Scrawny To Strong

If there is one subject, when it comes to fitness, that is close to my heart.

It is building muscle and getting strong for harder gainer and scrawny dudes.

That was me.

I told this story many times , I was in auto repair shop and I was trying break lug nut.

I was struggling, putting my whole body behind it and I heard a few kids begin me laugh at me.

That afternoon , I joined a gym. I was 17 years old.

The rest history.

There has been many things, I’ve learned since than.

I’ve been working out for the past 16 years.

Here are some of those lessons, I’ve learned.

Bodybuilder Don’t Have The Answers(At least not for guys like you and I)

This was one of my first mistakes Following bodybuilding program in the magazines. . Body builder have a few things, most of us do not have.

Fundamental levels strength and muscle

Great genetic

Taking drugs

So, the programs that you’ll see in magazines might work great for genetically gifted guys, like the ones who would play football in high school.

But, for people like us, they suck. Too much volume and accessory exercises.

What we need to do is to build a strong foundation of strength by

Mastering the basic compound exercises and getting strong at them.

The basic exercises would be a

  • Squat
  • deadlift
  • single leg exercises
  • upper push like bench press
  • upper pull like row

Shoot for staying in the rep ranges of 5-8 reps, until you build strong strength foundation. Unlike bodybuilding, your not going hit one muscle group once week.

You want hit it with frequency, hit the same muscle group 2-3 x week. So , full body workouts are great for beginners.

A quick examples

  • Squat
  • DB press
  • 1 arm row
  • Reveres lunge
  • Plank

Supplements Are Never The Answer

With picking up bodybuilding and fitness magazines. You get a ton of shitty workouts.

But, you get bombarded with ads for all theses supplements, that clam, they will change your life.

I got sucker in , spending so much money on these.

Supplements are exactly, what they are. They should supplements your diet. There far from the most important things.

If you take them, focus on the ones that comes from food and that your having trouble getting in your own diet.

Things I like are

  • Protein powder
  • vitamin d
  • fish oil
  • magnanimous oil
  • Green powders

High Intensity

Like I said earlier, I would follow these body building program ,the problem with this was, the volume was way too high, for someone who was very weak.

When you do high volume but your not loading that much weight, this is highly ineffective.

One of the first times, I realized how important intensity was, when I got in to this training program called Heavy Duty by Mike Mentzer

It was doing 1-2 exercises per body part but only doing 1 set to absolute failure.

At that time, I saw my best gain with this way. Way better than any gains I did following workouts, that had 20 set per body part.

Although, I now do more sets, than 1 . It taught me how to train all out and how effective it can be.

You don’t know intensity until, you know what failure looks and feels like. Having parts of your workout, where go to failure, is important. Just from a stand point of learning to go all out.

You might, think ,you did a hard set of 10, but maybe if you did that to failure, you would got 20 reps instead.

Which mean that set of 10 wasn’t really, as intense as you thought.

There was this squat, challenge I’ve done in the past. That I loved. Where you put your body weight in pound on the bar and squat for max reps and see what you can get.

There were times, where after 12 reps, I would feel like I was done, like I only had few reps left.

But, I would take it one rep at time and and push it until I couldn’t. Before I knew, I would be at 25+ reps.

Intensity is important .

A method of tracking this, is rating your RPE after each set

RPE is rate of perceived exertion, rate from 1-10

Most of your working sets should be a 7-9.

A good way to think about this, is if you went all out for , how many more reps you could get past the given rep range.

Say your doing sets of 8,

If you could get 3 extra reps or more it is probably a 7 or lower

If you could get an extra 2 reps, it might a 8

If you could get 1 extra reps, it might be a 9

If you could get 0 extra reps, it would be at 10.

This is great way engage intensity , this is also a great way to know, when you should add weight.

If you do a set of 8 chest presses and the RPE was 9, you probably know, that you don’t need go up, for your next set, or next week, you should stay at that weight.

Ramp Up Sets

This was a game changer, for the longest time, when I did a workout. I would do the prescribed sets and reps, that was it. Maybe I would a 1-2 warm up sets for real heavy lifts.

But, when I started to incorporate ramp up sets, notice huge difference.

A ramp up set are 1-4 easy to harder sets, that help, you get ready to handle heavy weight, but also give you the opportunity to practice great form, when the exercises are easier, thus increasing your performance at that lift, when the weight is heavy.

I kinda did this for big lifts, but when I took it more seriously and did this with almost every exercises. I added more muscle and got stronger.

The reason for this is most likely due a few things.

  1. Your better prepared to handle heavy weight.
  2. The little extra volume, may have help build muscle.
  3. Because I’m warmed up better , I has the ability to go harder on my working sets.
  4. It help me know which weights, are the best for my working sets, instead of guessing, and going to heavy or light for my first 1-2 sets, which used happen often.

Here an example for ramp up sets with a bench press.

Say your workout call for 3x 8, to me a hard set of 8 might be 155lbs

I might do this

  • bar for 8
  • 95lbs for 8
  • 115 for 8
  • 135 for 8

Than do my first working set at 155

If your not doing this, start doing this and notice more strength, more muscle and maybe more importantly less injuries or aches and pains

Mix Methods (conjugate)

Typically we work on one thing at time, during weeks and months of training.

We might focus on, just building muscle, than strength and maybe than power, etc.

But, I’ve seen my best gains working on multiple methods at a time.

I don’t like working on different thing each phase.

Like a few months of strength work than, than building muscle and than power development.

I find that, doing this causes you to lose your gains in one area, too fast.

I prefer working on everything in each workout or at least each week.

Popular by westside BB conjugate system.

Does this, you work on multiple modalities simultaneously.

For example my strength workout yesterday for my group training was.

1A DB Press 2/3x 4-8 (max strength)

1B Rotational MB Slams (power)

2 Push ups 3x 15 (hypertrophy/muscle building work)

3A Strap rows 15 (hypertrophy/muscle building work)

3B Forward and backward lunges 8 per side (hypertrophy/muscle building work)

3C Rack Walk 30 sec (core development)

Repeated for 10 minutes

Finisher: Hill sprints 10 sec 5 sets( conditioning and lactic power development)

In one workout we built multiple, things : max strength, power and focus on building muscle. As well building conditioning.

This work well because it hits the three triggers of building muscle

Mechanical tension aka heavy lifting

Time under tension aka high reps with controlled tempos

Metabolic stress- combination of higher reps with incomplete rest and the intervals

This is fun way of training, with a huge bang for your buck.


Last thing I want point on is recovery. After , I grew frustrated with bodybuilding workouts, I found in magazines.

I discovered this old school body builder, who taught the complete opposite.

Instead of more sets, he said one.

Instead of training 6x week, he said train 2-4x week.

He emphasis recovery.

I saw at that time, my best gains by following his guide lines.

Although, I don’t agree with all his thoughts now.

He was way a head of his time, with how important intensity and recovery are to build muscle.

He advocated 1-2 exercises per body part and 1 brutal set taken to failure and than you would take 3 days off.

If you want build muscle, you have to respect the recovery process, that is focusing sleep and structuring your workout in way, that allows for recovery.

For sleep , I’d shoot for going bed by 10pm and trying get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep.

Than for workouts, try not to lift 3 straight days. Here are a few splits I like

Mon Weds Fri Fullbody

Mon Tues Thurs Fri Upper/lower split

Mon Weds Fri lower upper and pull

Now, let take this stuff and hit the ground running . Let me know if you have any questions.

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