Well, I’ve finally managed to get reliable access to the internet outside of work hours. For all those concerned, Fort Worth is beautiful and I’m really enjoying it here. All in all its not so great a change from Florida, although it is colder here, at least for now. Now, on to the subject of today’s post:
I tend to get on “kicks” in terms of fitness. I get obsessed with a particular goal or area of fitness and stick with it for several months to a year and then shift my focus. As of early December of last year I felt like it was time to take a break from “functional” (buzzword alert!) training and give bodybuilding-type workouts another shot. I’ve never had a ton of success at gaining mass the bodybuilder way, but then again I have never been so lean since starting the Primal diet, so maybe now would be different? In any event, I definitely needed a change of pace, mentally. The goal was to gain 5 lbs of mass by the end of January, without sacrificing explosiveness, speed, wellness, etc. Oh, and my diet had to remain Primal/Paleo. No eating tons of carbs to reach my caloric goals.
I started off the experiment at a weight of 132 lbs, in full work clothes (button down shirt, khakis, loafers, etc.). Today, I weighed in at 140 lbs in gym shorts, a tanktop, and Asics. So in roughly two months I’ve gained 8+ lbs, while staying roughly just as lean. I say roughly because I subscribe to the “mirror method.” Most methods of analyzing bodyfat percentages vary so wildly that its kind of useless to use as a measuring tool. Here’s the breakdown of what I did, when, and why.
My first month of the experiment, I went to a 3-day split :
Day 1 – Chest and Back
Day 2 – Deads and Arms
Day 3 – Squats and Presses
I did roughly two exercises per bodypart. The focus of the workout was on the “big” movements, Deadlift, Squat, and Barbell Press (overhead). The split may seem a little strange, but heavy deads would take so much out of me that I had no energy for much else. Arms aren’t too taxing so they fit well in that day. Chest and back is a good push/pull pairing, and squats and barbell presses seemed to go well together too since my arms were fresh after squatting. I performed 5-7 sets of 5-3 reps on the big movements with heavy weights. I wanted to gain mass but I also had strength goals I wanted to meet on these three lifts. For all other movements (and ALL of Day 1) I did a Vince Gironda style 6 sets of 6 rep scheme with 30 seconds of rest between sets. I also did several Vince Gironda-style exercises such as the Gironda Dip, Gironda Neck Press, Hack squat, Sternum Pullup, etc.
Diet wise I stayed Primal and just concentrated on trying to eat at least one or two more meals a day than I usually would. No science behind it, just gut feeling. Right away I gained 3 lbs, reaching 135 lbs, and also gained a lot of strength in those three big lifts. However, soon my progress on lifts stalled and my weight stayed at 135 for several weeks, sometimes fluctuating to 134. I realized it was time for a change…
For most of my training history I’ve stuck with low reps and heavy weight, and I’ve never spent much time in the 12-15 rep range in my life. I figured the strangeness of it (to my body at least) might result in some gains. I worried about a lack of strength gains, but in reality, one measures progress by weight added to the bar. If one week a person performs 15 reps of backsquat with 195 lbs, and then the next week they can do 15 reps at 205 lbs, he/she is stronger, isn’t he/she?
I went to a four day split on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday:
Day 1 – Chest + Shoulders
Day 2 – Back
Day 3 – Legs
Day 4 – Arms
Three exercises per muscle, the first two is usually some sort of compound movement pyramiding up in weight with rep ranges of 12-15, 10-12, and finally 8-10. In other words I should reach positive failure in 12 to 15 reps the first set, raise the weight and reach failure in 10-12, and then raise the weight one final time reaching failure in 8-10 reps. When I can do 15, 12, and 10 reps with the weights I’m using, I increase everything by 5-10 lbs. The third exercise per bodypart is usually a slow, controlled isolation movement in the 8-15 rep range, straight sets with a single weight. Please leave a comment if you’d like the EXACT workout I followed, I’d be happy to share it, but I won’t clutter up this post with it otherwise.
Diet-wise, I decided to track exactly what I was putting in my mouth just to understand exactly why I wasn’t gaining anymore weight. I used LiveStrong.com’s MyPlate to track my diet (this is a fantastic tool with an exhaustive database of foods…almost anything you could eat will be found here). I discovered that even when I thought I was eating tons of food, I was really only getting about 1600 calories. If 1600 or so calories kept me at my current weight of 135, then clearly this was my “maintenance” weight, so I decided (somewhat arbitrarily) to shoot for 2,000. This seemed to do the trick. Number one, I find eating this much food odd. I have to plan ahead in order to eat enough meals to reach it, especially staying Primal. You can run through tons of calories if you eat bread and sugars, but sticking with meat, veggies, nuts, and some fruit makes it difficult. But since making the switch to higher volume training and eating 2,000+ calories per day, my mass has increased quit a bit. Five of the eight pounds I’ve gained have come while eating this much and training in the high volume fashion, and I’m actually only on Week 3 of this phase. Five pounds in three weeks seems too good to be true, and I can’t honestly say for certain that every pound gained has been a lean pound, but I still look roughly as lean.
I would call what I”m on a “Sustainable Bulk.” I’m sticking with the Primal diet, I’m healthy and happy, and at any moment I could take my shirt off and head to the pool and not feel ashamed. In other words, I’m not cramming myself full of food and getting fat in an attempt to put on slabs of muscle all at once with the plan of dieting down later. I’m gaining mass and I’m in the kind of shape I could live with. Theoretically I could keep this up indefinitely, with adjustments made along the way to keep on progressing, of course.
Well, I blasted past my goal of five lbs and I’m nowhere near bored with my training, so I think I’ll keep it up. I’m pushing my goal out to 145-150 lbs. Who knows, I may even make a run at a bodybuilding competition! There is a 143 lbs class I would probably fit into.
Where’s the proof?
Well I’m still using my work computer for updating my blog until my computer comes out of storage and I get internet/cable hooked up. I don’t really want to put shirtless pics of myself on my work computer for OBVIOUS reasons, so the proof will have to wait. Stay tuned though, I’ll post before and after pictures soon enough, I think differences can be seen.