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BULKING - A beginner's guide

Discussion in 'Weight Training/Bulking' started by SCHTEEVIE, Jan 21, 2004.

  1. SCHTEEVIE

    SCHTEEVIE Well-Known Member

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    I wrote this a couple months ago for an other forum, but I suspect it wil be useful here.
    It was during the second month of my bulk training (October 2003) that I first found "John's site" and it was very vindicating to see that he had come to many of the same conclusions that I had; right down to Max-OT and the type of diet and supliments, we had both independently found the same info from many of the same sources!
    I gained extra confidence seeing that it was working for John as he was several months ahead of me.
    I even had a brief email conversation with John back in the days when he was only getting 10-20 emails per day :P

    Thanks for all your work and sharing of info John - You inspired me to write this!!

    I hope this is a useful start to your forums
    - enjoy
    ________________

    I have seen the same sort of initial questions from beginners looking for info on getting started with a bulking program.


    here is a compilation of my research that got me started bulking:
    - it is a culmination of probably 40-50 hours of research over a couple months.

    *disclaimer*

    - By no means treat this as gospel; think of it as a starting point to direct your own research.
    Everyone is different and will need a slightly different approach to suit their needs and goals.

    Anyway, a bit about me:
    I am a 29 year old male, ectomorph, 6 feet and 155 lbs
    I have never really weight lifted seriously before.
    (I was 150 two months ago when I started training!)

    I have learned ALOT since I started (all natural) bulking 2 months ago.
    Using the following info, I've seen great gains already! :flex:

    To give you an idea, here are some of my size gains:

    I've added an inch to each bicep,
    an inch and a quarter to my chest,
    and over an inch and a half to my shoulders!!

    In terms of strength gains, I was able to add 5-10% more weight each week on most things, so I am now lifting double the weight I started at for some exercises!

    (you can always expect to make some quick gains when you first start lifting, then your body starts to get used to the stress and doesn't change as quickly - so get started properly and take full advantage of your "newbie gains"!)

    I owe a HUGE thanks to people on forums like this.
    The least I can do is pass along what I have learned so far.
    I still do about an hour of "body building" research per day if I can
    - there is so much to know, and I am always trying to learn something!

    OK - lets get down to it...



    GETTING STARTED:

    take a soft tape measure and record your "girth" in several places.
    biceps, chest, quads, waist, shoulders, etc...

    try and take a "before picture", and then try and take a "progress picture" at least once a week. (also keep track of your weekly average weight)
    - use the SAME lighting and ideally the same camera lens at the same distance to avoid any optical anomalies between your photos; the only thing that you want changing in your photos should be YOUR BODY!

    - it may sound cheesy to take pictures, but this combined with the numerical values of your measurements are great ways to track your gains, keep you motivated and see what is working for you.

    You'll also want to keep a "work-out journal" to track specific info at each work-out, I'll get into that when we discuss the routine further down.


    STRATEGY:

    Plan to build your WHOLE body regardless of what "show muscles" you want to aim for...
    training the whole body (including legs which most people find boring) is important as it promotes growth hormone release systemically, and that will enhance ALL areas of training and muscle development...

    SET REALISTIC GOALS:

    Be sure to understand that you will not get a "six pack" or much enhanced muscle definition while bulking.
    You can work your abs all day, but the only way to reveal your six pack and other muscle definition, is to reduce the layer of fat hiding it.
    That is a whole other part of body building called "cutting" where you reduce your body fat to 10% or less.
    - it is near impossible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time - so don't try to.
    You can do a "cutting" phase after you bulk, to show off your new body, and all of your hard work.

    Don't blindly say something like "I wanna gain 25 pounds by new years", or "I wanna be benching 250 before the summer."
    people post crap like that all the time - they have no idea what is or isn't possible, and set themselves up for disappointment or injuries when they push themselves too hard.

    Look at your progress and be happy with small gains as they come.
    As far as weight gain goes, I think 0.5 to 1 pound a week of lean muscle mass is a pretty great rate of growth.
    I don't think it is possible to do much better then that with out "roids", so be happy if you can achieve that.



