Need Help with lifting program and supplementation
March 31, 2008 10:49 PM   Subscribe

I have been training seriously for about 1 month now. I am 28, 5'11" and weigh about 240 (lots of flubber.) I have noticed that I am putting on good amounts of muscle and adding good strength as well (the beginner effect I guess), as well as losing inches of my waist. I am hoping for a little help with my program and supplementation.

My Program is as follows

Monday, Wednesday (all 4X8):
Front Squat
Good mornings
Calf Raises
Shin Raises
Reverse Lunges

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday (all 4X8):
Bench Press
Lat Pulldown (prone)
Lat Pulldown (supine)
Barbell Curl
Hammer Curl
Face Pull
Shoulder Press
Concentration curl
Overhead tricep extension

My questions are as follows:
1)Are there any glaring holes in the program?
2)Can anyone suggest an order to progress through the exercises? Right now I usually do them in a random order different almost every night (except I always deadlift first on leg days, and I try to do the compound movements first on all days)

As far as supplementation, I currently have a whey protein shake with 60 grams of protein after my workout, in addition to two other shakes in the day for another 40 grams total. I also take flax seed oil in pill form and one tablespoon of fish oil in the morning. I also just bought creatine powder and bcaa and have no idea when to take them or how much to take.

I am not sure if I am timing the supplements correctly, or if I am over/under doing the supplements in general. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

posted by Ezrie to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
go post on john stone forums. great help there.
posted by dawdle at 10:58 PM on March 31, 2008

Best answer: some comments i can make...

- if you're gonna lift make sure to get adequate rest days. you're doing a 5 day split which is very aggressive and leaves little recovery time. muscles grow when you rest, not when you lift. maybe do a 2 day lift , 1 day rest cycle, giving you 4 days a week of lifting..
- if you're gonna do a multi day split, target specific muscle groups on specific workout days. ie. chest/abs day 1, back/shoulders day 2, rest day 3, legs day 4, arms day 5, rest days 6 and 7, repeat this allows you to hit each muscle group once a week which is enough for hypertrophy and strength gains
- stick to big compound movements, deads and squats ( fron, back, hack, dumbell, doesn't matter are your BEST lift choices for strength and muscle gains, fat loss and metabolic increase
- isolation movements are not as effiecient
- good mornings easily lead to back injury, not a great lift choice
- there's NO CARDIO in your program, stick to either early morning fasted low intensuty fasted cardio or post lifting high intensity interval cardio
- body composition is determined in the kitchen, clean up the rest of your diet, eats 6 meals a day, track your macronutrient ratios, maybe do a carb zig-zag or morning carb load and p.m. carb taper
- drink at least 1 gallon of water a day
- set a time defined body fat or weight goal. do something positive for you plan every day. if you fall off the wagon, don't beat yourself up, just keep going
- supplements are the least important of your program, in order of priority your plan should be 1. diet 2. resistance training 3. cardio
- make friends with eggs, you should eat a lot of them
- if you're lifting heavy, aim for 1 gram of protein per lb of body weight
- don't be obsessed with scale weight, it's a lousy way to judge and can mess with your head. rely on other people's feedback and how your clothes fit and how you feel
- don't worry so much about supps, yes get good fats, whey protein is a good convenience food, fish oil is good for promoting fat loss, but get your real food plan down first then worry about pills and shakes. all that being said, get some carbs IMMEDIATELY after lifting to replace glycogen stores as this is when your muscles are primed for uptake
- read Tom Venuto's Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle, it should be the 1st book you read about nutrition and training
- did I mention, drink 1 gallon of water a day, get adequate rest, eat frequently, and clean up your diet ?

oh, and congratulations on your success so far and keep up the good work.
posted by dawdle at 11:18 PM on March 31, 2008 [12 favorites]

i've got more

- if you insist on doing isolation exercises then do them after the big compound movements
- as for the specific order, it doesn't really matter, just don't overfatigue a specific muscle to the point that you can't complete the exercises of another muscle group
-maybe even change up the order from week to week to avoid adaptation
- given your stats and your flubber comment, I assume you want to do cut for now as opposed to a bulk, so I wouldn't worry so much about the creatine just yet, it makes your muscles look fuller but also promotes water retention. cut down to a desired body fat % first then do a clean bulk
- calculate your base metabolic rate, then your total daily energy expenditure, factor in your activity level, figure out how many calories a day you need for maintenance then create a diet plan based on a 10-20% deficit from that. most men fit in the 1800-2200 calorie a day for a cut depending on how hard and often they hit the gym
posted by dawdle at 11:30 PM on March 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hey one-month workout buddy. I'm going in the opposite direction though, trying to pack on a few pounds on my light frame. (6'1 and 170)

