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.
Every once in a while, my Grandmother will laugh and remind me that as a young girl I used to say, “One day, when I grow up and my bosoms get very very big, I will wear a bra.”
While I am still waiting for that big bosom day to come, I find it quite hilarious that I am excited by the idea that one day, as a grown up, when my muscles are very very big, I will wear a sparkly bikini and have an amazingly dark spray tan.
I have been eating like nobody’s business for the past 3 months. I have put on a considerable amount of weight and am now tipping the scales at 160 (previously 143).
My jeans are tight, I can’t fit into my favorite cocktail dress any more and leggings and black drapey dresses have become my new best friends.
I am not fat. I am just stronger.
I can’t say that I hate the way that I look, but after years of being “skinny,” I’m still getting used to the bigger, better me.
“How do you think you look?” my trainer asked me the other night as I rested between a set of cleans. We were both looking at me in the mirror.
I had had a long day at work. I was sweating and felt bloated.
“I think that this is a skinny mirror and that I look a lot different than what we’re seeing. I think my legs look really puffy and bloated and big and that my arms look skinny and small. “ He looked at me like I was crazy. “I mean, I think I’m making progress though…How do you think I look?”
“I can never tell with you, Berry,” he said. “Some days you come in here and are like, ‘I am a MONSTER’ and then other days you come in and are like, ‘Meh…I feel fat.’”
More often than not, though, I’m a monster.
“You look good.”
When I was warming up, one of the other trainers at the gym who I have been chatting with quite regularly walked out of the men’s locker room and did a double take. “Lookin’ good!” he said, “Coming along nicely.”
That made me happy. Looking at my body every day I see changes here and there, but having not seen this guy for 3 weeks and then him tell me he sees progress, too, is a great thing to hear.
I just have to keep on pushing.
My legs are coming along nicely as well as my glutes. My butt has morphed from two pancakes into two dinner rolls.
Disappointingly, my shoulders are the slowest part to develop and also the most important. I train them like no body’s business but they are slow to arrive.
I was told to add creatine to my diet last week and today rounds out the 7th day. Just about 3g on average. My workouts are more powerful and I’m hoping this will help push me into the next muscular development level. We shall see.
My six pack has vanished but I swear at times I can still see it. I know this weight will come off in about 3 months when I start prep and I’m excited for it. I have a strong base that is getting stronger by the day and I know I can make this work.
For the past two weeks work has been an explosion of – well, work. I have been in the office early and have left the office late. Fortunately, my eating did not suffer but during the first week of work mania my workouts did.
This I cannot tolerate.
I used to be a morning worker-outer and then I started working with my trainer in the evenings. I started to like sleeping in and working out after the work day was done. However, in weeks like the past two, working 12 hour days and then hitting the gym was easy on Monday and completely not workable on Friday.
Last Friday I almost fell asleep on the train ride home and that never happens to me. Saturday and Sunday I was dragging and felt so sleepy but could not sleep. I was stressed about work and dreaming about it, too.
This past week was better. I managed to get in 3 weekday evening workouts and 2 weekend workouts.
Next week, though I have a new plan: Workout in the PM Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday I will rest and then Thursday, Friday , Saturday I will transition into an AM workout when I typically struggle to workout after work.
I hope this works.
I know that I need to be stronger than this. I need to workout even if I’m tired, but why couldn’t I? Why can’t I?
How do you deal with getting to the gym when you’re zonked?
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?