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  1. #1
    Senior Member kassem23's Avatar
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    Default The HardGainer Tries To Gain: A Beginner's Journal

    Yo M&M!

    For the guys on this part of the site who don't know about Mr. Kassem here, I'm an avid reader and contributor of the neuroscience section. I don't know much about training, so bear with my inexperience.

    Anyways, here goes.

    Stats are age 19, 6'3" and ~185lbs (Just bought a new scale off Amazon, so more accurate readings should be coming up. Advice on when do the weighing much appreciated; some people report early morning, other people say there's no difference?)

    With that said, I started the 5x5 routine perpetrated by a website called stronglifts.com, in which a -- purported -- quality program is presented [you can read about it here], around ~13th of December, but I don't really count my first week in this process. So, I'm going to use everything I've logged on my iPhone, instead. For people who don't know the 5x5 program, it's based on progressive loading (5lbs per workout on every exercise), alternating between these two workouts:

    Workout A:
    - Squat 5x5
    - Bench Press 5x5
    - Barbell Rows 5x5

    Workout B:
    - Squat 5x5
    - Overhead Press 5x5
    - Deadlift 1x5


    First workout (5x5) recorded on the 23rd of December, with the following stats:

    5x5 Squats: 100lbs
    5x5 Bench: 80lbs
    5x5 Barbell Rows: 85lbs

    Started getting pains in lower back when doing 100lbs squat, so restarted from olympic bar weight (45lbs) and progressed from there with correct technique with help from GaWd (Much appreciated, mate.)

    Today (5th of Jan, 2012) doing:

    5x5 Squats: 85lbs
    5x5 Overhead Press 80lbs
    1x5 Deadlift: 160lbs

    Haven't had any sleep tonight, now 7.06AM in the morning. Had to be done though as my sleep cycle was pushing towards a ~5AM sleep-time, and school starts soon. Hopefully this act of rebellion will allow me to get some shuteye tonight at a decent time.

    That said, the workout today went great.

    Pre-workout: HyperFX by BSN, great energy and pump.
    Post-workout: TrueMass by BSN; sipping my shake as we speak!

    Some notes:

    - 85lbs Squats feels very light now. Two workouts ago, 75lbs felt hard. Dunno if this has to do with increased strength, supplement induced vigor, or something else entirely. I'm hoping for increased strength. Squats feels great. The movement is becoming very natural for me. Can now sit down in squat position without feeling like it's completely unnatural and hard. Excellent progress, I'd say.

    - 80lbs OP (Overhead Press) feels OK hard, though. I'm doing seated overhead presses due to lack of space. I have a feeling that standing OP's would allow for more pull, but maybe not. Got a very good pump from them, though. Not that subjective pump has anything to do with muscular hypertrophy, though, heh.

    - 160lbs Deadlift didn't feel as hard as I expected. Perhaps because it's 1x5 and not 5x5.

    Any advice on amount of rest between sets?

    Alright, that's all folks.

    Hope I didn't overload (pun intended) you guys

    I'll update this on my progress, and thoughts.

    Thanks for reading.
    My personal neuroscience weblog, you should check it out: The Illuminated Brain - A Weblog on Neuroscience

    "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts." - Sherlock Holmes

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    Nice bro!

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    Senior Member kassem23's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GaWd View Post
    Nice bro!
    Thank you; appreciate the support.
    My personal neuroscience weblog, you should check it out: The Illuminated Brain - A Weblog on Neuroscience

    "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts." - Sherlock Holmes

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    Senior Member Ubiyca's Avatar
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    Jesus dude, those numbers are low.

    160lbs deadlift 1x5? Come on man. At least do 8reps x4 sets if you're doing 160lbs.

    You need to keep stepping up and adding more weight weekly btw if you want to get bigger/stronger.

    Are you getting on the clomid train btw?

    I highly recommend buying a weightgainer and taking at least one serving of it per day, on top of your hopefully good bulking diet. It just helps, easy calories, you get you bigger faster.

    Oh btw...

    With that kinda weight for squats, I want you to do at least 20 reps... you can surely do more than 5 reps at a time with 85lbs, that is a joke.
    [03:14] FunkOdyssey: dude the only reason nazi's didnt put blacks in concentration camps is because there werent any in germany.
    [03:14] FunkOdyssey:if there were they would have put them in before the jews.
    [02:15] Sanction no, I whipped out my penis and bludgeoned them

  5. #5
    Senior Member kassem23's Avatar
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    1. I'm following a progressive 5x5 program. That means that I'm adding 5lbs of weight on each of those exercises for each workout. Read the program description provided in the link, if interested.

