90 Days Of Pumping Iron
June 1, 2008 2:59 PM   Subscribe

How fit/strong/muscular/healthy can I get in 3 months?

For a reason I will not go into, I want to get fit/strong/muscular/healthy etc... by September 4th. Needless to say it is a BIG reason.

I am a 175lb, 20-something male. I have a BMI of 25 (borderline of healthy and overweight). I do not get any exercise currently.

Realistically, if I go to the gym for 1.5-2 hours 4 days a week with 1-2 hours of soft cardio 3 days a week and ate right, just how fit/strong/muscular/healthy could I get in 3 months? (obviously without drugs)

Bonus Filter: Any tips on starting out?
posted by Spurious to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Have a look at Body for Life. It has an intensive 3-month programme that promises, if you follow the plan, to transform your body. The exercise and eating advice given is pretty sound.

The book is available at Borders or online. I find it a valuable training resource.
posted by essexjan at 3:07 PM on June 1, 2008

Be sure to allow for plenty of rest in your schedule. You'll be amazed at how much deeper you sleep and how much soreness and fatigue may throw a hitch into your training schedule. These tend to discourage a lot of people in the first few weeks. Try to remember that no matter how ass you feel when you start, you will almost always feel much better and more alert after exercising.

If your exercise program is that intense, eat well and eat often.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 3:17 PM on June 1, 2008

Like essexjan says, check out body for life. I've been doing a less intense version of it and I'm seeing great results.
posted by Melsky at 3:21 PM on June 1, 2008

Do you want to be fit, strong, or muscular? You could easily become one of these in three months. Focusing on a particular aspect will yeild a lot more in one specific area than just doing a shotgun approach.

By shotgun approach I mean that if you wanted to become stronger, then doing cardio would be counterproductive to getting massively strong(also would be relatively the hardest out of the three). So on and so forth.

I would suggest, as I always do, T-Nation. They recently started a physique clinic and could be very helpful.

Body for Life, Bill Phillips and Muscle Media(2000) lost my respect a long time ago, but if you want something cleanly packaged for the masses it is one place to start
posted by P.o.B. at 3:22 PM on June 1, 2008

Your first two weeks will be very very sore. After that your routine will be established and the soreness goes away. You'll be very surprised at the gains you make in just 4-6 weeks. I would take it very easy the first week or two though, or you'll be basically immobile with pain and stiffness.
posted by sanka at 3:22 PM on June 1, 2008

If you are simply trying to look really strong, I seem to remember that the actors in the movie 300 only worked out for their role for 8-12 weeks before shooting. But thier workout was insane, and has since become legendary. I dont know how strong it made them, but they certainly looked the part. So, it can be done.
posted by milestogo at 3:43 PM on June 1, 2008 [3 favorites]

You should be able to get pretty far. I lost 28 pounds in a couple months at the beginning of the year, but it is harder to build muscle then lose weight.
posted by delmoi at 4:14 PM on June 1, 2008

John Stone did it. His food/supplement and workout details are on the site.
posted by necessitas at 4:16 PM on June 1, 2008

oh, you got yourself into a bar bet. well, suit yourself.

that's a really ambitious goal and one probably short by 3-4 more months but I won't rule anything out completely if you are dedicated enough. this is however not going to be a 90-minute four times per week affair. think more like 6 times cardio with every other day weights added. what you eat will make a massive difference, effectively turning this into a 24-7 challenge.

what I am trying to make you understand is that you are proposing a very serious task here. most people who say they want to make this kind of change this fast go on something like a workout, steak and eggs diet, love it for a week and are gone after a month.

if you do have the financial means, you can stack the cards heavily in your favour by hiring a personal trainer. get someone who has the kind of body you want, who has the certifications, who has done brutal regiments like the one you need before and who can with his or her knowledge protect you from wasting your time, plateauing prematurely and most importantly hurting yourself. "pumping iron" will make you heavier (sincle muscle tissue is heavier than fat) and is not the only thing to do. also look if your city has a food delivery service akin to nu kitchen in nyc.
posted by krautland at 4:18 PM on June 1, 2008

You can probably gain at least 25 pounds of muscle in three months, if you drive your body hard and supplement with protein. Like others have said, you'll be incredibly sore in the beginning. Take the hint and extend your recovery period. For the first couple of weeks I'd keep it down to 2X a week. A lot of growth will happen in that period. Afterwards, start ramping up to 4X a week.

Don't worry so much about diet right now. You'll be eating more than ever but still lose fat because your metabolism will go through the roof. Put extra focus on your glutes and back, as the lower half of your musculature burns the most calories and your upper back has the majority of your testosterone receptors.
posted by bunnytricks at 4:29 PM on June 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you gain a ton of muscle and don't put a good amount of effort into dropping body fat, you can end up looking "puffy" but not especially cut. Half of looking ripped is eliminating the fat that softens the crevices between your muscles. That's why some skinny people are very well defined, even though they aren't particularly strong.

I recommend the No S Diet. Basically, eat three meals a day on week days and don't eat snacks, seconds, or sweets. I've dropped 20 pounds in a couple of months on this. Combined with some strength training, I have gained a much more chiseled look that I'm very happy with.
posted by DarkoBeta at 7:58 PM on June 1, 2008

Three months for me is enough to go from couch potato to able to run 10k road races at a moderately competitive pace, and feel good afterwards.

