I have a very good friend that I work out with a couple days a week that is having a hard time getting started and is not seeing any gains.
He has been working out a couple days a week for the last couple months, and over the last few weeks I have been trying to get him involved in doing more compound lifts, mainly deads and squats.
He is 6'2" and 155lb.
One of the main problems is his flexibility, and he is having a very hard time with squats, the flexability just is not there. Maybe there is not enough info here, but any help on getting him to the point where he can do the excerizes would be great.
I have had him doing no weight squats and squatting the bar, but I can see him getting discouraged. His benchpress is also not seeing any gains and is only 145max.
What type of training have you been doing with him for the past few months? He has to realize that it takes time, hard work and consistency to see gains. He needs to eat a lot...if he says he is eating a lot, he isn't. Tell him to eat more and do the basic compound lifts 3-4 days per week. As often as possible he needs to add weight to the bar or get an extra rep or two.
Tell him 145 isn't bad at all for someone in his position. I have had friends who were even bigger than him come and lift with me and they couldn't even do that at first.
Best Meet Lifts(Raw w/wraps):
@165- 435 SQ 270 BE 560 DL.....1255 total
@181- 470 SQ 285 BE 570 DL.....1320 total
Best Meet Lifts(Multi-ply):
@148- 575 SQ 315 BE 515 DL.....1400 total
@165- 680 SQ 380 BE 540 DL.....1555 total
@181- 700 SQ 375 BE 535 DL.....1605 total
Best Gym Lifts(Raw)
455(w/wraps) SQ 280 BE 545 DL
As far as the squat goes, have him work on his flexability. Also, it's hard for some guys to go deep without some weight on the bar. Finally, use the deadlift as the main exercise until the squat issues are worked out.
Can you give us an idea of what his total workout looks like as far as exercises, sets, reps, and days.
When he started out he basically seemed like he was wandering around the gym at his apartment complex and doing random exercises. Since I have started working out with him I have been pushing him toward a workout like starting strength (I am doing a very similar routine to starting strength and am seeing good gains) he tends to like to start with a set of push ups and crunches to warm up, then hit the bench. He tends to like to super set and do a lot of curls and tri raises with dumbbells... I have been getting him into doing more lower body work like leg extensions and hamstring curls as well as the squats and deadlifts.
When he squats he has a hard time getting below a half squat. I have been having him do a set or 2 with about 95lb on the bar I know I do better with a little more weight on the bar. I am wondering if this is the right thing to do or should I keep having him stay light until he can get a deeper squat going. he is also working on stretching out and doing deeper squats with no weight or just the bar.
basically I think he just needs to stick with the routine I have been pushing him toward and let it start working for him. I'm just looking for advice on how to get him past this initial squat troubles.
I have also been pushing him to eat more. he actually had a sugar crash last night after the workout and I think he realised how important it is to eat properly, and that even though he is doing fewer exercises he is actually getting a better workout.
Edit* the workout I am working to get him on is the starting strength routene. So 3 days a week with a 3x5 routene (not including warmup sets) with bench, squat and deadlifts, also some DB OH press and whatever other exercizes he wants after the main lifts... no cleans yet.
Last edited by mr handy; 10-19-2009 at 12:57 PM.
Well, he may not be a Hradgainer, he obviously hasn't worked out the right way before. Now that he's starting to get a better workout, he might take right off and grow, as long as he's eating. Make sure he realizes that things like leg extensions and leg curls aren't going to make him big and strong and will likely just cut into his progress if he truely does verge on the side of being a Hardgainer.
I'll let more knowledgable guys deal with the squat issue...
One way that many people use to teach the squat to those with poor flexibility is to use a box. Start with a box height that he can get down to without his form breaking down. Then progressively lower the box height as his flexibility improves, maybe an inch a week or something. Once he can squat correctly to a below parallel box, then you can transition to a free squat. Just make sure as you work on the progression of the box SQ, that it still looks exactly like a free SQ. This way you can load him with whatever he can handle at the box height he is using.
Also give him a few simple stretches for the lower body and tell him to do them daily at home.
I agree with Sean on the box squat, set up a bench in the squat rack and just tell him to sit on the bench and stand up with the weight (Keep it simple). Another way to give him better flexibility is to have hims squat with his heels elevated on 5-10 lbs plates.
In terms of his overall program, Starting Strength is fine - but do not force him to do that type of program if it is not something that he enjoys. If he likes training his arms then maybe set up a periodized program where he will have a day dedicated to arms.
Here are the main principals for him to consider:
- Train to failure.
- Eat as much good food as possible.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Try to improve every week in the gym.
- Set goals and keep track of progress.