    Your THREE main concerns are:


    1) DIET

    2) ROUTINE

    3) Supplements


    1) DIET:

    If you don't already know your body type and "basal calorie burn" you need to determine that.
    here are a couple links to help with that:

    Body type

    basal calculator

    Generally for bulking, you want to try to get at least 18 calories/pound of lean body weight.

    Try to get 1.5 or 2 grams of protein/pound of lean body weight.

    - I am aiming for 30% protein, 50% carbs and 20% fat.
    (some people suggest 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% fat)
    but I can't eat that much protein to save my life, so for now, I am sticking with 30%

    As for Carbs; try for complex carbs instead of simple sugars.
    Have sweet potatos, brown rice, whole wheat bread, etc.

    With fats, avoid saturated fats. Things to look for are Fish, natural peanut butter, olive oil and flax seed - they have the "good fats".

    You also want to drink 4 to 6 liters of water a day!
    (that's a gallon for you Americans)


    Since I am an ectomorph and not worried much about fat gain, I rounded up and my target daily calorie total to 3000 (I am 155)
    As long as the ratios are good, I would rather error on the side of too many calories.
    If I notice obvious fat gains, I will scale it back, but so far no issues with that.

    At first I couldn't imagine how I would eat that much.
    My usual day before was probably 2 crappy meals, making up a total of aprox 1800 calories.
    I always used to skip breakfast...

    The way to do it is to plan to have 6 small meals a day (500 calories or so)
    - it isn't very hard now that I am used to it and NO SKIPPING breakfast!
    :eat:
    Anyway - back to the ratio:

    30% of 3000 = about 220 grams of protein.
    Here is a good formula to know:
    4 cals/gram of protein, 4 cals/gram of carbs and 9 cals/gram of fat.

    Ideally, You'll want to track your diet; that can be a real chore, but unless you are actually getting your proper calories and correct amounts of protein, all your work is for nothing.
    Even the best gym routine will have minimal gains if you don't feed your body well enough to gain lean muscle mass. The way the body looks at it, having extra muscle is a liability; it takes more calories to sustain additional muscle even at rest.
    If memory serves, each additional pound of muscle burns 13-20 calories a day, AT REST!
    So you really need to convince your body that you are going to feed it well enough that it can afford to use the extra resources and actually build muscle.

    I thought that it would be impossible to accurately track my diet, who has time to do it having a busy life style?
    But then I was introduced to an awesome site that makes it easy. check it out:
    www.fitday.com

    ...(cont next post)
     
    #1 SCHTEEVIE, Jan 21, 2004
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2004
  2. SCHTEEVIE

    SCHTEEVIE Well-Known Member

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    BULKING !!! - A beginner's guide (part 2)

    2) ROUTINE:

    Train each muscle group hard ONCE per week, and try to keep gym time under an hour.
    - don't do cardio within 8 hours of a workout.

    I could go into detail about the reasons why, but thats a long story.
    - it is mainly to do with mental intensity and biochemical factors; there is an optimal window of about 45-55 minutes for making gains, and then it fades into exhaustion and is counter productive to go any longer.
    (look up "catabolic" for more info on why not to combine cardio and lifting, and why gym time should be relatively short.)

    A lot of people say they are sore for a day or two, but then feel fine so they should be able to work those same muscles again 2-3 days later.
    This is believed to be WRONG by the majority of the community.
    Just because you aren't feeling "DOMS" (Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness) doesn't mean you are "healed" and ready to train again.
    I have read a lot about this lately, and from what I have found, the muscles only really begin to grow and heal AFTER the pain stops.

    The idea is that YOU DON'T GROW AT THE GYM, so give your body time AWAY from the gym to grow and repair itself.

    Most of what I have read says to work a muscle group ONCE per week. or even less
    - some sources even say work a group once in 8-10 days!


    With body building LESS is MORE
    - I hear that a lot; don't try and rush it.
    Eat properly and work hard on each workout then REST between them, and the gains WILL come.


    You'll want to plan to take a FULL WEEK OFF from lifting about every eight weeks or so.
    Take that time to let your body rest, and maybe tweak your gym routine and come back with some minor changes.
    (examples of things to change: order of exercises, different exercises, numbers of sets/reps, etc...)
    The idea with weight training is to keep your body guessing; as long as you are "shocking" your muscles, they WILL GROW!


