Hello again 🙂
Firstly, thank you to everyone who liked and shared the last post – we had around 3200 views out of nowhere in like 2 days. I’m just overwhelmed that people found it so useful and Mikey Minuzzo (gym buddy) and I are really committed to delivering an even more useful pt.2 – so strap yoselves in, we’re going 0-100 reall quick.
To lay a context for the post, our contention (and personal results) have indicated to us that a meat eating vs carnivorous diet plays no impact on one’s ability to be as big as they please, as evidenced by a litany of vegan athletes, UFC fighters and, indeed, Germany’s strongest man – who is a vegan. Additionally; cows, rhinos, gorillas, elephants, hippos, bison, wildebeest, horses, manatees, deer, many whales and yaks are all vegan and count among some of the strongest mammals that ever did stride this fair Earth of ours. Further, Mikey Minuzzo lost no size when converting to veganism even though he was at competition size when he changed over, and I built my body from skinny as anything to bigger and leaner than 99% of people on a completely vegan diet. Point being – you can too!! Great, huh? 🙂
(May 2015, Photographer: Srdjan Photography, at around 8% body fat)
If you remember from last post, the 6 key elements Mikey and I isolated as being the most significant to building the body of your dreams (in terms of your figure, lean muscle, vitality, and aesthetics) are as follows:
- Vitamins and Minerals
- Training Plan
Having covered the first three elements in last week’s post (which you can view here), we will now set to work on the last three: Supplementation, Training Plan, and Form.
Keep in mind, however, that they are in this order quite deliberately. If your diet and nutrition isn’t in order, your results will be severely impinged on. This is especially true for females (it’s a hard knock life, ladies – positive news, though, is that when you commit to gym like the big boys do – that is, with enthusiasm and intensity – your body will go from normal human to ‘cant even process’ very quickly).
Before we continue, just as we put a disclaimer in last week that we are not health professionals, this week we go to similar effort to point out that we are not qualified PTs. We simply asked as we went, came up in the body building gyms of Melbourne, spoke to every body builder we knew and introduced ourselves to every person with a fantastic body that we ever saw at a gym and asked how they did it, read elephant sized amounts and cross referenced what we learned with the results we each saw on our own bodies and progressions we went. We always had the view that you should never ask someone who’s earning $50k/year how to earn $100k because if they knew they’d be doing it. Similarly, our view is simply formed by asking people that have done it and copying. In other words, we didn’t do a 4 week online course and then started running our mouths – we are living breathing examples of what we are postulating and so were the people that we took advice from. Our only hope is that you may find something useful in what we have spent years learning that might shortcut or supplement your own results.
Let’s get to it!
There is a whole world of supplements out there claiming to do this and do that and branding themselves as the whole new next thing. Don’t be fooled. In reality, you don’t need anything but a proper diet, discipline, consistency, good form and maybe some creatine monohydrate. In any case, that’s not the way we got our bodies (although it is our current stance – neither Mike or I use any supplements really.. except for vitamins, HMB on days we want it, and usually some creatine – which is a far cry from the days of each of us doing a monthly gym supplement budget and allocating a whole shelve in the pantry to the supps). Finally, we should note before continuing that many much more experienced natural body builders we know don’t take anything (simply because they can’t afford it) and they seem to be doing fine. Nonetheless, you don’t want our life story – you want the short ‘n sweet. So here’s the breakdown.
All the supplements you take are collectively referred to as your “gym stack”. Ours has changed and evolved over time as we played around with what worked for us and what didn’t, we will include everything here we think you might find useful:
Creatine Monohydrate: This is supplementation 101. Everyone uses it – it’s cheap as (like $20 a kilo on ebay and the serving size is 5g). It’s the most researched gym supplement out there and phenomenally effective. No bad side effects, all you gotta do is make sure you’re drinking your 8 glasses of water per day when you’re on it. Basically, when you eat food it’s stored as sugar until you need it at which point it is converted to ATP (Adeninetriphosphate) which is basically muscle fuel. At the end of your set when you’re on your last rep and you’re all out of ATP (fuel) it takes about 20 seconds for your body to convert more stores into ATP however creatine, which is found naturally in the muscles, can be converted in a fraction of a second, allowing you to bust out another few reps, and thusly tear the muscle a bit more. Muscle tear = muscle growth (via protein while you rest or sleep). Win. So get this in.
