. So 2800 the next week, 3100 the next and so on.

Well that went out the window the next day. I felt exhausted. So its been about 3000 each day, give or take 100 calories. This isnt a lot of calories compared to what some eat. I actually would like to go higher, but I’m scared of adding too much fat. But then I think if I go higher, I’d have the energy to train longer. The concept of G-Flux seems to make a lot of sense to me, look at Michael Phelps as an extreme example.

I want to train longer without feeling shattered the day after. So I’ll add volume each session, and I’ll add calories if I feel terrible. If my weight isn’t going up I’ll add calories. If my stomach starts to grow, I’ll cut carbs a bit, and add healthy fats keeping calories the same. If that doesnt work, I’ll bring the calories down a bit.

Macronutrient breakdown:

Protein: 280g 1120 calories

More than enough for my weight.

Carbs: 250g 1000 calories

I am a bit scared of carbs but I’ll see how I go at this level.

Fat: 100g 900 calories.

30ml will be fish oil gulped straight down, I’ll add more if I’m not meeting my target.

These are guidelines and I’ll try to stick as close as possible. Of course I’ll increase as necessary.

It’s probably going to be easiest to stick to eating the same foods as often as possible. Less thinking and knowing that at the end of the day I’ll hit my targets. The most variety will be evening meals. The rest can stay the same.

Supplements:

Alpha Male - 4 tablets a day.
Rez-V - 3 capsules prior to casein shake before sleep.
Multivitamin - before sleep.
Fish oil - min 30 ml a day.
Leucine - 5g 4 times daily.

PWO - 36g Whey Hydrolysate
35g Maltodextrin
10g BCAA
5g Leucine (one of the servings)
5g Creatine

[quote]justrob wrote:
Interesting program mate, will be following your progress. What’s the plan for cardio? [/quote]

Sometimes I think I actually hate cardio, but maybe that’s just laziness. There was time when I was really into running and I really enjoyed long slow 8-10 mile runs. I’m not going to be running three/four times a week and lift weights. I wont recover properly.

So the plan is to run Sundays, up to 45 mins, I’ve lost a bit of my aerobic fitness and it will take a while to get back, so run/walk to begin and see how I feel and gradually increase time on running.

Monday’s and Wednesdays - I’m gonna do complexes with a barbell and very little weight, taking a 30-60 secs break. 5 sets, increasing reps, as I get fitter. So I’ll start with five reps to begin to see how I feel, and I’ll increase it the next session if its easy by 1 or 2 reps. So for example Monday I’ll do:

Shoulder press - 5 reps
Back Squat - 5 reps
Barbell row - 5 reps
Deadlift - 5 reps

Rest, then repeat.

Once I get close to the limit of reps I can do with that weight, it’ll be intense, and I’ll be huffing and puffing. Much better than being on a treadmill.

I gotta drag myself to do cardio too, but 5 min into it I generally enjoy it. Generally. :slight_smile:

I’ve tried complexes a few times and just don’t like them, especially when trying to gain mass. The intensity of those sessions gives your body yet another stressor it has to recover from, on top of your weekly weight sessions. Have tried to ‘eat my way out of it’ (ie, bump up the cals) but have burned out eventually - but your experience may be different.

Personally, 2-3 sessions a week of steady state cardio for 45-60 min (light jog, incline walking) works best for me. Boring as hell at times, but actually aids recovery by getting blood around your body especially if followed by a good stretch afterwards.

Just my 2 cents, good luck mate.

[quote]justrob wrote:

I’ve tried complexes a few times and just don’t like them, especially when trying to gain mass. The intensity of those sessions gives your body yet another stressor it has to recover from, on top of your weekly weight sessions. Have tried to ‘eat my way out of it’ (ie, bump up the cals) but have burned out eventually - but your experience may be different.[/quote]

Yep, they can be tough. I’m using incredibly light weight, 30 kg including bar because I’m scared that they’ll be too tough. I’ll give it a couple of weeks, and I’ll review how I’m feeling. My main goal is to get my heart pumping hard followed by a short break.

Monday: Chest.

A. 5x10 superset dumbbell flyes and dumbell presses. 2 mins rest.

Swapped the order today. Did presses followed by flyes. Didn’t increase the weight
as these are pretty hard.

B. 3x10 Wide grip barbell presses. 2 mins rest.

This is a new exercise added to increase volume. I can also feel my endurance returning.

C. 3x12 Cable Flyes.

I increased the reps on this week to add a little more stimulus. My arms were starting to go now.

D. Incline barbell press 6x3, 30 secs break

My arms were struggling now, so I opted for 6x3.

No abs this week. In fact I hate doing abs. They get hit when I squat and deadlift.

Cardio.

A. Complexes 5 sets, 30 secs rest.

Shoulder press - 5 reps
Back Squat - 5 reps
Barbell row - 5 reps
Deadlift - 5 reps

I started to huff and puff on the fourth set, so not too intense.

B. Back squats 5x15 1mins rest.

I’m trying to do a kind of intense interval training, not as intense as sprinting intervals, but also more intense that steady state cardio which I thoroughly dislike with the exception of slow running outside across scenic routes. Yesterday was my first day of cardio. Sundays will be days I will run outdoors.

Sunday run: 6 x 5 mins run, 2 mins walk break.

This is until my legs get used to running on pavement. I’ll gradually decrease walking time and increase running time weekly until the whole thing is non-stop.

