A Little Tough Love From Mark Rippetoe
I just finished reading a really great article written by Mark Rippetoe titled Who Wants to be a Novice? You Do. In short, he explains why most (and by most, he means YOU) never really ever get over that hump from novice trainee to badass mofo.
While I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you click on the link above, I do want to share a particular quote from the article that I feel applies to many reading this blog post now:
Rapid Lean Body Mass Growth is Always Accompanied by a Bodyfat Increase.
It might be helpful to understand that a man performs better at 5’11” weighing 205 than 155, and most would argue, looks a hell of a lot better as well.
This may be more than you can accept, and I understand why: modern physique culture is focused on visible abs and low bodyfat, and you may not be able to wrap your mind around the idea of the process by which a big, advanced man is built to begin with. Or you may be spending an inordinate amount of time with your shirt off posing in front of your cell phone camera.
Listen to reason here: fat comes off much easier than muscle goes on, and I’ll bet you already know how to diet your bodyfat down when this becomes necessary. But getting really big and strong is something that most guys never accomplish.
Now if that isn’t a nuclear bomb of knowledge sauce being dropped, I don’t know what is. And to think, it’s not so much a knowledge bomb, as it is common sense. Coach Rip hits the nail on the head, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s like he and I are strength coach BFFs or something. Only he has like 25+ more years of coaching experience than I do.
Seemingly, on a weekly basis we get a handful of clients (young and old, athletes and non-athletes) that start up at the facility, and after their initial assessment are quick to say, “I want to look like that guy.”
Joking aside, many tend to point their finger at either myself, EC, or any other member of the CP staff. But mostly me. 50% of the time. Maybe more like 25%. Either way, I win.
Now, before I go on, I’ll be the first to say that I don’t consider myself a big guy. At 6-1, 205 lbs (225 if we’re counting internet forums), I’m not exactly knocking down the door of Jay Cutler. That said, for whatever reason, many of the guys that walk into the facility seem to feel I have “the look” they aspire to have. Which is to say: a steel plate for a chest, grenades for biceps, and a six pack that would smoke The Situation.
Thing is, I can commiserate with many of them. As a former skinny kid myself, I can attest to the fact that it’s not easy to pack on mass AND be lean simultaneously. Come to think of it, I graduated high school at a puny 160 lbs. Okay 150.
After my senior year of college, I was struggling to stay above 175 lbs. And trust me, I was going to the gym 5-6 times per week. I was TRYING to get bigger – but not even coming close to how I train myself now. Is it any surprise, then, that I was following body-part splits, going for 3-5 mile jogs a few times per week, and eating like an Olsen twin in order to keep any semblance of abs? God for bid I couldn’t see my abs in January. Oh, the horror!!!!
I know, I know. This reeks of the tea pot calling the kettle black, but one of the great things about my job now as a coach is that I’m able to teach kids (and adults for that matter) from MY mistakes.
Is it any wonder, for instance, that it wasn’t until I started deadlifting and squatting (and eating) on a consistent basis that I actually started to grow? Likewise, do you think it was a coincidence that I finally starting putting on appreciable weight when I decided to scrap the long-distance running? It wasn’t uncommon for me to put in anywhere from 15-20 miles in per week back in the day.
It was back in the summer of 2002, actually. Fresh out of college and working as a trainer at a corporate fitness center, I decided enough was a enough, and I told myself that I’d give myself 6-8 months to do it right. I’d start focusing on training with compound movements (bye bye “arm day”) and I’d make a concerted effort to eat food – and a lot of it.
Fast forward ten months, I went from 180 lbs to 210; and while I wasn’t as lean as when I started, I looked a helluva lot better. And, I haven’t looked back since.
Now, I STILL think there’s an appropriate way to gain mass, and that it’s silly to get into this mentality that you need to eat your face off. I’m sorry, but you’ll never hear me advocating the McDonald’s and Pizza Hut diet.
Be that as it may, it stands to reason that most young trainees need to get over this mentality that being a skinny bastard (no offense) is the way to go. If you want to put on appreciable muscle, you’re going to have to accept the fact that you’re “probably” not going to have abs 24/7, 365 days a year.