Weight: 231 lbs
Body Fat: 33%
Weight: 190 lbs
Body Fat: 10%
Why I Got Started
I work in the area of physical rehabilitation as a clinician, instructor and investigator. During the Fall semester of 2008, I was running a laboratory session for an exercise science course. The focus of the laboratory session was body composition and involved students were assessing their body fat percentage using a variety of methods such as skin calipers and air plethysmography.
Out of curiosity, I quickly grabbed one of the hand-held bioimpedance units after class to assess my own body composition. I realized I was out of shape and overweight, but I was shocked by what I saw, "body fat = 32%."
I knew that this device was not the most accurate one at my disposal, but I also acknowledged that based on what I saw in the mirror, that obscene value was not too far off the mark. The final straw came upon viewing some holiday family photos after the Christmas break and seeing my expanding midsection caught on film.
Like a bad auto accident, I found myself repulsed and yet could not look away. Something snapped. Everything about my lifestyle changed from that day forward. It's important to note that things were not always this way. As a kid, I was always skinny (although not very defined) and fought hard to gain weight.
I started lifting weights while attending middle school in East Detroit (if you can call the plastic-encased concrete sold at Kmart "weights"), and continued my training as a member of the high school track team upon moving to California.
At the age of 16, I garnered enough courage to enter the N. California High School Championships and I managed to win the age 16-to-17-year-old class. It was a great experience and I continued to train into young adulthood.
However, life began to predictably get in the way. And after moving to four states to live and work, getting married, finishing school and starting a family, inconsistent workouts became nonexistent workouts.
An award winning physique gave way to "comfort-fit" slacks and a layer of adipose that would grow with each passing year. Yes, there would be many attempted comebacks, but nothing took hold. More than 13 years would pass before I would engage in anything remotely resembling a consistent workout program.
Click Image To Enlarge.
I Realized That I Was Out Of Shape And Overweight, But
I Was Shocked When I Found Out My Body Fat Percentage.
How I Did It
I had my work cut out for me. For the first time, I actually worried about my own mortality after a head-and-neck cancer scare in 2000. Also, I developed sleep apnea over time as I broke the 230-pound barrier.
My fitness was in such a sorry state, that when I queried myself about the last time I actually ran anywhere, for any reason, I was truly stumped. The paradox of being an out-of-shape healthcare worker was jarring.
Before I reached my breaking point in 2008, I made one wild grasp at self-preservation: I joined a gym. For months upon months the gym membership sat idle in my pocket. Why? Well, buying things like gym memberships, diet books and exercise machines brings one great psychological comfort because such activities resemble meaningful action even when nothing of merit is really happening.
Busyness is often mistaken for progress. But after my embarrassing classroom epiphany, I did belatedly take action. A simple action, in fact. I promised myself I would take 30 minutes out of my busy day to catch a train downtown and do nothing but walk into the gym, look around and walk out.
That's it. I didn't change into gym clothes. I didn't touch a weight. I just broke my old pattern of "being busy" and tried to create a new habit. I knew that even in my most out-of-shape condition, I was still a competitor inside and I still loved weight training. I knew if I took the time to enter the gym, then I would come back. And that's exactly what happened.
You can't finish that report at work or raise your kids if you're dead. Fitness became a priority. My countless aborted attempts to make comebacks actually helped my efforts. I didn't rush things this time around; I tried to gradually increase training volume to avoid a debilitating level of DOMS.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a major problem for hard-training athletes of all ages. Whereas normal muscle soreness occurs immediately following a workout and lasts for up to 36 hours, DOMS is far different: it sets in about 72 hours post-workout, severely restricts range of motion and functionality and is painful.
I initially relied on exercises using body weight before switching to barbells and machines. I used workout schemes that made sense based on my level of conditioning and workout intensity as I started with a basic push/pull/legs/rest routine and later transitioned to a more typical bodybuilding split routine.
I worked on basic conditioning for two to three months in order to prepare my body for more intense training. I saw a few transformation threads posted in Bodybuilding.com forums, and I felt good about my progress, so I took my first real progress pics in January of 2009.
In my view, pictures are 1,000 times more brutal than the mirror and are easily one of the most potent training aids in existence. My pics revealed that I was making some gains, but paying inadequate attention to diet. My first progress photos were taken on January 5, 2009, which prompted me to revisit my diet and start a diet log shortly thereafter.
I was fortunate to have ample textbooks and articles at my disposal to assist me with my diet planning. However, I gleaned a lot of useful information from the ongoing threads containing nutritional advice from Chris Aceto and Alan Aragon.
I actually used my BodySpace account for over 6 months before I bothered to check out the threads within the forum. After exploring a bit, I decided to primarily participate in the "Over Age 35 Forum" and the "IFBB Professional Bodybuilding Forum."
My initial BodyGroup is no longer active, but the experience did allow for me to meet a couple of committed athletes (A-Train and ajk_ii) and we have become "virtual" training partners by keeping each other accountable and exchanging training ideas.
This has been a great resource since I train alone and do not have friends or family members that workout or really understand the bodybuilding lifestyle. Negotiating the time commitment required to get back into shape with family has been critical.
I started out training after work, which would often keep me away from home until 8 p.m. However, I found another gym in my area with better hours, so I shifted my workout to 4 a.m. during the work week.
This change has allowed me to better manage my family life, work duties, and athletic pursuits. Now that I have achieved my body composition goal and have a solid year of training under my belt, I am planning to return to bodybuilding competition later this year.
