In July, I wrote an article for Wannabebig called “Get Real.” The article was a discussion of my views on the flaws of the bodybuilding media (magazines and Internet) and how those perceptions may act as a disservice to those at the grassroots level who are trying to find their way in lifting.
My contention was that the average person gets bombarded with the exploits of the elite at such a level that “spectacular becomes commonplace”. In such a world, the accomplishments of the average dedicated gym-goer just don’t seem to stack up. This can be a pretty disconcerting, sometimes debilitating, and, at the very least, demotivating thing for many of us.
To be honest, it was something of a rant…and I applaud Daniel and Chris for allowing me to share a view that not enough people have had an opportunity to see elsewhere.
In the discussion thread of the article, chevelle2291 made the recommendation that we follow up with some real world examples of people from our own community who have made impressive yet realistic accomplishments in the gym.
These are real world gym warriors who might serve as better role models for us than the Kai Greenes, Chuck Vogelpohls, and Ronnie Colemans of the world. Not that each of those men have not overcome obstacles and displayed some admirable traits, but they have genetic advantages that put them out of the league of 99.85% of us.
We did not have to look far or hard to find forum members Behemoth, F=MA, and Invain — all have very impressive, natural physiques, and we can learn things from each of them that may help us in our training. Let’s dig into their melons a bit and see what positive examples we can draw…
f=ma’s FORMULA FOR SUCCESS
Twenty-eight year old Tim M. is well known as f=ma to regulars of the WBB forums. No, he is not a fan of Sir Isaac Newton or necessarily even Fig Newtons, but rather he is an appreciator of the end result of Newton’s Second Law of Motion. By increasing his lean mass and ability to accelerate, Tim intends to be a force acting upon his own life. I like it, and consider the screen-name to be the ultimate proactive statement for a lifter (but maybe I’m over-thinking things).
With seven years of casual lifting under his belt, he locked things down and got serious about his lifting only a year and a half ago. Tim does not compete in bodybuilding or powerlifting. Like most of us, he just wants to improve for his own reasons. As Tim says, “My top accomplishment is my physique from this summer. I had never dieted so successfully before.”
The first lesson from Tim is probably the one needed by most lifters: get started, get serious, and just make it happen. Thousands of lifters (and I have been guilty of this) seem to be in eternal prep, never committing to the ultimate program they want to be on. Nike’s famous logo (you know it) has endured because it resonates with so many people and is integral to any level of success.
His diet involved alternating bulking and cutting phases, going from 185 pounds to 230 and then down to a lean 172. “I didn’t count calories but I counted quantities,” Tim says. “I would have four ounces of rice and eight ounces of chicken twice a day with twelve ounces or so of lean meat for dinner with veggies. Once I started to taper off, the need for refinement emerged. At that point, I became scientifically precise, with low dietary fat of around 35 grams, carbs at about 220 grams, and protein at about 240 grams.”
In his drop from 230 pounds down to 172, his waist measurement plummeted from around 37 inches to a svelte 31 inches. He estimates that his bodyfat went from roughly eighteen percent to around seven percent at the conclusion of the diet. Best of all, Tim felt considerably stronger and leaner at 172 than at his initial 185 bodyweight, a clear sign of overall diet success!
Tim (f=ma) – in his own words: ‘A fat 230lbs’
Tim (f=ma) sporting an impressive, lean physique
Tim is an accountant who works a daunting schedule of ten- and eleven-hour workdays. “To get around this, I am up by 4:15AM on lifting days to prep my pre-workout food,” he says. “I’m in the gym no later than 5:15. I usually wrap it up by 7:00 at the absolute latest. I come home, prep my food for the day, and go grind out another day at work.”
His recent training has involved alternating two different training styles. “I’ve most recently bulked on Madcow 5×5 and dieted using 5/3/1,” Tim says, feeling 5/3/1 to be a very effective and muscle-sparing program. “I did Madcow 5×5 for about sixteen weeks and 5/3/1 for the subsequent sixteen weeks while dieting.”
Currently, on Madcow 5×5, Tim squats three times a week, benches twice, and deadlifts and shoulder presses once, “with some miscellaneous training work here and there.” For those not familiar with the program, it involves a focus on a limited number of basic exercises (listed above) for moderate sets and reps. “I train around strength gains since they are easy to measure.”
Tim is a scientist when it comes to nutrition and has fine-tuned things to his specific needs: “I use extreme levels of structure in food prep and consumption.” The basics though, involve moderate protein, high carbs, and low fat.
Tim’s final comments: “Within the past year, I’ve learned that your planned accomplishments will be met to the extent that the diet matches the goals. If you have a conflict of interests, expect to be disappointed. As far as attitude, staying positive isn’t always possible… but persevere as best as possible.”
