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Author Topic: Training for noticeable difference in strength  (Read 5975 times)
Bertie-Van
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« on: January 13, 2017, 11:16:14 AM »

Good morning guys,

new to the forum, and would like some advice on training for what I need.
First a little about me, I'm a slim 40 year old guy who many years ago was still slim, but my upper body strength was okay in that I could do about 20 pull-ups comfortably. About 20 years ago I got an injury which stopped me from doing much activity for a few months, during which time I had a family, moved in to my own house, got a new job with long hours, bought a car and consequently become lazy, and complacent.

So last year I realised that I wasn't as fit as I should be and started C25k, and this worked a treat. In fact I am now training for the 10k version and should be finishing that by the end of next month, so I'm happy with the progress on my cardio. However ,the same can not be said about my strength...

I can no longer do ANY pull-ups, not a single one! I also can't do push-ups. So at the beginning of November I joined a gym with the thought of spending three times per week on the machines, increasing my strength enough to do a pull-up and/or a push-up. But after 6 weeks, I find I am not progressing at all? Sure I can lift a little bit more weight, but nothing to write home about. I still am unable to do even a single pull/push up.

I would like to be able to do a reasonable number of pull-ups and push-ups by the end of March, and would like some ideas on to progress with this. I can't do pull-ups/push-ups as actual regular exercises because I do not have the room at home at present (renovation work), and I'm not willing to make an idiot of myself doing them in the gym in front of everybody else!

This is what I've been doing up until now, there are 16 machines/exercises in the gym. I spend 6 days per week there, 3 days of cardio with the running machines and punch-bag, alternated with 3 days of weights on these 16 machines.
With the weights I try not to exercise the same muscle groups back to back, and I do 5 sets of 10 reps at the same weight.
i.e.
1. 5x 10 arms (biceps)
2. 5x 10 abs
3. 5x 10 arms (triceps)
4. 5x 10 legs
etc, etc.

From looking on different forums, I'm at a loss about what to do achieve my goal. The forums based in USA seem to insist on taking supplements and formula, which I don't want to do. I quite like my food and want to keep my diet as is it, hence the reason I've joined a home forum in the UK. But even here there are conflicting ideas?

Whatever advice you can give would be great, but please make it simple and concise.

Cheers
Bertie
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Loafman
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« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2017, 03:55:57 PM »

The first questions I would ask is what does your diet consist of? And are you eating enough?

Also, as far as weights go, are you using weights that you find challenging? The reason I ask is that many gyms, especially those at fitness centres where machine weights are prominent often set very low target weights which will not help greatly with muscle hypertrophy, and muscle hypertrophy is what you would be seeking in order to achieve your current goal of doing pull ups and press ups.

Maybe in your pursuit of distance running you have under eaten, preventing muscle hypertrophy, more so in your upper body due to lack of abundant nutrition?

Are you also sure you have no underlying medical condition that may be preventing progress? I don't mean that in an alarmist way, just something that should always be taken into consideration.

I think the best thing you could do in order for people on here to help would be to list a few things first, like your bodyweight, what your typical daily food intake is and how much weight you are using for each specific exercise (e.g. bench press, lat pulley etc.).

I've only just returned to training recently, but have a reasonable understanding. Although there are members on here who know huge amounts.. I'm sure someone will chip in their 2 pence worth soon enough. But first, I would list the things I mentioned earlier.

All the best, Loaf.
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Bertie-Van
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« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2017, 01:35:26 PM »

Morning Loaf,

thanks for your reply, it has taken me a few days to get back on here to update you, but in the meantime I've had chance to take some notice of what I eat, I believe it is sufficient, especially as I am not actually losing much by way of weight, I'm just slimming down a little.

Before that I'll try to answer your questions in the order you've asked, to make it easier to read;
The weights I use for upper body I believe are sufficient.

Bench Press.
I bench press 25kg at the moment. I started the first week with 5x sets of 10x reps at 20kg, this was just to get me used to using the muscles again.  The following week I raised this to 22.5kg, and on the last few reps of the final set I seemed to struggle a little. Then after about 2 weeks I raised it to 25kg, which I've been stuck on since before Christmas.

Assisted Chin
I am 6'1" tall and weigh 84-85kg, so I use a counter balance of 45kg, this was initially 50kg for the first week, then 47.5kg for the next two weeks, and now sits at 45kg. Again I can't seem to get past this. I seem to stuggle with most of the last set, not just the last few reps.

