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S&C UnderGround >> No improvement pretty much ever


5/1/07 1:27 PM
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orcus
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Edited: 01-May-07
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I'm pretty frustrated. Here's a long post why: I've been working out somewhat regularly for 20 years and very regularly for about 5 years. But aside from those initial gains way back at the dawn of time, I have put virtually no weight on any of my lifts ever since. Going off those "exercise standards" charts posted at t-nation and westside and various, I'm between "Novice" (never touched a barbell) and "Intermediate" (been working out for 3-4 months) on pretty much everything except bench, which, ironically, is really low on my priorities (I mainly want good numbers on deadlift, military press, and squat). Not what you want to see when you've been working out for decades. My poundages are pretty pathetic on most things. I'm about 10-15 pounds heavier than when I started, and my weight has been pretty much perfectly stable for about 10 years. I'm skinny, but appear reasonably fit aside from my pipecleaner calves. My main goal has been to get stronger, not bigger. I don't care if I get bigger, and in fact, don't particularly want to. My workout for the past few months has been alternating the following two workouts, three days a week (so that one week will be 1-2-1, the next will be 2-1-2): 1 - Deadlift, Military Press, Curls & Triceps pushdowns (the latter two I added because my arms look disproportionately skinny for my torso; it's my one concession to bodybuilding-type stuff) 2 - Bench Press, Squat, Pendlay Row, plus one other that I feel like doing that day All exercises I do for 5x5, alternating sets of two different exercises (deadlift/press, bench/squat). 90 seconds between sets. For a year or so before this routine, I did a modified version of Scrapper's workout #1, with weighted dips and pullups for example. (and more reps on the pullups) Before that I did Pavel's power to the people with deadlift and weighted dips or military press. For a couple years before that, I did the traditional style 3 sets of 8-12 reps with stuff like bench, dumbbell rows, reverse curls, etc. No matter what, I never seem to get anywhere. I'll hit the wall at the end of a lifting cycle, take a week or two off, then start over with weights around 80% of what I ended at. I'll add small increments at each workout (depending on the lift, 2.5 or 5 pounds, or even 1.25 pounds for dumbbells). I always end up crapping out at the same point or even lower than the previous cycle. I don't see how I can be overtraining, because I never do more than 4-5 exercises per workout, don't exercise more than 3 days a week, I eat pretty well and have maintained my weight within 5 pounds for over 10 years, and get 8 or even 9 hours of sleep a night. Also, every 3 months or so my band will go on tour for an average of 1-3 weeks, so there's a little break from my routine during which I either don't workout at all (aside from drumming every night and walking around town in the day) or do an abbreviated Scrapper routine. So yeah, I'm probably stronger than the average dude who doesn't go to the gym at all (at least on some lifts), but anyone who's lifted weights more more than a week or two will most likely be way stronger than me on most lifts. And as frustrated as I am, I still have to keep plugging away, because god knows what a weakling I'd be if I *didn't* work out.
5/1/07 2:36 PM
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orcus
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Edited: 01-May-07
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I'll check that stuff out, thanks.
5/1/07 2:36 PM
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Respect
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Edited: 01-May-07
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Maybe you were just not built to be strong? No offense.
5/1/07 3:34 PM
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Chalupa
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Edited: 01-May-07
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Eating enough?
5/1/07 3:48 PM
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gokuryu
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Edited: 01-May-07
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http://danjohn.org/page29.html

http://defrancotraining.com/articles/archive/articles_westside.htm

i would also like to add in the sources of Power to the People by Pavel and Scrawny to Brawny by Bernardi and Mejida

