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February 2009 TSM: Chicanerous

Discussion in 'Transformation Spotlights' started by John Stone, Jan 31, 2009.

  1. John Stone

    John Stone Every day is Leg Day
    Staff Member Owner

    Jan 20, 2004
    Likes Received:
    Chicanerous (Adam) has made one the most impressive, dynamic and multi-faceted transformations I've seen. In the five years that Adam has been a member of the JSF forums he's transformed from a total beginner into one of the most knowledgeable, insightful and experienced posters anywhere. Adam may be smart, but don't make the mistake of assuming he's merely a keyboard warrior! Adam's physical transformation is every bit as impressive as his mental one: over the years he has added an incredible 75 pounds of muscle, and is moving some serious weight in the gym.

    On a personal note, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Adam on the 2008 JSF Cruise. I found Adam to be thoughtful, intelligent, humble and humorous. It's difficult to believe that
    he is only 21 years old. I know that great things are in store for this young man.

    Year    Height    Weight
    2001    66"       110 lbs *before lifting
    2002    67.5"     124 lbs
    2003    68.25"    129 lbs
    2004    69"       136 lbs *before starting leg training
    2005    69"       155 lbs
    2006    69"       165 lbs
    2007    69"       175 lbs
    2008    69"       185 lbs
    After 2004, values are estimated from figures 
    I found in my journals.  I've gained about
    10 lbs bodyweight consistently each year.
    I'm 5'9" and about 185 lbs currently.

    Since starting to train legs about three years ago, my best lifts include:

    Power Snatch: 170 lb
    Power Clean: 110 kg (242 lb)
    Rack Split Jerk: 135 kg (297 lb)
    Overhead Squat: 110 kg (242 lb)
    Front Squat: 145 kg (319 lb)

    I can also military press my bodyweight.


    Winter 2001 (Having never touched a weight in my life):

    April 2005 (End of high school; I'm into basic gymnastics at this point):

    August 2007 (Leg training has already started full force):

    January 2009 (After working on my Olympic lifts for the past six months):

    Tell us a bit about your background; when and why did you get into lifting?
    I’m currently 21 years old. A quick chronology of my training history goes:

    2002 – I started lifting in high school, but only during the school year.
    2004 – I started training continuously and keeping an online training log here at JSF.
    2005 – I “discovered” my legs and started training them seriously.
    2008 – I started taking my Olympic lifts more seriously, running my first program tailored specifically to improving them.

    My high school required all students to play three seasons of sports, but I couldn’t “play” any sports. At about 115 lbs and a freshman, I was too small for football. I didn’t know the rules for soccer or basketball and the thought of grappling with other men in wrestling terrified me. So, I chose to run, swim, and then run some more. My freshman year I lowered my mile time in cross country from 18 minutes to an astounding 14 minutes – the limit of my walking ability I assure you. In swimming, the coach created a “seventh lane” in our six-lane pool by placing me and some of my buddies in the attached diving well. Our job was to traverse its approximately 10-yard width a few times each afternoon without drowning. In (long distance) track, the coach told me my goal was just to keep the next runner in sight. This way I wouldn’t get lost while we ran through the surrounding neighborhoods or the local parks, but really it just meant that I had one or two other people with me when we inevitably fell too far behind.

    However, when I returned to school my sophomore year of high school, my roommate wanted me to lift weights with him, as he had started over the summer with the help of his dad and found that he liked doing it. I looked up to him a lot, so it only took a bit less than a lot of whining before I acquiesced and made one of the best decisions of my life. Though at first I was extremely self-conscious, I quickly found that I enjoyed the personal, yet still competitive nature of lifting. I didn’t have to compete with anyone, but it really felt good working to bench or curl just a bit more than my buddy could. Lifting also appealed to my more analytical side due to its dependence on numbers and all the variables that could be manipulated. To keep it simple, you could say that I just plain got hooked. I found that, as my numbers started increasing, so did my self-confidence. I started looking better, feeling better, and performing better. I began to think about required sports in a new light – eventually making the varsity cross-country and swimming teams. Girls began to notice me. Life just simply improved.

    What were your initial goals? What are your current goals?
    My goals have changed quite a few times over the years. When I started, I wanted simply to lift as much as my training partner did. Then, I wanted to make myself look better, gaining a cut set of abs, strong pecs, big arms, etc. But, as I learned more about lifting, my goals would switch almost monthly, depending on what I’d been reading lately. Did I want to be a bodybuilder? Or, was it a powerlifter? Form or function? I kept going in circles and, as a result, not going anywhere as fast as I’d like.