F=ma regularly maintains a training journal on the Wannabebig Forums, you can check it out here – my journal pt. 2
Tim (f=ma) in the smallest locker room known to man
NOT STRUGGLING Invain
Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. Don’t let yourself indulge in vain wishes.” What does this have to do with our next subject? Well, it includes the phrase “in vain” which mirrors his WBB screen-name, but even more so, it speaks to the purpose-driven nature of Nick (Invain) Sattelberg’s lifting life. He is not afraid to wade into the deep water and set a course towards his gym objectives.
That course has not been without corrections, however. At only twenty-two years old, Nick has been training steadily for nearly five years. “My focus was on powerlifting and just getting bigger in general for the first three or four years,” Nick says. “I planned on competing and trained with the powerlifting team at the University of Michigan (where he is a biochem major), but I never did make it to a real PL meet. This past year, my focus has been on bodybuilding, although I still train heavy and still plan on competing in powerlifting.” His best lifts include a 370 bench press, 550 deadlift, and 470 squat (all raw), so his future lifting platform success has a great head start.
Nick trains four to five days a week, focusing on one major bodypart each day and using a power bodybuilding style. “I go very heavy with low reps on my core movements (dead, bench, squat) and fill in some volume with accessory work,” he says. “I’ve been training relatively the same way for the past three years.”
For example, he may do:
- Monday: Back and biceps
- Tuesday: Chest and triceps
- Thursday: Legs
- Friday: Shoulders
While he differs from the pure powerlifters in that his split is based on bodyparts rather than functional movements, Nick does not feel driven to exercise excessive variety.“I don’t do a million different lifts each session like you see some guys doing. I always start with my heaviest core lift first — bench, deadlift/rack pull, squat, military/push press.”
“I do some form of bench every week, but I only deadlift once every couple weeks because my lower back always takes forever to recover. I usually rotate between rack pulls and deadlifts from various heights. On leg days, I almost always squat, with a heavy, Olympic-style narrow stance. Depending on how I’m feeling, I may hit my hams after I squat. If not, I hit them on my back day. Like I said, I like to keep it simple. Some days I literally only do a couple of lifts, such as squats and calf raises on leg day. The key for me is getting in my heavy lifts before anything else.”
When it comes to nutrition, Nick follows a carb-cycling protocol, which consists of a targeted ketogenic diet with one big refeed a week. “Any days I’m not lifting, I eat almost zero grams of carbs,” he says. “On days that I lift, I try to eat one meal with carbs maybe an hour before I lift.”
“I was going five to six days straight with no carbs followed by a refeed on the weekends, but I’ve found the leaner I get, the faster I feel depleted, and a hundred or so grams of carbs before my workouts now makes a difference.” Nick plans his refeeds for one of the weekend days, with a goal of swallowing down maximal carbs, but he makes sure to limit fat intake at this time.
Nick (Invain) showing what is possible if you work hard and dedicate yourself
Nick Sattelberg’s parting advice to other lifters: “The most important thing to remember is that in this sport, it literally is the tortoise that always wins. It takes years to build a good physique; you can’t expect to win competitions after only lifting weights for six months. Bodybuilding is a lifestyle and it demands consistency, but it should also be fun. Don’t compare yourself to others, whether it is your physique or certain lifts. If you are hardworking and dedicated, you will make progress.” Follow his advice and you will not struggle in vain in your pursuit of bodybuilding success.
Invain regularly maintains a training journal on the Wannabebig Forums, you can check it out here - Invain wants to be heyoooge….
Nick (Invain) has some cobra like lats!
BUILDING THE Behemoth
In the Jewish Book of Enoch, the Behemoth is the primordial monster of the land, while the Leviathan rules the seas, and the lesser-known Ziz reigns in the skies. In the WBB forums, Rory Parker is known as Behemoth because he rules the gym.
But Rory was not born a behemoth. “I got into lifting at around age twelve, but it was far from pretty,” he recalls. “We had an old Weider weight bench in our garage, and I would sometimes bench press every day of the week, not knowing any better.”
When he was around fifteen, he joined the WBB forums and started educating himself. “I began to realize how badly I had been spinning my wheels. I started training my legs, back, and other neglected areas very seriously at this time. I also learned about bulking and cutting, and while I wasn’t fat (5’8” and maybe 150 pounds at around 14-15% bodyfat), I chose to cut first. To this day, that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. A lot of lifters get gung-ho to bulk up, not realizing the difficultly of losing the fat that comes with it if you’re not blessed with a great genetics.” Realizing that he is a natural endomorph, this was a crucial determinant for Rory.
Rory stands out due to his determination and work ethic. “My life is bodybuilding,” he says, “Ninety percent of my thoughts relate to the subject.” He puts in eight hours or more a day of serious labor working for his uncle’s residential construction company, so if you think you are tired from you office job, then you just don’t want it as bad as Rory. “I was so worn out after work that getting to the gym, much less getting in a good workout, was very difficult. Over time, I adapted to it and I think that this has been, in part, responsible for my ability to increase my workload over the years, as well as teaching me what hard work really is.”
