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!
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 don’t know about you, but I like to make the lesser important things in my life happen quickly.
To me, efficiency is much better than not when it comes to things like: laundry, grocery shopping, commuting and meal preparation. You should see my kitchen on Sunday nights – it’s an assembly line.
I would spend all day making and decorating cookies because to me, that’s fun, but I do not want to spend all day cooking 12 pounds of chicken. So when it comes to taking supplements, which is a “must-do but not so enjoyable” thing, I want this to be quick, too.
My boyfriend prefers to take every bottle down from the cabinet each morning and evening, pour out the prescribed dosage and throw each pill back in his own time.
I, on the other hand, use this handy weekly pill separator and fill it every Sunday night (as my chicken is cooking) with everything I’m going to take for the week.
In the AM, I take the pills in the bottom half of the container and then in the afternoon I take the final amount (I bring that to work in a zip lock bag). When it’s time to take the pills, I throw all of them in my mouth at once and down they go (with water, of course).
It’s a mouthful, but it saves a lot of time.
How do you manage your pills?
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?
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?
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?
Thursday had come to a close at work and I was doing a quick change in my office bathroom before I met my trainer for our 7:15PM session.
As I emerged from one of the stalls a co-worker eyed me. “Going to the gym again?” she asked.
“Yep – hitting the gym again,” I said.
“I guess…oh never mind,” she said as she washed her hands, “I was about to say something that is borderline offensive.”
I looked up at her. I was crouched on the ground tying my sneakers, “No, go ahead, what were you going to say?” I asked with a smile.
“I was going to say, ‘I guess those are your going out clothes, huh?’”
I laughed, “Well, they kind of are, but I kind of like it like that.”
As I walked to the gym I passed people dressed up and on their way to grab drinks or dinner and the words your going out clothes kept playing back in my head.
Should I be dressed up now, going out, grabbing a drink? Would I be happier if I were about to get buzzed rather than about to get my butt kicked by my trainer?
My honest answer was no.
At the end of each day I look back and think, “Will I regret any of the choices I made today tomorrow, and if I will, then what do I need to do differently to try to make tomorrow an even better day?”
I rarely regret my decisions, but I can say for sure that I don’t foresee myself ever regretting going to the gym in order to make my goal to compete happen.
I’m so excited to compete this year and every choice I make that helps drive me towards that goal is a worthwhile one.
So what if my going out clothes are sneakers, sweatpants and a tee shirt? This is me right now – this is me working towards a goal that I want and this kind of going out – going to the gym – makes me feel energized, fit and amazing and while a cocktail can do a lot – it sure can’t do all that.