I'm a longtime lurker (about 4 years, I think), but it was about time that I registered. Very nice site and forum!
In the following paragraphs I'll provide you with a lot of information of my training history. Maybe even too much information, but I'm getting a bit emotional at the moment, so bear with me. I'll try to keep this as easy to read and understand as possible...
As the thread title suggests I'm rather unhappy with my training progress over the last years. I've been sick the last few days and whenever I'm sick I look back and evaluate the training I've done the past few weeks or months.
The thing is that frankly spoken I don't even look like I lift.
So, I think it would be easiest to first give you an assessment of my current shape:
26 years old
76,5 kg / 170 lbs
~79 cm / 31 inch waist
~15% bodyfat (just a guess)
Here are some pics. These are from December, but not much changed since then (well, lost a couple of pounds).
So much for the current state. Now on to my training history:
I started out in October 2007 as a 61 kg / 135 lbs (~10-12% bodyfat) weakling. I was introduced to the gym and spent about a year with some machines and after some weeks already free weight exercises. In that first year I put on about 10 kg / 22 lbs of mass, newbie gains.
Then the plateau came. I continued training for like 2-3 years. Frankly I don't even remember all the shit I did there. But those years almost don't count because I didn't care about nutrition at all and didn't train with any sense. At one point I was convinced that it was enough to go to the gym once a week and complete a full body workout with way too many exercises. And I even half-assed that...
So fast forward to like the end of 2010. I weighed about 74 kg / 165 lbs by then.
I got more serious about my training. After reading a lot I decided to do Starting Strength and do it right. I did it and sticked to it for like 1,5 years.
After that, about at the beginning of 2012, my lifts were:
Squat: 100-110 kg (225-245 lbs) x 3 x 5
Bench: 75 kg (165 lbs) x 3 x 5
Deadlift: 120 kg (265 lbs) x 1 x 5 (super crappy technique)
Those were my lifts. And my body? I GOT BIG LEGS, A FAT ASS AND A BELLY!! It didn't look very good, lol. Yes, I did EAT, like Mark Rippetoe recommends. About 3500-4000 calories a day. Boom. I was about 80 kg by then.
I reset the lifts like 2 or 3 times but never got past those numbers (despite numerous internet claims of people getting to waaayy higher numbers with Starting Strength), so I thought it was time to move on.
From the beginning of 2012 on I toyed around with a few different things like the Texas Method and something else (I don't remember what exactly), but didn't stick with it.
I also slowly dieted down until the end of the year, back down to 72 kg / 160 lbs (about 12% bodyfat or something).
From October 2012 to June 2013 I probably made the best gains since I started training! I followed 5/3/1 and sticked to it for 9 months. I made the expected strength gains and the first noticable size gains in years.
I ate like a maniac (again like 3500-4000 calories) and gained 12 kg / 26 lbs in those 9 months.
My lifts were:
Squat: 120 kg / 265 lbs x 1
Bench: 90 kg / 200 lbs x 1
Deadlift: 125 kg / 275 lbs x 1
Overhead Press: 55 kg / 125 lbs x 1
After 9 months of 5/3/1 (these are the working weights of week 3 of the program):
Squat: 110 kg / 245 lbs x 3
Bench: 90 kg / 200 lbs x 3
Deadlift: 132,5 kg / 295 lbs x 2
Overhead Press: 60 kg / 135 lbs x 3
Well, seeing it written down now, the squat and bench press didn't really get that much better, did they? Overhead press gains seemed pretty good and especially my deadlift improved the best; its technique got WAY better too.
Physique-wise I did put an inch on my arms and my shoulders got noticably rounder. Maybe a little more chest and lats, but not much. But to be honest I don't think that those arm and shoulder gains were due to the 5/3/1 program but because it was the first time in years that I included direct isolation training of those muscle groups, as well as higher rep ranges (as opposed to the constant 5s in Starting Strength). So it probably was just a case of "Doing the Opposite" as Christian Thibaudau would say...
So it was the middle of 2013 and I thought it was time for a change again. What I did the rest of the year was HFT, a high frequency template. The training was basically a freestyle full body workout.
Three exercises: Squat/Deadlift (or variation), a pressing movement and a pulling movement. I was trying to train smart, autoregulating the volume and intensity.
With this training I actually made nice strength improvements in the deadlift and bench press. By the end of the year I was deadlifting 150 kg / 335 lbs x 1 and bench pressing 100 kg / 225 lbs x 1 as well as benching several sets of 3 with 90 kg / 200 lbs.
Despite of those improvements I always felt that my squat and overhead press didn't really improve much with the HFT or even got weaker.
Physique-wise I did a cut for the last few months of 2013 to get rid of my belly again. I lost about 8 kg / 17 lbs and ended up at 76-78 kg / ~170 lbs.
I continued the HFT training in the beginning of 2014, but not much happened then. I also kinda got bored and doubted the effectiveness of it in terms of muscle gains and thought it was time to return to 5/3/1 which at least gave me some kind of gains for a while.
So from March 2014 on I did another 4 cycles of 5/3/1. This time it somehow didn't feel as good as the first time I did it. In June my lifts were:
Squat: 125 kg / 275 lbs x 1
Bench: 95 kg / 210 lbs x 4
Deadlift: 145 kg / 325 lbs x 3
Overhead Press: 65 kg / 145 lbs x 2
In those 4 months I tried to gain mass again, but tried not to overeat as much. I ended up gaining another 2-2,5 kg / 4-6 lbs.
After that, in the last two months, I decided to cut again and once again took up the HFT routine.
About my nutrition:
In general I didn't mention nutrition much, but I always tried to follow the general advice of a calorie surplus when trying to gain mass, as well es getting enough protein (which for me was ~1 g per pound of bodyweight, give or take, most of the time).
I tried to eat as clean as possible. I ate meat, rice/pasta, nuts, milk... I am not a good eater, so I always tend to eat calorie dense foods. It's hard for me to get in all the calories, especially when I was eating 4000 calories. So I did indeed eat fast food. But it's getting less and less as the years go by. I could always eat more fruit and veggies, I'm working on that.
Well, and here I am. I think I'm so far away from my muscular potential, it's not even funny. After being sick for a few days now I'm really disheartened and don't really know how I should continue to train. I have trained for 7 years now (well 4 â??realâ?? years, but still), but don't have the muscle nor strength to show for it. I love training, but I'm done wasting my time and I want results!
I've come to you because I kinda have paralysis by analysis and don't know what to do or believe anymore. I tried to be as detailed and informative as possible, so maybe someone noticed some details or patterns and can give me valuable advice. I could go on forever and keep talking about theories and what I myself think might go/have gone wrong, but for now I'll leave it at that.
If you need any more information (there's plenty, I guess), feel free to ask.
A big THANKS to everyone who read the whole piece...