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I'm not into lifting at all (I prefer a bit of martial arts, swimming etc.) but I have found this whole thread very interesting (especially with regard to nutrition). What I like most about it though is how much detailed information ARay provides and how supportive he is in his posts. Great attitude! And to all those trying to follow his suggestions: good luck! You all sound very dedicated.

Chris: I'll respond later, about to go train.

lovelanguages: I appreciate the kind words, but I'm not trying to become LingQ's training guru, for all I know there is a member out there who warms up with my maxes. I simply saw Chris mention it and thought I might be able to help as I do have a bit of experience and it is my greatest passion. I've certainly done some stupid things and made mistakes in the gym so any guidance I can give I'm glad to, as I've certainly had others help me on my journey.

All: The following is an essay by Henry Rollins. I do not think truer words about training have ever been spoken so I thought I would share.

The Iron by Henry Rollins

"I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself.


When I was young I had no sense of myself. All I was, was a product of all the fear and humiliation I suffered. Fear of my parents. The humiliation of teachers calling me “garbage can” and telling me I’d be mowing lawns for a living. And the very real terror of my fellow students. I was threatened and beaten up for the color of my skin and my size. I was skinny and clumsy, and when others would tease me I didn’t run home crying, wondering why.

I knew all too well. I was there to be antagonized. In sports I was laughed at. A spaz. I was pretty good at boxing but only because the rage that filled my every waking moment made me wild and unpredictable. I fought with some strange fury. The other boys thought I was crazy.

I hated myself all the time.

As stupid at it seems now, I wanted to talk like them, dress like them, carry myself with the ease of knowing that I wasn’t going to get pounded in the hallway between classes. Years passed and I learned to keep it all inside. I only talked to a few boys in my grade. Other losers. Some of them are to this day the greatest people I have ever known. Hang out with a guy who has had his head flushed down a toilet a few times, treat him with respect, and you’ll find a faithful friend forever. But even with friends, school sucked. Teachers gave me a hard time. I didn’t think much of them either.
Then came Mr. Pepperman, my advisor. He was a powerfully built Vietnam veteran, and he was scary. No one ever talked out of turn in his class. Once one kid did and Mr. P. lifted him off the ground and pinned him to the blackboard. Mr. P. could see that I was in bad shape, and one Friday in October he asked me if I had ever worked out with weights. I told him no. He told me that I was going to take some of the money that I had saved and buy a hundred-pound set of weights at Sears. As I left his office, I started to think of things I would say to him on Monday when he asked about the weights that I was not going to buy. Still, it made me feel special. My father never really got that close to caring. On Saturday I bought the weights, but I couldn’t even drag them to my mom’s car. An attendant laughed at me as he put them on a dolly.

Monday came and I was called into Mr. P.‘s office after school. He said that he was going to show me how to work out. He was going to put me on a program and start hitting me in the solar plexus in the hallway when I wasn’t looking. When I could take the punch we would know that we were getting somewhere. At no time was I to look at myself in the mirror or tell anyone at school what I was doing. In the gym he showed me ten basic exercises. I paid more attention than I ever did in any of my classes. I didn’t want to blow it. I went home that night and started right in.

Weeks passed, and every once in a while Mr. P. would give me a shot and drop me in the hallway, sending my books flying. The other students didn’t know what to think. More weeks passed, and I was steadily adding new weights to the bar. I could sense the power inside my body growing. I could feel it.

Right before Christmas break I was walking to class, and from out of nowhere Mr. Pepperman appeared and gave me a shot in the chest. I laughed and kept going. He said I could look at myself now. I got home and ran to the bathroom and pulled off my shirt. I saw a body, not just the shell that housed my stomach and my heart. My biceps bulged. My chest had definition. I felt strong. It was the first time I can remember having a sense of myself. I had done something and no one could ever take it away. You couldn’t say s—t to me.

It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you.

It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can’t be as bad as that workout.

I used to fight the pain, but recently this became clear to me: pain is not my enemy; it is my call to greatness. But when dealing with the Iron, one must be careful to interpret the pain correctly. Most injuries involving the Iron come from ego. I once spent a few weeks lifting weight that my body wasn’t ready for and spent a few months not picking up anything heavier than a fork. Try to lift what you’re not prepared to and the Iron will teach you a little lesson in restraint and self-control.

