View Full Version : Journey of an Almost Beginner

01-04-2006, 04:50 PM
Well, here we are. When I found this board a few months ago and started reading over people's journals and what not, I never thought for a second I would someday have one of my own. But after seeing how helpful the info is on this site and how supportive everyone is, I figured, hey, why not? Maybe it'll help keep me motivated.

So here's my story.

I'm 21, 5'11" and about 185 pounds (BF: ~17%). I recently finished a big weight loss project. When I graduated high school, I weighed about 250 pounds. I had lifted during high school, so some of that was muscle, but most of it was fat. I got myself down to 170 in about a year and a half and finally settled down to 185 for the last two years or so. I lost that weight primarily though dieting and cardio. I did some informal weight training at first, but nothing serious. I dropped that pretty quickly, mostly because I started college and didn't have the time. Anyway, I'm happy with what I look like now (I don't see myself as too fat or too skinny, although I would still like to lose some fat. But so does everybody, right?). Basically, I lost a lot of muscle in the past few years, which I'd like to reclaim and then some.

I guess this is a good time to mention that before I started lifting, I had already started to train for a 5K in Daytona Beach I'm running later this month. I know, BAD time to start a bulking routine (and you're free to jump down my throat for it), but I had the time, the motivation, and the desire to start lifting. So I did, running or not. I talk about what I'm doing to compensate later on.

Sources of Info
Anyway, armed with the desire to grow, I went to the bookstore to check out the lifting books. Man, there's a lot of them. But I went and flipped through a couple and bought two, which shall remain nameless (Arnold's BB Encyclopedia was not one of them--overboard for what I'm trying to accomplish). But the point was, I had a foundation to build on. After reading both books, I found that in many ways, they contradicted each other. I don't think either book was lying, but rather it just goes to show that needs vary from person to person. What one authors takes as gospel may be different from the next. So basically I picked the book that seemed to make more sense and use the other as a supplement.

Of course the Internet and this web site is an awesome source of information. The only reason I bought books was to have something concrete I could refer to whenever I needed it, wherever I was. Also, they did a good job of laying out the core principles of bodybuilding, which forum threads and articles sometimes assume you already know.

My Goals
As I said, I'm about 5'11" and 185 lbs. I have some muscle, but it hasn't been worked for a while. Anyway, my goals are mostly size related. That is, I'm more interested in improving what I see in the mirror as opposed to how much I can lift. But I'm not looking to become Hulk Hogan. Quite simply, I'm just an average guy that wants to add a little bulk. HOWEVER, after the first 3 weeks of lifting, I've learned quite well that you can't set goals based on size. So many things can contribute to size fluctuations. The measuring tape isn't always a good representation of your progress. Plus, adding size takes time. Lifting more and more weight, not so much. It's simple: set goals based on lifting ability, and the size increases will follow.

I've been cycling between 2300 and 2800 calories every day with a 25/50/25 split of fat/carbs/protein. That may seem a little low, but because I'm not looking to gain significant weight, I err on the low side. Fluidwise, I drink straight out of the water fountain while at the gym and I always have a Gatorade waiting in the car to drink as soon as I'm done. I add Glutamine and Creatine to it when I get to the car. And I have a whey protein shake when I get home (usually about 20 minutes after I'm done lifting).

As I said, I use Glutamine and just started using Creatine yesterday. Glutamine is controversial, I know, some say it works great, some say it's a waste of money. But I like what I've read and decided to use it. Heck, it's cheap enough. And like I said I just started using Creatine yesterday. I was hesitant to use it at first, but the more I read about it, I figured, hey, can't hurt to try it. So I did. We'll see what happens. Glutamine and Creatine are the only supplements I'm using (plus Whey Protein of course).

The First 3 Weeks
So I set off. For the first three weeks of my training, I followed the three week cycle laid out in one of the books that I bought. I pretty much followed it down to the letter. Sure it felt great and I quickly gained back some of my lost muscle tone and some of the strength I had lost. Problem was, I didn't feel challenged. Sure I worked to failure on the exercises and I sure as heck was sore the next day. But walking out of the gym, I felt like I had left a lot on the table. After all, I had only done 1, maybe 2 exercises for each muscle group. So as you'll find out shortly, I made some changes this week.

Integrating the 5K Training
As I said before, I'm training for a 5K on my off days. Sure, this isn't the ideal situation, but it is what it is. After all, to add muscle you have to eat more than you burn off. When you run, especially long distances, you burn off a lot of calories that you have to eat back if you're bulking. And so that's what I've done. I burn off an average of 750 calories per run. So on those days I eat 750 more calories than I do on my lifting days. I feel like a pig sometimes (especially on days I burn 1000+ calories) but hey, I don't want my body to be eating up the muscle I worked hard to put on.

The other aspect to my running is something a lot of you probably won't like. That is, I'm not doing any formal legwork at the gym on my lifting days. Quite simply, I can't be killing my legs when I have to run any significant distance the next day. I do light leg work, but nothing overly taxing. After the 5K is over though, I'm going to start working them harder. My 5K training was already in progress when I started lifting, so I just had to find a way to do both.

This Week: New Routine!
So as I said before, I just didn't feel like I was getting the maximum benefit out of my workouts using the routines the books gave me. So I threw those out and made my own. If they're good for nothing else, those books I bought have a great bank of possible exercises to choose from and good instructions on how to do them. My goal in writing my own routine, of course, was to walk out of the gym having felt like I couldn't lift any more if I wanted to. I wanted to absolutely kill those muscles I was working.

