As a female coach and gym owner, I attract a lot of women to my place and I put a great deal of emphasis on getting stronger, feeling better and most importantly, building self-confidence. I spend a great deal of my writing focusing on the importance of strength training for women and trying to dispel the many myths that are associated with lifting weights. But strength training is NOT just for women. 😉 Over the past couple of years, more men have joined us and have also benefited greatly from this training. One of our male members, Tom, came to us in August of 2012 after noticing the changes in his wife. She was getting stronger and standing taller. As Karla told me, “He has noticed that I carry myself differently when I walk – he calls it strutting.” Tom decided that he wanted to “strut” too and decided to give us a try. That was almost two years ago. A lot of guys start working out to lose a few pounds. Tom came to us to do the opposite. When he began his training, he was very thin and not very strong. So what did we do? We put him on a basic barbell program focusing on the big lifts – squat, bench, press, deadlift and power cleans. And we made him eat….a lot. His transformation is outstanding. Here’s Tom’s story.
I had always been a really thin guy and despite various phases of lifting weights early in life had never gained real strength. The story I typically tell to paint the picture of just how thin I really was is a story from my first job as an engineer in a manufacturing plant. My nickname in the plant became “6’4″ 125lbs” and someone had etched that on to my hard hat. Granted, I weighed more than 125 lbs (not by a whole lot), but clearly I looked thin. And I wasn’t too strong either. The story I typically tell right after that one is that I wrestled (or really tried to wrestle) a weight class in high school that was under 110 lbs (I don’t remember the exact weight class). So I’ve always been a tall thin guy without big strength and even right up to the time I started training at Fivex3 Training, I was thin.
Here are a couple of pictures of me from Facebook about a year before coming to Fivex3. I remember someone commented on Facebook on the photo of me in the middle.
Since finishing college (about 15 years ago), I’ve tried to workout regularly and there’s always been a strength part to my training. I caught the P90x bug a few years ago and really hoped I would get strong and cut. I wanted to get “cut’” because somehow I had turned into a skinny fat guy over the years. I was starting to tip the scales at 190lbs. (Now I realize that at 215 pounds, I could actually be even bigger, especially for a guy my height, but at the time, 190 seemed “fat.” And in reality, I was fat. I had very little muscle and a lot of body fat.) So the P90x program was appealing to me. First, it seemed scientific with its “muscle confusion” premise and the engineer in me thought that sounded cool. Second, it was quite convenient. I could pack the DVDs, and the elastic bands in my suitcase and work out in my hotel room when I was on the road. I went through the P90x program 7+ times, followed the diet, and ended up getting all of the DVD’s and running through the P90x sequel programs, P90x+, and P90x2 quickly.
There were results. I lost weight and I regained definition. But I was sick all the time. I don’t know if it was due to the program or not, but I was constantly tired, drained, and sick. On top of that, I never really got that much stronger, at least not in a big way.
Somehow P90x turned into long distance running. I had gotten to the point with P90X where I could remember all of Tony Horton’s cheesy jokes and do the routine in each DVD without even playing the DVD. I eventually faded P90x and its derivatives out of the picture and only ran.
However, long distance running was catastrophic for me. I was constantly injured – knee pain, hip pain, foot pain. My knees would hurt so badly that I couldn’t run for weeks at a time. I couldn’t even drive my car without excruciating knee pain while I was injured. I went to my doctor, also a runner. He could find no major issues.
He would recommend I recover and try again slowly. I’d recover, run again, then get injured again and again. My guess is that I really wasn’t strong enough. And I know running sure wasn’t helping. And I think I was wasting away. I was super thin again. I got faster sure, but I don’t know if it was worth it. Once again, I was back down to 170 again and looked really thin.
My wife had actually started training at Fivex3 Training before me. She, too, had been a runner. And like me, she wanted to lose weight and thought that running was the answer. But just like me, all she ended up doing was injuring herself more and more. She stopped the running and started strength training. I quickly noticed that she was getting stronger, stronger than me in fact. I couldn’t let that happen. 😉 So I started adding weight training to the running and worked out by myself at home. My wife said I looked ridiculous when lifting and that my form was wrong. I told her she was wrong, so for the sake of our marriage, I had to go to Fivex3 to get a second opinion. Turns out, she was right and I was wrong. And I haven’t looked back since. 😉 That was almost two years ago.