5/1/07 4:30 PM
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orcus
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Edited: 01-May-07
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" Maybe you were just not built to be strong? No offense." Certainly possible, I guess. I'm not trying to be some awe-inspiring strong dude, though, just to have some respectable numbers in the lifts that matter to me. My big complaint isn't that I've stalled out; it's that I stalled out before ever reaching any remotely acceptable numbers in most lifts. Like when they always say you can expect to double your poundages (or more) in your first 6 months to a year of lifting -- never happened. Not even close. "Eating enough?" Well, I'm skinny, but my weight is very stable. I'm not a twig (aside from my calves, which are like PVC tubes). There are others who post here who are about my height and weight who do more than twice the weight I can manage for stuff like squat, DL and military press. Gokuryu, thanks, I'll check those out as well. I mentioned that I already did Power to the People, though. And just to reiterate, I have no desire to get bigger. Just stronger. Most programs out there seem make getting bigger the #1 priority.
5/1/07 7:33 PM
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orcus
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Edited: 01-May-07
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Lolster -- that routine looks pretty extreme, but you're right about nothing to lose, and I think I might give it a shot. Any idea why he uses lat pulldowns rather than weighted pullups, though? A quick search basically gave me people talking about the routine rather than Mentzer's own words on it.
5/1/07 8:02 PM
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HeangKoing
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Edited: 01-May-07
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A week or *two* off is extreme imo. UNLESS you have a brutally tough 9-12-15 sessions over 2 weeks you don't need 2 weeks off imo. Well it also depends on your age as to how you recover. Even my rest weeks I go to 75% with avg volume or a bit less as a 'rest' week. Maybe the time your taking off is destroying your gains somehow? I know if I take 4 days off training I come back and I get wrecked. Your weights on your exercises should increase with each cycle. How much do you weigh and how tall are you? Your training seems okay and you should have improved over the months you do train. 20yrs of training but with 5yrs regularly isn't 20yrs of training. If you compact it down it about 8-10yrs or so. Either way thats a good enough time frame to get some decent weights. You have to be consistent. Breaks in training is terrible for most people. Get consistent and i gurantee you will get results. Koing
5/1/07 8:52 PM
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toddseney
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Edited: 01-May-07
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Reduce your training volume. Like one or two all-out sets instead of 5.
5/1/07 9:07 PM
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orcus
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Edited: 01-May-07
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Heang -- I'm a hair over 5'9" and somewhere between 135 and 140 right now. 34 years old. So obviously I'm not expecting big numbers by most of the guys here's measure; just some progress at some point would be nice. Time off definitely hurts me -- I go on tour with my band for two weeks and come back and have to set the weight back like a month's worth of workouts. But I can generally get about 3 months of consistent work in at a time before a break, sometimes more (sometimes less). Todd -- that's kind of like the Power to the People routine I did for 6 months or so. 2x5 of deadlift and weighted dips or military press. Anyway, lots of ideas here, and I'll get around to trying them all eventually. Thanks guys.
5/1/07 10:38 PM
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jeremy hamilton
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Edited: 01-May-07
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Check out the Defranco stuff. Westside for skinny bastards might help. Dont give up man. At the very least you will live a healthy lifestyle and live longer.
5/2/07 12:24 AM
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beekrock
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Edited: 02-May-07
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"Going off those "exercise standards" charts posted at t-nation and westside and various, I'm between "Novice" (never touched a barbell) and "Intermediate" (been working out for 3-4 months)" Can someone post one of these charts? I'd like to see where my numbers fall.
5/2/07 1:16 AM
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orcus
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Edited: 02-May-07
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"Dont give up man. At the very least you will live a healthy lifestyle and live longer." Yeah, I'll stick with working out in some form or another forever -- I'd hate to think how weak I'd be without lifting at all. And in the indie music scene, everyone else is even skinnier/weaker or fatter than me, so I'm practically a fitness model in that world :) For beekrock
5/2/07 6:08 PM
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HeangKoing
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Edited: 02-May-07
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Taking time off and doing NOTHING will wreck your gains. Don't take time off, just do 75% of the weight and drop volume also. Only take time off when your injured or if say your an older lifter in their late 40's and your recovery is poor. The 3months at a time training is going to hamper your gains through the years. Your bodyweight is low and your tall so your levers won't help you. BUT you can put up some decent numbers still :) Koing
5/3/07 11:03 AM
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Ted Bennett
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Edited: 03-May-07
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I'll be the first to admit I know next to nothing about the science / art of lifting, but I wonder if I could come at it from a different angle.

How do you work out? Specifically, are you by yourself? Would you possibly get any benefit from having a partner to encourage (yell at) you and call you Miss Polly Prissypants to force you to get that last rep up ? ;-)

I've noticed I do a little better simply by having someone watch me, they don't even have to say anything. That little increase in intensity might be all one needs before looking at really complicated routines, etc. Call it competitiveness, call it social pressure, call it support, whatever floats your boat....

I say this as a fellow old fart (37), though I've been lifting now for 6 weeks after a ~12 year layoff, and I've made gains in reps, weight lifted, or even both in *every* exercise, and in every session I've gone. Yeah, I know, most of it is me probably just warming up to what I really had potential to do when I started, but I avoided it so as to reduce risk of injury. Still, point being, when my wife is at the gym (or when she's not, that hot little MSU cheerleader who comes in on T-Th who is easily Hugh Hefner bait), I really am more motivated to go to failure on everything. I can't help but think that's beneficial.

Also, I have a little spreadsheet I printed off from Excel with all the exercises and spaces for the weights lifted, number of sets, and number of reps, and I keep *exact* details on what I do (heck, being a psychologist with a stats background, you know I loves me some numbers!). Anyway, that allows me to chart any progress, no matter how small, and to keep building on it. And I do that charting upon the end of each exercise, I don't wait til I get home or some such. I could e-mail it to you if you like, though you could probably whip one up yourself in 5 minutes like I did....

