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Looking for advice... feels like I've been "running in place" for 9 months


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- Male, 35 years old, 5'11", 172 pounds
- Lift 3-4 times per week using dumbbells, pull-up bars, and dip bars
- Sleep about 4-5 hours / night (work a 60 hour job with 2 toddlers)
- Eat about 2,100 calories / day
- Pictures are from January 2021, June 2021, and February 2022

I started trying to get into shape in January of last year. After spending most of my life at ~165 pounds, I ballooned my way up to 180 pounds during the pandemic. We took some family photos to celebrate our newborn son, and I was just mortified by how I looked. I spent the first three months doing a lot of "cutting" through cardio and dieting, getting myself down to 165 pounds. After that, I decided - hey i actually kind of enjoy working out - let me try to build some muscle too. I started with M&S routines, going from the Frankoman's Dumbell Only Split, to the four day U/L version, then even did the five day for a little while, before backing down to the four day for my own sanity.

I feel like I made good progress in the first three months. However, I don't feel like my body has not changed much in the past six months, and it feels like I'm a bit running in place. I do take solace in the fact that my lifts have increased. For instance, for bench press, I progressed from 25 pounds per arm to 52.5 pounds per arm. For dumbbell curls, I progressed from 17.5 pounds per arm to 35 pounds per arm. And for shoulder press, I progressed from 20 pounds per arm to 40 pounds per arm.

I'd love to make the next phase of my workout journey more productive and effective. Would love any advice around workouts, workout equipment, and diet. I'd like to build more muscle, but do also want to look good for a vacation coming up in the summer. Unfortunately I am still not able to go to gyms (live with immunocompromised individuals) nor do I have the space for barbells. I did buy a Tonal that will come in about a month so excited to try 'barbell'-type lifts.

Well... that's it! Happy to add more details. Thanks for reading and appreciate your insights.

 

January 2021

IMG_4264.jpg.597ca4a8b0dada116722d735bb3bf19e.jpg

 

June 2021

IMG_6633.jpg.d6f04a62768100420771095bd45ccffe.jpg

 

February 2022IMG_1459.jpg.562c7907ee6cd5b2cb79cca23d502d5a.jpg

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Well, the first piece of advice is likely going to be where you'll struggle the most: get more sleep. Your body is going to be slow to gain muscle OR lose fat if you're insufficiently rested. This is what I'd be focusing on right out of the gate, personally. See what/where you might be able to find some efficiencies in your day to grab an extra hour or two (best practices are minimum 7-8hrs a night, but it's important to be realistic).

 

Second, make sure you're getting enough protein; the general guideline is to start around 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight - so for you, you'll want 170-180g/day. I know that sounds like a lot, but it's what you'll want to aim for in order to either gain muscle or lose fat with any kind of efficiency.

 

Third: you can't expect to make good progress when program hopping. Pick one routine, and stick with it! Starting Strength (add in rows, for balance  - or check out the GSLP variation), is a popular option - all of those movements can be adjusted to be performed with DBs (eg. goblet squats, KB swings vs deadlifts, etc.). Or you could go with something like the NF routine, and just use more difficult progressions for each movement over time: https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/beginner-body-weight-workout-burn-fat-build-muscle/

 

Fourth. Typically beginners get a honeymoon period where they can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. After a bit of lifting experience though, that becomes MUCH more difficult. I strongly dislike cut/bulk cycles, personally, for lots of different reasons. But if you're wanting to try to hit somewhere in the middle, resign yourself to slower progress with both goals, as a tradeoff of not needing to get into extremes on either end. At your current stats, your TDEE is roughly 2,100kcal; so you're eating at maintenance. To gain, in theory, you'd increase the kcal; and to lose, in theory, you'd decrease them. IMO though, at this stage of your journey, you could probably just stay where you are at 2,100kcal and just really prioritise the protein intake.

 

'Hope this helps!

...but I'm adorable! Ask anyone who doesn't know me...

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Gaining muscle takes a really, really, really long time.  It only really happens in any significance in a calorie surplus.  Even then, it takes years.  They first 6 mo you seem to be gaining great, then it slows to a crawl.

 

You're much better off losing fat.  A neat little trick our bodies pull is that as you get leaner you appear more muscular.

currently cutting

battle log challenges: 18,17,16,15,14,13,12,11,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1

don't panic!

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As previously said, YOU NEED MORE SLEEP! You can't recover and grow if you don't get enough sleep. ( I know your challenge..I raised 5 kids, 2 sets of toddlers at a time!) And you need to up your protein. To gain you can do that on .8-1.5 gr/ pound of body weight. Stick to 1 training routine for at least 12 weeks, or until it stops working for you. (The "old " great bodybuilders did a 3 day a week, whole body workout...Steve Reeves..ect).

That may get you a bit more time to recover.

Good luck, don't stop, you're doing great! We all hit the occasional plateau!

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