Pre-workout: Okay, this stuff is poisonous, I’m sure of it, but there is no doubt that it works.
Basically it’s a drink that you mix with water that gives you intense focus, increased lifts, clarity, drive, and desire to lift. It’s great. It’s like what redbull aspires to be but would get sued if that much of the population was on it. I’ve since stopped taking pre-workout (and all caffeine and stimulants, including my ADHD medication) because I don’t want to see my life through the filter of a drug or stimulant, however, in honesty, pre-workout was what originally made me fall in love with the gym. The music, the rush, the lifting, the gains were all underpinned by these supplements. Honestly, I ended up like I am because of my love gym. I have trained consistently, 6 days a week for 2 years now, maybe longer, and no amount of discipline would have carried me through that if I didn’t love it. This is why I would recommend trying it out to begin with while you get yourself into the rhythm of gym and start to see enough gains that motivate you to keep going. Some hints: they all say “DO NOT EXCEED ONE SCOOP”, when you first take it start with one until you get used to it and then take two.. everyone takes two. But for god’s sake don’t take three. Shit will get real, reall quick.
This meme is so true lol.
It’s not illegal, it’s not a “drug”, and they’re readily commercially available. One disclaimer to that, however, is that in Australia, anything that professional athletes can’t take, the general public isn’t allowed to, either. That is not the case in America. For this reason, there are pre-workouts in America with an ingredient called DMAE in them, that used to be in Australia (in the old Jack3d pre-workout, for example) that are now banned in Australia. That said, it never stopped Mike and I from importing them. Zero fucks given. Gotta get those gains – get big or die admiring. So here’s a list of the best pre-workouts we’ve tried in order (and we’ve just about tried them all over the years) – if it has a star next to it, that means it’s imported from America and has DMAE in it:
Neurocore*, Craze*, The Curse, IMR-Vortex, Juggernaut, Jack3d.
Everyone will have a preference, these are simply ours.
Vitamins: Most gym-goers will have a mutli-V. We like Gaspari’s Anavite multi-V. We recommend getting a blood test to see what you’re low in and supplementing accordingly. Most people are deficient in vitamin-D. Mike is the world’s biggest advocate of vitamin-C, his meal plan has 7 times the daily recommended vitamin-c just from food and he also supplements with it (yes, we know you just piss it out) and he never gets sick. He reckons every time he stops taking it he gets sick so whatevs, do with that what you will. I get cold sores (which by the way can be aggravated by certain gym supplements and pre-workouts with amino acid L-Argenine in it, in addition to foods that are high in L-Argenine such as nuts, chocolate, turkey etc.. do a Google search, it basically blocks the pathways for another amino acid, L-Lysine, to heal and prevent the cold sore virus) so I supplement with Zinc, Vit-C (helps the absorption of zinc) and L-Lysine.
Omega 3,6,9: Healthy fatty acids. These are important for joint health, recovery, and brain functioning. On a vegan diet they can be found in high quantities in nuts, flax seeds (we often chuck some LSA – linseed, sunflower seed and almond meal – in our post-workout shakes to get more omegas in) and some oils. There are caps and oils you can get to supplement this like flaxseed and roship oil. Have a look on the bodybuilding.com store for reference.
Waxy-maize: (For bulking). Basically a simple carb powder that is high calorie – you put it with your post-workout shake and the calories are shipped post-haste to your muscles to help put on size. Plus 4800 calories in a day isn’t so easy to get in, we’ll have you know, and both of us have nearly thrown up (and actually thrown up) after twice-daily 1L soy milk skulls. Gotta do what you gotta do. If it were easy, everyone would do it. Again, to note, I’m not advocating this type of bulking as the healthiest way to get things done – I don’t even drink soy milk anymore as it has sugar in it and I am sugar-free, but this is what we did to get results and it worked.