I have never met a truly strong person who didn’t have self-respect. I think a lot of inwardly and outwardly directed contempt passes itself off as self-respect: the idea of raising yourself by stepping on someone’s shoulders instead of doing it yourself. When I see guys working out for cosmetic reasons, I see vanity exposing them in the worst way, as cartoon characters, billboards for imbalance and insecurity. Strength reveals itself through character. It is the difference between bouncers who get off strong-arming people and Mr. Pepperman.

Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart.

Yukio Mishima said that he could not entertain the idea of romance if he was not strong. Romance is such a strong and overwhelming passion, a weakened body cannot sustain it for long. I have some of my most romantic thoughts when I am with the Iron. Once I was in love with a woman. I thought about her the most when the pain from a workout was racing through my body.

Everything in me wanted her. So much so that sex was only a fraction of my total desire. It was the single most intense love I have ever felt, but she lived far away and I didn’t see her very often. Working out was a healthy way of dealing with the loneliness. To this day, when I work out I usually listen to ballads.
I prefer to work out alone.

It enables me to concentrate on the lessons that the Iron has for me. Learning about what you’re made of is always time well spent, and I have found no better teacher. The Iron had taught me how to live. Life is capable of driving you out of your mind. The way it all comes down these days, it’s some kind of miracle if you’re not insane. People have become separated from their bodies. They are no longer whole.

I see them move from their offices to their cars and on to their suburban homes. They stress out constantly, they lose sleep, they eat badly. And they behave badly. Their egos run wild; they become motivated by that which will eventually give them a massive stroke. They need the Iron Mind.

Through the years, I have combined meditation, action, and the Iron into a single strength. I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Time spent away from the Iron makes my mind degenerate. I wallow in a thick depression. My body shuts down my mind.

The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it’s impossible to turn back.

The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs.

Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds."

Chris, you've gained 60lbs already, so you're clearly headed in the right direction. Here is my simple suggestion, just try getting more of the kcals in from more 'real' food sources for awhile. Maybe try the second shake I posted in response to paule, or find/create your own. You will certainly get more micronutrients. I imagine you will see a benefit in performance and energy levels. See if there is any noticeable difference there and the quality of the weight you add. You can always go back to the gainer shake if you don't like it, or if it's not worth the hassle to you. Again it's all a learning process. What I saw in the ingredients aren't going to kill you, but I'm also pretty leery about how accurate those are. There has been some studies that show a lot of supplement companies are very dishonest in that regard.

I've read that essay by Henry Rollins before. Great stuff.

You certainly make a good point about micronutrients, even considering the vitamins A, D and K that are in the milk I'm using. The gainer has no vitamins or minerals at all. I tried adding blueberries (to chocolate milk, hmm...) but the damn blender didn't, well, blend them, and they just sunk to the bottom. Bit of a bummer, there. I'll have a think about what I can do, but I definitely agree that it could use some improvement in that regard.

I think I might just opt for whey and add my own carbs. Your final point is a bit of an eye-opener, actually.

In other, rather wonderful, news, I will be building my own home gym come late March, early April which is awesomeness beyond description. The gym I go to is a fantastic gym, fully equipped with wonderful staff, but I'm forced to travel there at peak hours because of work, and they close relatively early. It's popular and it gets busy as hell. Early mornings don't work out time-wise, either, so the solution is do it all at home. We have a separate little one-room house right in front of our car-park/open garage which my Dad uses for classical guitar practice (we call it the Music Room).. He agreed just last night to let me use the far end to install The Stuff, and although it'll be a damn tight squeeze, especially with a 7ft Olympic bar, the size and length calculations do work out, even for overhead pressing in the fairly low ceiling.

So I'm chuffed to bits about this, because the floor is concrete underneath the carpet, unlike anything in the main house, and he's going to redo the flooring, install linoleum in the far end while recarpeting the rest, and then I'll probably put rubber mats on top.. A true power cage didn't work out in the small space, but a half rack has proved to be perfect. That way I can do everything, including overhead pressing inside the thing itself, which reduces the amount of space I take over for what is already quite a small room with a completely different primary purpose.

I've also agreed to do my workouts between 5am and 6:30am for his convenience, so that'll be fun...

This is the rack I'm looking at: It doesn't specify maximal weight capacity, but the reviews are surprisingly stellar for the price.