I would ask your friend 'what are you looking to achieve through training?' and see what he comes back with. If his motivation is to have a six pack then squatting and deadlifting all day is probably not the right program for him, but if he wants to put on 20 lbs then he definitely needs to focus on power movements and drop some of the accessory work.
There are some good articles out there on motivation that you may want to bring to him. There is one from that was posted a few years ago that I will copy and paste below.
Here is the article...
What Seperates Us From Them
"So, what are you doing for a living these days?" Bob asked me. We're sitting on the couch at one of those tedious holiday get-togethers, you know, the ones where you're supposed to be nice to family members you never see except during major holidays and funerals. I think Bob is my wife's brother-in-law's second cousin or something.
"I'm the assistant editor and a writer for Testosterone magazine," I say. Bob looks at me with a blank expression on his face, as if I'd just told him I sell handmade testicle warmers beside the freeway and was looking to open franchises across the nation.
"It's a bodybuilding magazine," I say.
Blank expression. Deer caught in the headlights. Ronnie Coleman doing trigonometry.
"Oh," Bob finally says, "I heard you were, like, one of those bodybuilder guys or something. So, what's that like, you know, working out every day and stuff? I just don't have time to lift weights all day, but I have been meaning to get rid of this beer belly." He takes another sip of beer. "What do you suggest?" Sip.
At first I was a little offended. I wanted to grab him up and say, "You can't tell I'm a bodybuilder?! Look at my ass! Now, if that's not a nice round squat-built piece of sirloin, I don't know what is! You think that comes naturally? I can crack walnuts with this puppy! Wanna see? Huh, punk? Do ya? Do ya?"
Then I realize this just might cause a scene and could cost me several Christmas presents. I was planning on returning any presents I got and using the money to buy a power rack, so I didn't want to jeopardize this gift getting opportunity. I also realized that old Bob probably had a certain preconceived image of a bodybuilder and I just didn't fit that image. I'm not gorilla huge; I weigh about 205 at 5'11" right now. (When I first started lifting I was a pudgy 159, so that's not too shabby.) Also, I wasn't wearing clown pants, a fluorescent string tank top, a hanky on my head and one of those little fanny packs. And isn't that what real bodybuilders are supposed to wear?
Bob continued to sit there drinking his Natural Light, smoking a cigarette and waiting for an answer, oblivious to the fact that he'd come this close to seeing some serious walnut- crunching ass power. I tried to figure out how I could explain to the average guy what the typical T-Man does and why he does it. How could I get him to understand what it is we do, how we feel, how we live? So I took a deep breath and told him something like this:
"Well, Bob, I guess you could use the term bodybuilder if you really need a label for what it is we do. Most of us actually don't stand on stage and compete, though. We lift weights and manipulate our diets so that we'll look good naked. Sure, it's healthy too, and we'll probably live a longer and more productive life than the average guy, but mostly it's about the naked thing. Truthfully, it goes beyond even that.
"Let's be honest here. We do it because of people like you, Bob. We look at you sitting there with your gut hanging over your belt and we watch you grunt and groan just getting out of a chair. Guys like you are our inspiration, Bob. You're better than Anthony Robbins, Bill Phillips, Deepak Chopra, and Zig ****ing Ziglar all wrapped up into one. We love it when guys like you talk about not having time to exercise. Every time we see you munching on a bag of potato chips, you inspire us. You're my shot in the arm, Bob, my living and breathing wake-up call, my own personal success coach.
"You want to know what it is we do? We overcome. We're too busy to train, too, but we overcome. We're too busy to prepare healthy meals and eat them five or six times a day, but we overcome. We can't always afford supplements, our genetics aren't perfect, and we don't always feel like going to the gym. Some of us used to be just like you, Bob, but guess what? We've overcome.
"We like to watch 'normal' people like you tell us about how they can't get in shape. We smile and nod sympathetically like we feel your pain, but actually, we're thinking that you're a pathetic piece of **** that needs to grow a spine and join a gym. You smile sheepishly and say that you just can't stay motivated and just can't stand that feeling of being sore. (For some reason you think that admitting your weaknesses somehow justifies them.) We listen to you ***** and moan. We watch you look for the easy way out. Because of people like you, Bob, we never miss a workout.
"You ask us for advice about diet and training and usually we politely offer some guidance, but deep inside we know you won't take our advice. You know that too. We smile and say, 'Hope that helps. Good luck,' but actually we're thinking, 'Boy, it would suck to be you.' We know that 99% of people won't listen to us. Once they hear that it takes hard work, sacrifice and discipline, they stop listening and tune us out.
"We know they wanted us to say that building a great body is easy, but it just isn't. This did not take five minutes a day on a TorsoTrack. We did not get this way in 12 short weeks using a Bowflex and the Suzanne Somers' 'Get Skinny' diet. A good body does not cost five easy payments of $39.95.