Protein Powders: People go real nuts on these, and I barely take them anymore if at all. That said, it’s fairly universal. I can’t comment on non-vegan ones as I never tried them but there are a plethora of vegan protein powders (soy, pea, rice etc) that are great. A couple of scoops after workout (within 40 mins – we had it right away) and you’re good to go. Reduced muscle soreness, better support for a growing body, and more good calories in. Also, while we bulked, we would have a protein shake after every meal as liquids are easier to get in than more solids. The best vegan one we found is called BioFlex – it’s a chocolate flavoured mix of pea protein, soy protein and rice protein and is quite cheap.
HMB: The commentary on this one is very polarised between people saying it’s a complete waste of money and people thinking it’s the best thing ever. I am on the best thing ever side. I notice whenever I’m taking it consistently I am bigger. It’s particularly good for hard-gainers (ecto-morphs – skinny people that find it hard to put on muscle).
Okay, that’s most of them – a basic gym stack will have creatine, pre-workout and protein – that’s all most people will use.
“A well built physique is a status symbol. It reflects you worked hard for it. No money can buy it. You cannot inherit it. You cannot steal it. You cannot borrow it. You cannot hold on to it without constant work. It shows dedication. It shows discipline. It shows self-respect. It shows dignity. It shows patience, work ethic, passion. That is why it’s attractive to me” – Unknown
I’m going to make it super duper easy for you and privy you to some quick gym tips, to save you learning the hard way. Here’s our quick guide for how not to be a gym wanker. Please, for f*cks sake, don’t talk at the gym. When you walk in, nod to those that you know and respect, shake their hand and ask how they’re doing. If you see someone with a mad body, let them know, maybe ask a quick question, but the gym is not for you and your homies to catch up on the weekend. Lift or get tf out. And ffs don’t use your phone. Seriously. Don’t do it. You’re annoying everyone around you and everyone thinks your an idiot for coming to the one place designed for concentrated hard work, and shitting all on the gym culture. Learn proper form. Be humble. Put your hood over your eyes. It’s completely acceptable to be anti-social. No, people aren’t being angry or wankers, they’re focused on achieving a goal. And you’re in their way – move. Don’t like it? Get a home gym. Head down, ass up. This isn’t a place for shortcuts. Grind, brah.
Okay, now that we’ve got the housekeeping out of the way – let’s discuss how to design a training plan that works for you. That is, “what do I actually do in the gym?” Got ya back, don’t sweat it. We took our basic routine from ex-Mr Lebanon, and the biggest, gnarliest guy we ever did see in Bell St Fitness (one of the 3 bodybuilding gyms in Melbourne – along with Derrimut and Doherty’s – that has since shut down). His basic thesis was that there are 5 compound (whole body) movements you need to do: Squats, Bench Press, Military Press, Deadlift and Pull-Ups. Do these and you’re all set. All the other variety in equipment is to make it funner and easier to isolate a muscle group. So in his opinion all these fancy body movements that PTs have you do is questionable. If I had a dollar for every time I saw a PT that in no way looked big or athletic had a client do something that was ridiculous or even downright dangerous, it would pay for my membership. I’m not saying he’s right or wrong, only that there was a stage in his life where he was the best bodybuilder in his country. You do with that what you will. Machines can be good for forcing the right form (the machine will only move in a way that is indicative of proper form) which can help you develop your muscles in the early stages. Ultimately the goal is to do free-weight (no machine) compound movements with perfect form. We will discuss this more in the form section.
You should train 6 days per week, with one rest day. If you do this you will get 6/6 results. If you train 5 days you will get 5/6 results, and so on. Don’t train 3 days and wonder why you’re not getting results. If you plant tomato seeds, you’re going to get tomatoes. It’s really simple. Plant commitment seeds, you’re going to get a mad body.
Your days should be split into body parts.
Day 1: Chest (21 sets), biceps (10 sets), triceps (10 sets)
Day 2: Back (21 sets), shoulders (18 sets)
Day 3: Legs (21 sets), abs (6 sets)
For whatever reason, Monday is the generic chest day.