    The turning point was, when I “discovered” squats and deadlifts, and shortly thereafter realized the importance of having a strong legs and back. I can’t emphasize enough that the legs and back are the foundation for almost all athletics in addition to a good physique. If your legs and back are strong, you’ll perform better in your current athletic pursuits and have a better quality of life over the long term. The movements that are used to work these groups of muscles are the biggest, most badass of compound exercises. Consequently, they have the largest potential impact in terms of strength, hypertrophy, cardiovascular fitness, and even hormones. In other words, train your legs and do your squats and deadlifts – they’re essential to optimizing the path to most of the goals I see set forth on this forum.

    So, in part because of these benefits but mostly because I like to move large weights, I’ve been squarely in the strength camp for the past three years and have no plans for leaving. Fortunately, I’ve also long since realized that the debate between form and function is not characterized by a dichotomy. By simply committing to the goal of putting up greater weights, I’ve inadvertently been able to improve my physique continuously. Form does follow function after all!

    Thus, my current goals are strictly number-based. By the end of the year, I want to power snatch at least my bodyweight, power clean 1.5x my bodyweight, jerk from the rack well over 300 lbs, and squat more. As you can probably tell, (Olympic style) weightlifting currently influences my exercise selection.

    What does your current training program look like?
    My current routine is pretty free form. I lift three nonconsecutive days per week and follow this general layout:

    1. A classical lift (i.e. a clean or snatch) or variations, including complexes from various hangs and/or combined with pulls.
    2. An overhead -- jerks (e.g. power, split, BTN, or complexes with B/FSQs) and drop snatches
    3. Clean or snatch pulls -- up to 135% of clean or snatch with doubles.
    4. Squats -- front or back: 5x4, 3x3, 2x3, heavy singles. Do 2-3 of those every time training.

    + general assistance exercise (e.g. military press, chin-ups, box jumps, etc.)

    I usually run 2-3 extremely structured programs each year, but I’m between such programs now.

    How has your training evolved?
    Haphazardly… over the course of the years, I’ve trained:

    Bench and curl jockeying
    German Volume Training
    Vince Gironda’s methods
    Super Squats (e.g. the 20 rep breathing squat)
    Starr and Madcow’s 5x5 Variations
    Basic gymnastics and strength holds
    Waterbury and Thibaudeau
    Dan John’s OLAD
    Texas Method
    Olympic weightlifting

    The first program I ever used was Max-OT because of John Stone’s endorsement in the very early days of his transformation. After that, I designed my own routines, ran others’ programs, and combined the two. The main point is that I’ve ultimately had to try many different styles of training in order to find what works best for and appeals the most to me. The side effect is that it’s taught me a lot about lifting in general and given me enough diversity that I can change my training methodology as needed to reach my goals.

    Looking at your JSF posting history, it is clear that your level of knowledge has increased tremendously over the years. Can you please tell us a little bit about how you have gone about educating yourself?
    I read about fitness for hours every day. You simply cannot educate yourself without doing a great deal of reading. There is no substitute for putting in the necessary time.

    Currently, I spend most of that time just reading this forum, but I also read a few other forums specific to Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting. In the past, I extensively read other major fitness websites such as T-Nation, EliteFTS, and even Bodybuilding.com in addition to thoroughly scouring for information on specific topics as needed. If you are really into the scientific side of fitness, PubMed is also a great resource.

    I also own a number of fitness books, but the four I’ve gotten the most use out of are:

    Arthur Drechsler’s The Weightlifting Encyclopedia: A Guide to World Class Performance
    Mel C. Siff’s Supertraining
    Mark Rippetoe’s Practical Programming
    Christian Thibaudeau’s Theory and Application of Modern Strength and Power Methods

    For most new lifters, I’d recommend the now ubiquitous Starting Strength (Rippetoe).

    Obviously good form is important, and I know that is something you are passionate about. What advice would you give to a beginner on learning proper form, especially on some of the more complex Olympic lifts?
    If a beginner wants to learn how to perform the Olympic lifts, they should find a USAW certified coach and start taking lessons. The easiest way to locate a coach is to look for a club in your area using the USAW website. Remember that weightlifting is not currently a popular sport, even though the majority of college and professional sports teams use variations of its lifts, so you may have to travel quite far to get instruction. Alternatively, though much less optimally, you can look for a CrossFit gym near you. However, I would tend to recommend that you avoid this – if at all possible – because of the lower potential quality of coaching unless you are also interested in that style of training.