    This is my current split:
    - it is pretty basic, but I have had good gains.


    Day 1: Chest/Triceps

    Day 2: Legs/calves

    Day 3: OFF or cardio/abs

    Day 4: Back/Biceps/forearms

    Day 5: OFF or cardio/abs

    Day 6: Shoulders/traps

    Day 7: OFF or cardio/abs


    Be sure to stretch the specific muscles during or after a workout for a few minutes. I used to think stretching before was ideal, but lately I have found many sources that say stretching before lifting may actually increase risk of injury. Warm-up sets (as described below) will prepare muscles for load bearing.

    Take a full 90-120 second BREAK between sets! this may seem long, but it works.

    FORM is very important, heavy weight with bad form will only hinder your gains (or worse - you could get injured).
    Do your homework, LEARN how to do each exercise properly.
    This is a good place to start:

    great info about exercises and muscles

    Start each workout with compound movements, then move into the isolation work toward the end.
    Let's use legs as an example :
    "Squats" are a great compound leg exercise, and "seated calf raises" are isolation.

    Use light weight and build up slowly for the first couple weeks while you get used to how everything feels, and what weight you can handle.
    There is no shame in lifting light to learn form; but it is pretty embarrassing (or much worse) to drop a bar on your face trying to be a tough guy.
    you could also end up pulling something or tearing a ligament, and that kind of injury can haunt you for years. So don't mess with weight you can't handle.


    You may have heard of "pyramid sets", or "super sets" with short breaks between sets...
    personally, I don't think these are very good, they can lead to exhaustion before you get a chance to really work the muscle.

    The idea that I believe in is a basic version of the "MAX-OT" philosophy, based on warming up with light weight, building toward the heavy weight without exhaustion, then going heavy for 3 sets to failure.
    (as a beginner, there is no point in trying something as advanced as MAX-OT, but later, look into it)

    So for now, try something like this:

    Warm-up on each muscle group as follows:
    NOTE: if you are failing on these sets - you are lifting too heavy for warm-up

    1 set at 50% for 10-12 reps,
    1 set at 70% for 8 reps,
    1 set at 90% for 3 reps,

    Now go heavy (100%) for 3 sets aiming to fail between 6-8 reps.
    if you can lift more then 8 reps it is not heavy enough.
    (advanced body builders will aim for failure between 4-6 reps)

    *NOTE: These warm-up sets are only for the first exercise in each muscle group...
    example - if "Flat Bench press" is your first "chest day" exercise (as it should be since it is a great compound movement), then warm up on it, but don't warm up again for incline bench, since your chest is already good to go.
    Triceps are a small muscle group often paired with "chest day".
    Since your Tri's were used in all your "push movements" while working your chest, they are already more a less warmed up.
    I wouldn't do the full 3 or 4 warm up sets for Tri's, maybe just do one warm-up set at 70% and then go to your heavy sets.

    - you don't want to be exhausted, just warmed up.



    TRACK YOUR PROGRESS !!!

    Make a "work-out journal".
    This is an important way to find out what is working, and notice plateaus.
    Use your journal for each work-out and track what weight you lifted and how many reps you did for each exercise.
    If you are doing things correctly, each progressive week you should be able to do more reps with the same weight, or add 5-10% more weight and do the same number of reps as the previous week.

    A journal is a critical part of your plan to make gains, as it will help keep you on track.
    It is also great for motivation to be able to look back a few weeks and see how much stronger you are now!

    do 3-4 exercises per muscle group
    - try and use free weights instead of machines.
    When lifting heavy with intentions to go to failure, always try to work out with a spotter...
    (use dumbbells as opposed to barbell for things like bench press if you don't have a spotter, so you can drop them to your side safely if you have trouble.)



    3) Supplements:

    You'll want to have a good multi-vitamin, and maybe additional vitamin C.
    Also look into creatine, glutamine, and ZMA.

    Of course "whey protein" is a must to meet your daily protein needs.
    (but don't do more then 2 or 3 shakes a day - you want to get more then half of your protein from REAL food sources..