It looks like you have the right idea, and anyways the absolute hardest part of a regime is keeping consistient and getting to the gym on the appointed day. Sounds like you're quite motivated, so good job! That being said, I don't know whether you're aiming for greater strength or losing fat, although both will happen obviously.
Weightloss advice always seems to contradict itself and never work the same for different people, but I'll try anyways:

The best way to lose is actually not to just do a bit of cardio, but keep yourself as active as possible for as long as possible. A 2 - hour moderate walk is more valuable than 20 minutes of a fast jog, for instance, combined with your resistance training. Think of as many ways as possible to keep up and moving - it doesn't have to be aerobic to be effective. Also consider High-Intensity interval training, or HIIT - sprint your ass off for 1 minute, then jog/limp for 4, then do it again. They're killer, but effective.

In terms of resistance training, try to work down from compound movements, to major groups, to isolations. Try to chain together excercises that target the same general group but in different ways - for instance, I find I get a really good chest workout by doing
Dumbbell/bb press
Dumbbell flies
Incline press
decline press

So I hit the same group in 3-4 different ways, trying not to get sidetracked and do shoulders or something in between that set. Muscle growth after all only happens after you give enough stimulus to the muscle to damage it, so you need to be relentless and blast through all the energy reserves. Make sure you use enough weight that you are going to failure or close to it.

On that note your muscles really do need quite a bit of time to recover and its every bit as important as the time spent in the gym - I'd recommend you reduce your 5 day split maybe down to 4, and try and target separate groups so each group has at least 2 full rest days. Something like Chest + tricep + ab // upper Back + shoulder + biceps // Legs + lower back.
posted by spatula at 11:31 PM on March 31, 2008

The Harris Benedict formula, start by calculating your BMR:

* For men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 × weight in kg) + (5 × height in cm) – (6.8 × age in years)
* For women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 × weight in kg) + (1.8 × height in cm) – (4.7 × age in years)

Once you’ve calculated your BMR, multiply it by your activity factor:

* Sedentary: BMR × 1.2
* Moderately active: BMR × 1.55
* Very active: BMR × 1.725

this will give you your daily calorie needs. Multiply this number by 0.8 to get your cutting numbers.
posted by dawdle at 11:35 PM on March 31, 2008 [6 favorites]

- try to limit your workouts to an hour so as not to induce catabolism and eat your own muscle, if you need longer to fit in a cardio workout too then maybe do a am. and p.m. workout
- pay attention to your form when lifting to avoid injury and derive the max. benefit from your program
- take " before " pics NOW, you'll regret it later if you don't. it's great inspiration and a good way to track results
posted by dawdle at 11:41 PM on March 31, 2008

To get some more large muscle group work other than the squats and deadlifts in, you can add:

- Dumbbell snatches
- Dumbbell swings
- Dumbbell presses

I'm not sure if you're interested in strength endurance, but if you are (it's useful for sports as well as for burning fat), try chaining a of those few sets together and do them without stopping for ten to twenty minutes at a time or until you do a certain number of sets.

Josh Barnett posted a pretty hardcore example of some circuit training for anaerobic endurance. If you're hankering for a challenge, that's your workout.

Here's a less brutal workout in that sort of vein from Ross Enamait:

1. Five dumbbell snatches on each side.
2. Five dumbbell swings on each side.
3. Ten burpees.
4. Rest up to a minute.

Do five rounds.
posted by ignignokt at 2:04 AM on April 1, 2008

Best answer: It looks like you beat the shit out of your arms with isolation movements 3 days a week, and beat the shit out of your core the other 2 days. If your goal is to lose fat you don't need to do 3 kinds of curl, all 4x8. Your bicep is a small muscle and has little impact on your metabolism or overall fitness. Also I would expect that 4x8 of deadlifts, front squats and good mornings on the same day would be overkill for your lower back and legs. I tend to do squats or deadlifts once a week and something like lunges another day. That said, as long as you're making progress, don't worry about it. As soon as you hit a plateau, change everything -- e.g., 5x5 is a good protocol for things like squat, deadlift, bench, hang clean, etc., and you could switch from lat-pulldown to pullups, front squat to back squat, throw in some rows instead of all those curls, like a Yates row, use dumbells instead of barbells, etc. I don't think you're missing muscles, you're more likely doing way too much for it all to be effective, although if anything maybe you're neglecting your traps. Compound lifts are definitely preferable. Do compound lifts well and you will become strong all over. Things like push-press or sumo high pulls are great for raising your metabolism -- see the crossfit site for video demos. If you're having trouble losing weight you could replace one of the arm-overkill days with some sprint intervals or go swimming. Also if you do sets of alternating exercises, i.e. alternate squats and pullups for five sets without a break, you will definitely get a cardio workout out of your strength training, in fact you might puke. As for the order, if you must to isolationg exercises then do them last.
posted by creasy boy at 3:10 AM on April 1, 2008

Are you also doing some abdominal work that you didn't mention? If not, then you need to add some of that. You also need some cardio on your plan. I'd probably shift things depending on your specific goals. If you want to lose fat and gain lean definition, then you might want some daily cardio combined with weights. If your goal is more toward gaining muscle size, then I'd suggest fewer days of lifting but higher intensity lifts with cardio on your rest days.

