I recently read a great forum post by a lifter on bodybuilding.com. Check it out here. It’s called the 80/20 Rule for Lifting and calls your attention to reality: 80% of what you do doesn’t matter.
Supplements, routines, macro nutrient minutiae: all that is distraction to a degree. You should focus on the 20% that matters and I’m calling that 20% “The 3 C’s: Challenging, Consistent, Clean.”
The 3 C’s are what you must do to achieve any growth or body change result:
Lift weights that challenge your muscles to failure and keep increasing weight as you gain strength.
Keep at it. This is how results happen. It takes time, but if you keep at it you will see your body change.
What you eat matters. Lean protein, complex carbs, natural fats. Don’t eat crap or else you will never get where you want to be. Your body is made in the kitchen – no joke on this one.
Follow the 3 C’s above, see results, repeat.
I’m changing my outlook on this bulking period and sticking with it until March: Screw the details.
Lift heavy, lift often, eat enough, rest enough. Oh, and have fun.
What does your bulk look like?
Off we go!
This morning I took my initial set of measurements and stepped on the scale for the first time in a long while.
During the warmer months, I’m usually about 5 pounds leaner with my legs being tighter and more defined; however, after the holidays, being sick for 2 weeks without working out, and being on creatine and increasing carbs for the past week, I’m a little soft in the lower body and abs.
Regardless, this is the start – not the finish – and I’m looking to add size, so the weight gain and temporary discomfort are all part of the game. I had to look back on my post here to remind myself that this whole process has a beginning and an end.
Here are the results from today (all measurements are relaxed):
When I look back at my 2012 numbers, I had finished my bulk with close to the same measurements as above but with 10 more pounds.
I’m hoping to add about 1″ back to my shoulders and arms during this bulk and keep my hip and thigh measurements relatively similar to where they are now, although gaining some size in those areas is inevitable.
Below you can see the comparison of where I stand today at 145 pounds and were I was in 2012 at 150. In the 2012 photo, I was about 3 weeks into the cutting phase after a 4 month bulk and was much fuller and rounder than I am now. Granted, I was posing and in heels in the photo from 2012 and am relaxed and in bare feet in the photo from today, but I was certainly bigger.
Right now I’m rocking the lean, runner / dancer look, which is fine, but I definitely want to push to balance out my muscular lower half with a more rounded, full upper body.
This past week I executed the 45 carb /40 protein /15 fat breakdown that I referenced in my previous post; however, my mood and libedo plummeted. I was quickly reminded how flat and emotionless I felt during my 20 week cutting phase before my competition over a year ago and immediately knew that I needed to shift my macros – bulking should be fun!
I did some additional research and found this great article on Simply Shredded, one of my favorite sites. I highly recommend reading this if you’re in – or starting – your building phase.
I discovered that the cause of what I was experiencing was due to too drastic a reduction of my dietary fats. Fats are responsible for normal hormone function (including testosterone) and if they are reduced too much you risk experiencing the effects like those above and you can inhibit your body from reaching an anabolic state.
I have since revised my macros to the below and will follow this breakdown this week:
I have stuck to my 3 day / week split, although I truly miss being in the gym 6 days a week. I’m focusing on getting plenty of rest on my off days and trying to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night (I was getting about 6).
I’m not sure if it’s because I have been sick recently and my body is still recovering, or if it’s because my lifts are more complete, heavier and more taxing, but I have definitely felt shot after each gym session this week.
I’m working out each body part during each workout and am doing 5 sets of 10 reps per exercise, failing on the last 1 or 2 sets. I’m focusing on lifting heavy with excellent form.
While I was hell-bent on maintaining at least one program for a solid month, I have been wanting to challenge myself mentally and physically and so on Monday (1/6), I’m starting CrossFit.
Based on the fact that I have been doing regular bodybuilding lifts for over two years, this change to more olympic, dynamic movements will surely shock my system and hopefully fuel growth.
I’m extremely curious to see how my body reacts and, if needed, I’ll shift my calories and regular lifting sessions (if I still need them) accordingly.
