I thought it’d be worthwhile to take a photo from December 2012 and put it side-by-side with a photo taken this month (December 2013).
If you’ll remember from a previous post, I am a raw foodist. I was also slowed down for a couple of months by an ankle fracture which required two surgical interventions. And yet, this was my progress. I’m satisfied with it.
I plan to grow even more. There are certain measurements I want to reach. I am so glad I started bodybuilding again.
Here’s a triptych where I included a shot taken in March of this year.
I’d like to show you a marathon 8-hour arm workout that is not for the weak of heart (or body). This is for the dedicated few that really want to go the extra mile in order to grow. If you’re thinking of posting a comment complaining that this is too grueling, too taxing, can’t be done without steroids, then this isn’t for you, please go look at photos of kittens.
We all reach certain stages in our workout routines when we need to shock the body and this workout will definitely do the trick — if you can get through it, and most people can’t. I’m thinking of doing it in the near future and will let you know once I get it done.
You’ll understand it best once it’s explained to you in this video featuring Rich Piana. Don’t be fooled by his tattoos and intimidating demeanor, he’s a nice guy who’s been publishing all sorts of informative bodybuilding videos.
Just in case you still haven’t got, I made an infographic, a guide to help you out. Just print it and you’ll be set.
This past weekend, I recorded portions of a chest and back workout I did. It marked an important point in my plan to add muscle mass. During the past month, I’ve started to feel the pump during my workouts. A pump, for those who are uninitiated, is a feeling of well-being, of swollen muscles that occurs during your workout. It’s a great motivator and it helps with the pain one normally feels during the sets. You don’t get a pump unless theres a certain amount of muscle mass on your body. In other words, you could be working out for years and still not get a pump unless your muscle mass grows to a certain point where every time you work out, you start to feel your muscles grip your bones like armor plating. It’s pretty nice. Getting the pump is a mile marker, it means you’re well on your way. So it’s good.
I got asked this question recently and answered it with a video. Here it is:
There are two main things you can do:
Eat like a horse
Work out like a horse
There are more things involved, such as getting enough sleep and focusing on big, whole body exercises such as the deadlift, the squat, the clean and press and other similar exercises, but those two things, if put in practice with determination and with the clear goal in mind of getting huge, will take you from a skinny ectomorph of 135 lbs. to a muscular, strong 195 lbs. See the diptych below. On the left is what I looked like when I started college, and on the right is what I looked like when I graduated.
Here’s one of my chest workouts, captured on video by Ligia recently. I warmed up with standing cable flyes, followed by the workout, which consisted of incline dumbbell presses, dips, machine chest presses, lying cable flies and incline dumbbell flyes.
I talked about each exercise in various detail, giving advice gleaned from my experience. At the end of the video, I extended an invitation for bodybuilding-related questions. I’ve got about nine years of intensive experience in the gym, on both animal and vegan diets, and I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t along the way. If you’ve got some questions, I may have the answers.
Want to see me work out at the gym? Ligia filmed me during a recent workout, the first after taking a 1-month break due to travel and business. It was a whole body workout where I warmed up on the roman chair, then did the clean & press, pull-ups and stiff-legged deadlifts.
In-between the sets, I also talked about form and gym etiquette.
I’ve mentioned this before, but for the benefit of those just tuning into my website, I am a raw foodist, which means I eat mostly uncooked vegan foods, and that’s also how I obtain the protein for building muscle.
I began working out regularly again last fall, in the month of September. I was sidelined for a couple of months due to an ankle injury and my current goals are to: (1) add significant muscle mass and (2) prove that I can do it on raw food, without animal protein.
First I’d like to say this: for those of you uninterested in bodybuilding and wondering why I write about the subject on my site, it’s for three reasons:
I began weight training in 1994-95 and am still passionate about it, many years later. My interest in weight training and bodybuilding pre-dates this website by about seven years.
I am a raw foodist and I want to prove that you can build serious muscle on raw food. For me, raw food means a mix of 20-40% cooked vegan food, with the rest made up of raw vegan food and superfoods. My protein supplementation is about 75% raw vegan and 25% vegan.
I’ll turn 37 this year and I want to prove that one can build muscle at this age and even beyond it.
