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Just a continuation from http://bit.ly/1eCXfZ6

@aRay: I've been training for about a year. The problem is inflexibility in the shoulders coupled with occasional rotator cuff and mid back pain. It's certainly nothing that warrants surgery, but the shoulder issue is something I want to sort out immediately.

This is also hardly helped by the physical requirements of a job in IT. I've taken to regular stretching and mobility work just this past week, which includes shoulder dislocates with a resistance band, planks, hip flexor and glute stretches, pec stretches, quite an array of stuff.

Sounds like you're on the right track but I'll post some things that have helped me. For some perspective, I've been training about 10 years. My right shoulder has always been a bit of an issue (internally rotated a bit along with some scapular winging), but as I said earlier I've been able through trial and error figure out how to keep it happy and continue to train with no issues. At it's worst I've had my whole right arm get tingly and pretty much lost motor control in it for about 24 hours (got back from the gym and tried to eat, fork kept hitting my nose not my mouth, funny now but not then). Today I'm able to train with no issues.

1. Always warm up throughly, I always neglected this when I was younger.

2. Focus on strengthening the upper back and stretching the pecs/delts/biceps. Most of us in today's largely inactive society with desk jobs are chronically tight up front and weak in the back. Band pull aparts, 'no money', Y/T/L, blackburns, external rotations are all good exercises for strengthening the musculature of the upper back. I usually do a few sets of these in my warm ups, then a few at the end of my training session.

3. Aim for double the amount of pulling exercises as pressing. I've found horizontal rowing movements to be better for shoulder health than vertical pulling movements. DB Rows, chest supported rows, inverse rows with straps/rings are great. I.e. your session calls for 40 total reps in the bench press, try to hit at least 80 reps of pulling movements.

4. On all of these movements focus on using the targeted muscle not just moving weight, learn to probably contract your upper back and lats and how the scapula should move along the shoulder girdle.

5. For squats consider carrying the bar in a high bar position if you do not already, low-bar position will stress the shoulder more. Consider moving bench press grip in if you bench with a wider grip. Deadlift with a double overhand grip not mixed.

It just takes time and consistency and staying positive. If you are unfamiliar with any of these exercises I'd recommend looking up Eric Cressey's (Boston based strength coach) website as well the website for EliteFTS. Lots of resources there. Any other questions feel free to ask, but I have to head the gym for now.

Edit: Some other things I meant to say, if pressing is painful, try dumbbells for awhile instead of barbells and use an elbows tucked neutral-ish grip. Same with pulling movements (rows/chins) neutral grip tends to keep shoulders a bit happier.

I got into lifting about a year ago, and I did really get into it. I started by doing Starting Strength, then I changed to some sort of ABxABxx mess. The resulting confusion ultimately made me give up. I also had to move back in with my parents who live in a rather isolated region of the country, so I knew noone who could spot me. I'll be moving back out soon and I want to get back into it. Do you guys agree that Starting Strength is good for someone who is, essentially, a beginner?

Davidjvl:

Yes. Starting Strength is a good program for beginners, focuses on what is important and none of the bs. My best suggestion is try and find a group of people who are more experienced than you are to learn from or train with them.

To everyone: don't forget to EAT right. Unless you are a nutrition expert, I advise finding a nutritionist for a while. Online nutrition planners (aka meal planners) can be very helpful, if for no other reason than educating yourself about foods. Good nutrition is a lot more than just cutting out potato chips and eating more salads.

One of the reasons I failed the first time was nutrition. I actually did read up quite a bit, and I've learned about the proper requirements of nutrients, but I was impatient. I more or less starved myself at 1000 calories a day for about 4 months. I took the "calories in, calories out" rule a little too seriously. I did lose just under 20 pounds and went from a 34 waist to a 29 (I'm very short - 5'6), but I don't think I gained any muscle. Miraculously I didn't gain any weight back.

I'll try to be social in the gym, or something, to find spotters. I like and would like to use the time to listen to target-language input on my ipod, but I guess I can settle for listening while doing cardio.

"To everyone: don't forget to EAT right."

Nutrition is my biggest problem, actually. I know some basic stuff about nutrition, I eat relatively healthy, I almost never drink alcohol and I don´t smoke. The problem is, that I just don´t eat enough because I´m just not hungry most of the time.