With regard to diet, due to shiftwork I have three different types of day, each have their own 'diet'.
Type 1 - Working during the day, I'll have;
  • muesli or similar for breakfast, with a cup of tea,
    about 3 hours later I will have half a maltloaf and a piece of fruit
    lunchtime I'll have a sandwich, another piece of fruit, some crisp and a chocolate bar or small cake
    mid afternoon I'll have a cup of tea with a couple of biscuits
I'll then go to the gym after work, before having food a at home. This week it has consisted of;
baked sweet potato, with tuna and salad
chicken stir-fry
pork chop with chips and peas

Type 2 - Working during the afternoon
Similar food to above, but I'll go to the gym in the morning. In order to make sure I haven't got food in my stomach when exercising I'll have what I call a banana latte before I go, then eat afterwards. A banana latte, is just that really, a homemade latte blended with a banana. I find this staves off hunger until I've finished.  With regards to evening food; once per week I'll have a take-away, otherwise it will be canteen food, like lasange, etc.

Type 3 - Not at work
Small breakfast then wait for a couple of hours before going to gym, then full english breakfast, or maybe pancakes and syrup.  Then fruit throughout the day until evening when I will cook at least 2 courses. I like cooking so it is something like chicken fajitas, lamb chop, steak, etc.

I have annual medicals at work, plus I made a rare visit to my GP before starting to exercise, apparently I'm good to go, with no underlying medical conditions.

Do you guys on here think I should tackle this a different way? I've been looking at the 5x5 program, will this fit my needs better?
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Glen Danbury
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« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2017, 01:54:45 PM »

if its just bodyweight stuff your after than working in a lower rep range, using regressions of each exercise and working them frequently tends to work quite well.

any movement is a skill - whether thats deadlifting or a bodyweight exercise. doing other exercises to build up the strength will work to a degree but wont complete the full picture.

my advice would be to look at Naked warrior book or look at Strongfirst website.

performing things like a raised press up with descending height as you get stronger will probably work more efficiently
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Loafman
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« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2017, 06:09:24 PM »

This ^above^ is a good call.. Glen seriously knows his stuff (inside out, upside down and any other way you can think of).

OK, buckle down, this is gonna be a long one!

I think first things first, lets see if we can get your food intake adjusted somewhat. I am left guessing on the quantities of the make up of your meals as you don't mention weights or sizes/calories etc. But it definitely looks to me like your calorie intake is very low for your weight.
An important factor in gaining strength will likely be a calorie surplus (this may be slightly detrimental to your 10k training though).

The next several sections are a bit theoretical due to the limited data we have to hand, but you can always use it as a guide for the future by adding more accurate data to it. I will highlight it all in blue for reference.

So, first things first, it would be an idea to work out your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). This can be done roughly using your bodyweight (~85kg) and an equation to work out roughly how many calories your BMR requires. BMR is basically the minimum number of calories your body requires to maintain it's current weight assuming you have no activity levels whatsoever.

There are a few different equations that can be used for this, but we'll use the Katch-McArdle equation, BMR = 370 + (21.6 x lean body mass kg)

So lets make an assumption that you are 20% body fat (no offence if you are less, it's just an assumption!)

85 - 20% = 68kg lean mass.

We put that in the Katch-McArdle equation:-

370 + (21.6 x 68) = 1839 calories for your BMR.

You then need to multiply your BMR by your activity level to work out your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). Your activity level is what it sounds like, how active you are day to day.

Very low activity, desk job, no real exercise etc. = 1.2
Light exercise 3 or 4 times a week. = 1.375
Moderate exercise 4 or 5 times a week = 1.55
Very active, hard exercise 5 or 6 times a week = 1.725
Extremely active, hard exercise daily and physical job = 1.9

We'll have to make another assumption here as I don't know what your activity level is. Lets say moderately active for the sake of simplicity, which would be a multiplication factor of around 1.55.

So your BMR = 1839 and your activity level is 1.55.

1839 x 1.55 = 2850 calories.

This gives a total of 2850 calories per day. Bearing in mind that this is just your maintenance level, or the amount of calories you would need to maintain your current weight with your current activity levels.

In order to gain weight (muscle weight hopefully) you would need to add calories to this total, maybe a daily intake of 3000 to 3100 to start with and see how you go.


I would list my diet, but it will be wildly different to what you are likely to require with your current aims as I am training for fat loss at the moment, so have employed a low carb diet with intermittent fasting. I also eat a predominantly Palaeolithic diet, so I avoid all grains and legumes like wheat, barley, beans, lentils etc. Also my macro breakdown will likely be very different to yours (that's a whole other story!)