With regard to supplementation one thing to consider is how much of a nutrient your body can absorb at one time. When you ramp up your consumption of something, even macronutrients such as protein, your body needs some time to adjust to that consumption level. If you've added 100 grams of protein to your diet, that's abundant. You need to tailor supplementation to your needs. I generally like to use egg protein before a workout because it's slower burning and whey after because it's faster absorbing. However, that's mostly a theoretical different - I doubt the difference in absorption rates is making a huge difference but the egg protien makes me feel fuller longer. YMMV

As to the amino acids and creatine the standard advice is creatine before a workout and bcaa after. I don't personally use these supplements (or many supplements actually). You can go into GNC or a web forum and be told you need an infinite number of supplements, but few of us are at a level of fitness and exercise intensity to appreciate much of a tangible benefit.

All that said - you're rockin' it. Keep it up!
posted by 26.2 at 5:03 AM on April 1, 2008

Read everything you can by Mark Rippetoe at Starting Strength. His book "Practical Programming" will answer your two questions from above.
posted by tiburon at 8:34 AM on April 1, 2008

If you need more help than Askme can provide. Ask your question at this forum. They're really good at this stuff.
posted by Craig at 8:59 AM on April 1, 2008

Response by poster: WOW! This is why I love metafilter. Ask a question, go to bed, and wake up with more good information than I could ever ask for.

Dawdle- Thanks for the great breakdown. I am going to pick up Tom Venuto's Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle today. Also, I appreciate the simplification of the BMR calculation and how to determine my caloric intake. I had heard that more than one hour of lifting can be catabolic - thanks for reminding me as I usually take about 1.5 hours to lift.

Spatula- Great suggestion on reducing to 4 days.

ignignokt- I am avoiding the sort of workout you prescribe because from what I can gather those ar more "conditioning" style than muscle building. Do you agree? I plan on getting into conditioning as soon as I can down to a more manageable weight.

Creasy boy- I agree I am doing too much direct bicep work. I plan on reducing that in my next workout. I am also going to switch the lat pulldowns for squats and vice versa so as not to ovelroad my low back in ones day.

26.2- I do not do direct ab work as I have read, especially on t-nation, that it is unnecessary and that good compound movements work the abs sufficiently.

tiburon- just ordered the book

Craig- Looks good I will check it out.

As an aside, since i was asking about my weight program I left out that I do 45 min to 1 hours of muay thai on Tuesday Thursday and Saturday.

Thank you all so much for the help.
posted by Ezrie at 9:18 AM on April 1, 2008

Just wanted to 2nd Mark Rippetoe's books. The best out there.
posted by AceRock at 10:42 AM on April 1, 2008

I think you already have a ton of great information from the other posters on here, but after following the thread I have to ask, what are you looking to do? You mention muscle building? Are you going for a traditional bodybuilding look where you pack on muscle in a bulk cycle and then go lean?

And in terms of the ab work, although I loathe it I always found it necessary when targeting my lower back in any way shape or form. It could all be in my mind but I felt that if I neglected my abs then my lower back would always pay for it if I was working it. Read: muscle spasms.

To touch on ignignokt's suggestion as someone who is around the same size as you. I have been doing a workout like that for 8 months or so, and don't feel that I have sacrificed any muscle mass. I may not be as strong on some lifts as I used to be when following a bodybuilding split, but don't really care as much either. Bonus being that your lifting workout is also your cardio.
posted by WickedPissah at 12:14 PM on April 1, 2008

WickedPissah has it, I think. What are your goals? (You have goals, I hope?) Try and make some specific goals; this makes it easier to design programs and track progress.

Now, to answer your question:

Glaring hole: No cardio whatsoever. Lifting is important, but cardiovascular fitness is too. I would add some running, cycling, swimming, circuit training, or something.