Any advice on that?

"The problem is, that I just don´t eat enough because I´m just not hungry most of the time. "

I have the reverse of this :/ I wish I was skinny enough to start bulking! It'd be so easy.

^Except it probably wouldn't be, because if you were skinny, you'd likely have a fast-as-hell metabolism and hate eating. Food seems to be the bane of the Skinny Guy, more so than actually lifting weights.

Thanks to @ARay for the helpful suggestions. One thing about squats, though: low bar feels infinitely more natural and efficient than high bar does, even though I'm after a decent-sized pair of legs. The only issue, as you mentioned: shoulder inflexibility. The low bar placement, and by extension the position of the shoulders, has frequently caused a horrible headache-like pain in my biceps, eventually radiating down into my forearms, which thankfully disappears a while later. That's slowly being solved, but the actual movement itself feels so much better. My only concern is lack of quadriceps involvement. I'm on an upper-lower split (probably should be doing SS, but I love my dumbbell bench presses and rows) and will additionally be leg pressing and possibly adding in RDLs. What leg development can I reasonably expect from such a posterior chain-dominant exercise?

Also, it was the power cleans in SS that truly wrecked my shoulder (all my own fault of course), so I'm laying off those for a bit, too.

Davidjvl:

As Chris pointed out, I forgot starting strength called for power cleans. In that case, I would recommend you just omit those, rest of the program is solid though. Great exercise if done correctly, but most people have zero need for them. Also, I would not worry about cutting/bulking any of that for now. Just start eating to support muscle. Clean foods, multiple times a day, develop the habit of eating that way until it becomes natural. If you're busting your a** in the gym and eating good foods on a consistent basis, you will see results.

Chris:

Your quads will be plenty stimulated with low bar squats. I've squatted low bar for years and my quads are certainly not small. Front squats are another great option though. I often do a few sets of fronts after I squat.

Paule:

I'm assuming you're trying to gain weight? It's all about making a commitment and just doing it until it becomes natural. Something simple you could do is commit to eating three whole-food meals a day, and then use two or three protein shakes a day. These protein shakes you use a blender and can add in a ton of calories, so something like:

2 Scoops of whey
1 cup oats
2 tbsp peanut butter
some sugar

or if you need more kcals (this will get you about 1,000kcals in one shake)

12oz Milk
1 scoop protein
1 Banana
2 tbsp mixed nuts
2 tbsp olive or coconut oil
some honey
1/2 cups oats
1/2 cup mixed berries

It's pretty easy to get more kcals if you are creative.

Just like learning languages, whether it's training or nutrition, it's just about being consistent, developing the discipline to do it until it becomes second nature. It's all about consistency, just keep pushing and you'll get results.

Certainly nice to have a Lifting Maestro (I just made that up right now) on the boards! If I can further avail myself of your help, what would recommend calorie-wise for someone verging on skinnyfat? I've been taking in more than enough calories for my needs (3000+ has brought me to my present bodyweight), but I'm starting to get a rather unsightly paunch, and generally just feeling kind of soft all over. I'm extremely hesistant to "cut" for fear of losing what little I've made over the last year, but what would you advise? A modest surplus of 100-200 calories and just keep hitting it hard in the gym?

I think part of my problem last year was not pushing myself hard enough (increasing the weight) and my back pain prevented me from making much progress on the squat, so instead of fueling growth, I think the extra calories have gone elsewhere...

That's not uncommon Chris. Good thing is, it is usually a pretty easy fix. Do two things for me, first think hard about how disciplined you really are with your nutrition. Second, give me a basic overview of what you're doing nutrition wise.


Quite disciplined I would say, at least with respect to the total calories I seek to consume. I'm not particularly hung up on "clean eating", although I try to get fruit and vegetable servings daily and I don't make a deliberate effort to seek out terrible food. I don't count my macros, but I do make sure to get a decent amount of protein each meal ("decent" based on prior calculations for different foods and amounts, so I have a fair idea of what I'm getting) and I know for a fact I'm getting enough carbs. Fats I'm less concerned about, even though I know they're important, but I'm probably getting enough.