Will definitely keep you posted.
It’s a new year, and while that doesn’t mean it’s time to start over, the beginning of a new year is a good place to start.
I have been training myself since my competition last November, and while I have positively changed the appearance of my physique (stronger, more define abs, better glute structure), I have not gained the upper body size I have been chasing after for two years.
Over the holidays, I got the urge to compete again in order to have a focus, a plan, a goal; however, after reviewing the pure financial cost associated with pursuing another competition – forget about the opportunity cost – I just can’t swing it this year.
While chatting with my targeted trainer / coach the other week, I told her how I had been lifting for over a year but hadn’t gotten the size gains I wanted. She mentioned that I probably needed to stimulate my body in new ways – more dynamic movements and a modified diet, consisting of more carbohydrates.
So while I save up the funds to hit the stage in 2015 – if not sooner – I have resolved to make some shifts in my overall training / diet regimen starting this week to see where it takes me.
The Plan: Clean bulk over the next 3 months, starting the cutting phase in April
The Diet: 45 carbs / 40 protein / 15 fats
– Starting with 2000 calories, making adjustments as I review my measurements and weight every week
The Workout: 3 days instead of 6 days
– Incorporating more rest days
– Targeting all body parts each work day with more dynamic / power movements
The Results: Will keep you posted with photos and measurements
So instead of celebrating my birthday on stage and then celebrating my birthday with a delicious and much awaited post-competition meal, I will continue on the straight and narrow path to competition (see previous post).
I took some serious inspiration from Abs of Steel (a fantastic and well-writtem blog if you haven’t yet subscribed) and woke up “early” this Saturday morning and was at the gym by 9AM. I kicked out a great workout:
Squats (6 sets)
Deadlifts (4 sets)
Plyo jumps super-setted with leg press (4 sets)
Glute bridge super-setted with one legged lunges (4 sets)
Leg extensions (4 sets)
Leg curls (4 sets)
All followed by a 45 minute spin class – very sweaty.
Back to the apartment for 6 egg whites, 140gm tilapia, 125 gm greenbeans (by that time it was 12:30PM and I had only eaten 1/2 a scoop of whey protein + supplements).
Onward we go today, tomorrow and the next 2 weeks, until the job is done.
Happy birthday to me!
So I was one week out… Then I was three days out… Then all of a sudden, I was 2.5 weeks out.
The Hurricane that took the East Coast by surprise caused chaos in NYC and caused my show, which was on November 3, to be pushed out to November 18. I understood. This change was all with good reason (no power, no public transportation, massive flooding), but this threw me for a loop.
Disappointment abounded. I was really looking forward to some pizza and some cake on the 3rd (my birthday) and I am admittedly tired of dieting.
So here I am, now 2.5 weeks out. I’m going to kick it back up again, re-set. I’ll be in a better state of mind this time to do the salt and water depletion that I have to do. I will get there – just a little more to go.
There will only be a more positive outcome because of it.
I am about 6 weeks out now. I am 147 pounds and need to be around 138 before I’m totally dried out. I have about 9 pounds to lose, about 2 pounds a week and so I’m really hunkering down to strip down.
I have been struggling lately with the amount of coaching I have been paying for and the amount of coaching I have been receiving. I can’t help but feel like I have been an afterthought throughout this whole prep and am worried that I won’t be fully prepared or prepped.
The thing that gets me is that there have been a lot of dollars involved and I feel like I haven’t really gotten what I anticipated / need.
This does not do a lot for me in terms of trusting what is going to happen over the course of the next 6 weeks. Am I going to get to show day and not be ready? Will there be a show?
My cardio was increased from 2 hours a week to 6 hours last week, so I am now on the cardio train almost every day. I am riding my bike around the city, running, attending spin classes and doing the stairmill either in the mornings or after my lifting sessions.
My diet is at 1500 calories a day now (45 protein / 40 carb / 15 fat). I am taking vitamins and other supplements, along with creatine and will add in a recommended fat burner once it arrives in the mail.