Let the rest days fall wherever they may. Legs day is the most brutal day. NEVER SKIP LEGS DAY. As they say: If you aren’t shaking like Bambi then you aren’t doing it right. You quite literally shouldn’t be able to walk out of the gym or sit on the toilet the next day if you’ve done it right. Almost nobody does though because it’s the hardest day – ergo the ‘gym wanker’ looking types with huge chest and arms and chicken legs. Friends don’t let friends skip legs day – remember that.
Bodybuilding.com is an awesome reference for videos and training plans and the actual exercises you choose to do – and they’re rated by effectiveness. To actually learn the movements to do, perhaps consult a personal trainer for a few sessions to get a plan written up – or I personally recommend choosing one from bodybuilding.com and doing some research and then employing a PT for a couple of sessions to show you how to do those exercises that you chose. In the early days it can be easy to let the plethora of opinions sway you, my recommendation is that you only listen to someone who has the body that you want. Again, your choice, it’s what worked for me. And you better believe I’ve had everyone and their dog comment on my diet and routine saying it will never work and giving me their opinions. That’s okay, welcome the feedback, ignore the opinion and get on with it. Interestingly, I found as I got bigger than the opinions stopped coming. It’s been a long time since someone told me “you can’t get any protein on a vegan diet” – although it’s the number one complaint of non-gym-going-vegans. My thinking is that if you are a vegan it is your specific responsibility to be the picture of health and vitality. I set out very deliberately to have a great body, not because I’m into myself, but because I knew that the vegan lifestyle is a viable and healthy lifestyle and I wasn’t going to get stuck into arguments about it – I let my actions speak for me – I wanted to SHOW people. And I’m not going to stop, either. Because of what I’ve learned, how my body looks, and the way I’ve learned to cook – most of my friends and family have turned vegan. And it all happened when I stopped talking about it and just started showing.
I’m not going to write out my entire routine as I don’t think it’s 100% relevant however I will put in the key things for each day that I’d want to be very intentional that you don’t miss or skip. It’s totally okay not to know what these exercise are or how to do them – baby steps. Ask someone who is huge (not someone who “knows a lot about gym”.. if they aren’t big don’t listen to them. I promise you, anyone doing the right form will be big – I am 2 years in and still ongoingly developing a better relationship with each muscle group such that I can improve form)
Chest: Incline bench, flat bench, cable flies, chest pushups
Bis: Hammer curls and some kind of bicep cable curl
Tris: Skull-crush, dips
Back: Deadlifts, pull ups, cable row, traps
Shoulders: Military press (lifting a barbell above your head), shoulder dumbbell raise (front and side), plate raise (lifting a plate above your head), REAR DELTOIDS (whichever exercise you like but don’t neglect them!)
Legs: Squats (legit, if you aren’t squatting you aren’t going to the gym.. you’re just playing around at a place with weights and having a laugh), hack squats, leg press, hamstring curls.
Abs: Honestly, we skipped abs for the first year and a half of training because abs are more a question of body fat that training. Males will have shredded abs at around the 10% body fat mark and women at 15% (women generally hold more fat and also have breasts, that’s why it’s higher) so our logic was just cut hard with diet before comp and you look shredded as anything – which we did and worked fine. I have since taken on a more holistic notion of training every single body part because I enjoy seeing definition in new places. Point is – I’m not in the best position to comment on abs, not having done them myself for long, however I would strongly recommend doing weighted ab training. You don’t train any other part of your body with body weight and expect to get anything but toned, so why with abs? Some weighted exercises include preacher curls, and side kettle bell crunches for obliques.
After you develop a good training schedule stick to it, however if you’ve been doing it for 6 months, try mixing it up – tricking the muscles can be a good way to force growth. You want to be constantly out of your comfort zone. Even if that means lifting for strength gains (low reps, high weight) one week and then lifting for form and endurance the next (low weight, high reps and going until muscle failure).
A repetition is one movement of the muscle. A set is a set of repetitions. When you get on to an exercise you want to do a warm up set – super duper light, just to get the muscle moving and focus on form. For each exercise you want to do 4 sets (not including the warm up set) increasing in heaviness each time.