    As most weight trainers put their joints and tendons through the ringer, it is a good idea to look into a "connective tissue maintenance" supplement as well.

    most of my research points to these three elements:
    Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and MSM
    - you can buy them individually, but it makes more sense to look for a tablet that contains all three.



    There is a start to get you on the road to natural, safe and healthy bulking!

    good luck!


    OK then... that was alot longer then I set out to make it - I edited the hell out of it and it is still pretty long...
    I think it covers all the basics, I hope you enjoyed the read.
     
    #2 SCHTEEVIE, Jan 21, 2004
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2004
  3. SCHTEEVIE

    SCHTEEVIE Well-Known Member

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    To make this article more complete, I've added the initial bulking gym routine I used for my first 12 weeks.

    warm up as explained above - heavy sets are to failure.
    (breaks between warm-up and heavy sets 90-120 seconds)

    Day 1: Chest/Triceps

    flat bench press
    - warm up x 3-4 sets
    3x6-8

    Incline bench (30 degress)
    3x6-8

    weighted dips
    - warm up (on "dip assist machine") 1 set
    3x6-8

    close grip bench press
    3x6-8

    cable tri extension
    2x6-8

    Day 2: Legs/calves

    Squats
    - warm up 3-4 sets
    3x6-8

    legg press
    3x6-8

    legg curls
    warm up - 1 set
    3x6-8

    standing calf raises
    3x6-8

    Day 3: OFF or cardio/abs

    Day 4: Back/Biceps/forearms

    pull-ups
    (warm-up with lat pull down) 3-4 sets
    3x6-8

    one arm dumb bell row
    warm-up - 1 set
    3x6-8

    bent over BB row
    3x6-8

    standing bar bell curls (EZ bar)
    3x6-8

    standing reverse hammer curls (fore arm)
    3x6-8

    seated fore arm curls (forearm on leg)
    3x6-8

    close grip pull ups (chin-ups)
    2x6-8

    Day 5: OFF or cardio/abs

    Day 6: Shoulders/traps

    Military press
    - warm up 3-4 sets
    3x6-8

    Side lateral raises
    3x6-8

    DB shrugs
    3x6-8

    Day 7: OFF or cardio/abs
     
  4. SCHTEEVIE

    SCHTEEVIE Well-Known Member

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    Update as of week 17:

    My gains have been consistant - I've gained almost 10 pounds now and my bicepts are 2 inches bigger then when I started 4 months ago!

    I am redoing my routine abit this week - for variety, and also because my arms are stronger now, so I feel I can seperate the classic pairings of "back/bi" and "chest/tri".
    (I was finding back day is taking too long (almost an hour and a half some days), so I wanted to get biceps onto a different day)

    So for now I am going to do:

    Day 1: Chest/Biceps/forearms

    Day 2: Legs/calves

    Day 3: OFF or cardio/abs

    Day 4: Back

    Day 5: OFF or cardio/abs

    Day 6: Shoulders/Traps/Triceps

    Day 7: OFF or cardio/abs
     
  5. brownguy

    brownguy Well-Known Member

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    Awesome post, bro! You're right, everyone is different, but this is as close to gospel anyone is ever going to find. Thanks.
     
  6. automonk

    automonk Well-Known Member

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    bodybuilding.com link

    That bodybuilding.com link is fantastic. I have sporadic access to a gym, so being able to scan through a printed list of "dumbbell only" exercises is invaluable.

    Anyone with a limited home gym, i.e. bench, dumbbells, and not much more, should check it out.
     
  7. John Stone

    John Stone Every day is Leg Day
    Staff Member Owner

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    Great stuff SCHTEEVIE, I'm gonna sticky this.


    Careful... ;)
     
  8. SCHTEEVIE

    SCHTEEVIE Well-Known Member

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    hey Alright - John's first sticky! WOOT! :P

    I just saw an other thread here that reminded me about something I have changed about my strategy since I wrote that article...

    for those that have already read it, I have just edited my original article to make the following small change:

    ______

    "Be sure to stretch the specific muscles before a work out"

    was changed to:

    Be sure to stretch the specific muscles during or after a workout for a few minutes. I used to think stretching before was ideal, but lately I have found many sources that say stretching before lifting may actually increase risk of injury. Warm-up sets (as described below) will prepare muscles for load bearing.
    ______


    I have tried this change for the past 6 weeks, and have seen less DOMS pain - so who knows it seems to be a good idea...
     