If I were training for muscle gain (and I feel my calorie intake would be similar to yours) my diet would look something like this (all weights are pre cooked weights):-

Brekky 8am :-

150 grams of white potato
3 whole eggs and 2 egg whites scrambled (with herbs, garlic and black pepper)
125 grams broccoli
125 grams of spinach
1 apple
1 good quality multi vitamin multi mineral tablet

This would yield around 500 calories, with around 36g of protein, 55g of carbs and 16g of fat.

Late morning 11am :-

150 grams of sweet potato
125 grams of skinless boneless chicken thigh
100 grams of broccoli
100 grams of spinach
5g of sunflower seeds
5g of pumpkin seeds

This would yield around 510 calories, with around 42g of protein, 41g of carbs and 20g of fat.

I would then eat 4 more meals like the late morning one, but maybe mix it up a bit by having pork loin steaks, a home made burger or salmon steak instead of chicken thighs, I may drop the seeds if the meat has more calories etc. I'd maybe add a bit of fruit at every other meal.

I would suggest you should try and include more proteins in your earlier meals and suggest the issue with canteen foods is that you don't really know the calorie content or macro nutrient breakdown. I'd certainly knock the empty calories on the head (or at least most of them) like chocolate bars, cakes, biscuits and replace them with something a bit more wholesome, even if it's a protein shake or protein bars.

Obviously, this all may be a bit extreme for your goals, but if you try and eat one or two similar meals to what I've suggested (per day) and get 25-30 grams of protein 5 or 6 times a day, and try and consume enough calories for your needs (maybe around 2800-300 per day) I'm sure you will start to see some progress.

Try it for a month or two and see how you get on.. and keep us posted with where you are at.

All the best, Loaf.
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Bertie-Van
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« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2017, 05:30:25 PM »

and this gentlemen, is why I like internet forums so much!

Glen, thanks for your advice. I've had a quick glance at both the website and the book on Amazon and they look like they have some good information. When I get more time to absorb them, I'll have a better read.
I understand what you mean about each movement being a skill, and I do intend to commence body weight exercises, once I have developed enough strength to actually complete at least 10 of the specified movement. This has not been coming on as quickly as I hoped though, and I expected that after two months of lifting weights, I would at least be able to do a couple of push-ups?
I have tried regressions before, doing push-ups on my knees. This seemed to help, but again I didn't progress very quickly. Instead I was able to just do more 'knee' push-ups rather than move up to full body push-ups.

Loaf, I thought I was eating sufficient calories, but then looking at my diet against yours, maybe not! I will assess my diet somewhat over the next couple of weeks and see where I can tweak it. I'm not that fussed about my pursuit of long distance running, I started the C25k to get fitter, I can now do 5k comfortably, so I find that I need to exert myself more to work up a similar sweat as I was a few months back. Hence the reason for working towards 10k.

My plan going forwards now is;
follow Glen's advice by doing some regressions, I will do these in the gym when nobody else is around. I will also accompany this with some weight training ideas from the 5x5 program. Once I have an idea of how I'm going to do these exercises, I'll report back here.
To assist with building strength and ensuring I have sufficient nutrients, I'll address my diet adapt it gradually of the next two weeks.
From then I'll spend the whole of Feb and March monitoring my progress and report back here. This timeframe is quite useful because the end of March will be when I end the 10k program.

One final question, if I am doing cardio (running) and weights on alternate days, when is is best to consume the high protein foods? The day prior to weights, and then day before going to the gym. Or is it better to each such foods after a weight workout, when my muscles are resting?

Bertie
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Loafman
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« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2017, 06:06:09 PM »

Hi Bertie,

Post workout is the most critical time to consume proteins (alongside some carbohydrates), although your body will continue to synthesise proteins for as long as your muscles are repairing and growing, which could be 24 hours or more.

It's worth remembering that high protein meals (with around 30-40g of protein in each meal) eaten little and often after weight training may help maximise protein synthesis.

I seem to remember something about protein uptake, I think if you were consuming say 50-60g of proteins per meal (and I think this is the same for pretty much everyone), this has no greater affect than 30-40g would, so if I am correct, then you may as well limit the protein content of each of your post workout meals to around 30-40g. I'm sure some of the more knowledgable people can confirm or poo poo what I have said here..  Grin

I would aim to keep a good diet with protein levels elevated, at least a bit, even if it's not following weights, just to get into the swing of eating for health.