1st set: 12-15 reps
*up the weight*
2nd set: 10-12 reps
*up the weight*
3rd set: 8-10 reps
*up the weight*
Final set: 4-8 reps
Also, there are different types of sets you can do to force muscle growth:
Drop set: This is where you will do the required weight for a set and then after you have done the last rep you can manage you put the weight down and keep going, and then when you can do any more of that, you put the weight down and so on until you are on a ridiculously light weight barely able to get one more rep out. This only counts as one set.
Super set: This is where you have 2 or 3 exercises focusing on the one muscle and after you do your set on one exercise you jump straight to the next exercise and do a set on there and then maybe a 3rd.
Having got everything else in order the rest of your gym going endeavors will ongoingly focus on improving your form and developing a relationship with your muscles – that is, learning how to squeeze that muscle rather than move the bar. Looking at the mechanics of the body really helped me to do this. As an example, if you look down at your palm (with the lower half of your arm held at 90 degrees to your body) and then raise your hand towards the front of your shoulder you could think that you raised your hand, but isn’t it true that you contracted your bicep (the muscle at the front of your arm) while relaxing your triceps (the muscle groups at the back of your arm)? Understanding how the parts of your body move helped me think of technique correctly. You will, will practice, be perfectly able, on a bench press, to squeeze your pecs together and watch the bar go up – which isolates the chest muscles correctly – rather than just lifting the bar (which will often recruit auxiliary muscles such as the shoulders, restricting focused muscle tear where you actually want it – in the chest).
Form is the practice of lifting weights in such a way as to maximise muscle growth and minimise risk of injury, which is particularly important on compound movements such as squats and deadlifts. Doing these wrong can be deadly and a very quick way to end your gym life. This, however, is not an excuse not to do them. You need to learn to do them properly.
Two great articles on squat form by Jim Smith and Eric Bach, from schwarzenegger.com can be found here and here.
Many people, particularly guys, make the mistake of lifting too heavy and sacrificing form – thinking they are looking real cool throwing around heavy weights. Really they’re just asking for injury, aren’t going to get any gains, and everyone who has been going to the gym long enough to know is just silently shaking their head like ‘bro wtf’. Always remember to practice safe sets (yeah, I went there.. we’re like 3700 words in, got to have a breather every so often 😛 ).
Here you can find a YouTube video of Kai Greene (2nd best bodybuilder in the world right now) explaining to a gym-bro that he’s not a weightlifter, he’s a bodybuilder and he is concerned with the perfect stretching and contracting of the muscle, while lifting 20kg dumbbells (ridiculously light for him). The trick is to isolate that muscle and feel the burn and go deeper into the burn with perfect form. Yes, eventually you need to lift heavier to get bigger, but only if you’re doing it with correct form, which needs to be done at lighter weights. My thinking is that if you can make it hurt more with a lighter weight then you should. You’ll know when to go up in weight. No one is judging how much you’re lifting and if they are they’re a dickhead that knows nothing about gym. You will get more respect for being skinny as and lifting the smallest weight in the gym properly than being okay looking and throwing around weights like an idiot.
Do your best to relentlessly devote all your consciousness, energy and attention into the muscle group you are training. If you are a visual person, imagining light filling that muscle and none leaking out is another good way to approach it.
Okay, lovelies! We got there!! *yayy*
I didn’t cover calorie counting, anabolic windows and bulking and cutting in the detail I could have in part one, however Mike and I thought we’d just do a separate post at a later date on calories maintenance, deficit, and surplus and how to count it. Putting on/losing weight or size is all a science – it’s mathematics and comes down to a number. We shall discuss that more at another time.
Thank you for reading, I’m glad to get that all down on paper (so to speak) and I’m sure it will help at least some of you achieve your fitness dreams. If even one of you are inspired to take power of your fitness and health then that’s a job well done for me and I’m so delighted and humbled to have been a part of that 🙂
Let me know how you go!
Always, always big love,
(May 2015, Photographer: Srdjan Photography)
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And if there is any way you can think of that I can add further value to your lives, I would feel privileged for the pointers and delighted to serve in any way that I can. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org