Sometimes, you embark on something grand and highly visible just before you realize that you’ve already had a sea change you weren’t willing to admit.
Such is the case with my “No Bull Mass Gain Experiment.” I was ready to move on, I “knew” I was ready to move on, and yet I hadn’t admitted I was ready to move on.
I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve gotten deeply into rock climbing, specifically bouldering. This is a sport that relies on a high power to weight ratio, with runner up emphasis on flexibility and anaerobic endurance (depending on the boulder you’re climbing). Strength is important…mass less so. One can see how the outright mass gain would not align with this goal.
However, it’s important to step back and consider what has been learned and, more importantly, recognize how far I’ve come.First of all, I have no doubt the program would keep chub gain to a minimum while adding lean tissue as fast as possible. There were a couple of things I didn’t like about it:
- Obsessive eating: Kelly notes that after overeating for a period of time you get tired of food and vice-versa for dieting. After not really worrying about these things for the months preceding my Panama trip (and especially during my Panama trip) it was a massive pain in the ass to deliberately count calories and cut calories. After about 6 weeks, I was exhausted from this.
- Obsessive Training: I hate training for more than 45 minutes if I can help it. Most of my training is HIT-ish with some sort of metcon component to finish the workout and (as noted) an emphasis on hand strength. This might be 3 days a week or 2, depending on how I feel. Kelly’s program called for such specific training that it became tedious by week 2. I prefer focusing on a few large exercises while having additions to that somewhat chaotic. This way I focus on the big lifts and worry little about if I did enough volume for my triceps (more on this later.)
- Aligning training with goals: what I like to do requires a high power to weight ratio. Adding mass at the expense of everything else isn’t conducive to this. I’m not against adding mass but I’d be pleased with 10lbs over the next 3 years so that my body could adapt to the weight while bouldering. I wouldn’t suddenly be too heavy in the grand scheme of things.
Understand that so much of this was difficult to admit, specifically that I no longer wanted to be big for big sake Another thing that opened my eyes was Kelly noting that a person could be more muscular at a higher bodyfat percentage (I noted this in my Sumo wrestlers and Anorexics blog post), which is further expressed by Casey Butt’s “Your Muscular Potential” e-book (which I HIGHLY recommend). Mr. Butt’s exhaustive text comes up with calculations that are hugely accurate to determine just how large you can be given your genetic lot. He even manages to quantify “hardgainer,” a term that is thrown around like mad and makes people reduce their training volume because they don’t get stronger every workout. I know because I did this before I knew more about training. Structurally, however, it’s about observing muscle belly length throughout the body. For instance, when flexing my arms at 90*, I can fit 3 fingers from the opposite hand between where the bicep muscle belly ends and the crook of my elbow begin. This is his definition of “hardgainer.” According to Casey’s Formula, here are my maximum “hardgainer” potentials at 10% body fat would be:
- Weight: 199.8″
- Lean Body Mass: 178.9″
- Shoulder-width: 19.7″
- Forearms: 12.5″
- Thighs: 24.1″
- Calves: 15.9″
Understand that this has wiggle room but in practice it turns out to be very accurate. At 6’3″ I’d not win any building competitions but I’d be muscular, strong, and extremely athletically capable in just about any arena.
How far we’ve come
Anytime my fiance writes a life plan, she notes all that she’s done up to this moment as a means of perspective and confidence. It’s easy to get fixated on what you haven’t done and not give yourself credit for what you have done. So take this notice that, for the remainder of the post, there will be some incoherent ranting. Also note that this will give a brief summery of my training history, should you care about such a thing.
In the beginning: Age 15 – 18
Check out those sweet, sweet skinny-fat genes and those huge guns. It’s like play-doh got together with popsicle sticks. However, I could jump really high so that must count for something. Weight during this time was in the 158-165lb range. Also note the arm length…because I look at it and gasp at just how long they are. Also note that I went to school with Chuck Norris.
The Bulk Years: 18 – 25
So understanding that I was rather ectomorphic, I embarked on the “see food” diet, which included In-n-Out 4×4′s on a regular basis in addition to liquid weight gainer. I put on 16lbs during the first 4 months and continued for another year, which resulted in my weight 207lbs with a 37″ waist. Putting myself on a Zone-type diet, I lost 25lbs and 5″ from my waist in 12 weeks, as seen in photo 2. Hindsight is wonderful, as I suspect I lost a good amount of muscle and could have lost even more fat knowing what I know now. Later, I would get the bulking thing more correct, as seen in photo 3. I was 219lbs, 16+” arms, could deadlift 408 x 5 straight bar and 426 x 5 with the trap bar. Waist was only 35″ so comparatively better result. Note what I said earlier about size at a given composition, you can carry more muscle at a higher body fat percentage. In that last photo I hit every number nearly on the head for Mr. Butt’s hardgainer estimates for my structure at 18% bodyfat. Staggering the accuracy.
The Leaner Look: Current
As I type this I look like the above. Anywhere from 172 to 175 (depending on the scale) and 6 to 9% bodyfat (depending on the measure…I round up to 10%). I’m much stronger with regards to relative strength, as 408 x 5 isn’t even a double bodyweight deadlift at 219lbs, but 360 x 5 (my last peak deadlift) is more than double. I’m within 5% of the hardgainer maxes and look to get there in the next 3 years while becoming a much better boulderer(ererererer).
Basic diet is 14 to 18 hours of fasting daily, strength training 2 to 3 days per week, mostly paleo eating. I eat more when I’m hungry, less when I’m not, trying to add more calories on training days…keep it pretty simple. I do like to throw a post-winter 4 to 6 week leaning phase into the mix, which is about all I can tolerate of intense counting.
So are you chasing a goal that no longer aligns with your current state of mind? Write it down and see if you can’t get everything you’re doing to work toward a goal, rather than working against yourself. That’s what I accomplished with this post.