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
You know, I thought I would go into this whole prep screaming from the rooftops about my progress, telling everyone every detail of my life from how I was feeling to what I was eating to what I was working out and when.
But I didn’t.
By the time I was about 6 weeks out (my last post) I was overcome with doubt. I felt like I would never get to where I wanted or needed to be to take the stage. I wanted to give up and I wanted to convince myself that it just wasn’t worth all the trouble.
But for some reason I didn’t.
Instead of sharing my feelings with you all, I kept it inside. I kept quiet. I got frustrated, but I also got to work.
I hit the cardio hard. Hit the weights. I struggled through many fights with my boyfriend about the stupidest things because I had suddenly turned angry from all the dieting, all the exercise and none of the good stuff (sleep, sex or food).
I was allowed one cheat meal at about 5 weeks out during which I consumed lots of pizza: It was good.
I struggled with low energy at work while I transitioned to a new role within the company, which really ran me ragged. Trying to focus and learn a new area on very little food and very little energy is not an easy task. At about 4.5 weeks out I told myself, “This is just how you’re going to feel. You are going to feel shitty.”
I ate lots of chicken and lots of vegetables. I started carb cycling at 4 weeks out. I added some new supplements to my regime: a new thermo, more BCAA’s, L-Carnitine and some Glutamine.
On the weekends I worked out. During the week, I worked out. Before work I worked out. After work I worked out. And when I wasn’t working out I was at work. Or I was cooking chicken or at the grocery store.
And now here I am: 2 weeks out. I am 2 pounds away from my goal weight. I feel pretty damn good. I have been practicing posing. I have my hair and makeup appointment set. I have my bottles of tanner ready to go. I have my “tan plan” all set. I still need to get my jewelry.
The only cruddy thing is that I got my suit in the mail today and I think it’s too small…
On to the next battle, right? Let’s see if I can fix this one…
I have to admit: I have had some doubts during the past few weeks of prep.
I felt sure that I was getting leaner but the scale was not moving progressively downward, which played some tricks with my head. I could see my abs coming out in the right light, my butt was tightening up, but as far as the scale was concerned…
One day I would be at 152, the next day: 151, the next day 153. It was like that for about 2 – 3 weeks. I thought for sure I was doing something wrong. I was probably eating too much, I was stagnating – what was going on?
In my head my thoughts were: I’m not making enough progress.
So yesterday I emailed the photo below to my trainer and my coach. This was the photo from last Sunday. I was checking my email every 5 minutes to see what they would say and when I did receive their responses, they were both incredibly positive.
I told them that I wasn’t losing weight and they both said that it was very possible I was still gaining muscle but that I definitely looked leaner.
Thank you, Figure Gods!
My coach said that I could up my cardio to 45 minutes a session from 30 for the next week before we have our in-person check in. I am also being extremely careful to keep my macros and calories in check. I never deviated far, but there were a few days where I was a little over.
Last night I did the full 45 minutes after my “resting day lift” of bis and tris. I followed macros to a T. This morning what did I find when I stepped on the scale? 150.6!
I have not seen that number since my weight was on the way up during the bulking phase. Although I know not to live by the scale, this means that my body is changing.
Last night, my boyfriend told me that my legs were definitely looking tighter and the other night in the gym someone who I hadn’t seen in a while came up to me and said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you look good! I remember when you first came in here and you look great! You’re consistent, making progress.”
I needed that.
Here we go! Finishing out the 5th week of cutting on Sunday. I am out of town this weekend, going home to visit my Grandmama for her 96th birthday! I will post a new photo early next week – looking forward to seeing what’s happening.
What’s going on with your prep?
I’ve been feeling kind of low lately. Work has been dragging me down. Long hours at the office and continued hours at home after work.
Bottom line: I need to let go.
For the past three weeks I feel like I have been dragging a boulder around with me. I have been schlumping around this city and my life like nothing good is going on. While I know that’s not the truth, I haven’t been able to see anything but blah in my life.
Adding onto the craziness of work, I was told the other day that I will need to travel to India and then to Korea and then to Hong Kong in a few weeks. Although I’m excited about the chance to reach those parts of the world, traveling to those places poses a whole other set of challenges as far as working out and eating is concerned.
But what is life without a little challenge and do I really want my only interest to be working out? I’m more than this and more than only that.
My boyfriend told me to let all the bad energy go. To not misunderstand opportunity in disguise. To see the good things that are around me.
I am a positive person at heart.
Today we decided to go to the gym. I went to my gym, he went to his. Before we left he said to me, “Christina: What have I told you before? When you are in the gym, let it go. Don’t focus on relationships, love, work, your boss, family, the city, the apartment. All those things have positives and negatives. Everything has two sides. Focus on you. Inside. Let everything else go.”
And so I did. I worked out in my gym. There was hardly a soul there and so I could focus on my own.
By the time I got home, I figured I would do some grocery shopping and found someone had put a little something extra on the bottom of my list:
I’m not crossing this one off because I am still shopping for it – everywhere. I should always put some of it in my basket, but I should never have enough.
Stay focused and true.
Who would of thought that part of getting ripped first meant getting a little plump?
When I first signed up for this bodybuilding journey I was expecting to dial up the exercise, dial down the food intake and then see my amazing muscles grow and bulge all the way to the stage.