    If you can’t find a coach, as a beginner, I would not recommend learning the Olympic lifts right away. Spend at least six months learning and progressing on the big, basic compound exercises – back squats, deadlifts, bench and overhead presses, rows and pull-ups. Incorporate front and overhead squats into your warm-up and work on gaining the requisite flexibility during this time.

    With this accomplished, or if you’re a more experienced lifter or already an athlete, then you can turn your attention directly to the lifts. Search this forum and browse the internet for more information about them. There have been a number of threads here that can help you locate resources. (Here’s one of them.) Pay particular attention to descriptions that include and define terms like “first pull,” “second pull,” “double knee bend,” “scoop,” and “triple extension.” The Olympic pull has multiple phases and it’s essential to understand what is going on in order to perform the lifts at your best. In addition, watch as many videos on YouTube or elsewhere as you can. Attend local competitions if possible and don’t be afraid to order instructional videos. It’s essential to thoroughly understand what is happening both from a more abstract technical as well as concrete visual point of view. Finally, buy yourself a video camera and tape yourself practicing and performing the lifts. Being able to see what you’re doing from an objective point of view is infinitely more helpful than trying to watch yourself in the mirror. Correspondingly, I would not suggest trying to learn the lifts without any sort of feedback system at all. The theme to all of this is that, if you must learn the lifts on your own, you need to educate yourself as close as possible to a coach’s level. You need to be able to see what they would see and think like they would think. You simply cannot do this without a comprehensive understanding of both the abstract and practical performance of the lifts.

    What is your diet like?
    Admittedly, diet is one of the weak points in my program. Though it hasn’t been quite weak enough to prevent me from progressing, it has kept me from maximizing my progress. Luckily, my strength-related goals are only partially dependent on bodyweight. I’ve never been overweight, so my worry has always been about eating enough food.

    At minimum, I try to eat at least three larges meals per day. However, a good day will have four and a great day will have five meals. Large means at least 800 calories with 1000 being about ideal. In addition to meals, I try to snack, so that my total caloric intake is in the 3200-4000 range for the day. I don’t count macronutrients, but base all my meals around a protein entrée. It’s simply not a meal if there isn’t some serious beef, chicken, pork, or fish on my plate. After that, I go for complex carb sources like potatoes, rice, pasta, lasagna, etc. I mix dishes whenever possible, e.g. chili and rice, soup and rice, etc. I try to avoid transitive fats, but will eat both saturated and unsaturated without hesitation. I always have a couple sides of vegetables and fruits with my meals.

    I also occasionally indulge in Taco Bell, as members of the Wasteland in the VIP section of the forums can tell you. You can’t go wrong with a Grande Meal and a Nachos Bell Grande. Make sure to stock up on bean burritos – they have more calories than regular tacos – and don’t forget the fire sauce.

    Do you use any supplements?
    Only melatonin to help me keep a more normal sleep schedule.

    However, in the distant past, I’ve used whey, creatine, multivitamins, glutamine, BCAAs, ZMA, fish oils, flaxseed oil, glucosamine, CSA, MSM, extra vitamin C, and At Large Nutrition's ETS. Ultimately, I’ve found that supplements are in no way essential to progress and that, though they can give an extra edge to your training, this is really only applicable when you have a meticulous diet to back them up.

    However, for long-term health, I think that a good multivitamin and a source of EFAs (essential fatty acids, e.g. flax and fish oil) are an excellent choice. Whey and creatine are also very useful adjuncts to a good diet, especially if you have trouble getting enough red meat and, more generally, protein in your diet.

    What obstacles have you encountered, and how have you overcome them?
    With six years of training under my belt, my body is still in excellent shape. I had no existing injuries when I started training. I’ve not developed any chronic pains. I’ve only had a few soft tissue injuries over the years.

    Very early in my training, I hurt my shoulder foolishly trying to isolate my serratus anterior with an exercise on the incline bench and then reinjured it a few weeks later. I also aggravated my brachioradialis getting too “hardcore” with my curls also around this time. A few years later, from November through December 2005, not too long after learning how to deadlift, I injured my back doing a few deadlifts and then (again) reinjured it coming back too soon to training. This was just a pulled muscle, but it was quite the experience being barely able to move around for the first week and then being bed-ridden for a few days after the reinjury. Ultimately, this forced me to put more value on the healing process – a few days or weeks off really doesn’t amount to much on the scope of years of work. Other than these injuries, I’ve had a few small neck and upper back strains interspersed through my training, which usually resolved within a few days in time for my next training session. I’ve found that front squatting is a good option when you need to train legs while the rear neck is hurt.