    2. I'm using a weight-gainer called TrueMass by BSN. I actually take it twice a day, one time in the morning, and another time with my lunch. I take extra if needed as well. Besides that I eat as much as I can.

    3. I wanna give it at least ~6-8 weeks before I start looking into the hormonal side of things. I'll be getting a hormonal panel soon, as well.

    4. Note.. I'm a beginner. I just started. Better to get good technique and add weight continually than stall suddenly because of TOO fast progression.

    Hope this clears things.

    Thanks for the advice, though.
    My personal neuroscience weblog, you should check it out: The Illuminated Brain - A Weblog on Neuroscience

    "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts." - Sherlock Holmes

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    Senior Member Tussmann's Avatar
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    Kassem, that program recommends plenty of rest between sets, I on the other hand didn't find that necessary until I got into like the 225 lb range on squats, bench, and dead-lifts.

    With the light weights you're pulling during the foundational phase of this routine, you might as well go fast and make it a cardio session simultaneously -- that is of course with great form and proper hydration.

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    You can maybe add 10lbs per week to your squat and deadlift in a week or 3. 5 lbs doesn't have much effect on the back and lower body-though it's still progressive, and still continues to improve in weight, so it's a win.

    No matter what, ALWAYS do either more weight or more reps. Only use less if injured.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kassem23 View Post

    4. Note.. I'm a beginner. I just started. Better to get good technique and add weight continually than stall suddenly because of TOO fast progression.
    good mindset here

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    In to learn

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    Senior Member Stackedcop's Avatar
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    Hey nice to meet you! I know nothing about neurscience but like to think I know I little about lifting weights lol.

    I think it's ok to start off slow with light weights. Getting proper form down is very important! However, once you get that form down increase the weights just a tad
    Mind and Muscle Rep

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    Senior Member Tussmann's Avatar
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    I actually just started this program during winter break. My impression is that it has a lot more to offer in terms of hypertrophy compared to stronglifts.

    The best part about it, like the site suggests, is that you aren't a robot. I got really bored with squatting after doing it 3x a week. In my opinion, there is a lot more to be had in terms of motivation & gains with such a versatile start-up program.

  13. #13
    Senior Member kassem23's Avatar
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    I think I'm going to treat my stronglifts.com 5x5 program as a drug, and give it at least 12 weeks, before assessing my situation. This 5x5 program is very simple, and allows me to hit the weights hard, with great intensity, and it doesn't require much time, so it keep my motivation & spirits high. Moreover, I love squatting, and I'm hoping that when I can squat my own body weight, I'll no longer have skinny legs
    My personal neuroscience weblog, you should check it out: The Illuminated Brain - A Weblog on Neuroscience

    "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts." - Sherlock Holmes

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    Senior Member kassem23's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stackedcop View Post
    Hey nice to meet you! I know nothing about neurscience but like to think I know I little about lifting weights lol.

    I think it's ok to start off slow with light weights. Getting proper form down is very important! However, once you get that form down increase the weights just a tad
    Nice to meet you too, and thanks for the advice.
    My personal neuroscience weblog, you should check it out: The Illuminated Brain - A Weblog on Neuroscience

    "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts." - Sherlock Holmes

  15. #15
    Product Rep Travis's Avatar
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    ^Good program

    Also check out Mike Robertson's modified 5x5 on t-nation. I've found 5x5 too hard overtime as an ecto/hardgainer. My CNS fries. Robertson's is a bit easier but well thought out.

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    BOOM Chicka Wah Wah
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    Quote Originally Posted by Travis View Post
    ^Good program

    Also check out Mike Robertson's modified 5x5 on t-nation. I've found 5x5 too hard overtime as an ecto/hardgainer. My CNS fries. Robertson's is a bit easier but well thought out.
    link?

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    Quote Originally Posted by McLovin View Post
    link?
    See below


    The Perfect Program?

    I'm going to get my ass kicked for writing this article. Dave Tate, Jim Wendler, Eric Cressey... I can just see the hate mail pouring in. Not just that, but Louie Simmons only lives three hours from me. He might just drive over to Indianapolis and kick my ass, too. But what I'm going to say needs to be said.

    Is a 5 x 5 program the only way to get strong? Hell no, even though a lot of people will tell you that it is. Truthfully, there are a lot of drawbacks to this program, especially if you're a beginner or an advanced lifter.

    But does it have its place? Can someone succeed on this style of program? Is it possibly the most ideal program for an intermediate level lifter? I think so, and that's why I'm going to risk getting my ass-kicked — so you can build some wheels of steel!