“You’re too tired to give it your all on leg day, huh?” Rory asks. “Try carrying eighty-pound bundles of shingles up a forty-foot ladder in the dead of summer for eight hours and then hitting the gym for seventeen sets of squats, or maybe some walking lunges with dumbbells equaling your bodyweight for forty to fifty steps. Do that a couple of times and you’ll realize just how far the body can be pushed.” In his quest to become behemoth, Rory believes that flirting with and entering into the overtraining zone is necessary in order to increase work capacity — an assertion I strongly agree with and an area which others neglect to understand. He goes on to say, “Learning how to tap into your superhuman mindset is paramount to acquiring the superhuman physique nature may not have necessarily intended you to have.”
A fierce individual, Rory prefers to design his own training program on the fly. “I go into the gym with an outline of a workout and that’s it. If I have more energy than last week because I had a light day at work, you had better damn well believe I’m going to do some extra sets. However, despite the free spirit in the gym, my lifting is still focused on most of the same aspects that make any lifting quality lifting program successful.” Strength progression (particularly in the major movements) is the most important indicator of progress to him, even though his primary goal is building mass. “Don’t get me wrong,” he adds. “I use a lot of isolation volume, but just like Invain, I always train my big core movements (squat, presses, rows etc) first and strive to progress on them regardless of what my isolation lifts are doing.”
Rory (Behemoth) has a physique many would envy
His training split (which has been recently adjusted) consists of:
- Monday – off
- Tuesday – back
- Wednesday – chest and abs
- Thursday – off
- Friday – legs
- Saturday – calves and biceps
- Sunday – shoulders and triceps
“I had been working quads and hamstrings separately with two pretty demanding leg days a week, but during my last cutting season, this really wore on my knees and tendons,” he says. “Right now, the focus is getting them 100% healthy and then bringing up my posterior chain to exactly where I want it to be, which may very well mean separating the quads and hamstring workouts again.”
As he constantly learns from his body and tweaks his program as necessary, Rory is preparing to enter an off-season phase. In his past, he has immersed himself in serious bulking, leaving him with more bodyfat than necessary. “I’m making big efforts to make my transition into my offseason less dramatic than it has been in previous years.”
He recently completed a seventeen-week carb rotation-based cutting diet. In this diet, his macronutrients were as low as 240g pro/125g carb/40g fat and as high as 220g pro/600g carb/40g fat on a refeed. “That diet was more intense than it needed to be,” he realizes upon reflection. “I should have added more food for a brief period there before trying to make my final push to sub-6%. Ultimately, I never did acquire that condition, and additionally, I think I even caused myself some hormonal stress that’s just now starting to level out.” This is not uncommon with those with a naturally extremist mindset, but Rory learns from his body and makes adjustments.
Behemoth’s closing advice? “Be smart, work HARD, and be patient! That’s the sum of the whole process.” He emphasizes the need to constantly learn and work hard! “If you think you’re working hard, you’re probably not. If you have the slightest doubt that you may be able to work harder, then you are probably spinning your wheels. Fight that rep for ten straight seconds if you have to, but don’t be stupid. Don’t go to the gym and try to use more weight than you can, or do anything to compromise your form or safety, but fire every rep out with all the aggression you have. Then on the next set, do it harder. This is hard work.”
Behemoth regularly maintains a training journal on the Wannabebig Forums, you can check it out here - The balanced progression of an offseason bodybuilder.
Rory (Behemoth) showing off the wheels!
There you go…three successful lifters that live full lives in which lifting is a very important part but not the ONLY thing they have going on. Unlike the sleep-until-noon “professional” meatheads we see in the magazines, chasing their checks from supplement sponsors and living scavenger lifestyles, each one of these men are articulate, driven athletes, working at jobs and/or going to school, making their meals, getting to the gym, and balancing relationships.
What they have achieved is realistic for many of us and should be admired by all of us. Best of all, they are a part of our community and have helped many other WBB forum members achieve similar successes. They are as real as it gets.
Written by Steve Colescott
Discuss, comment or ask a question
If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums - Being Real discussion thread.
About Steve Colescott
Known as the Guerrilla Journalist, Steve Colescott has written over a hundred published articles for many major bodybuilding publications, including Peak Training Journal, the innovative and well-respected magazine in which he served as Publishing Editor.
He is currently a staff writer for WannaBeBig.com and has been a consultant to a number of top sports nutrition companies.
With his company, Colescott Metabolic Solutions, he has transformed the physiques of scores of average businesspeople, weekend athletes and housewives beyond their wildest expectations. Steve lives in Akron, Ohio and trains at the ultra-hardcore Body Builders Gym, an Ohio musclehead landmark.