Thursday, December 26, 2013

Some simple rules

If you've been in the iron game/physique culture sub-culture very long, then most everything you could ever know about strength training and changing your body composition you've probably already read.

With that said, most of us (including myself) get caught in no mans land sometimes with regards to what we should be focusing on to get better.

For years, getting trapped in this no mans land of training is what kept no mans land.

Essentially it goes like this........

"I want to be jacked, strong, ripped, huge, awesome."

Yet right now I'm skinny-fat, not strong, not huge, not ripped, not awesome.  But I want to be all the aforementioned stuff RIGHT NOW.  So there has to be a plan to get me there immediately!

I did a search for skinny-fat and this came up.  I have no idea why, and don't care.  It's for your viewing pleasure.  

The truth is, you can get there.  The other truth is, it won't happen immediately.  Not all of it, anyway.

So let's take a stroll through some of the most common issues faced by guys trying to get better, and the options they have to take in regards to remedying their woes.

#1 - I'm fat, but I don't want to lose strength 

This one is fairly common for the guy that spent a few years on that "GOMAD" diet (gallon of milk a day) or years and years bulking well past the state of already fat asseness.  One day they wake up and realize that huffing and puffing to tie their shoes and that a trip up the stairs is something avoided on a routine basis isn't too much fun anymore, but they fear that losing all that "mass" will cause a huge drop in strength.

There's good news and bad news.  Well, there's a few variations of good news and bad news here.

But before I get to those, I want to clear a few things up here in regards to this topic.

First off, everyone is different in regards to strength loss while dieting.  Some guys don't lose very much, while other guys bottom out hard.  I think a lot of that has to do with how well a few factors...

1.  How well the individual understands his caloric needs in terms of training and fat loss.
2.  How fat the person is when they start the diet.
3.  The type of diet the person uses.  This sort of ties in with #1, however.

So let's talk about the reasons that some guys do lose strength while trying to shed some fat.

Generally, the main reason for the initial drop in strength is not because of a "change in leverages".  I mean, you lose 5 pounds from glycogen and water drop and I can promise there's not enough of a change in "leverages" to make that big of a difference.

No, the real issue is as simple as the caloric drop, glycogen and ATP depletion.  That is, if you're going very low carb.  But if you were paying attention to the nutrient timing Q&A I did with Dr. Israetel you'd know you should still be getting in carbs /pre-intra-post/ workout.  So you should STILL be using carbs for nutrient timing.

Most people however get very carbaphobic when they start a low or no carb diet, and even avoid them during training.  Do not do this.  Your body is not going to store carbs as fat if you're just ingesting them during the pre-intra-post workout periods, and as Dr. Israetel noted in the Q&A can actually help with fat loss.

John Meadows has tried to beat this into people for a long time but people star to fear carbs completely without realizing that carbs don't make you fat, but people still don't always listen.  Excess calories make you fat(ter).  Not just carbs.

Use carbs appropriately so that your workouts don't suffer, and so that strength and energy doesn't bottom the fuck out on you.

So if you work your diet properly, strength loss can be kept to a bare minimum and sometimes, not at all.  If your goal is to get into low single digits well then that's another story.  There's no real way to avoid strength loss at those bodyfat levels in comparison with being fairly chubby, unless you're still in the novice category of lifting.

Otherwise, there's really no need to get into low single digits.  However 15% or below should be something most strength athletes should be shooting for.

#2 I want to get bigger but I really don't want to lose my abs! 

This is the guy that always gets made fun of.  However I can appreciate the want for looking good naked.  Especially if you've ever been really sloppy, you know how good it feels for your clothes to fit you correctly, and to not feel like hiding behind a bush or making sure all the curtains are closed in your house when you strip down to your birthday suit.

So here is your dilemma.  You really desire to get bigger, but you're afraid of gaining fat and getting soft.  It's understandable.  Especially if you started lifting because of the ladies.  Ladies don't care about bench presses.  They care about that v-taper and well defined shoulders and back, but not if you're 165 pounds.

You too have good news and bad news.

The good news is, you just need to get your bodyfat checked and make sure you set an upper limit on how far you're willing to let yourself slop out.  Generally, as we went over in the previous section, that's around 15%.  If you're even more subconscious then set your ceiling at 12%.

The bad news is.......well, there is no bad news really.  You're in a good spot for more growth.  Again, read the article on nutrient timing, dial in your macros, and set aside 8-12 weeks of training just to grow.  Follow the big-15 guidelines for attaining rep PR's and boom.....a bigger and better you.

This kind of skinny with abs is completely acceptable 

#3 I want to get bigger and stronger and get ripped, bruh!  

You can't do that.  All of those things go against each other to varying degrees.

Bigger and ripped?  Well one requires a calorie surplus, and the other a calorie deficit.  There, that's all that needs to be said about that.

Getting bigger and stronger can both be done, however the truth is if you truly just concentrate on one or the other it will work much better.  Yeah if you get bigger it means you had to start moving heavier weights, but generally you did so with a lot of reps.  And while that while give you a bigger 1RM, there is a better way to train for pure strength than chasing rep PR's.

Fact is, training in the lowest of the rep ranges tends to cause a bit of a loss in hypertrophy for most guys.  Yes, a LOSS.  Don't believe me?  Keep everything the same, and go from doing sets of 8-15 on everything for a few months, to sets of 3-5 for a few months, and see if your body composition doesn't change quite a bit.  You'll be less full, and look far less muscular.  I mean, there's a reason why bodybuilders train with more reps.  It works for size far better than lower rep work.  So decide which one is most important and chase that dragon.  Not multiple ones.

The simple answer to all!

The most simple answer I give to everyone I talk to or coach is this.....pick the most important goal that you have, and go after that with everything inside of you.  Let everything else go.  I mean everything.  No matter how much you want to hang onto even a modicum of it.

Not even an inkling can stay if you truly desire and froth at the mouth over attaining something else.  Put that goal in your line of sight, and fire everything you have at it.  That means not worrying about the shit on your left, or on your right.  Right down the middle, staring at that one thing.  And that ONE THING has to come center stage and be left up there all alone like the winning beauty contestant if that's what you want.  She can't share the stage with Fat Sally and Bulimic Betty. She has to be in the spotlight, with nothing else around her so she can fully shine.  That's how you need to see this goal in your mind.

Stop trying to ride the fence.  Stop trying to ride two horses with one ass.

And lastly, stop making excuses.  You can't control the hand you've been dealt but you can control how you play your cards.

The only way to obtain that beauty queen that you want so badly is to pour yourself into obtaining her with everything at your disposal.  So game her up like it's your last ride.  So make a plan to prioritize things, and eventually you'll be big, strong, ripped, and awesome.


  1. Thanks, Paul. You have a habit of posting things I need to read at that particular time.

  2. dam right Paul great read YESSSSSSSSSS

  3. Been running the intermediate program from SLL for the past year. Went from 135 to 155 this summer but managed to hit my goal of a 400 deadlift and 320 squat. Bench is in shitter, but I'm consistent and I'll imagine it'll come up when I pack on more pounds.

    Thank you for the foundation.