    Why You Probably Need This Program!

    Most people think they're way more advanced than they really are. Everyone wants to stroke their ego and feel important. They think they need an advanced program to see progress. But do they really? Let's look at the differences between what a beginning, intermediate, and advanced lifter need to succeed.


    The Beginning Lifter

    The beginning lifter can get stronger doing just about anything; however, the more volume a beginner gets the better. His biggest gains are going to be neurological in nature, so just becoming more efficient at movements is going to equal more weight on the bar. In other words, if you want to squat more when starting out, volume is king — just get more squat reps in!


    The Advanced Lifter

    The advanced lifter is going to need to be very selective in what methods he employs to get stronger. Too much volume and he's going to overtrain quickly.

    Advanced lifters are much more neurologically efficient, meaning each and every rep they perform is going to create deeper inroads to their recovery process. Simply put, an advanced lifter is going to get a lot more out of intensity based workouts versus volume dependent workouts. These lifters will get more out of squatting less (e.g. fewer reps), but making sure those reps are heavy.



    The Intermediate Lifter

    So where does that leave our intermediate lifter? If you said somewhere in the middle, you get the gold star for the day! Sets of 8, 10, 12 or 15 reps just isn't going to cut it, yet intermediates don't have the proper base of strength and technique to see great success with a program that puts a huge emphasis on low-volume and high-intensity.

    So for this lifter, a program that uses lower rep sets and focuses on increasing overall intensity (after all, you can use more weight for 5's than you can 10's), is going to see good progress on this style of program. Basically, you get the best of both worlds: an increase in intensity while keeping your total volume up. For many, a 5 x 5 (five sets of five reps) program really fits the bill.


    5 x 5 Failures

    I think too many people want this program to be a panacea for every lagging muscle group or body part, so they absolutely destroy themselves. Not only do they use this program for every exercise they perform, but then they never take recovery weeks on top of that. No wonder I often hear lifters proclaim, "I tried 5 x 5, but I just got overtrained and injured."

    It wasn't the program's fault, genius. It was your own! If you're running a 5 x 5 program that looks like this below, you better hit the "abort" button sooner rather than later:

    Squat, 5 x 5

    Deadlift, 5 x 5

    Bench press, 5 x 5

    Military press, 5 x 5

    Worse yet, 5 x 5 failures do all this in one workout! No wonder these guys crash and burn!

    The modified 5 x 5 program I'm going to teach you only has you training 5 x 5 on one exercise, and you only perform 5 x 5 on one week out of the cycle. I've had great success myself using the 5 x 5 program for my squat, so a little later we'll examine what this program did for me. But first, let's try to figure out if you're truly an intermediate or not.


    Am I An Intermediate?

    I know you're going to ask this, so let's nip it in the bud right now:

    I don't know.

    It's hard to label a lifter. Are we talking about chronological age? Training age? Relative strength levels? Absolute strength levels? Because dependent on just these factors, you can get widely varying answers.

    Here are some general rules of thumb to help you determine if this program may work for you:

    • If you've been training less than three years.

    • If you can't squat 2x bodyweight with a belt only (this has limited application to larger lifters).

    • If you have great technique with light weights/warm-up sets, but fall apart on heavier reps/sets.

    It's hard to classify, but I'd be willing to bet that the majority of lifters on this site could still benefit from a program similar to this.


    Mike's Progression

    In my first powerlifting meet, I squatted a whopping 336 pounds. I was downright embarrassed. Even though I'd only squatted for about three months, 336 pounds just isn't acceptable given that I weighed 176 pounds. I'm not totally sure, but I think several female competitors (in lighter weight classes no less!) out-squatted me.

    I struggled for a long time trying to build my squat. I tried all kinds of programs along the way: wave-loading, clusters, Russian squat cycles, etc. You name it, I tried it. In the end, two things brought my squat up:

    1) An absolute passion for learning and practicing better technique.

    2) The following squat cycle with some well-planned assistance work.

    Long story short, the first time I ran this cycle, I finished the last week with 3 sets of 5 reps at 315 pounds at a bodyweight of about 187. The last time I ran it (almost two years later), I performed that same 3 x 5 workout with 405 pounds at a bodyweight of approximately 200. My competition squat also went from 446 to a fairly easy 530 in my last meet.

    A 90 pound increase in my raw squat over the course of two years, in my opinion, isn't too shabby. I hope this program can give you the same kind of results!