Concerning the workout protocol you've listed, I would change it significantly. First of all, I would avoid doing Deadlift and Squat on the same day. These are the two most taxing lifts in your program, so I would definitely split them up. I see that you're planning on that, and that others have reccommended it. Good. Also, you are doing a lot of exercises I would cut out altogether. I would give up: lat pulldowns, curls, tricep extensions, calf extensions, and shin raises. What's the point of those exercises? What muscles do they work that you couldn't hit with a 'better' exercise, one that's more functional? I would replace the lat pulldowns and curls with chin ups and pullups. You will work your biceps and lats, but with an exercise that requires coordination and timing. If you want to end a workout with a few sets of curls and extensions, fine, but I don't think they're terribly important. Also, a bit of running or jogging (or even walking or hiking) should help with the calves.

As to your supplements, why are you taking so much stuff? I would just focus on eating well. Lots of protein, green vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. The only supplement I would keep is the flax oil, and maybe a daily multivitamin.

Anyway, just so you know where I'm coming from, I do crossfit. I train and occasionaly compete in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, so I need to be strong, powerful, quick, and lean, with good aerobic fitness as well. I'm also bit of a hippy, which is why I question your intake of so many supplements.

If you reply with what your goals are, I'd be happy to get more specific with program reccommendations. But one way or another, congrats on making a really positive change in your life.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 12:57 PM on April 1, 2008

Response by poster: Wickedpissah and hitechunderpants - thanks for responding

My main goal is fat loss, with a secondary desire to get stronger. I am, admittedly, exceptionally weak. So weak that I cannot do even one pull or chin up or push up, and that is why I do lat pull downs and bench presses.

I included the shin/calf raises mostly as I believe it will help me out in muay thai where strong lower legs are important (muay thai is my cardio)

Thanks for the positive thoughts
posted by Ezrie at 1:23 PM on April 1, 2008

Okay, if fat loss is the main goal, then I would definitely forgo the curls, calf raises, etc. You want to build muscle and burn calories. These are small exercises that don't require much work. The more work you do in the gym, the more calories you will burn, which translates to more weight loss. Also, I prefer to do whole body workouts each session, but use different exercises. For a beginner, the 4X8 is probably a fine set and rep scheme. I would probably do a 3 day split, that looks something like:

Day 1:
Bent Rows
Hanging Leg Raises/Knees to Elbows

Day 2:
Shoulder Press

Day 3:
Bench Press
Some Lunge Variation
Decline situps

Anyway, every day you do some lower body work, some upper body work, and some core work, all using large, mostly multi-joint movements. I would do cardio (Muay Thai, in your case) on the days that I didn't lift, and probably take one day off a week. (Lift MWF, Cardio TTHS, rest Sun, for example.) You can certainly add a few lifts and make it a four day split, if you like. I'm also a supporter of intensity-keep the workout short and painful.

If you can't do a pullup, work up to them by doing negatives. Find a pullup bar that you can get your chin over by jumping or climbing (use a step or something) and then let yourself down in as slow, controlled a fashion as possible. This is how I worked up to being able to handstand pushups, which were beyond my reach when I started working with them.

Anyway, there are tons of cool exercises to play with, but those are some basics that I like to include. As always, make sure that your form is good on all the exercises, the cleans in particular. Get help (a coach/trainer) if you need it.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 3:08 PM on April 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, I'm skeptical that calf raises and shin raises would help Muay Thai much. I've trained it a wee bit, and have a good buddy who is a MT coach. I would just work on running and kicking the bag as much as you can. Kicking and punching power comes from the hips, so make sure you have a strong core and posterior chain. Elbow and knee power come from the hips too, come to think of it. Cheers.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 3:11 PM on April 1, 2008

Damnit. "...worked up to being able to do handstand pushups..."
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 3:13 PM on April 1, 2008

Response by poster: HighTechUnderpants- great suggestion on the 3 day split.
I am nervous to try cleans as I have no coach to train me on them, I have never done them before, and due to an old back injury I would worry that the rapid nature and "throwing" motion may not be so good for me. It seems I can control my dead's and good mornings enough to avoid injury. Same goes for the hyperextensions; I would worry about injury. Can you suggest alternatives to these two exercises?
posted by Ezrie at 3:37 PM on April 1, 2008

Well, look into dumbell cleans and snatches instead of barbell. The technique seems easier to pick up, and by using only one dumbell at once, you will necessarily use much less weight. A clean is by nature an explosive motion, so I can't really think of a replacement that isn't more technically demanding than some static lifts. Maybe Turkish getups would be worth looking into, too.

As to the hyperextension, I am a bit surprised to hear that you can do a good morning but not a hyperextension; the motions are pretty similar. So a good morning would be a fine substitute. :) Also, reverse hypers are great, which were invented by Louie Simmons after he injured his back.

Anyway, all the standard cautions apply. I am not a trainer, I am just a dude on teh nets. So all my advice comes with grains of salt. Best of luck with your training.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 10:06 PM on April 1, 2008

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