I run 5 days a week and lift 2 days a week, so I work Bis/Tris/Shoulders on Mondays and Chest/Back on Thursdays. Like I said, I'm holding off on the heavy leg work until the 5K is over.

My New Bi/Tri/Shoulders Routine (cycle between 4x6 & 3x10)
1. Shoulder Press
2. Shrugs
3. Upright Row
4. Front Delt Raises
5. Side Delt Raises
6. Bent-Over Lat Raises

7. Concentration Curls
8. Cable Pushdowns
9. Preacher Curl
10. Lying X-Shoulder Triceps Ext
11. Reverse Grip Barbell Curls
12. Reverse FA Curls
13. FA Curls

Post-Workout Notes: This was pretty intense. Besides for a couple order switches (#10 and #8, for example) I was pretty happy with the new routine. I think it may be borderline overtraining though. I'm not sure. Being that I'll do this once a week (of course bis and tris will get worked secondary on check/back day) maybe not. The reason I say that is my strength dropped drastically towards the end of the workout. But this could also be because I only drink water during my workouts. I'll bring a Gatorade along next time and see if it helps. Also, I think I'm going to try to find a replacement for #6. I could tell my form was terrible.

I'm still working on my chest/back workout for Thursday.

Anyway, I think that's a good snapshot of where I stand right now. I'm going to try to update this regularly. I know the goals I laid out here were pretty philosophical more than anything. Once I get some numbers I'll post them. Maybe I'll post some pics if you guys want.

I welcome any comments/suggestions/criticisms on what I've got here. I'm learning fast, but I also know I'm still a novice.

Thanks for reading!!

01-04-2006, 05:11 PM
Excellently organised... looks like you have a nice plan set out.

Congrats on losing so much weight... that's a HUGE leap in the right direction. I bet you can't wait to pack on some muscle now!

My only criticism would be in your arms/shoulders routine.
I'd argue that there are too many exercises in total and personally I view shrugs as a back exercise, rather than a chest exercise. There's also no need for 5 different sets of curls. I'd choose two of those exercises and ditch the others.

When you're done with your run will you be able to lift on more than 2 days per week? If not, then you'd probably be better with an upper/lower split because you'll need to integrate legs in there too so you'll have to put your chest/back day and arms/shoulders day together. In that case you will DEFINATELY have to cut down the number of exercises!

If you have 3 days a week, I'd suggest looking at WBB1.
1. chest/back day
2. leg day
3. arms/shoulders day

Good luck with your run and your program!

04-03-2006, 09:00 PM
:strong: *** UPDATE *** :strong:

OK, well I haven't updated this quite as often as I would have liked, but oh well. Duty calls.

Well, it's been about four months since I've started lifting and I've made HUGE gains. At least from where I'm sitting. I'm suffered from a bit of an inferiority complex over the years, yearning for the respect of my friends and family. So when they are saying things like "Dude, your arms are getting bigger. You working out?" and "K, you're shoulders look wider" when they didn't even know I was lifting, that feels great. No, I may not have bodybuilder physique, but I'm my own hero now. Well, sort of.

In physical terms, I've put about 2 inches on my upper arms, 1 1/2 inches on my forearms, and 4 inches onto my chest. I know some of that is probably due to water retention and/or fat, but not all of it is. And even though strength per say wasn't my primary goal (size was), tacking 100 more pounds onto the shoulder press than what I was doing in December is awesome.

Unfortunately, I've also put a couples inches onto my waist. While I've tried to be disciplined in the kitchen, I've been a little sloppy and have put on some unwanted pounds. Overall, I've gained about 35 pounds, give or take. I know, it's bad, but actually it's not as bad as it may sound.

My routines for the past few months have been pretty much what I've laid out above, although I've changed up the lifting routines based on progress or lack thereof with certain exercises. I'll post an updated one soon.

Now, on April 2nd, I'm starting my cut for the summer. I have to admit I didn't do as much planning as I should have for this. Basically, I didn't really take time to find my maintenance calorie level, so I'm going to start with about 2,900 calories per day based on my present weight, age, and height (225, 21, 5'11") and adjust accordingly. I've got my fitday account all set up, so look out, there's no excuses now!

I'm planning on inverting my lifting/cardio days to this: M/W/F cardio, T/Th weights.

I'm going to give discipline new meaning. I've been pretty sloppy (relatively speaking), especially with my fat intake, for the last couple months, so I'm more determined than ever to fix that. I went food shopping tonight and needless to say I'm ready.

As always, let me know if you have any suggestions for me.

I'll keep you guys posted.


P.S. Great info all over the board. It's been a great help. You guys rock.

04-03-2006, 09:00 PM
Day 2 of my trimming phase is done. Even though technically I started yesterday, it was more of a transition day. Today the real fun started. It went pretty well. I fitday'ed everything, and I have to say this is the cleanest I've eaten in a long time. (Let's hope it stays that way). 2900 cals feels like a lot to be running a cut from (even though I'm still doing cardio and lifting), but then again my daily intake was on the low side when I was bulking up, so it doesn't feel like much of a change.

Weighed 222 on the scale this morning.

I hit the treadmill tonight for about 45 minutes...didn't plan on doing it that long, but there was a good "Deal or No Deal" on tv. Will hit the weights tomorrow night.