A sample meal for the day, with office-based job considerations in mind, would be something like:

0) Muesli bar and apple - 300 calories (just to tie me over until I get to work)
1) Weight gainer shake - 500 calories (about 40g of protein with milk)
2) Usually a mince/steak/chicken pie and fruit juice, or a healthier-than-McDonalds chicken burger with fries - 600-700 calories estimate
3) Weight gainer shake - 500 calories
4) Whatever's cooked for dinner, some kind of roast meal, lots of vegetables. - Maybe 300 to 600 calories
5) Chicken breast and mash with broccoli - 600 calories
6) *Maybe* an additional shake if calorie requirements are for some reason below quota. Supplemented with broccoli or other vegetables or fruit as necessary.

So we're looking at around or over 3000 calories a day. I can usually eyeball a meal and guess the calories, which appears to have been working. The above is fairly consistent, although lunch and dinner tend to change based on mood and/or availability. The meal-replacement shakes I consider a necessity due to working in an office 8 hours a day.

I also try to get a decent amount of fruit and vegetables a day.

For what it's worth, I'm 5'11, 165lbs/75kg and my maintenance was calculated to be around 2500. Thanks!

I was doing SS for a while, but ran into some back troubles due to the deadlift and squats. I've been a bit lazy the past couple of weeks (cold rainy Vancouver weather hasn't helped!), but I'm looking to get back into my routine in the next week.

I'm 6'2" and weight fluctuates - I was down to around 185 at my lightest and 220 at my heaviest, but am around 210 now. I wouldn't be looking to trim down any more than 195-200 this summer, as I like to carry a bit more bulk.

Good to see some others on here also interested in training :)

Languages and weights...you have you those two things, you've pretty much got it made. :D

Chris: Honestly I see a lot of room for improvement there. My initial thought is this, at 5'11" 165lbs, keep focusing on getting bigger and worry about body fat later (I'll come back to this). However, you need to decide for yourself what your goal is. What is your priority? Becoming a powerlifter (strength)? Becoming a bodybuilder (size)? Is there some other sport you participate in and training is simply a stimulus to increase your performance at the given competitive sport? Do you simply just want to exercise to look and feel better (a completely reasonable goal)? Everything done in the gym should be done for the reason of achieving a said goal, same goes with the kitchen (if you decide to begin taking nutrition seriously).

That said, if you are looking to lean out a bit, I would focus on eating a bit cleaner and I can certainly make some suggestions that will get you moving in the right direction, but for now figure out what your goal is.

My goal is really to just get bigger, look and feel better, be less scrawny and take up room, but in the form of muscle weight and not fat, of course. I have absolutely no issue with not having a "six-pack" bla bla, and I'm aware gaining fat is probably necessary for muscle gains. I guess I'm still just getting used to my new weight, since I originally started at a frighteningly underweight 108lbs/49kg.

This is why I wasn't originally too concerned about exact macros, as long as I hit my calorie intake, and got enough protein. That I take seriously, every day. I'll readily admit my diet isn't truly perfect in the strictest of bodybuilding ideals, and I'm consciously sacrificing some of that for convenience, but how much improvement are we talking here? I do eat my greens, as well!

I should add, I'm often a bit torn between what I feel I "should" be focusing on (strength) as opposed to what I really want, which is just sheer muscle weight. Strength is very important to me too, and something that I know will be developed as I progress, plus I want good strength for everyday life, such as carrying furniture and what have you, but right now I just want bulk.

Thanks again for your comments and help!

Good work, gaining 60lbs is no joke. Given your goals, keep doing what your are doing provided that you're still seeing progress. However, in my experience the quality of the food you eat affects the quality of the weight you gain. If you're feeling soft, just clean up the diet for a week or so and see what happens.

Train to get stronger, you'll also get bigger.


I wonder what steve can bench?

What do you guys think about caffeine consumption? I'm speaking both in regards to lifting and to general day-to-day coffee drinking.

I usually drink at least one double espresso before a language studying session.

I drink a can of Red Bull every day (which has more taurine than caffeine, but whatever) and also, equally regrettably, take a preworkout supplement "just because". Neither are in the least necessary, but I'd still wager that a double espresso is more nutritionally substantial (while not being all that substantial) than a Red Bull.

In fact, I'm going to cut out all of that crap, clean up my diet as per ARay's suggestions, and report back in a week or so.