    The Cycle

    So here's the week-by-week template I used:

    Sets and Reps

    Load

    Rest Period

    Gear Used

    Week 1

    4x5

    70%

    3-4 minutes

    None

    Week 2

    5 x 5

    80%

    4-5 minutes

    Belt (Optional)

    Week 3

    3x3

    65%

    3 minutes

    None

    Week 4

    3x5

    85%

    As needed

    Belt


    Program Notes

    1) Week 1 is basically an introductory week. I try to get back in the groove and do all sets with no gear (yes, that includes no belt). Surprisingly enough, this was always the week that made me the most sore.

    2) Week 2 is an intensification week. You not only crank up the volume (25 reps vs. 20), but also the intensity. If you survive, you'll see why people can get bigger and stronger on a 5 x 5 program! Belt usage is optional here. I didn't start out using it, but after I ran the cycle four or five times, I started to use it on this week (week 2).

    3) Week 3 is an unload week. At first I played around with a load of 75%, but quickly found that it was taking too much out of me and I needed more rest. Going down to the lower weight allowed me the mental and physical break I needed.

    4) Week 4 is where it's at — it's your lowest volume of any of the work weeks, but the intensity is balls-out.

    5) As you'll see, I periodize the use of supportive gear in the program as well. I'm a big believer that raw strength will carryover to better numbers in gear, so I use full gear (wraps, suit, and belt) sparingly over the course of the year. If your federation uses a boatload of gear (double/triple ply, briefs, canvas, etc.), take that into consideration as you'll need more time to learn your equipment.

    6) The rest periods are general guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules. Remember that the nervous system takes anywhere from 5-20 times as long as the muscular system to recover, so give yourself plenty of rest to ensure you're fresh for each and every set.

    7) Finally, please note that this was based off of my raw (belt-only) max, not my competitive max. Leave your ego at the door your first time trying this program. I'd leave a few pounds off the bar the first time around just to get used to the workload. If you choose not to heed this advice, don't say I didn't warn you!

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    Oh boy...

    Lots of shitty advice here.

    The main idea, it seems, is that what ever someone is doing at the time is the best and you should definitely do it. Back to reality. You have a shit ton of observation to do, and a lot of it will mean almost nothing because you are a beginner. The 5x5 program is great starting out. You can make sure weight is progressive while maintaining form and keep the volume and tempo relatively low. Speeding things up while you are a beginner and an ectomorph will do you absolutely no favors whatsoever. Trying to push yourself harder than what you are comfortable with is also super shitty advice. Progress only as fast as what you are comfortable with. You wont be turning into a 215lb bber over night, so don't feel rushed. Especially by people telling you that the weight you are using is too light. If you feel like you are breaking form or in danger of injury - play it safe. First rule of the game is leave your ego at the door. Train smart.

    Sticking to a program and giving it a legitimate try to very wise, and I'm glad you aren't jumping from one program to another and calling them all shitty.

    Eating is important, but it's too early to really assess if you need more food or if something like a weightgainer is even appropriate. If you are keeping a food journal, be sure to log your calories pretty strictly to begin with. That way you can properly correlate training, calories, and body weight.

    Stay consistent. Stay focused. Log everything.

    Keep it up, Kass. Many props for starting a log.

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    Senior Member Azx's Avatar
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    If you decide SL is too much for you, my favorite program from Rippetoe:

    Monday
    3x5 Squat
    3x5 Bench press / Press (Alternating)
    Chin-ups: 3 sets to failure or add weight if completing more than 15 reps
    Wednesday
    3x5 Squat
    3x5 Press / Bench Press (Alternating)
    1x5 Deadlift
    Friday
    3x5 Squat
    3x5 Bench Press / Press (Alternating)
    Pull-ups: 3 sets to failure or add weight if completing more than 15 reps



    I get better recovery with this setup than other SS routines or SL. Though now I only squat once a week because I hate it. No rows or power cleans, amen. Of course I've also added curls for the girls but it's not necessary at all.



    Eat like a son of a bitch. You have adhd and take amp don't you? I bet that kills your appetite like a mofo. Take something like cyproheptadine, mirtazapine, or lyrica if you have to. Also I always drink whole milk instead of water during my workout for extra calories. Some people think I'm nasty for it but I don't see the big deal.


    Though if you need more work on your form SL is a good platform. I just like shorter workouts. Eventually you will find out what works for you.

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    Senior Member kassem23's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jakeshorts View Post
    Keep it up, Kass. Many props for starting a log.
    Great advice, Jake. Thank you!
    My personal neuroscience weblog, you should check it out: The Illuminated Brain - A Weblog on Neuroscience

    "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts." - Sherlock Holmes

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