T Nation

The 'It' Factor?


Just thinking out loud here with random thoughts as they come to my head. Feel free to chime in.

For a while now, I've been wondering if there is an "it" factor when comes to putting on muscle mass. First, when I was just getting into lifting, I thought it was the supplements (thank you Musclemag). Wasted a few pay-cheques on some crappy things like NanoVapor, Anabolic Halo, Superpump250, etc.

Eventually, I got off that train of thought and figured it was your diet. But then, I see people in prison who don't eat 5-6 nutritious meals everyday and are jacked (not all people in prison obviously, but a number of those who workout). Maybe they were big to begin before they went in? Maybe its genetics? Maybe its the kill or be killed prison mentality? Be jacked or be somebody's bitch? Of course the prison scenario is just one case of the imperfect diet, but many others do exist...I think.

Is it intensity and focus? Could be. But I've seen people in the gym without much intensity with respectable size and strength.

Exercise selection? Possibly. But I've seen people do tricep kickbacks like pendulum swings having decent horseshoes. Or people with a decent chest doing pec-deck flyes with horrible form. I know one exercise doesn't make or break a physique, but I wonder what the rest of the workout looks like. Is it just as bad? Am I missing something?

From my short experience, I think its a mixture of intensity/focus and diet. Obviously genetics help, but they can be overcome with the right mindset and hard work. Just recently, I started going relatively heavy compared to what I was doing before. I had never tried a db row with 100's but I gave it a shot and sure enough I banged out 6 decent reps. Same with other exercises. Every week for the past month, I've tried widowmakers with increasing weights. Started at 155 a month ago. Did 193 yesterday. Maybe its your mind that is holding you back, not your lack of crazy workouts.

I'm sure this has been beaten to death already but I figured I'd get some thoughts to paper...or keyboard. Anyone see anything differently? Is it useless to think about these things and just lift, eat, sleep and repeat?

By the way, RIP Sean Taylor. 3 years gone today. I probably don't come within six degrees of knowing him personally, but that man influenced my life in so many ways. God bless.



You can't judge someone else's intensity and focus by LOOKING at them. Not only that, but if they got huge, then OBVIOUSLY they had the right amount of intensity and focus to do it.

Yes, those are the biggest factors to putting on size because no matter what you take, if you aren't putting the time and effort in the gym, it is pointless.

That is why the same people who can get big in prison would have been even bigger if they had better access.

No, everyone big wasn't born that way. I wasn't. I also have never taken any extended time off outside of post surgery and even then I trained my legs.

THAT is what separates the guys who make big progress and the ones who don't.

Most people train off and on and act like being in the gym 6 days a week is blasphemy....then they want to cry when they don't have the size of others who put the time and effort in.


The jacked dudes in prison steal others' food in order to get in more calories.


lol @ nikki!

Thanks for the response Prof X. You make good points. Its shocking to me when people get surprised when I say I spend 4-5 days in the gym (6-7 when I get out of Masters program :smiley: ) Everyone wants a shortcut.

Btw, I think I actually know Sean Taylor within 6 degrees...
I trained with a strength specialist in spring, who is friends with Zach Even-Esh, who knows Joe Defranco, who met Greg Olsen, who either knew Sean or knew someone at The U who knew him. Wow, small world. Means absolutely nothing...but makes me feel kinda cool haha.


also, strength specialists name I trained with is Christopher Reed, who operates Empire Fitness. If you are in the Greater Toronto Area, look him up! There will be some benefit for bodybuilding but he mostly trains high school, varsity and pro athletes (Argo's and Leafs).

shameless plug over


Some dudes sip lots of sperm in jails...from what I here.


There isn't one "it" factor. Everything you mentioned plays a role in building muscle.


If there is a "factor" at all it is in the ones who can figure this shit out and grow quickly....not the ones who flounder for ten years and still look like newbs.

We've discussed it before, but there is an innate level of athleticism that allows someone to catch on quickly as far as their own bodies. You either have it or you don't.


Definitely agree with the above. I know guys who have been training the same length of time as me and have made no progress. They just don't "get it" no matter how hard I try and help. Others have made more progress than me and they're normally the same people who or one or two stages better than me at a school sports level - they get it just that bit better than me and I try and learn from them. There is a definite way of being that encompasses thought and actions that is more conducive to doing well at something like this.


I know I only started making impressive gains when I understood the importance of 3 things:

  1. Eating enough
  2. Consistency
  3. Constant progression (beating the log book)

Sure I could add Rest and recovery....but I'm not very good at those yet.


It's amazing how even the basics seem so complicated to some people. You can drill it into their heads as much as you want, they simply cannot but two and two together.