Last autumn, I started going to the gym regularly once more, with the specific purpose of building muscle. All summer long, I’d been exercising at home, using Arnold’s 1% Workout, getting my body ready for weights. And that’s one thing I’d like to stress right now: if you’ve been off weights for a while, years maybe, like me, you’ll need to get ready for weightlifting with a few months of bodyweight exercises. Don’t just go to the gym and start lifting, you’re asking for unnecessary inflammation, pain and potential injuries.
From September to the end of October, I made great progress. My muscles started remembering their previous size and began to grow again. I was on my way to wonderful results, sooner than expected, until an unexpected injury sidelined me, right at the start of November. This was completely unrelated to bodybuilding. We were doing renovations at home, and the workmen had dug a trench in the garden to lay some new pipes. They forgot to tell me. We came back home at night from an out-of-town trip, I took a walk through the garden in pitch black darkness and fell right in. It was a strange feeling, stepping into a void… When my foot hit bottom, I heard a terrible crunch and then the excruciating pain began… The force of the impact pulled on my ankle ligaments so much that it fractured both the tibula and the fibula at their ends. (The medical term is bimalleolar fracture.) It snapped one of them clean off and the other managed to hang on. Let’s just say I have a nice zipper-shaped scar on my ankle and a couple of extra titanium screws in there. I’m thankful that the ligaments didn’t tear, because the recovery would have been more painful and would have lasted longer. Here’s the x-ray after surgery.
I was told to take it easy after the surgery, so two months of what would have been fruitful weight training went down the drain. I finally couldn’t take it any longer after the holidays and went back to the gym on crutches, hopping around on one leg from machine to machine, training what I could train without affecting my ankle.
Things got better soon after that. I also went to physical therapy, did acupuncture and my ankle is almost fully healed now. There’s still some soreness in the mornings, some swelling still has to disappear but I can use it: I can do standing and sitting calf raises, I can walk normally and will soon be able to run and jump as well.
It’s now March and I wanted to show you the progress I’ve made since the start of December. I do wish I’d have taken a photo of my body earlier, at the start of my weight training, but I didn’t. The best I can do is this photo, taken in September on a trip to Lake Vidraru. You can clearly see that I have little muscle mass and my arms are pretty thin.
Now let me show you a much better example of my progress.
Here you can clearly see that my arms are much thicker and my back is thicker, justifying the ~10 lbs. of weight I put on. And I can assure you that it’s all muscle; if anything, my body fat is lower now.
This is only the beginning. I plan to add muscle mass until I get to 200 lbs. It’s not so far-fetched as you might think. In college, I went from a skinny ectomorph of 135 lbs. in my freshman year to a muscular mesomorph of 195 lbs. in my senior year. Granted, I did it on a traditional diet of meat, dairy, eggs and vegetables, but I know it’s also doable on raw foods. If I got to 195 lbs. once I can do it again and I can go beyond it as well. I can do it on raw foods and more importantly, I can do it without steroids or other illegal substances. My body is perfectly capable of secreting all of the hormones it needs, as it did so in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
Those of you who’ve only followed my website for a few years or less may not know it from the current content, but the very first set of articles I wrote online were about exercise and bodybuilding, back in 2001. Go ahead, browse through my archives to see what I mean.
Given that I’ve started bodybuilding once more in recent months, it’s only fitting I write about it again, this time to share my Wonder Smoothie recipe. It’s what I use to recover from my workouts and build muscle. The best part of this smoothie is that it uses raw food ingredients, so anyone can drink it, whether they’re raw foodists like me, or vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters.
That’s right, you may not think raw food and bodybuilding go together but they do. Since I’ve started bodybuilding again, I’ve been amazed with my progress and ability to put on lean muscle in just a few months, while on a 60-80% raw food diet (and some cooked vegan food). I’m going to share my special list of superfoods and ingredients with you below, and I hope my Wonder Smoothie will benefit you as much as it has benefitted me.
The instructions are simple: blend the sesame and hemp seeds with water and honey first to get the raw milk. Then add in the rest of the ingredients and blend the whole thing again to a typical smoothie texture.
