Mass Gain Experience
I’m a skinny fuck. I’ve wished I was not for sometime and the main reason for this (beyond performance improvements) would be that I am no longer mistaken as a “runner”. Yeesh. I competed in PL’ing in both the 181lb and 198lb classes in my youth but it required gargantuan amounts of food to pull that off. As soon as I was not force feeding myself I whittled back to ~160 lbs. At that time however I had NO clue about insulin management, nutrient partitioning, metabolic conditioning…I was just a whipper-snapper! So I resolved to a mass gain program for the dual purposes of improved performance and not looking like a “runner”. Here is how I tackled the training and food:
I’ve talked at length with several folks including Rutman, OPT, Rip, Ido and Greg Everett on this topic and a consensus emerged:
Squat, Press and Pull, heavy and progressively. Shocker, right? I modeled Rip’s beginner program and added a few tweaks of my own. Here’s how things shook out:
Back Squat 5×5
Push Press 5×5
Weighted Pull-up 5×5
Day 2- “Speed Day”
10×2 power clean
Permutations of this circuit:
45″ box jump, 4 dynamic/explosive pull-ups, 4 dynamic push-ups, rounds in 10 min.
This was a very power biased WO that was metabolically challenging but not a lactate melt-down. The box jump precluded getting completely knackered lest I kill myself. I played with a lot of variations on this theme but this day was consistently made up of a tall box jump, speed press, speed pull.
I played with a variety of CF WOD’s that ranged in the 4-8 min range. Heavy Fran, Heavy Diane, Helen, Grace etc. I might also sub this day for sprints, anywhere from 50m to 400m sprints, full recovery (4-5 min) and I stopped when I started feeling knackered.
Occasionally a sprint day popped up as a 4th training day. I only did this if I was feeling “really good” and it was always with the idea in mind that I needed to progress the loading on my 5×5 day and thus needed to be recovered.
Loading and other Junk
I started the Back squats at an embarrassingly hard 225lbs. Push Press at 135 and weighted pull up at 12 kg. I also tracked power clean loading which started at 185 lbs. My first few weeks I took a 1 min rest between sets of these exercises and wanted to fudging die. I talked to Rip and he caringly stated: “Robby you are fucking strength training, not doing a met-con…take 5 min between sets…”
I altered my rest peiod and the loading just took off. By the end of 3 months I was at back squat 315lbs 5×5, push press 190 lbs 5×5, pull up 5×5 72 kg (plus 18lbs of increased body weight…I’ll get to that later) and the power clean went up from 10×2 at 185 to anywhere from 215 to 245. I really went by feel on this and focussed on speed. If I felt strong I loaded it up, if not I went lighter. It’s interesting to note that my speed was far more impacted by travel, food and sleep than base strength progress. Silly neurological factors.
I ate a lot. Really. I calced a few days and I ran between 4,200 and 5,000 cals/day of predominately paleo food. The main exception was a quart of goats milk post WO. I tolerated this pretty well and I really noticed a boost in my recovery. I took Now Foods Super Enzymes with each meal (mixed enzymes, ox bile and HCl), fish oil and I shot for 4-5 meals per day, occasionally making 6. I did not force feed at night like I’ve done in the past, but I WAS packed full of food and did not feel particularly well or healthy during this process.
I went from a very scrawny 163 to a much stronger, although chubby 180. My strength improved a bunch but I really do not consider 5×5 efforts “strength” work. Too much fatigue, too little neuro activation and specificity. That considered, I think I have a shot a really increasing my strength levels with some focused work in this area. That in mind, I started the Catalyst Athletics WOD 2 weeks ago and am hammering the Olifts and and few specific gymnastics elements. I’ve curtailed the force feeding, still shooting for 4-5 meals per day but the heavy Olifting has actually brought up my BW to a solid 183 and my strength is taking off. Not bad for a 36n year old nutrition geek!
I think I mentioned in the comments that I went to a Poliquin biosignature seminar recently. I’m working on a write-up for that but for now I’ll just mention that I became aware of some significantly impaired insulin sensitivity on my part. I’m hoping the biosignature approach rectifies this situation…if it does I SHOULD be able to put on muscle mass much more easily. I’d like to run at 185-190 and ~8% BF. This seems to be where the ass-kickers live, so I’d like to give it a shot. I will update how that protocol is affecting my progress (or said another way, does that stuff work). I will also write a piece on my thoughts regarding Poliquin’s stance on CrosSfit. Sure to be popular…