    #8 SCHTEEVIE, Jan 22, 2004
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2004
  9. Jingo

    Jingo Well-Known Member

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    From an athetics background, a lot of people are moving away from stretching to warm up and going for a light work out/warm up then doing some stretching.

    The idea is basicly that stretching cold is like stretching a cold elasticband, it snaps, but if you can do something fairly non strenuous to warm it up, then stretch, then do your work out, you gently bring yourself to the boil :)
     
  10. Whoracle

    Whoracle Well-Known Member

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    How much cardio are you doing? Your guide says either off or cardio. So how many days a week are you doing cardio?
     
  11. SCHTEEVIE

    SCHTEEVIE Well-Known Member

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    Since I am relatively active in my daily life, and I have almost no issues with fat gain, I am not very concerned with cardio while bulking.
    (I am actually concerned with burning calories though - seeing the machine tell me I just burned 300 calories makes me feel like I need to eat them again :p My goal for bulking is to add lean muscle; so I am eating my but off to that end.

    - I do a cardio session 2 times a week at the most.

    My Bulking phase was planned for 6 months, so I am almost at that point now.
    body fat hasn't incresed much if at all. :D

    I'll be starting a cutting phase soon, so I intend to "ramp up" my cardio, and "ramp down" my diet over a 1-2 week period as I switch phases.
    I think I'll need 4-6 weeks of cutting to get down to 10% BF


    Anyway - all that said, do what you feel you need to - we are all different.
    The main issue with cardio while bulking is burning calories that you want to be using for muscle building. So as long as you are eating enough, and space your cardio at least 8 hours away from lifting, it is all good. :tucool:
     
    #11 SCHTEEVIE, Jan 30, 2004
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2004
  12. zeurath

    zeurath Well-Known Member

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    Dude I hope your cutting guide is as good as this one :)) Great work. Looking forward to the cutting guide, because I'm going to start my cutting phase in a few days and need the info ;)
     
  13. BusyChild

    BusyChild Well-Known Member

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    yeah, I'm still tryng to figure out what cutting is.
     
  14. SCHTEEVIE

    SCHTEEVIE Well-Known Member

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    haha thnx...

    I am going to start cutting for the first time 6 weeks from now...
    So you can bet I've been doing my home work about it latety :tu:

    I've almost got my "cutting plan" figured out.
    I'll be sure to share my plans to get feed back and input from others as it evolves...

    This forum is a great jumping off point for research!
    :claplow: :bow: :tucool:
     
    #14 SCHTEEVIE, Feb 27, 2004
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2004
  15. SCHTEEVIE

    SCHTEEVIE Well-Known Member

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    24 week (6 month) bulking update:

    I am just about finished my third 8 week "phase" of bulking; I'll take a week off and then I will start my first "cutting phase"!

    (I took a week off every 8 weeks, and reworked my routine and came back with minor changes and tweaks to what I was doing.)

    I have gained ~12 lbs of lean mass; body fat remained about ~1% from where I started at about 16-17%
    (I probably should have been eating a couple hundred more calories per day - "some" fat gain will insure that you are at a calorie surplus for optimal bulking results.)

    Strength gains have been relatively consistent, although I have started to see a plateau over the past few weeks...
    Size gains also slowed in the last month.
    I think it is the perfect time for a major change of pace to move from bulking to cutting for a couple months.
    Hopefully it will shock my system, break plateaus and then I can get back to bulking with a fresh start (and lower body fat) :tu:

    I have started a thread in the “fat loss” forum asking for input and opinions about some cutting issues.
    Come on over to that thread and add your two cents if you have ideas!


    my "cutting questions" thread
     
  16. FionaMaeve

    FionaMaeve Well-Known Member

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    Wow! Awesome guide, SCHTEEVIE.