"We like it that while you're eating a candy bar and drinking Mountain Dew, we're sucking down a protein shake. You see, that makes it taste even better to us. While you're asleep we're either getting up early or staying up late, hitting the iron, pushing ourselves, learning, succeeding and failing and rising above the norm with every rep. Can you feel that, Bob? Can you relate? No? Good. This wouldn't be half as fun if you could.
"We do it because we absolutely and totally get off on it. We do it because people like you, Bob, either can't or won't. We do it because what we do in the gym transfers over into the rest of our lives and changes us, physically, mentally, maybe even spiritually. We do it because it beats watching fishing and golf on TV. By the way, do you know what it's like to turn the head of a beautiful woman because of the way you're built? It feels good, Bob. Damned good.
"When we're in the gym, we're in this indescribable euphoria zone. It's a feeling of being on, of being completely alive and aware. If you haven't been there, then it's like trying to describe color to a person who's been blind since birth. Within this haze of pleasure and pain, there's knowledge and power, self-discipline and self-reliance. If you do it long enough, Bob, there's even enlightenment. Sometimes, the answers to questions you didn't even know you had are sitting there on those rubber mats, wrapped up in a neat package of iron plates and bars.
"Want to lose that beer belly, Bob? I have a nutty idea. Put down the ****ing beer. I'll tell you what, Bob. Christmas morning I'm getting up real early and hitting the iron. I want to watch my daughter open her presents and spend the whole day with her, so this is the only time I have to train. The gym will be closed, so I'm going out in my garage to workout. You be at my house at six in the morning, okay? I'll be glad to help you get started on a weight training program. It'll be colder than Hillary Clinton's coochie in there, so dress warm.
"But let me tell you something, Bob. If you don't show up, don't bother asking me again. And don't you ever sit there and let me hear you ***** about your beer belly again. This is your chance, your big opportunity to break out of that rut. If you don't show up, Bob, you've learned a very important lesson about yourself, haven't you? You won't like that lesson.
"You won't like that feeling in the pit of your stomach either or that taste in your mouth. It will taste worse than defeat, Bob. Defeat tastes pretty goddamned nasty, but what you'll be experiencing will be much worse. It will be the knowledge that you're weak, mentally and physically. What's worse is that you'll have accepted that feeling. The feeling will always be with you. In the happiest moments of your life, it'll be there, lying under the surface like a malignant tumor. Ignore it at your own peril, Bob.
"Don't look at me like that either. This just may be the best Christmas present you'll get this year. Next Christmas, Bob, when I see you again, I'm going to be a little bigger, a little stronger, and a little leaner. What will you be? Will you still be making excuses? This is a gift, Bob, from me to you. I'm giving you the chance to look fate in those pretty eyes of hers and say, 'Step off, *****. This is my party and you're not invited.' What do you say, Bob? Monday, Christmas morning, 6am, my house. The ball's in your court."
Okay, so maybe that's not the exact words I used with Bob, but you get the picture. Will Bob show up Monday? I don't know, but I kind of doubt it. In fact, Bob will probably take me off his Christmas card list. He probably thinks I've got "too much Testosterone," like that's a bad thing. I think Bob is just stuck in a rut, and as the saying goes, the only difference between a rut and a grave is depth.
The way out of the rut is to make major changes in your life, most of which won't be too pleasant in the beginning. The opportunity to make those changes seldom comes as bluntly as I put it to Bob. Most of the time, that opportunity knocks very softly. What I did was basically give Bob a verbal slap in the face. You can react two ways to a slap. You can get angry at the person doing the slapping, or you can realize that he was just trying to get you to wake up and focus on what you really want and, more importantly, what it'll take to get it.
If you're a regular T-mag reader, I doubt you need to be called out like Bob. But maybe you've caught yourself slacking a little here lately. Maybe you've missed a few workouts or maybe you started a little too early on the usual holiday feasting, like, say, back in September. Just remember that the time to start working on that summer body is now. The time to get rid of those bad habits that hold you back in the gym is now. You want to look totally different by next Christmas? Start now. This isn't because of the holidays or any corny New Year's resolutions either. The best time is always now.
Christmas day I want you to enjoy being with your family and friends. I want you to open presents, sip a little eggnog and have a good meal. But if your regularily scheduled workout happens to fall on December 25th, what will you be doing at six o'clock that morning?
That's what separates us from guys like Bob.
Credit for this article to T-Mag.com
With the squat flexibility issue, its often a problem for tall, skinny types (I know because I used to be one). I think untrained, taller guys will simply have shorter muscles because they haven't grown at the same rate as the skeleton.
I used to have ridiculously tight hamstrings and even had joint problems when I was around 14/15 because I'd already shot up to 6'3-4. When I finally found an aptitude for sport for the first time at about that age I simply made it a priority to stretch my legs daily and it drastically improved within a very short amount of time.