I, of course, did not understand the science of muscle building at that time.
Cutting and muscle growth are not something you can do in tandem. You can cut and spare muscle, but you cannot cut and gain muscle.
That was news to me.
Muscles need plenty of energy from food to fuel their growth which happens with caloric excess and cannot happen with a caloric deficit. You shouldn’t be packing in a thousand more calories a day, but 200-300 over your daily expenditure should do the trick. And those calories should be good ones, mainly from complex carbohydrates which will increase your glycogen levels to create a favorable environment for muscle growth.
The more I travel down this road to competition, the more I realize how many unfounded beliefs and strange ideas I carry with me about my body and muscle building in general.
I am now travelling down the road to enlightenment
Like many women, I have been hung up on being slender – if not skinny – my whole life. I have worked endlessly with no real finish line in sight to change my body to look like something I don’t even know if it could.
When I started working with my coach I was 5’10”, 145lbs. His goal for me was 155. I couldn’t believe that I was signing up to getting heavier, but I did sign up.
This is me before.
Having suffered through eating disorders in the past, my mind was going a mile a minute trying to be at peace with what I was doing. I could see glimmers of my 6-pack disappearing due to water retention. My thighs started to touch.
I was sincerely uncomfortable with what I was doing, and my brain was unable to find the rationale behind gaining weight. I was allowing my body to morph right before my eyes away from what I wanted it to be.
What was I doing?
I did a lot of self-coaching over the next few weeks. I told myself that although this was uncomfortable, I had never tried to gain muscle by eating more ever before. I read more online. I talked more with my trainer. I found rationale behind his advice.
I needed to gain muscle, so I needed to fuel myself more. I had to give this method a try, so I pushed on.
I reassured myself that my body is malleable, that my body will be okay and that I can return my body to whatever state I so desire – if I choose – after this is competition is over.
I couldn’t deny my brain that I was seeing my muscles grow, even if they were covered by an extra puffy little layer of body fat. I now knew that I couldn’t cut back my calories and expect the results I desired.
So I decided to charge on.
It was a Tuesday night. I was in the gym. I was doing squats and looking at myself in the mirror as I worked through my last set. I was staring hard at my legs as I raised up from a deep squat, clenching my butt cheeks. Are my legs fatter? Do I look fatter?
And suddenly a switch flipped. I finished out the set and put the bar on the ground.
No. I’m stronger and want to be strong and I will continue moving forward and I will not look back.
And I was suddenly over the skinny thing.
I wasn’t going to beat myself up over the fact that my pants were a little tighter. I wasn’t out of control. I wasn’t doing anything ridiculous. I was adding some calories and adding some muscle and this was purposeful.
I want to achieve my goal and so I will do what needs to be done to get there, even if it is slightly uncomfortable for a while. Even if my pants do feel like sausage casings.
I decided that I was going to let my body do this and then finally my brain decided it was going to do this, too.
And so I am continuing to allow myself to get stronger in every sense.
What have you learned on your journey?
All my posts thus far have been about my meals, supplements and a little bit about motivation, but I recently realized that you don’t know a thing about me or how I got interested in Figure competition.
So allow me to introduce myself:
My name is Christina and I am a 28 year-old fitness loving girl living in the city of New York. All my life I’ve been into sports and fitness. I rowed during high school and was recruited to row on the United States Junior National Team my junior year of high school.
I was awarded an athletic scholarship to the University of Virginia where I rowed as a Division I athlete on the varsity team for my first year. However, sadly, after my first year at college, my love of rowing waned and I made the decision to resign from the team. Despite losing my athletic scholarship, I decided to stay with the University to continue my studies and to fund myself via academic scholarships.
Brains over brawn.
While rowing was gone from my life, my love of fitness did not disappear and I took up running and signed up for a class on weight lifting as one of my electives. It was in that class that I learned about creating my own routines, weekly splits and learned the fundamentals of pyramiding and super setting.
I carried my enthusiasm for fitness with me throughout the rest of my college career, into my young professional life up until today, where I became enamored by bodybuilding.
I constantly read about figure competitors: diets, supplements, routines, desiring results like those I saw on the pages of magazines. I lifted weights diligently and trained on my own for about a year and a half.
I weighed and packed my meals, almost completely eliminated alcohol and did what I knew in the gym.
I found that the more I mentioned to people my goal to compete, the more people started to mention that they knew someone who had competed in the past, so I kept telling people my goal.
I looked for coaches but didn’t know where to begin and just ended up continuing to craft my own workouts, hoping for success.
In early December, I signed up to take a Trapeze Class with some of my girlfriends at a local gym. Before going I went online and checked out the gym’s amenities and trainers and noticed that one of them trained Figure athletes.
The morning of the class I asked at the front desk if it was true that they had a coach that trained there. “Yes, he’ll be here later if you want me to introduce you,” the front desk gal said.
“That would be great!”
The rest is history. We’re now working towards a June show for practice and a September show for placing.
As my father always told me, “You don’t get what you don’t ask for,” and I really feel that I brought this into my life in a positive way.
I believe that I can get there and am excited about my goal to compete. This journey has already taught me so much about myself and I can’t wait to learn and accomplish even more.
What are you hoping to accomplish this year?