I wrote the articles after working out seriously and regularly for over 7 years (at the time), so the insights I laid down in them were solid. As good as they were, I was to discover another great insight about exercise, which was to affect me years down the road. It relates to both topics (exercise goals and the resolve to keep them).
It’s about the principle of weightlifting known as “Training to Failure“. You can watch the video or you can read the script (with some slight modifications) below.
I started doing this while in college, as I tried a lot of things in order to grow. I would train to failure on all sets (other than warm-ups) or just the last sets of my workouts, depending on my stamina and my drive on a given day.
Training to failure yielded results, no question about that. Pushing yourself to the limit often helps you discover new limits, beyond what you thought was possible. Coupled with good nutrition, plenty of rest and a proper, serious workout schedule, training to failure will yield results.
In part, it was responsible for my impressive gains in muscle mass and strength. Here’s what I looked like in September of 1994. There’s no way to get around it: I was a pencil-neck. I’d done a lot of swimming in high school and while it’d made me taller, it didn’t add any bulk at all to my body.
And then here’s what I looked like in May of 1998.
Big difference, right? That was an increase in weight from 135 lbs. to 195 lbs. and strength gains that went through the roof. I should clarify that I did not take steroids to look like that. I worked out to my limit and beyond, every workout, ate a lot and rested a lot (when I didn’t pull all-nighters to study for exams).
So, training to failure is a good thing, right? Not so fast.
As a practice, it’s a wonderful thing. You’re pushing yourself to the limit. Great! As a name, it’s bad.
Why? Because it’s insidious. The term “Failure Training” or “Exhaustion Training” crawls into your brain and slowly but surely, it begins to affect your attitude toward going to the gym and lifting weights. It takes years, but it’ll happen.
Unless you’re aware of what I’m telling you here, you won’t know why, but workouts and weightlifting will start to become boring to you. You’ll find yourself saying, “What’s the point? I’m lifting these weights up and down, it’s the same movements all the time, I repeat them till I can’t do any more, then I rest for a while and start over again. This is useless, there’s not future in it.”
I’m here to tell you that’s not you talking. You’re doing your part. You’re going to the gym, you’re lifting the weights, you’re eating right, resting, staying informed; you keep at it, but you’re discouraged.
What’s going on is that you’ve got faulty programming in your mind. You’ve gotten so used to the “failure training” that all training has become a failure for you. That’s how your mind now thinks of exercise, and you’re in a terrible situation.
Whoever called it “Training to Failure” made an unfortunate decision. Thankfully, we can fix it, but it’s going to take a bit of effort.
First, let’s start referring to it as “Expansion Training” or “Growth Training“. Make up your own name for it if you want, but it’s got to be something positive, something that encourages you to go on and is a good thing for your mind to recall. It’s got to help you visualize the results you want.
Think about it. Does “Failure Training” help you visualize big muscles or more strength? Not likely. But does “Growth Training” help you see more, bigger muscles? How about “Expansion Training”? Does that help you visualize breaking limits, expanding what you thought was possible?
There’s nothing wrong with the practice of training to exhaustion or to failure. It’s a wonderful thing. We just have to change the way we refer to it, and once we do that, a lot less people who are currently using the technique will get discouraged long-term.
I am currently in the process of trying to change my own thinking on it, after finding out the hard way why I lost the drive to work out years ago. This very thing was one of the reasons.
You may not think simple words can have that sort of power, but when you combine them with effort, pain, visualization and time, those insidious words can have an awful effect. That’s why a positive name change is so important, and it should have been at the top of the list when this technique was invented (or named).
Every time the term “Exhaustion Training” or “Failure Training” comes to your mind, replace it with “Expansion Training” or “Growth Training”. Every time you employ the technique and you push your body to the limit, visualize the positive: your muscles are growing, your body is getting bigger and stronger (or leaner if you want to lose weight). Don’t think about the micro-tears, don’t think about the pain, the exhaustion, and most certainly don’t think about failure. Think about how much you’re improving and how you’re keeping your body in shape, and how good it’s going to look. See yourself leaner, muscular, stronger — all around better.
That’s the way you should approach every “Expansion Training” set and for that matter, every workout, and you’ll be amazed at the results!