All the best, Loaf.
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Nic
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« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2017, 06:43:19 PM »

... when is is best to consume the high protein foods? The day prior to weights, and then day before going to the gym. Or is it better to each such foods after a weight workout, when my muscles are resting?

Best advice really is to just eat a reasonable amount of protein at every meal or snack (25-30g, or whatever your daily target is divided by the number of meals you have that day). Just keep intake steady.
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Glen Danbury
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« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2017, 07:50:40 PM »

think different regressions work in different ways. off knees will reduce trunk loading so you can get more volume on the shoulder and arm musculature. that's fine if that's what's the limiting factor but if its strength through the trunk when you go to do a full press up this weak link prevents the movement.

This is why doing a full press up with hands on a raised surface works everything at a reduced intensity. decreasing the height gradually increases the intensity as you get stronger until your strong enough to do a full one.

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Bertie-Van
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« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2017, 10:40:11 PM »

Good evening all,

A quick update, and where possible I will try to report back here every 4 weeks if possible.

Glen, I was happy it was upper body strength which was the issue, because I couldn't push myself back up once my arms were bent at right angles. I tried regressions, but couldn't stick to it. Instead I've been following Stronglift's 5x5 app.

Nic, I've visited your blog, and would like to say, "Yep! Thanks for making me feel even MORE inferior". This is tongue in cheek by the way! You haven't really, I found the brief amount of time I spent looking at your blog quite inspirational.

Loaf, I now seem to spend more time looking at blooming packaging on food than I do eating the stuff! Shocked Wink

Anyway, I've upped my protein intake, whether this is sufficient I don't know, but at the moment I don't think I could change my diet much more, but I do eat probably 4 eggs per day, lots of tuna, lots of lean read meat, (steak mainly), lots of chicken and lots of vegetables. I've also started to eat protein cheese from Tesco, protein rolls from Lidl and a peanut butter latte most evenings.

I tried to eat Shredded Wheat for breakfast because I understand there is a lot of protein in wheat, but I may be a little intolerant to Wheat because after about 1 week I became ill, I stopped eating it and returned to oat breakfast and recovered very quickly.

So daily my food is;
Breakfast
Oat cereal, with about 5g of protein per serving

Early Morning
Hard boiled egg
Maltloaf
Orange
Hot water with a spoonful of honey

Lunch
Lidl Protein Roll with Protein Cheese and ham and beetroot
Apple
Small Chocolate bar

Mid Afternoon
A cup of coffee
Hard boiled egg
Maybe a biscuit

Early Evening
Hard boiled egg

Evening Meal
Steak with salad and sweet potatoes fries with protein cheese
or
Tuna on sweet pototo and a poached egg.
Peanut butter latte.

I'm aware this is probably not enough protein for long term plans, but I don't think I can get my stomach to take any more yet!

Anyway, how has this helped? Well after 4 weeks, I have not progressed much with the bench press, there is some progress, but not much. But I think I started with too high a working weight though. Squats, OHP, Barbell Row and Deadlift are all progressing well, but I expect to hit a plateau soon. Where I have really noticed the difference is last night when nobody was around at the gym I tried to do a chin up. And I did. And I found it quite easy!  Grin
Tonight in my front lounge I tried to do a push-up. I managed 5! And these were fairly easy too!  Grin Grin
So there is definitely a difference.

I'm hoping in the next 4 weeks to be able to incorporate chin-ups in to my 5x5 workout. I'll keep you informed!
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Nic
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« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2017, 01:07:49 PM »

Haha thanks, glad you enjoyed the blog. I haven't posted anything in a long time tbh but used to post a lot, so there's tons on there.

(I would add that it might seem like I've "done a lot" but I am also quite old....so plenty of time to do all that stuff across the decades. I'm quite lazy really, trust me!)
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Loafman
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« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2017, 08:44:44 PM »

Loaf, I now seem to spend more time looking at blooming packaging on food than I do eating the stuff! Shocked Wink

Haha, welcome to my world! It's a good thing though, it will help to educate you about food, and pretty soon you'll get the hang of it without having to check everything.. it will just become second nature.

Glad to hear you're starting to see some positive results though..  Smiley

Just make sure you are getting enough overall calories along with the protein and you should continue to make good progress. Also, don't forget a good daily multivitamin/multimineral too.

As for the wheat thing, I have cut it out completely (including wheat cereals, bread, pasta etc.) and feel a lot better for it. I never realised it's effects until I cut it out of my diet, after all, we are mostly all brought up eating weetabix, bread and pasta etc. so we just get on with it.
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