T Nation

What I Learned in my First 2.5 Years of Training

Hey everyone, just had the urge to rant about some of the important lessons that I’ve learned on my own and some of the important things that I’ve learned from guys like X and Stu. It would be great to have everyone add some of the important things that they’ve learned as well.

  • What you do in the gym is much less important than how you do it.

  • Just because you are training to get stronger, doesn’t necessarily mean you are training to get bigger. That’s not to say that you won’t get bigger; in order to grow you really have to feel the muscle go to the point of being as fatigued as physically possible, not just the point of psychological failure.

  • With that being said… there is more than one way to skin a cat. So if what you’re doing is truly working for you then stick with it, just don’t close your ears to those who know more than you.

  • Your body is a machine, and it will tell you when you need to take it easy and when you can train to the point where you worried you may faint. Not every training session will be excellent, but I feel like if I have a few sub-par training sessions in a row that my body is telling me to take a few days to really get my sleep in check and make sure I’m getting enough calories in.

  • You don’t have to think of your training week as a 7 day work week, your training schedule needs to be based on what allows you to train as frequently and as intensely as possible, while being fully recovered. Currently I’m experimenting with a 6-way split, 3 days on 1 day off. Previously doing a 6-way split with only Sunday off, I felt like I was dragging in the gym come Thursday and Friday, so I added an extra day off, but turning training week into and 8 day week.

  • Don’t try to do too much at one time; trying to get bigger, stronger, leaner and faster all at once will leave you spinning your wheels. In addition, the plan of trying to getting “hot abs” one month, going on an all out fast food diet in attempt to put on 30 pounds of muscle the next month and repeating for a year will most likely leave you exactly where you were a year ago.

  • Onto food… you’ve gotta eat to grow. You need adequate protein AND calories to grow; the 3 pounds of chicken breast and broccoli diet will not put on muscle mass. The occasional cheese burger never hurt anyone when trying to put on size, hell even the more than occasional burger is fine in my eyes.

  • If you’re trying to put on size, unless you’re Phil Heath, you will have to forget about you’re six-pack for a while. That does not mean you have to turn into a fat tub of lard, if you do you are more than likely training with no intensity and/or eating 6 pizzas a day.

  • If you have too much fat, putting on any more muscle will become very difficult because your fat will gobble up the calories. So a month or two of getting your diet in check trying to lose some fat is suggested, a la X’s concept of damage control.

That’s it for now, just felt like ranting. If you want to add some of your own ideas or if you want to flame me, go ahead.


What sort of progress have you had? I’m curious if “what you learned” has truly helped.

I’m too lazy to really contribute. I mostly agree with what you said, except for some relatively minor details.

Yeah, I’m at about the 3 or so year mark myself… I always gain weight too fast and cut too quick gaining and losing and regaining strength each time telling myself the next will be different. I’ve made progress but not as much as if I had done things a little more slower and more methodically…

So my 2 cents would be don’t try to gain too much or lose too much too fast. Right now I’m losing 1-2 lbs a week and have been doing so for since Feb, and I’ve lost like 40lbs total since Dec… currently at 183. Was up to like 220. Next “gaining” phase I’ll probably want to gain a maximum of a pound a week, and would be happier with a pound every 2 weeks, as I feel like any more than that would more than likely fat.

So after repeating that up to 220 back down to 180 thing probably 2-3 times in the last 2-3 years, I’d be happy not to make that mistake again, this time by aiming for like a 10-15lbs gain over a year, and see if it sticks :wink:

And for referance I feel I’m around 10% bf, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a little lower in reality.


Yeah I definitely feel like I’ve grown during my time so far in the iron game, both physically and mentally. In about the past year and a half, since I’ve finally decided to stick with a goal, I’ve went from low 160’s to hovering around high 190’s to low 200’s. During this time I did have a few month leaning out period. My short size has stayed the same, except I no longer need a belt due to squat ass. When I started I was wearing small t’s and now my shoulders sometimes feel restricted in larges.

My lifts for singles in the big three are:

  • 410 lb deadlift
  • 315 lb squat
  • 235 lb bench

That was back when I was about fifteen pounds lighter, but stopped pulling for singles due to the fact that the risk to reward was much higher. During the time I was pulling primarily for singles, I felt like my growth was stagnant but felt like I was really hurting in every place that wasn’t a muscle, primarily lower back.

So now that you are 15 pounds heavier…what are your numbers on the big three?

I haven’t went for heavy singles since… didn’t feel like I was growing much from doing them.

So, you put on 30 to 40 pounds in 1 and a half years, including a leaning out period and you don’t think singles were helping you to grow?

I don’t know about you but I think I might try doing some singles for a while.

Sorry I didn’t clarify it more, I was attempting singles for a few months before and right after Christmas. I had a goal to deadlift 400 by Christmas because that was approximately my 2 year mark.

During this time I really had to cut down my volume and intensity on other lifts because pulling for heavy singles just left me drained, so during the time I was actually going for singles I did very little growing. After dropping the singles I was able to increase volume for deadlifts and intensity on other lifts, adding about 15 pounds in the 5 months since.