    The most significant obstacle I’ve encountered took place right after I ran the Coan-Phillipi deadlift routine prior to Christmas in 2007. I returned home for Christmas break and felt burnt out, which isn’t exactly uncommon at the end of a hard routine or quarter in college. Consequently, I took a few weeks off training, hoping to come back strong and motivated for the next quarter of school. Unfortunately, I had scheduled my classes starting at 9 AM in the morning, whereas, for the past few years, I’d rarely had a class before 1:30 PM. (I can hear the working world’s sarcastic groans as I type this.) Consequently, I was trained to go to sleep only well after 5 AM each morning – a perk of the college lifestyle. Over break, I had inadvertently pushed this up to about 7 AM. The complete change of my day / night cycle that the return to school necessitated absolutely ruined my life. I was tired all the time, sleeping extremely odd hours, barely hungry, and completely lacking motivation. I ultimately didn’t train for another two months, keeping me out of the gym for over 70 days.

    With the quarter nearly over, I was eventually able to stabilize my sleep schedule and, therefore, the rest of my life. I got back in the gym extremely detrained, out of shape, and with very little of my former passion. I decided to keep it simple and just squat. So, for the next few weeks, I did just that. It turns out that this is an excellent way to get back in shape and I quickly regained my strength and work capacity. In order to increase my motivation, I decided that I wouldn’t stick to any set routine for a while and just “have fun” in the gym. This also worked well, eventually leading me to take a stronger interest in the Olympic lifts.

    I credit the focus I had on building a strong back and legs the two years prior to my ability to bounce back so quickly. If I hadn’t worked hard on these groups, I think I would have been in a much worse state when I restarted and it would have taken much, much longer to build back to my previous levels. So, again, work your legs and back!

    How has your commitment to strength and fitness changed your life?
    In some sense, the pursuit of strength is unnecessary – lifting hundreds of pounds off the floor or putting them above my head has little application to anything I encounter in my daily life. However, being in shape does improve everything from climbing the stairs to opening a stubborn pickle jar at a party, which can be pretty significant ordeals when you’re out of shape or overweight. More specific to my own life though, committing to fitness has been a source of stability, as I’ve undergone rapid changes from an adolescent to a young adult, from a high school to college student, from a boy to a man. It’s also improved my feelings of self-worth by increasing my sense of accomplishment and, of course, making me look better. In particular, it feels really great knowing that each time I’m in the gym I have the potential to put up a little more weight than I ever have in my life. I can look forward to improvement in this arena and use it as a model during times in which I’m not seeing improvement in other aspects of my life. Fitness has also brought me together with a great community of people here on JSF, where I’ve been able to develop some great friends, help strangers, and receive help from them. If I hadn’t found JSF, I think fitness would have just been a short phase in my life and not the now integral part of my self-identity it holds. I owe a lot to all of you and thank you for it.

    What advice would you offer to someone who wants to get as strong as possible?
    Don’t be afraid to gain bodyweight. If you never gain bodyweight, you’ll never get strong. If you want to get as strong as possible, you need to gain as much weight as possible.

    Beyond that, just keep working at it. No one starts strong and few ever reach their potential. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but it’s an incremental process. Many small increases make up each larger increase. Getting strong is about the daily grind – you need not only to be consistent, but to be consistent for a long time.

    How have JSF and the JSF Forums helped you?
    I’ve made quite a few posts on the forum over the years, but whatever they contain pales in comparison to the wealth of information I’ve received – JSF is truly a treasure trove of information and people. I’ve learned so much from this forum and it’s absolutely fantastic to be able to support others and have them support me in our journeys. If you are reading this and haven’t signed up, do so immediately – you will be treated with love and respect here.

    Any closing thoughts?
    A few bullet points instead:

    - Reading about fitness is the study of generalizations.
    - Consequently, there are very few absolutes in fitness.
    - There are exceptions to just about everything you read.
    - Always try to figure out if you’re the exception.
    - You will hardly ever be the exception.

    And a few more:

    - Excess science and thinking usually gets in the way of results.
    - Practical experience trumps textbook learning any day.
    - Don’t get locked into one training methodology.

    Most of all though, try to have fun when you lift. The gym should be an enjoyable experience, where you get to be on your feet, out from under your desk, and in charge of yourself. When you enter the gym, you’re the master and the weights or the cardio machines are your slaves. Make them work for you, instead of trying to work for them, and you’ll be on a faster track to achieving the results you desire.