That's great. "Dungeon" gyms are great and that half rack is all you need. I spent years just training with a squat stand, a flat bench, a barbell, lots of chalk, blood and vomit. Good times. I train at a dirty powerlifting gym now with great atmosphere and lots of very strong guys.

I have a question that perhaps you can help me with as you're certainly more experienced with languages than I. Not to hi-jack our own thread here.. Anyways, I've been trying to develop a 'program' if you will, for how to use lingq. Honestly at the moment it is a bit random although I use it daily, I always review vocabulary, somedays I read a lot, others not as much. I am in university so I may have other studies to attend to. I also know I need to listen more than I currently do.

I just want to figure out some type of 'programming', how to to progress, like I have for training. I set up a cycle, I know what weights I have to hit each day, everything I'm doing. It's all planned out to lead to progress. I'd like to try and figure out a 'program' with lingq, rather than just going about this randomly. I am taking German in school as well so I have other exposure and lessons than just lingq, but I feel I could be going about this more efficiently. Any thoughts?

I'll get to your question as soon as I can, although I'll probably start another thread for it. Then more disciplined folk than myself can chime in also.

Also, slight change to the Dungeon: turns out instead of setting up a half rack in a cramped-as-hell room, my Dad's decided to actually have something like a 3.7m x 3m shed constructed in the back yard, with insulation and concrete flooring which I can then have all to my lucky self. I'll obviously have to chip in on the costs, but this changes things entirely. A full power cage is now a no-brainer and I'm looking at this very beast: Not terribly expensive, but still holds more weight than the half rack and is arguably safer. I can barely contain myself here :D

Mind if I ask how old you are ARay?

Nice, might as well look into building a platform while you're at it. I've seen a few plans floating around the internet.

I'm 26, worked for a few years before I decided to finish up my degree.

"I'm 26, worked for a few years before I decided to finish up my degree."

I'm a few years behind myself. I'll start at a university in August as a 22 year old junior thanks to the AA I'm finishing up this semester. I find that the couple of years that I have on my classmates makes a big difference.

I'm really looking forward to moving to my new school both because I'll have access to a decent gym for free (well... it's included in tuition), and I'll only be about an hour's drive from Québec, where I can speak all the French I want :)

The upcoming move has made me really motivated to eat clean. Unfortunately my darned father bought several boxes of Girl Scout cookies... I have been only barely resisting

If you have a smartphone, download the Lingq app. Mess around on it between classes, or during breaks when studying school stuff. I can't ever focus on my school stuff for more than 30 minutes without taking a break, so I usually insert 15 minutes or so of some kind of language activity between each 30 minute study period. Don't really worry about what you're doing language related. I'm guessing that your number one priority is school, so just keep yourself active in your foreign language and you will improve. Whenever you can devote a few hours to German in a day, by all means go for it! Also, I never did more cardio than when I was first getting into French and listening to Assimil tracks on loop.

I've split the thread for language discussion here:

Davidjvl, thanks for the tips. I've been trying to increase the amount that I listen. I think that is what I've been neglecting the most. Also review vocab and read daily, just haven't listened enough. Burned some cd's for when I'm driving and uploaded tracks to my iPhone for when I'm walking around campus. I was thinking about the app, also heard of some flashcard system called Anki is supposed to be good.

How's cleaning up the diet going?

Increasing my listening in the very way that you describe helped me get to a huge breakthrough in French. Anki is not for everyone, but it is good as a means to review on your phone between classes or during otherwise "dead" time. My problem with it is that it takes a lot of dedication to make the flashcards on a regular basis, and I find the process extremely boring. There are pre-made decks that you can download, but they are not at all personal, and more or less defeat the point. Try it out and see if you like it, it does work.

Cleaning up is going OK. Yesterday I gave up Coke Zero, which had become a bit of an addiction. So far today I have eaten three 400 calorie meals, and plan on eating another this evening. I've snacked on some unsalted peanuts, which I know are loaded with calories, so I probably should stop, or just try to be careful. I have been using black coffee as a crutch.