Cravings are starting for food that I would never crave normally, only because I want to taste something. The foods I have been eating are bland, which I never minded before but now since there is no leeway for the off-diet food choices, I am wanting everything from hot dogs to Pop Tarts to Snickers bars.
Progress is being made, though. My trainer said that I was looking tighter when he saw me on Wednesday. I see it mostly in my upper body, but my abs are coming out and I can tell that in about 3 – 5 pounds they will be completely there.
Yesterday when I took a spin class I could see my abs in the mirror as I sweated my behind off. Good to know there is muscle underneath my skin.
In terms of mood, I am snappy like a turtle and tired. My energy is low and I’m trying my best to stay happy and positive.
The thought of having a cheeseburger with bacon and mushrooms and a cold draft beer at the end of this all is helping me get through.
I’m doing my best to keep pushing. My coach said to work on my core, my trainer said to work on my legs, I think I need to work on the whole damn package.
Today I have legs on the agenda along with sprints and steady state stairmill. I’ll post my workout later today.
Where was everyone else at 6 weeks out? What does your coaching consist of? What are you getting for your buck?
I recently read a post on someone’s blog informing readers that just because she hadn’t been posting didn’t mean that she wasn’t making progress.
And here I am, stating the same.
I have been waking up early (read 5:30AM) and riding my bike downtown with a change of clothes, makeup, meals for the day, post-lifting and post-cardio workout drinks and a change of shoes on my back. I usually get to the gym in midtown by about 6:05AM and start working out by 6:15.
After a good 45 – 60 minute lift, I down my BCAA’s and head upstairs to the cardio area where I bang out 30 minutes of either walking on an incline at 15% at about 3.3 – 3.8MPH (2 times a week) or I do 20 minutes of walking with 10 minutes of HIIT sprint intervals (only 2 times a week).
After the cardio I’m pretty sweaty, so I hit the showers, dress for the day, and walk my bike (along with all my other stuff) to work where I kick through an 8 hour day of retail new product development.
I have to say that I am really tired of feeling like a sherpa every day of the week. Toting around at least 4 Tupperware containers and a change of clothes and shoes at all times is kind of a pain in the behind. Does anyone have suggestions for how to cope with this?
There has to be a better way!
I am taking my progress pics for this week tonight; however, here are my pics from Week 2 (today starts Week 5 of cutting).
I am nervous to see what the photos from tonight look like, only because my weight has been dropping ever so slightly, although I feel like I see changes in my overall appearance. We will see what the evening brings!
I will post the photos from tonight tomorrow so you can see the difference. I’m kind of terrified but I have about 11 weeks, so if I ned to kick it up a notch again, so be it.
Get ready for more updates soon!
That is no longer the question.
Last Saturday I met with my coach for measurements and a final weigh-in. After 8 months of eating a clean, consistent diet of about 2400 calories and working out hard, my bulking phase was about to end.
I had gained 10lbs since I saw my coach the first time over 6 months ago. While my body fat had increased a few percentage points over those months, when I met her last week I was back to my original BMI.
That was good news: I had gained muscle, not fat. In order to prepare for a competition in either October or November, it was time to get started dieting right away.
To celebrate the beginning of the other half of my journey I bought my shoes: The Stiletto Heel Two-Band Mini-Platform Slide 5″ Heel LIP-102 ($38.99) from Sinful Fashions online.
Things are gettin’ real!
Monday (7/30) I started in with my new diet plan. I was directed to reduce my calories by about 800, start in with four 30-minute cardio sessions a week and am now on the path towards “the stage” (wherever that may be).
I have dropped about 4 pounds this week and feel remarkably slimmer, but for some silly reason I keep thinking I should look way different right away.
Why don’t I look cut yet?! I asked myself in the gym the other day, and then I thought: This has only just begun. It takes time, remember?
I took a minute to laugh because when I was bulking I felt the same way, asking myself why I wasn’t getting bigger faster, but I eventually got where I wanted to be.
Every part of this journey takes patience. Progress comes with time and does not happen instantly: This is important to remember in bodybuilding and in real life. If progress were so quick and easy, we would all be miles from where we are today. The key to making it through is your determination to succeed. Keep pushing and it will be progress that you make.