    Thanks for your time, Adam!
  2. J_W

    J_W Well-Known Member

    Jan 14, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Adam. You're one of my biggest inspirations here at JSF and this explains why. :bow:
  3. CA$ON

    CA$ON Well-Known Member

    Mar 5, 2007
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    Congrats Chicanerous! I always wanted to know the story behind you and now I know. Thank you for sharing and WOW look at those 2009 pictures. :tucool:
  4. George

    George Senior Member

    Apr 18, 2004
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    Great interview! :spaz: Congrats, Adam!

    Also, thanks for the link to the USAW website. I had no idea that there was a club 8 minutes away from me.
    #4 George, Feb 1, 2009
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2009
  5. mastover

    mastover Well-Known Member

    Jan 5, 2005
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    Congrats chic! This couldn't have happened to a more deserving young fellow! :tu:
  6. gravityhomer

    gravityhomer Elite Member
    Lifetime Platinum Member

    Jan 23, 2004
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    Go chico, go chico :dance: Chicanerous, you are awesome. A sage at 18, now 21 you are a fitness power house. What a great story to read. Oh and that back shot is amazing.
  7. Nowhereman

    Nowhereman Well-Known Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Yes congrats! I find it very enlightening that the 1st two TFOTM's only train 3x a week, yet look at their progress. More isn't always better.

    I enjoyed your interview very very much. You actually helped answer a question that has been lingering in the back of my mind for quite some time now. Why did I start this? It was thanks to reading.

    I also want to say that Adam really helped really helped out with my Olympic Routine over the summer. I had great fun doing it. I read those links he provided and aksed him for help. Very helpful guy.

    I have also been amazed as to how much you have learned in the past few years.

    Congratulations yet again although you probably won't see this till later, seing that you are more than likely still sleeping.
  8. dejavued

    dejavued Senior Member

    Apr 9, 2007
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    :quadzilla: FTW!!!

    congrats adam.... that was a GREAT interview. chock full of valuable info... just like all ur posts. :dreamy:

    ur legs and back blow my mind. :D

    may ur next 4 years be as productive as the last. :tucool:
  9. Speedster

    Speedster Active Member

    Jun 15, 2008
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    Simply fantastic stuff, Chicanerous. These features are great and I'm very inspired by both Ca$on and Chicanerous's transformations. They're also so different from each other in how they came about, etc. that the diversity of change is inspiring in and of itself.

    Great work, Adam!
  10. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    Oct 8, 2006
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    Damn Chico! Nice work these past years. You're truly outstanding.
    #10 Big_D, Feb 1, 2009
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2009
  11. Jedi

    Jedi Well-Known Member

    Jun 4, 2006
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    I was really excited this morning to find out who waqs to be february's feature:)

    thanks for going into so much depth for us in your interveiw, Chico. I always enjoy reading your thoughtful answers to people's posts. You feel like an integral part of the JSF community:tu:
  12. IROC-Z

    IROC-Z Raw Bench Daddy

    Oct 27, 2007
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    Congrats Adam! You are one impressive lifting machine! I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts, and I admire the way you always take the time to help others.:tucool:

    Keep up the great work!:)
  13. Chopaholic

    Chopaholic Well-Known Member

    Feb 6, 2004
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    I remember a photo you either had in a journal, or as an avatar when you first joined. I think you were showering? I remember thinking "that guy needs to eat something." You looked so skinny.


    You're a whole different person. I'm incredibly impressed. :nod:
  14. mlwinfrey

    mlwinfrey Active Member

    Jan 10, 2009
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    You transformation is incredible...you have some incredible tree trunks... I mean legs.
  15. PlainGreyT

    PlainGreyT Active Member

    Sep 17, 2007
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    Wow, the progress you've made over the years is incredible :claplow:

    Its reading about guys like you that inspire me to keep pushing to become bigger and stronger
  16. MannishBoy

    MannishBoy Senior Member

    Aug 3, 2005
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    Congrats for an earned recognition, and thanks for all the knowledgeable help you've dispensed around here over the years.
  17. SweetPea

    SweetPea Well-Known Member

    Jul 16, 2005
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    Wow..those are pretty legs...very cut..good job..great dedication!
  18. bballer143

    bballer143 Well-Known Member

    Jul 14, 2004
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    Look at those legs! :bow:

    I'm very happy to see that you received TSM, Adam! You've always been tremendously helpful on the forums, not to mention, an inspiration to many members here, and I think we're just super lucky to have you here! :dreamy: Congratulations and thank you for sharing your story. :)
  19. JoeSchmo

    JoeSchmo Well-Known Member

    Nov 7, 2004
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    I knew I read your posts for a reason -- Damn impressive work! :nod:
  20. Pete5

    Pete5 Active Member

    Apr 14, 2006
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    Well deserved Adam. You have some ridiculous shoulder strength.

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