    I had been pyramiding, but I tried doing it this way instead. Judging by my extreme soreness, I would say that this is much better. :) The pyramiding was definitely exhausting my muscles before I really had the chance to work them. Thanks!
     
  17. SCHTEEVIE

    SCHTEEVIE Well-Known Member

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    Hey, Alright!
    good to see a woman interested in "bulking".

    So many of my friends that aren't into fitness say things like "why would you want to bulk and get huge?"

    At this point, my response to that type of thing is:

    "yeah, you have to be careful, it really creeps up on you - one day you wake up looking like arnold" :rolleyes:

    Anyway, more girls should stop being afraid of weight training, and look at fitness this way to really shape thier body.
    The fact is, "bulking" is the only way to put on muscle mass, and that is really the only way to "shape" your body.
    I think one of the best female bodies out there right now is Jennifer Garner.
    She is well proportioned and has a great shape with perfect size; look at her shoulders and triceps!

    [​IMG]

    She does her workouts in less then one hour and does alternating cardio and weight training days; one article I read talked about how she does sets of full body weight dips!
    - so you know she is pushing good amounts of weight for other things too.
    I saw a TV interview where she talked about how she eats a fair amount to maintain strength and energy - she eats clean high protein sources, and low fat carbs like oatmeal, but by no means does she starve herself.

    bulking doesn't mean you have to get huge - just sculpted.
    most girls want great legs and a great butt - well - without heavy squats and lunges, you'll have a hard time "shaping" those areas.

    My ultimate long term goal is to be at 180 lbs and 8-10% BF.
    As a six foot male, I think that would be the perfect size body.

    I intend to do alternating phases of bulking and cutting for years to come! :tucool:
     
    #17 SCHTEEVIE, Mar 31, 2004
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2004
  18. Matt C

    Matt C Well-Known Member

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    Schteevie, it would be of great benefit to see your photos from start to at the moment, could you do this please?
     
  19. SCHTEEVIE

    SCHTEEVIE Well-Known Member

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    the irony is that this is the one part of my "guide" that I didn't follow very well... :p

    here is my excuse: :o
    I am a professional photographer/cinematographer, so I had planned to set up a really good lighting rig to use consistently to shoot weekly photos. Doing something quick and dirty wasn't going to be enough...
    (I probably just should have done it quick and dirty)
    when I joined the gym, a buddy joined with me and we were sort of planning to do this together, so I figured I would plan a time to shoot photos and I would do his as well. long story short, he wasn't as serious about the whole thing as I was, and in the beginning that caused some friction, so I never got around to getting a good before shot the first month, as I had a hard enough time re working my plan since I had to accept the fact that I was alone and wouldn't be able to count on a spotter/work-out buddy...

    having said that, I have some informal "before shots" kicking around, and when I get to it, I intend to do some "after shots" with proper lighting to compare...
    I'll be down to about 12% BF in the next couple weeks (after about 8 weeks of cutting) - so I'll do shots and post them in the media gallery at that point...

    Having said all that, I do sort of regret never getting my butt in gear to do good photos; however, my motivation hasn’t waned in the 8 months or so since I started – mainly because I have seen results (both in the mirror, and on the scale/tape measure), and many of my friends have noticed the changes…
    So, in my case photos weren’t really needed to stay motivated.

    abit more about the whole "work out buddy" issue...

    make sure you plan to do this for your self and only count on your self - it is rare that friends or partners will have the same levels of motivation at the same time, so be sure you don't set yourself up to be let down (or be the one to let your partner down)
     
    #19 SCHTEEVIE, May 7, 2004
    Last edited: May 7, 2004
  20. MOUTH_TLU

    MOUTH_TLU Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the log...I recently entered a bulking phase for the summer in an attempt to gain about 12-14 pounds of mass going into our fall baseball season. There's more pop in your bat if you weigh 180 as opposed to 166 :-)

    I hadn't heard the cardio thing or the only 45-55 minutes in the weightroom and researched that further after reading your article.

    I have seen quite a bit of success especially in certain muscles, others are progressing more slowly.

    Anyhow, just a thanks.

    Mouth
     

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