Make stretching part of the routine - it will improve his overall health after all, so he should consider it a vital component at this stage - and stretch between each set, and for a few minutes afterwards. Get him into a routine of trying to touch his toes every night. This second stretching session before bed will really help, because by then the muscles will have cooled down again and started to revert to their original length.
Its not rocket science so keep it simple. The simplest hamstring stretch is just bending over and trying to touch the floor, relaxing into the stretch and letting gravity pull you down. Nowadays there's a bit of a trend to ignore static stretching and favour dynamic stretches but this is an over-zealous approach and seems to be throwing the baby out with the bath water. There is still value in slow controlled stretching, especially when starting to correct serious problems.
You may be interested to know that I used to get very stiff after training until I took up yoga about 2yrs ago - now I can put my hands flat on the floor without warm-up and just about get my head to my shins when very warm. A big change from my early teens when I could barely stretch past my knees.
When I was teaching my sister to squat (who had similar flexibility issues) we found that by stretching in between each set, she was able to get down a little further each time, which helped her form a mental connection with how the movement was meant to feel. She was then able to aim for that each time. This incremental progress was also quite mentally encouraging for her as it made her realize that she could do it given time and practice. I had her do 8-9 total sets, stretching in between and she got better literally every set. Remember that the squat itself is also a particularly good stretch, especially with a bit of weight on it, and if done as strict as possible to the best of his abilities will definitely help his flexibility as much as any non-weighted stretch.
Squat and squat often. 5x5 three time a week, if cautious with the weight used, will help him learn the movement and force the leg muscles to accommodate it. After a month I'd be very surprised if substantial progress had not been made.
And like Tom says, squatting with heels raised slightly, on a plank of wood, or two small plates could be a big help to begin with. After a few weeks though, when the weight gets heavier, switch to squatting with the heels flat on the floor. Calf stretching could be beneficial too.
I hope this helps, because once he can do it, he's off on the road to being big and strong.
I've got a question for you Tom, or anybody else that wants to chime in on it...
If this guy truely is a Hardgainer, wouldn't training "to failure" on everything be a bad thing? I've always been taught that training to failure was rough on the CNS. As a Hardgainer, wouldn't he want to stay away from that, or at least too much of that?
Thanks everyone for the help. My friend and I have talked quite a bit as to what he wants to achieve in the gym and right now his main goal is to just be stronger, and let being stronger and having more muscle help him look better. We will definitely be trying the box squats... they sound like they will help him a lot.
It sounds like we are on the right track. He enjoys benching and whats to be able to do more. He also says he is really liking dead lifting and is liking the strength he is gaining in his back, as that has always been a weakness for him. He also seems quite determined to get better at squats and with the tips I think he will really start seeing some big improvements. I have been telling him to get the big movements out of the way, then do all the smaller movements that he wants. he really seems to be liking this concept, and will hopefully stick with it. everything for him really seems to be coming together in the last 2 or so weeks so hopefully he will see the routine begin to pay off in the coming weeks and months.
he also sees his brother who is 6'4"ish and a year or so younger who spent a lot of time in the gym and worked very hard, and basically toned and cut and now is ripped but has very little mass... 6'4" and maybe 150. Seeing the work his brother put in without any bulk has him thinking that mass is never going to happen. and ultemately he wants to bulk up and be srong more so then to be totally cut with no real mass.
For someone who is stronger, I think training to failure has to be done more carefully.
I have my friend drinking a protein shake every day so that should supplement his eating habits. I will sit down with him and see what kind of calories he is taking in on a normal day, god knows I need to do the same.
We are both taking the Body/fortress protein and have been doing 1 scoop (26g protein) in about 12oz milk right after each workout, and I try to take one in the mid mourning on off days. does this sound good? I know many take much more protein a day. I like the body fortress protein for taste and the fact that it does not sit in my stomach like a rock, that and it is cheap and easy to come by.
It is much more common for people to undertrain rather than overtrain, and that is one of the biggest mistake of people who consider themselves "hardgainers". Someone who is not naturally big or strong needs to work hard to build strength, and as long as they are eating ample amount of protein/calories they should not have any recovery problems.
Recently I have been training with a couple of guys who would be defined as a typical 'hardgainer' and we have had them doing heavy squats and rack pulls; they have hit PR's just about every week and other lifts are going up as well.
The strength levels that you need to be at to worry about your CNS are generally well beyond a beginner. Once you start lifting a substantial amount more than your actual bodyweight is when you need to start paying more attention to recovery. For someone who is bench pressing right around their bodyweight for a 1RM they should be safe on recovery regardless of how hard they push themselves in the gym.