I'm going to officially go clean too, starting tomorrow when I get up. I can't take ARay's suggestion because it's wayyyy more calories than my 168cm frame can handle. I'll just content myself to an 1800 calorie plan. I even bought a new package of oatmeal! See ya in a week :)

Coffee is good. Cup in the morning and before training. I often throw a tablespoon of coconut oil in when I need more easy kcals.

Chris, meant to give you more specific suggestions but I've been busy. Didn't forget though. A few things that stick out.

-The weight gainer shake, I'm assuming is from some supplement company? My preference is to get as much real, whole foods over shakes/supplements. If I am going the protein shake route, it's pure whey protein isolate, then add real food if I need more kcals (see the shakes above, or just eat a ton of nuts and an apple with it if I'm lazy). I'd suggest looking into highest quality source for the protein you can find. A lot of those big supplement companies add in lots of junk you don't want.

-Milk. Great for gaining weight and smashing things, not great if you're worried about getting leaner/not adding fat. Try dropping the milk see how that affects things.

-Carb timing. I tend to keep most of my carbs around training, before/during/after and then my last meal of the day. If it's an off day I'm usually only eating carbs at the last meal of the day. In this same line of thinking, if you want to minimize fat accumulation, consider dropping kcals a bit on off days.

-Food prep. I prepare my meals ahead of time so I'm not eating a fast food burger or whatever in a pinch. About every 4-5 days I just cook up a few lbs of chicken and beef and store it in tupperware in the fridge. Meals for the next few are simple and taken care of. I'll only eat out at a restaurant or get a pizza once a week. Also, since I talked about going out, I don't drink alcohol. Not sure what your consumption is, but it certainly plays a role in body composition so don't overlook it.

The best thing about training is, it is a life long learning process. Try something (in the gym and the kitchen) and see if it works for you. You will always be getting feedback from your body if you are paying attention. Figure out your goal, create a plan, follow through with the plan, see what worked and what didn't, reassess, learn.

Example

1. 4-5 Eggs cooked in coconut oil, some blueberries, black coffee with tablespoon of coconut oil.
2. 50g whey protein isolate, large amount of almonds/cashews/walnuts
3. Chicken, a cup of spinach, lots of olive oil
4. 50g whey isolate, almonds, apple
5. (Pre-training, hour or so before) Chicken, rice/potato/oats, green veggies
6. (Training) 20-50g whey or BCAA, throw in 20-40g sugar
7. (Post-Training) Ground beef and rice, veggies
8. Whey, oats, peanut butter, some sugar or honey

Easy. I train for powerlifting so I'm not as crazy about getting everything perfect like a bodybuilder would. However, I also don't like carrying around tons of fat and prefer to stay relatively lean so I've settled on this approach. I don't count kcals at this point I just know what I need to adjust depending on how I feel in the gym and how my body is responding.

ARay, Thank you very much for taking the time to write all that. I'll need a bit time to fully digest it all (pun not intended) and ask further questions, but a note regarding the weight gainer, since it does play a fairly important role in my diet: the specific brand I buy is Mutant Mass (horrible name) and it was chosen after a careful selection of what's on the market.

Four scoops yields 1000 calories (I only use two scoops a day with milk), and of the 182g of carbs, 38g are sugar. For my uses, I only get about 19g, because I'm taking two scoops, one per shake. The protein is also a mix of various whey, casein and egg proteins and overall seems pretty well designed. Decent amount of fibre, too.

One scoop is 250 calories (math genius here), and I mix one with 500ml of a lower-fat, higher-protein milk, giving a total of 500 calories with 25g protein from the milk and 15g from the protein/gainer for about 40g per shake.

The real reason they're so valuable to me is because I work in an office 8 hours a day, and treat the two shakes as meal replacements, which they effectively are. It just feels like an impractical and pointless hassle to try and substitute them for chewable meals, when they appear to provide just what I need.

Does this still sound terrible? This is the ingredient profile: bit.ly/MKbgya

I'll add also, that I am planning to incorporate fruit and vegetables more strictly, in addition to a more substantial breakfast. Of the 3000 calories, 1000 are from the shakes, so it's still 2/3 whole foods, and more if you count the milk itself.

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