I can see glimmers of how this whole package is going to come together. I definitely have a long way to go, but I’m going to get there!
Here I am at one week in.
Where are you in your journey to the stage?
Would someone please tell me why, after many many years – many – of never having eaten a Pop Tart, I’m suddenly craving one?
A toasted Strawberry one with frosting and sprinkles. Just a little brown around the edges and steaming hot in the middle. Just about right.
Photo Credit: erineph.com
I went to the grocery store tonight to get some eggs, almond milk and the like and there they were: Pop Tarts.
Photo credit: abetterbagofgroceries.com
I picked up the box to see if maybe I had perhaps remembered incorrectly that each pastry had 200 calories and over 15g of sugar a piece, but damnit, I was right.
My next question to myself was: Could I use a Pop Tart as a post-workout insulin spiking treat? Instead of drinking Waxy Maize could I eat a frosted Pop Tart?
It did not take too long for me to put the box back on the shelf (although I did compare the nutrition information between the frosted with the un-frosted version – you save 3g of sugar) and check out with no cheats except a 4-pack of sugar free pudding (which was really not that great, BTW).
I should have opted for a Pop Tart.
I’m a little weirded out because I’m not even in prep yet and I’m craving childhood treats. I think the last time I had a Pop Tart was in the 90’s.
What do you crave?
Since the beginning of June I have added a few items to my supplement routine in order to promote better dietary balance and stimulate and protect muscle growth even more.
My diet is currently running at about 2400-2600 calories a day; carbohydrate to protein ratio is around 1.6 : 1. Fat is about 10% of my calories.
I was taking in about 3,000 calories up until the beginning of June.
My weight has fluctuated since I started bulking as my body grew (of course). Adding to the fluctuation of weight was the fact that I didn’t have a scale on which I was consistently checking in. I would be at Gym A one day, Gym B another, Gym C (yes, I have a Gym C) on another day.
Last week, I decided it was time that I bought a baseline scale and dropped $29.00 on a digital model. My coach weighed me in at 155 on June 1. As of this morning I am at 156.0 lbs, and I look bigger and leaner than I have in the past.
Oh how I love muscle growth.
Maybe it’s the supplements. Maybe it’s the hard work. Who knows. Here’s what’s currently in my supplement routine (now all on top of my refrigerator because I can’t fit everything in my supplement cabinet):
Mega EFA Fish Oil (3mg / day)
– Promotes healthy brain function, joint health and normal hormone function. When you’re sticking to a lean diet, these are essential to include to ensure your body is getting everything it needs to function well.
Creatine Blend (4g / day taken in 2 equal doses)
– Boosts performance in the gym and recovery afterward. When you take creatine, be sure you’re drinking enough water to keep your kidneys happy. I drink about 1 gallon a day.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (1200mg / day taken in 2 equal doses)
– This helps combat free radicals that are unleashed in your system after strenuous workouts – and it makes your skin look glorious!
Beta Alanine (3200g / day taken in 4 equal doses)
– You should stack your creatine with beta alanine as this boosts performance even more than just using creatine alone.
Vitamin C (1000mg / day taken in 2 equal doses)
– This helps keep your immune system revved up and ready to combat anything that might come its way – especially helpful when you’re training hard and constantly breaking down your body.
6. Women’s Active Multi-Vitamin (1 serving in the AM)
– Just good to take for general health and wellness
7. Calcium (1200mg / day taken in 2 equal doses)
8. BCAA’s + Glutamine (1 serving taken 2 times a day in equal doses)
Just remember that gains in your figure are not done only through supplementation. One supplement that can’t be beat is a healthy diet filled with vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and lots of water – nothing should ever be substituted for that.
Do your research, try new supplements that are linked to your goals, but most importantly listen to your body. Tune in to what it’s telling you and don’t take anything that makes you feel lousy or totally crazy.
The work you do in the gym and in the kitchen will far outweigh any benefits that supplements alone will ever give you. That’s why they’re called “supplements.”