Tuesday: Shoulders.

Today I thought it would be good to stay with the same weight and increase the volume.
I dropped the squats as I’ll be doing lighter squats when I’m doing cardio. I dont think my legs can recover speedily enough from complexes and heavy squats and I’d rather let my body focus its recovery on the upper body.

A. Military press, 6x10, 2 mins rest.

B. Cable lateral raises. 5x10, 2 mins rest.

C. Cable upright row. 6x10 2mins rest.

Is this enough variety? I’m uncertain, but my shoulders are adequately fatigued. They also get hit quite hard on back day.

Tomorrow, I do arms and cardio. I’ll increase the volume too.

Wednesday: Arms.

I added a set to each exercise and kept the weights the same.

A. Close Grip Bench Press, 5x10, 2 mins rest.

This seemed much easier than last week. The weight goes up next week.

B. Barbell Extension 5x10, 2 mins rest.

Again much easier, my endurance and strength is returning. I concentrated on really feeling the muscle contract as I lowered the bar to my forehead.

C. Straight Bar Cable Curl 5x10, 2 mins rest.

I could’ve done another set here. A marked difference to last weeks rest-pausing on the last two sets.

D. Hammer Cable Curl, 5x10, 2 mins rest.

Again this seemed much easier than last week and considering this was the third day ina row I had been training I was quite surprised. I’ll increase the weight on all the arm exercises next week.

Cardio:

The complexes and the squats really hit my legs too hard on Monday, and I went light on the squats. Its probably due to the fact I ran the day before.

So I may do this kind of cardio only once a week, on Wednesdays, and add a low intensity steady state cardio session on Tuesdays, such as incline treadmill walking. I did a little yesterday to get the blood circulating round my body, 15 mins, not really taxing at all.

Saturday.

Weight:

10/11/08 - 203.3 lbs - start
10/18/08 - 208.8 lbs - + 5.5 lbs
10/25/08 - 210.4 lbs - + 1.6 lbs

Waist:

10/11/08 - 94cm - start (37 inches)
10/18/08 - 94cm - no change
10/25/08 - 94cm - no change

Saturday: Back.

A. Deadlifts. 4x10, 3 mins rest

I struggled through the last two sets last week so I didnt increase weight or volume. However compared to last week I felt much stronger. I only had to rest pause on the last set.

B. Chin ups. 1x5 and 1x3 2 mins rest.

This was terrible. I was really struggling on the second set and I thought it was probably best to leave this for now and re-evaluate their place in the workout week.

C. Lat Pulldowns. 3x10 2mins rest.

As I failed miserably on chin ups, I added this exercise.

C. Close grip Cable row. 5x10 2 mins rest.

Added another set on this.

D. Wide grip barbell rows. 5x10 1 mins 30 rest.

I increased the weight by 5kg as last week was quite easy.

E. Straight arm pulldowns. 10x10 1 mins rest.

I added 2.5kg and will probably add another 2.5kg next week.

With the exception of the chin ups this was quite a nice workout.

This weeks goals:

Training.

A. Mix up the order of exercises.
B. Add a little weight wherever I can, and try not to change volume.
C. Add twenty minutes low intensity cardio to aid recovery.

Nutrition.

A. Add 200-300 more calories a day.
B. Research and implement a way to improve digestion.

Recovery.

A. Add cardio.
B. Research massage techniques and implement a simple technique on worked muscles of the day.

Monday: Chest.

A. Incline bench press. 3x10 2mins rest.

Added 5kg to this. Still was quite easy.

B. Wide grip bench press. 3x10 2mins rest.

Also added 5kg. I was exploding through these. Much easier than last week.

C. 4x10 superset heavy dumbbell presses and lighter dumbbell presses. (10kg lighter). 2 mins rest.

This was incredibly hard. My arms were gone after this.

D. Pec-dec flyes. 7x10 1 mins rest.

Aaargh!! Yes I used a machine. I havent been able to fatigue my chest sufficently befgore my arms give out so I thought I’d try this for a couple of weeks.

Cardio. 20mins incline treadmill walking to help with recovery.

Tuesday: Shoulders.

Ok so I didn’t mix up the order today.

A. Military press, 6x10, 2 mins rest.

Increased by 2.5kg.

B. Cable lateral raises. 5x10, 2 mins rest.

No increase in weight or volume. These are just way too hard.

C. Cable upright row. 6x10 2mins rest.

Increased by 2.5kg.

Hmm. I always wonder about volume. How do I know I did enough? The answer I always come up with is when my arms can’t do anymore and that is what usually happens. That said my bi’s and tri’s are visibly larger.

Cardio: 25 mins incline treadmill walking.

Forgot to add: Sunday running. 20 mins non-stop. First time in a couple of months. I’ll increase it next week.

Wednesday: Arms.

Really late post.

A. Straight Bar Cable Curl 5x10, 2 mins rest.

Did this first and increased the weight by 2.5kg.

B Close Grip Bench Press, 5x10, 2 mins rest.

Increased this by 2.5kg. This could be increased again next week.

C. Hammer Cable Curl, 4x10, 2 mins rest.

I was really sruggling with these from the second set. Had to drop a set and just do four.

D. Barbell Extension 5x10, 2 mins rest.

This was too easy I should have increased the weight by 2.5kg. I will next week.

Cardio:

25 mins low intensity running on treadmill.