5/3/07 11:08 AM
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Ted Bennett
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Edited: 03-May-07
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Forgot to add - when I was 23 to 25, I worked out (A) by myself and (B) with no serious attention to the numbers other than some half-assed attempt at remembering from one workout to the next. I made very little in the way of gains, though it was fun and good exercise. That sounds suspiciously like what you're describing.

I figure if I had that experience as a younger guy, more in shape to start with (regular judo at the time), etc., and I had that experience, and now doing these two things differently (partner and charting) and seeing marked gains, that gives me pause to think....

5/3/07 11:29 AM
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toddseney
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Edited: 03-May-07
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"that hot little MSU cheerleader who comes in on T-Th who is easily Hugh Hefner bait), I really am more motivated to go to failure on everything." SWATPA? PS Ted is correct that having a workout partner and/or impress the ladies is a good motivational boost for most people.
5/3/07 9:02 PM
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PeterWellington
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Edited: 04-May-07 03:34 PM
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If I had to make an educated guess, I'd say you're not consistently pushing yourself hard enough. That's not meant as a knock, I've just seen it with a lot of people who've said similar things. How hard are those last couple of reps? How painful (good pain) and exhausting would you rate your workouts on a scale of 1-10? How sore are you the next day? If your answers are "extremely", "10", and "very", then consider adding some complimentary exercises to work some of the smaller muscle groups.
5/4/07 10:21 AM
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orcus
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Edited: 04-May-07
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Ted -- I have my own Excel sheet, but thanks anyway. I do work out alone. Peter -- it's entirely possible. I'm not usually sore except from benching, which I think is more because of the stretch involved. The last reps aren't necessarily painful, but when the form starts to deteriorate, that's when the set is finished. Also, I just want to point out that I'm not expecting maximum gains in minimum time or anything like that -- I just want to consistently improve, I don't care by how little. As I said with the cycles, say I do a 6-8 week cycle. I hit the wall, then start a new cycle at 80% of the weight or whatever and add a bit at each workout. Instead of coasting past my previous best, I stall out at about the same point. Sure, I can do more weight, but not with the same good form.
5/4/07 10:41 AM
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Ted Bennett
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The last reps aren't necessarily painful, but when the form starts to deteriorate, that's when the set is finished.

That raises an interesting point, one I hope folks on here could help us / me out on:

Is it better to do 9 reps with perfect form and then stop, or do 9 reps with perfect form and then a 10th rep that finds the weight wobbling all over the place (because you're 95% exhausted) but still getting up? Is that last rep really worth it (assuming it's not so sloppy as to lead to risk of injury)?

 

5/4/07 10:56 AM
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toddseney
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Edited: 04-May-07
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You're more likely to injure yourself on the first rep than the 10th. There is a substantial difference between obsessive-compulsive perfect form and form good enough to avoid injury.
5/4/07 12:43 PM
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Ted Bennett
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You're more likely to injure yourself on the first rep than the 10th.

Had never thought of that, but after a second's consideration it makes sense - if you're maxing out and going too high, I could see that being the biggest risk rather than lifting a much lighter weight for a bunch of reps and just getting tired.

5/4/07 1:00 PM
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Sprawl'n'Stall
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Edited: 04-May-07
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My educated guess is MOST experienced NATURAL lifters are not making significant progress most of the time. The progress they do have after the initial 6-12 months comes in rare bursts from time to time. Frustrating, yes. Genetcis and drugs are huge factors in most successful trainees. BUT, all those sad facts aside, most of us pretty train the same way all the time, eat the same way ... and expect different results! I dont know why we're like that but 95%+ of us are like that. So do something drastic - train in a totally different way, train with somebody etc. Even if you dont progress - and it's quite likely :( - at least mentally you're refreshed and your enthusiasm is greater and you'll find new tricks etc. What kind of music do you play?
5/4/07 3:42 PM
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Charles T Rose
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Edited: 04-May-07
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not eating properly IME
5/4/07 3:46 PM
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PeterWellington
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Edited: 04-May-07
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"Is it better to do 9 reps with perfect form and then stop, or do 9 reps with perfect form and then a 10th rep that finds the weight wobbling all over the place (because you're 95% exhausted) but still getting up? Is that last rep really worth it (assuming it's not so sloppy as to lead to risk of injury)?" IMO, that's where your gains really come from...those last couple of reps that you don't really want to do but you struggle through them anyways. The essence of working out, to me, is giving your body something it's not used to so it's forced to adapt. If you stay inside a comfort zone, your body won't change much. And you don't have to risk injury to do it. But you do have to make a more deliberate effort to keep things controlled and not make a bunch of twisting jerky movements.

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