Be safe and strong and let me know if you have any questions!
So here we are.
Five months ago today I started training in ernest for Figure. I have been working out diligently and watching my body grow and change as it has become bigger, stronger; transformed.
I met with my coach at the beginning of June for the first time. She said I still had about 2 months of bulking to do before we start cutting for my show in November: More shoulder growth.
In a way, I was relieved.
I knew I needed to add more mass and I was also a little anxious about halting growth in lieu of leaning out. Plus, there are a few parties and events I have in the middle of the Summer and I was kind of happy that I would be able to kick back and enjoy at least a few nights.
Taking stock of where I have been, I have definitely gone through a transformation in the past year. Check it out:
Super lean in July 2012:
To Super Puffy in April 2012 (after 3 months of bulking):
To slightly more rounded in early June 2012:
To starting to feel pretty kick-ass in late June 2012 (today). I am not flexing, BTW:
I have felt like my hard body was locked away in a closet for the past 5 months and that was not a nice feeling to have, but things are starting to come around and I’m getting excited.
I have been doing a lot of work on my shoulders (2x per week) in order to get the growth up even more. I am hoping that by the end of August we will see some significant improvement over today. Just about one month left and then we’re onto the dieting!
It just goes to show that even though things are uncomfortable on the journey to get where we need and want to be, the discomfort is often worth it – and this doesn’t apply just to bodybuilding.
Where do you want to go?
My first training session last week was a killer: Leg day.
I couldn’t walk without wincing until Thursday and if you had seen me wandering around New York City Tuesday or Wednesday you would have noticed a distinct limp. It was an intense session.
In between one-legged squats, lunges, jump squats and leg extensions my trainer and I talked about what I would need to do to get into competition shape.
Albert said I would need to adjust a few things first so we could get the muscle I needed like: increase my calories to 3,000 per day (really?), adjust my macronutrient intake to 2:1 carbs:protein (get out of here!) and lastly he said he wanted me to gain about 10lbs.
Hold the phone, sir.
As I started my next set of squats I couldn’t get “10lbs” out of my head. Rep count: 7, 8, 9, 10lbs, 11 and…12! I handed off the bar to Albert, “Nice set.”
“Ten pounds?” I panted, “Do you really think that’s a good idea?”
He told me that he most certainly did and that the 10lbs would come over a period of several months. He wanted me to gain about 2-3 pounds per month and that we would be gaining good clean weight: muscle.
It was made clear that I would not be permitted to eat sleeves of Oreos, entire pizzas or fatty cheeseburgers, but that I would need to make these gains through consistent clean eating and training.
He said that at competition time I would be back to my current weight but that the 10lbs I would lose by that point would be 10lbs of fat (whew) and that I would be a ripped Figure Competition Winning Machine.
So maybe 10lbs wasn’t so bad?
As we worked through the rest of the session I realized that I did have a lot of muscle to gain. My shoulders need to be more cupped, my lats need to expand, I need to get more of the bubble and sweep in my quad.
When I thought about my initial reaction to the weight gain proposal I realized that I had immediately thought about gaining all the weight in my hips and my butt – and I have never wanted to gain 10lbs in my hips or my butt.
But as I finished my final group of sets I thought about gaining 4 pounds of muscle in my arms and shoulders (nice!) and 4 pounds of muscle on my back and glutes (not too shabby) and about 2 pounds of muscle on my quads – 1 pound each, please.
Why was I fearing this weight, again? Ten pounds: let’s do this!
As I walked to the bus, legs like jelly, I realized how closed-minded I had been that night and maybe how closed-minded I have been for many years about my body and other things.
There is a lot of life out there that has the potential to make us uncomfortable, but we have to be open to understanding things beyond the uncomfortable and look deeper.
It could be weight gain or loss, initiating a job change, starting a new relationship, or even going on a trip, to a museum, movie or party alone.
If we take the time to think and look past our hasty preconceptions, we have the potential to realize amazing opportunities that are out there for ourselves.
There are new and marvelous things waiting for you out there: do you let uncomfortable hold you back?