My diet is a work in progress. However, I got started by determining my maintenance caloric intake (using a basal metabolic rate calculator) and estimating total daily energy expenditure requirement (TDEE).
I found that most of my TDEE estimates were too high to effectively loss body fat. So, I estimated the amount of calories I expected to expend through weight training (est. 250 calories) and added that value to my maintenance calories to reach my daily caloric intake.
I verified that my body weight stabilized over a period of two weeks, and then I created a modest caloric deficit through cardio and gradual calorie restriction. In general, my macronutrient ratios were 1.5 g of protein, 0.7 g of carbohydrate, and 0.35 g of fats per pound of body weight. When my overall caloric intake was below 11 calories per pound of body weight, I tended to lose weight.
I monitored my body composition using skin calipers, a tape measure, the scale, and photographs. I lost approximately 50 pounds of body fat and gained 20 pounds of lean body mass while running a caloric deficit.
But it's critical to point out that I was decidedly overweight when I started the transformation and had "muscle memory" working in my favor. My rate of body fat loss stalled when I reached about 15% body fat, and my rate of muscle gain slowed down to about 1 pound over the last 4 months of training.
I loosened the dietary restrictions for a short period and then began to employ a simplified form of carbohydrate cycling during the last three months of the transformation to restart the fat loss process.
Training varied as my conditioning improved throughout the transformation period. Since my primary athletic interest is bodybuilding, my split routine reflects "priority training" principles - the body part rotation reflects an emphasis on weak body parts.
If you are successful in your training approach, then body parts that are considered weak or lagging should change over time. Therefore, the split routine should change over time as well (the priorities in my split routine changed about three times over the course of a year).
A basic form of the split routine I used during much of the transformation period is listed below:
- Day 1: Shoulders And Triceps
- Day 2: Hamstrings And Biceps
- Day 3: Active Rest
- Day 4: Chest And Calves
- Day 5: Quadriceps And Shoulders
- Day 6: Active Rest
- Day 7: Back And Biceps
- Day 8: Hamstrings And Chest
- Day 9: Active Rest
My training volume, workload, and intensity is based on a modified form of undulating periodization, which simply means that I use two distinct rep schemes within a given workout.
During the heaver sets, no high intensity techniques are employed, and rest periods of at least 3 minutes are used to ensure that the targeted reps are achieved during each set.
Then, secondary exercises are used at 8-12 repetitions with shorter rest periods and utilizing high intensity techniques (e.g., drop sets, rest-pause, etc) during the last set of each exercise. Typically, I use 10-12 sets for large body parts and 6-9 sets for smaller body parts.
Click Image To Enlarge.
Training Varied As My Conditioning Improved
Throughout The Transformation Period.
Suggestions For Others
- Things Are Different The "Second Time Around." For those who are making a "comeback", the strategies you used to get in shape as a high school or college student do not apply once you add the layers of family responsibilities, long work hours, a history of injuries, and other conflicting life demands.
People returning to the gym later in life often have their old mentality regarding their expected rate of progress and are not prepared for the barriers that modern life poses to the rigors of a structured diet and disciplined training.
If you live with family members, then be prepared to make them a part of the team. If you work in an office, then learn the fine art turning down bad bagels and cheap pizza at social gatherings.
- Don't Let The "Perfect" Be The Enemy Of The "Good." As stated above, life can be complicated. So you've structured the perfect split routine and you're ready to get started. You know it will take about 60 minutes to get through your routine today.
But wait, your spouse is sick and you have to take the kid to daycare this morning. Now you only have 30 minutes to train. So, is your workout ruined? No, your workout is shorter. Get your butt to the gym and be ready to improvise! Do not confuse perfection for excellence.
- You're Nothing Special. It's easy to get lost in a sea of training programs (e.g., FST-7, HIT, 5x5, etc.), or to hear someone say, "Just do what works for you." Right, not very helpful when you're starting from ground zero.
Well, there are some great, productive training routines to be found. And yes, there are meaningful individual differences that will make your program a little different from mine, but let's not go too far.
The basics of a sound training program apply to everyone: overloading the muscles, learning the basic lifting movements, regularly progressing the workload, adequate recovery, and sound nutrition.
In the end, consistently hard workouts performed in a safe manner will set any "newbie" on the right path. If you count yourself among the ranks of the truly lost, then consider the following:
- If possible, then use a personal trainer or certified weightlifting instructor for a limited amount of time to avoid predictable training mistakes
- Commit yourself to mastering the basic movements: bench press, squat, and deadlift
- Record everything you eat for 1 to 2 weeks - trust me, you'll be surprised at the gap between your perceived and actual caloric intake.
- Intangibles Are Tangible. While much can be said for devising the best possible training program and planning the ultimate diet, it will all amount to nothing if you cannot execute the plan. Proper planning and good intentions cannot overcome a poor work ethic. Your degree of commitment, patience, discipline and consistency will be the arbiter of your success.
- Life Is Not Fair, Participate Anyway. Yes, some people can afford a personal trainer, have access to a top-shelf gym, and rightfully call themselves genetically gifted. You, on the other hand, cannot. It's not fair, but that's the way it is.
If you take the time to search the profiles on BodySpace, then you will find that there are people who are finding a way to train despite significant injuries or disabilities, and even while deployed in Iraq.
While it's great to have the luxury of the best equipment or to vanquish your opponent at a competition, the real challenge of bodybuilding is the competition against yourself, to make progress, to move forward. As Kai Greene has said, bodybuilding is about "self mastery." It doesn't matter what anyone else is doing, what are YOU doing?