I kicked pop a few years back, only drink water and black coffee these days. I definitely noticed a difference in how I felt, looked, and performed. Have you started 'starting strength' back up?

ahahahahahaha.... Do you mean soda?
No really, sorry, just a bit of East Coast elitism on my part ;p

I have not yet restarted Starting Strength. I really don't want to do it incorrectly. It might sound lazy, but I'm going to wait until I move to my new university in June to try get a grad student from the fitness department who teaches at the university gym to show me how to do the stuff correctly. Actually, is that a stupid idea? I figure a guy working on a M.S. in that stuff should know what he's doing.

Yea yea, from Michigan originally, the land of cold gray skies, smog and sadness. I live in the South presently, people here think I'm Canadian when I speak.. oh well, I like Canada so sometimes I just go with it.

One would think, however you can never be sure. Certainly worth a shot though. My suggestion would be to try and find some powerlifters. I understand you may not have a desire to compete in powerlifting (most people don't), but if you want to learn the barbell lifts, finding some experienced powerlifters would be a great resource.

Do you have access to a gym presently? I remember you saying you had moved to an isolated part of the country. If you do, might as well start now (if it is something you are truly interested in). There are plenty of resources on the internet to get you a decent idea as to how to perform the barbell lifts. As long as you start with very manageable weights (i.e. the bar) and provided your form isn't absolutely horrendous, there is no reason to fear doing them 'wrong'. Developing your kinesthetic awareness and dialing in your technique take years.

If not, might as well start doing some bodyweight calisthenics to develop a little strength and work capacity (if you are truly interested in training, not trying to make you do anything). Push-ups, pull-ups, bodyweight squats, lunges, planks, other abdominal work might be a good idea if you plan to eventually train with a barbell.


I live in the south too. My current city (Raleigh) does not necessarily leave me geographically isolated, or anything like how I made it sound, but I came here only recently and I never made any connections with anyone who could help induct me into lifting. I figure that I can wait 3 months until my move to a new city to really work on it. I don't really have the spare cash at the moment for a 3 month subscription. I can barely pay the 10 dollars for lingq.

I think I'll read SS carefully, then work on it on my own until I start adding weight. I will then see if I can find guidance from a trainer. I think I'd actually like going to a powerlifting gym, but I don't know why I should pay when the university offers a gym free to students.

Do you have a specific regimen that you like for bodyweight exercises? I try to do 20 pushups and 20 sit-ups whenever I've been sitting for too long, but I guess I could do something more structured. I am going to order a pull-up bar on amazon.

I am not really into lifting weights but currently I'm trying to get back into martial arts again. I also do push-ups and sit-ups on a regular basis. While I can do up to 60 push-ups I'm terrible when it comes to pull-ups. I'm still in the one-digit area there ;-)

I have found that taking a long walk and doing some cardio training afterwards is the best way for me to prepare for a long study session.

I am also cutting down on my carbohydrate intake, while increasing the amount of vegetables. Nothing spectacular, but so far it has worked fine for me. I feel much more energetic. (If only I could find a way to better control my addiction to chocolate ...).

@Robert: lifting weights and developing strength and explosiveness will definitely help with martial arts, and really, just about any physical endeavour in life. You just have to find a way to enjoy it ;-)

@David: Definitely read SS if you can. I just ordered the hardback version, although I've essentially internalised the contents of the kindle edition. It's a work of genuine magnificence.

@David: I certainly understand the financial side of it being a poor student myself. It could be possible for you to find a powerlifting gym that would not charge you. In the powerlifting sub-culture, many people train in 'garage gyms'. My suggestion is go here:

Post a question there and say you're very interested in learning the barbell lifts and powerlifting and see if you can find a group of guys that train in Raleigh or the new town you will be moving too. Most powerlifters will be very helpful to someone interested in the sport.

If not, start educating yourself on the barbell lifts, read, find videos, analyze everything. Buy some PVC pipe about the size of a barbell (can be shorter) and practice the movements, take video's of yourself doing them, analyze how what you are doing compares to what you see experienced lifters doing on youtube. This way you will at least be getting some practice in now. Come up with a consistent routine of bodyweight squats, pull-ups, push-ups, and ab work in the meantime and get to work! Doesn't have to be anything complicated or perfect, just push yourself. Just do three sets of each every other day. The next week try and beat your numbers from last week.