If you focus on cardio, I'd say do a moderate diet (aim to lose 1lb per week) and do three cardio workouts a week. The combination of a better power to weight ratio (diet+exercise), combined with a three month cardio base, will be really nice.
posted by zippy at 8:13 PM on June 1, 2008

I recommend Starting strength by Rippetoe and Kilgore. I've been lifting weights according to their program since the end of february. I went from a person who could barely lift an empty bar (45lb) to a person who can do 5x3 bodyweight (175lb). Furthermore, I lost some weight as well. Generally feel & look better. Online resource that is heavily based on the book is StrongLifts. Check it out.
posted by aeighty at 8:52 PM on June 1, 2008

Seconding Starting Strength, T-Nation, and StrongLifts.

As a beginner, a 5x5 program like the StrongLifts program will do wonders for you. To give you some idea, in three months on that program (and I am not a beginner) I've put on 20 pounds, with 15 of that being muscle and 5 being fat (I made sure to over eat just enough). When you put on that much muscle though, you don't notice the 5 pounds of fat. I also had the aid of creatine and lots of protein.

Again, assuming you are a complete beginner, your muscle gains should be better than mine.
posted by Loto at 7:27 AM on June 2, 2008

You can probably gain at least 25 pounds of muscle in three months

There is no way you can gain 25 pounds of muscle in three months.

If your body is cooperative, and you make use of anabolics, you may be able to gain 25 overall pounds of muscle, water, and fat in several months. But not 25lbs of muscle in three. If this is your goal, abandon all hope.

However, I would say if you eat right, lift 3x a week focusing on your basic barbell lifts, and do HIIT cardio 2-3x a week, for these whole three months, you'll look pretty good in three months.

Soft cardio? Do that for two weeks and then ditch it altogether.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 7:52 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Definitely focus on eating right. For most people who don't do physically demanding work, it's very difficult to "lose weight" by exercising in their spare time.
posted by randomstriker at 10:56 AM on June 2, 2008

I echo P.O.B. Choose fit, strong, OR muscular, and work to maximize one.

If you want overall fitness, go with Crossfit. This is an INTENSE metabolic conditioning/strength building program that works towards building good overall strength and fitness. Go to the "Start Here" section and absorb all the information there. Workouts are provided every day--three days of workouts, one day of rest. You can find scaled down versions of the workouts in the "Start Here" section (look for the "Brand X" workouts). You will want to use these, because seriously, the workouts don't look like much but they will kick your ass. There are a lot of instructional videos if you don't understand the exercises and the forums are very helpful.

If you want to be strong, a straight program of Olympic lifting will do you best. Get a copy of "Starting Strength" by Mark Rippetoe and do the beginner's program there. It seems incredibly simple, but for the untrained body it is insanely effective. READ THE BOOK--you need to know form! Even better, find an Olympic lifting coach/team to teach you deadlifts, cleans, and other moves that will build serious strength and power.

If you want to be muscular, you want some sort of hypertrophic bodybuilding program. Go to T-Nation and try the physique clinic. They will help you out there. Or do Body for Life.

See, fitness (flexibility, strength, speed, coordination, etc), strength, and muscularity are three different things. Overall fit people, like martial artists, are not as strong as Olympic lifters or as big as bodybuilders. Strong people, like professional strongmen or Olympic lifters, will not be as fast as the martial artist nor as big as the bodybuilder. And the bodybuilder will be big and cut, but he won't be fast and fit nor as strong as a true weightlifter.

No matter what you do, you will have to perfect your diet. I suggest you look up The Paleo Diet, it is incredibly effective for building muscle and cutting fat (as well as simply maintaining overall health). Seriously, if you have weight to lose, 80% of burning fat is diet.
posted by Anonymous at 11:43 AM on June 2, 2008

It doesn't matter that much what you do. You're a beginner, so as long as you are doing something you are going to see results. So, because you are a beginner and results are easy to come by, don't waste your time with programs that include complex moves inappropriate for raw beginners. In my opinion that includes the 300 workout, crossfit and olympic lifting without a coach. Even with a coach, it takes a lot of practice on light weights to get the form down for olympic lifting (and thus many of the exercises needed for crossfit); you could be spending that time doing the basic lifts from Starting Strength and running and you would probably get just as strong and fit for the time period.
So concentrate on the basic lifts, and run. Make every workout really count, and if you're not going to make it count, take a rest day (and rest at least once a week). If you phone it in more than once every few weeks, you are wasting your time. Eat enough protein (which is 1.5-2.2g/kg of body weight according to this survey of studies), avoid processed junk as much as possible, and remember to have fun, because exercise should be fun.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:15 PM on June 2, 2008

I can tell you what's worked for me, and recently. After hearing all the hype and doing my homework, I finally decided to give P90X a try. I'm about three weeks from the end of the 90 day program and I'm in the best shape I've been in for 20 years.

I know this sounds like I'm shiling for the program, but I'm not. I just stuck with it (fitness and diet sides both), and it worked. Period. It's a real challenge, believe me, so it takes some committment, but it'll get you results.

Hope this helps.
posted by gb77 at 2:12 PM on June 13, 2008

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