When I walked into the Fivex3 Training on August 1, 2012, I weighed 170 lbs. Today, I weigh 215 lbs with almost 45 lbs of the increase in weight coming from lean muscle mass. Over just that short period of time, I’ve gone through two sets of suits just trying to keep up with the gain in mass and a whole bunch of other clothes. I am much bigger than I was a year and half ago, and more importantly, I am much stronger and so much of my life and my health is better.
Over the years, I’ve tracked my weight and body fat % using a fat analyzer I picked up from Amazon. In writing this, I pulled up the data and plotted the average weight, lean mass and muscle mass. Sure, it’s not scientific or exactly accurate, but it tells a story, and one I found very interesting.
Here’s what I saw in the graph. P90x had made me lean, but the weight loss came from both lost muscle mass and lost fat mass. And long distance running essentially only made me lose muscle mass. Once I started strength training, the whole story changes. First, I now have the same amount of lean muscle mass as a did total body weight at my heaviest in my life before and second, the amount of fat mass did not really increase since running.
Here’s an email I sent to Emily on July 24, 2013, about one year after I started training:
“I’ve outgrown my suits, which is a great thing, and had to get sized for some new suits. I knew I had gotten bigger and stronger, but since I hadn’t taken measurements I didn’t know exactly. The tailor had my measurements from a year ago (which was about a week before I started coming to five x 3 and getting coaching from you and Diego.). I enjoyed the comparison of the measurements and thought i would share …
Seat – 3 inch increase! (thanks to squat) Go glutes!
Overarm – 4 inch increase (thanks to overhead press)
Chest – 3 inches (thanks to bench)
And based on the scale and body-fat percentage analyzer… that’s 27 pounds of muscle that I’ve added! So thank you Fivex3!”
So what I did different to get big strength gains and mass? I ate, lifted big, rested and did the same lifts over and over and over again. And actually I spent half the time working out in a week versus the amount of time I spent with P90x or running. Clearly it’s simple – eat, lift, rest. It’s ironic that I expected to get big results from quick fix fitness programs like P90x, only to find the answer in time tested strength training.
There’s a principle in business strategy about the value of experience and the learning curve. The more experience a business has, the more competitive it is – in terms of price, cost, etc. I think the same thing happens with training. Getting under the bar and eating to help muscle growth has been around for a long time. There’s lots of collective experience built up in the these strength training methods.
It just works, and it’s just that simple. As simple as the solution was, I figured none of this out on my own. Fivex3, Emily and Diego, are entirely responsible for guiding my transformation. And there’s been some important lessons for me in this journey.
I learned the first lesson about eating at Fivex 3 in one of my early training sessions with Emily and Diego. Diego observed how hard it is to squat with my long frame – the physics of leverage. Being taller, I have to work hard to push the weight up during a squat and other lifts. His comment was simple. “You should weigh 240lbs for 6’4”. You need to eat more.”
Whether 240lbs is the right number or not, is not really the point. What he was saying was that I needed mass to be strong, and I needed to eat to get mass. So I learned to eat. It was hard. I never realized how little I was eating before. I always said that I ate a ton, at least, I felt like I was eating a lot, but clearly I must have been starving myself. Clearly.
The second lesson I learned was I needed to lift big and to make the most progress with the big lifts, I needed a coach. I believe that no one can really do these lifts properly without a coach. I travel for work every week and while I am on the road, I now seek out gyms that have what I need: a squat rack, barbells and plates. I get my workouts in and each week, when I am back in town, I go to Fivex3 for coaching. I’ve needed Emily and Diego every week to watch my form, give new cues to help me keep improving. I imagine there’s some of you that have the image of a trainer in a gym when you read this. It’s nothing like that.
That type of trainer just puts you on a machine, counts your reps, and gives you a variety of exercise programs. I can do all of that on my own. Emily and Diego are true coaches. They taught me the lifts, told me books to read, and more importantly worked on my weaknesses and pushed me to my limits. While it may be the same basic lifts – squat, deadlift, bench, press, power clean, etc., as I get stronger, there are new points about the form and programming that I keep needing help and coaching on. This is what it means to train. The journey is never ending.
What’s life like now that I’m bigger and stronger? There’s no more knee pain or foot pain. Sure I may overdo it sometimes and have to reduce the amount of weight I lift, but generally there’s progress. I am getting stronger each and every time I lift. It really is that simple.