In my experience pull-ups respond best to volume and frequency and not going to failure (this is important). Say for example you can get 7 pull-ups on on a maximal effort set. Try cutting that number in half, so we will do working sets of 3 reps each. Doing 5 sets of 3 reps should not be too difficult if you can do 7 pull-ups. Focus on making each rep perfect, staying controlled throughout the movement, making sure to initiate the movement from the lats (not the arms) and getting your chin well over the bar. I was able to reach a goal of 20 pullups with an approach similar to this:

-Do the 5 sets of 3, two or three times a week. The next week, add another set, so 6x3. Week after that do 7x3, finally on the 4th week do 8x3.

-When you're getting 8x3 pretty easily start adding reps, so 5x4, 6x4, 7x4, 8x4

-5x5, 6x5, 7x5, 8x5 etc.

Keep going until you're a pull-up machine!

Further to what ARay just mentioned, here's the routine I wrote for my little brother (no idea if he's actually stuck with it, but I digress):

This is all bodyweight stuff:

Squats: 3x30
Push ups:3x20
Chin ups: 3x10
Planks: 3x2:00

At least three times a week. Just basic stuff, really.

ad ARay and Chris: Thank you for your help. I'll definitely try out what you suggested. I'll keep you updated on how things are going.

I'm almost as excited about getting back to some of my former work-out routine as I am when I start studying a new language ;-)

I want to do some regular cardio training as well. I promised one of my brothers (we used to train in the same kick-boxing club when we were teenagers and young adults; he was much better than me though, winning quite a few regional and national championships) that we'd be sparring on a regular basis again.

After a long conference, there is hardly anything more relaxing and at the same time energizing than a couple of sparring rounds, preferably with someone who likes you well enough not to kick your butt ;-)

I just watched a youtube tutorial on how to do pull-ups (so I'd better understand what ARay told me). I have to say that I've never been a fan of that kind of exercise (probably because I have always been pretty bad at it) but the guy who did the tutorial started the video with a hilarious sentence that kind of motivated me: "Hi guys, let me show you why I like hanging out at the bar" ;-)

lovelanguageslll: Pull-ups are great, definitely hard work but worth the effort. Some other things to keep in mind that may help:

1. Focus on staying tight throughout your entire body for the duration of the movement. When I do pull ups I'm stabilizing my entire body by contracting my abs, glutes, and quadriceps (I keep my legs straight, obviously you may not be able to if the pull up bar is too low). I'm only moving at the shoulder and elbow joints. I can't stand watching people do sloppy pull-ups. You should just be moving up and down, no swinging, no kipping or cheating or any other nonsense.

2. To learn how to contract your lats, think about starting the pull from just below and behind your arm pits, not with your arms. This should get your scapula moving properly and get the lats activated in the movement. When I trained athletes, I would often stand behind them and "karate chop" them lightly in the lats while they were starting each pull up to give them an idea of what muscle I wanted them to contract.

3. I personally would always prefer to see my athletes do 1 or 2 perfect pull ups rather than 5 awful looking ones. You can build up the strength to do more provided you follow a logical progression.

4. While this may seem to contradict the above, don't stress out too much about getting everything perfect at first. Just start putting the work in, you will get better. Any exercise, whether it is a pull up, a squat or a deadlift is a skill. It takes many hours of practice to become proficient in it.

Edit: "Lats" is meathead slang for the latissimus dorsi if you did not know..

I'll hopefully be starting SS this weekend, though who knows. Given my shoulder imbalances and issues, would it be advisable to add some rear delt-specific work in, or would the general stretching and basic barbell movements be sufficient? Also, does anyone know if a massage therapist is especially helpful for relieving muscle tightness, particularly in the pecs and anterior delts (part of the problem I think)?

"..Given my shoulder imbalances and issues, would it be advisable to add some rear delt-specific work in.."

Generally yes, most people in modern society have very weak upper back strength and are very tight up front through the pecs/anterior delt/biceps tendon. I would definitely add some direct rear delt work in along with lots of volume rowing (see that first response of mine in the thread). This is generally the first course of action for any scapular or glenohumeral joint disfunction.

As far as a massage therapist, it could be worth a few trips, especially if you can find an A.R.T. practitioner. You could also try stretching and some self myofascial release with a lacrosse ball or baseball, this will most likely be cheaper.

I'm hesitant to modify SS, since Rippetoe repeatedly says to do it as written, but how would you change it given my situation? People often replace power cleans with rows, but I don't know if that's a good idea.

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