Training Tweaks

I have tweaked my goals and strategy for achieving them, and while that excites me and fills me with the desire to share, I can’t imagine anyone really cares much. Then I recalled that’s what personal blogs are for: to write stuff that no one else cares about.

I’ve been in the pursuit of strength now for quite some time, and while I’ve made miniscule gains in my overall strength, it’s nothing earth shattering. What I’ve decided to do instead is to focus on the health aspects of resistance training (which are huge by the way. Recent studies show more muscle mass reduces all cause mortality), and the aesthetic aspect of it. My focus will be to pursue additional lean muscle mass and minimize fat gain, which is basically what it’s about anyway.

Knowing myself as I do, it’s of paramount importance that my efforts are productive. Nothing derails me faster than thinking I’m wasting time and energy on something that just doesn’t work. I live in a perpetual cycle of coming up with the optimal plan, then rethinking the optimal plan for a new and improved optimal plan. Fortunately all this analysis never moves me to paralysis. I always show up and put the work in.

  • Here’s the underlying issue: How much muscle can I actually add even if I do everything optimally?

Sadly, the answer is, I don’t know. Nor does anyone else. There are some reasonable assumptions that can be made based on bone structure and height, but there are so many variables to contend with, from hormone levels to genetic factors that dictate how much myostatin your body produces (myostatin limits the body’s muscle growth), not to mention your diet and your actual training,  that it is highly improbable anyone but the genetically disposed to being large will ever approach their potential.

A person can actually look more muscular just by burning off some stored body fat. Not long ago, I weighed somewhere around 199 lbs and exactly one year after I started dieting for the specific goal of losing body fat, I weighed 168 lbs. I looked muscular, lean and tight at 168 lbs where I looked soft, round and not all that pleasantly plump at 199. What’s comical is that I probably had the exact same amount of muscle on my frame both times.

1 year

The issue for me was that while I was overjoyed at the success of my dieting efforts, I don’t walk around shirtless. When I put clothes on, 168 lbs on a 5’11.5″ frame looks pretty thin. “Thin” is not a word anyone who lifts weights to be bigger wants to hear. So once again, my brain begins to cycle through the optimal way to add muscle while not getting too fat.

I’ve gained quite a bit of body weight, averaging 188 lbs most days, but it’s very hard to know if there’s any new lean muscle on my frame, but it’s quite easy to know that there’s more stored fat on my frame. As Jamie Lewis would say, I’m not too fucking fat, but I’m not too fucking lean either.


So I sit here in a quandary. I know how to get pretty lean; I’ve done it before and not too long ago. What’s more challenging is how to add more muscle. Rule of thumb is to “bulk up” to around 15% body fat, then diet back down to 10% body fat and hopefully be a slightly more muscular version of the last time you were 10% body fat. Then repeat the cycle. I don’t know my exact body fat percentage now as that is also a bitch to calculate accurately, but based on my calipers and some online examples of various levels of body fat, I’m somewhere between 13%-15%.   So at least based on general consensus around training advice, I should start dieting to lose body fat. However–and this forms the basis of the quagmire from which I must emerge–in my clothes, I feel better about the way I look at this weight. I’m not ready to head back down to 170 lbs or so.

Current resolution of dilemma as of 4:32 PM 1/16/16:

  • Keep lifting in an upper/lower split as often as my body will allow, i.e. take a day off when I want to, otherwise go lift. Stick to the big lifts in a 5-8 rep range, adding weight every workout until I can’t get 5 reps. Then drop 10% and continue.
  • Keep calories the same except for non-training days. I will drop calories 10% on those days to see if I can trim a little blubber off the abs.
  • Stop reading training crap online. I get bored easily and shiny new objects distract me. It’s like training ADD–look, a new program!

I will update the blog periodically when I feel inclined to write something.


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