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How to progress past newbie gains


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Hey guys,


I have been looking for some answers for a few weeks now as I've been getting really frustrated with stalling in my workouts. I've done a few searches, asked a few people and want to really fine tune my workouts to make some further progress.


So, what I'm working with is 5ft4, 78kg, round about 25% body fat. I eat primarily paleo based meals complemented with some protein, and extra carbs and calories where needed. I've just started to take bulking seriously, and while it's harder eating paleo I'm doing ok. My maintenance calorie intake is pretty low as I'm pretty short and not too heavy, so I can get almost all of my maintenance calories from a single shake if I try hard enough. 


What I'm doing for exercise at present is primarily bodyweight. My flatmates are powerlifters and have suggested doing some work with them. I am tempted, but I have no spotter, haven't lifted in years and don't want to get stuck doing 6 day/week split routines like they do. I like my down time. Plus I like the flexibility and handiness of bodyweight/calisthenics workouts, and as far as legs, bodyweight gets me way more than weight work.


My current routine is pretty well circuit training. It generally goes like this:


Rowing machine 3-5min at max resistance for warm up


Lever push ups

Hanging straight leg raise

Squats (either pistol or barbell - I can load 40kg max, thats all the weight I have)

Wide grip pull ups

Plank 1 min



Rinse and repeat x4, followed by stretching.


Reps I'm keeping between 6 and 10 atm, and on some off days I'm working on my pistol squat form, back bridges and pseudo planche push ups. 


Now I have no problem finding a whole raft of bodyweight exercises that I'd enjoy doing, what I'd really like is for someone to help me restructure my routine to take some focus away from cardio and zero in on , as circuits tend to. I've only ever really done circuit style workouts, so if someone could point me in a different direction that'd be great. I don't want someone to tell me what to do, I want to know how to find out what will work for me, and how to build a plan that I can scaffold or evolve as necessary. I'd happily do split routines if necessary, I could probably do 4 days exercise tops. 


Let me know what you guys think. Thanks for any advice.




The Logros - Guardians of the First Throne itself.

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Hi Logros,


Sounds like you made some good progress so far.  As far as powerlifting goes, if you think it is something you may want to do, I would check out "Starting Strength" or "Stronglifts 5x5", they are basically identical and ideal for someone who may want to get started in barbell type strength training. They revolve around squats, deadlifts, shoulder press, bench press, and either rows or power cleans, both are 3 days a week.  I'm sure your friends could give you some pointers on the lifts and there is a ton of information out there on the web on how to do those correctly.


Reading your post though, it sounds like you love body weight type training, and if that's true, you would be much better off sticking to that since it's something you love.  I'm not exactly sure where or how you are stalling, but I have a few ideas for you.  


1.  Consider finding a way to add weight to the body weight movements, by adding a weight vest or one of those belts where you can add on weight to it.  I've heard this can help when you are stuck trying to add reps to things like pull up and push up, so if that is where you are stalling, you may want to give that a shot.  


2.  Look up some more advanced versions of the lifts, I don't know if you read the blog Marks Daily Apple at all, but check out his primal blueprint workout plan.  It's actually a lot like your workout, but using a handstand pushup instead of the leg raises.  It is a pretty good body weight workout routine with a 9 different levels of progression for each type a bodyweight movement.  This may give you some ideas on how to progress on the lifts while still keeping them bodyweight exercises.


3. Another thing you may want to try is instead of doing a circuit, try to the lifts sequentially.  For example, 4 sets of lever pushups first before any of the other lifts, then pull ups, then leg raises, etc.  You can then play around with rest intervals and what not.  Also, if there is one lift you are particular weak in, do that first so fatigue doesn't affect it as much and you will likely improve that lift quicker.  You mentioned you wanted to get away from the cardio part of circuits and this can sometimes be a good way, especially when combined with a weight vest.


4.  I didn't see anywhere how often you are working out, but consider playing with the number of workouts/week as well.  If you are doing this 3 times a week, try doing it only 2.  Sometimes the extra rest and recovery gives your muscles more time to recover and grow.  If you are only doing it once or twice a week, consider adding another day for some more stimulus.  Or maybe try alternating it, 2 workouts one week, 3 the next, 1 after that.  


Hope some of that helps and I gave you some ideas to try.  Good luck with the training, let me know if there is anything else I can do to help you.

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Thanks for the advice there coffeeandbacon. It'll take some consideration I guess. I have given some careful thought to whether I'd like to lift, and I'm not entirely opposed to it. I know it will help aesthetically, and will help with overall relative strength. But as far as it goes at present most of my goals are bodyweight based instead of lifting X amount of weights. Although I have lifted before, and I do kinda miss it.


I have considered doing maybe 3 days a week lifting, and some more advanced bodyweight training over the weekend, but I think as far as that goes, I'll see how it goes and go from there. I'll probably take an invitation to the gym and just see how it goes. If I enjoy the lifting I'll do a bit more of it. But I'll definitely keep with the bodyweight too, I love what it's doing for me at present.


At present I'm doing 3 circuits a week, and one sequential training session over the weekend, like you mentioned above. I have started to make a few more gains in strength since adjusting - I'm trying for lower reps (6-8) and better form and I'm feeling better for it - my pull ups and lever push ups have both advanced very well - still working on my pistol squats, though I have a plan for those too.


I think I'm now on the right track as far as those progressions go, I've got a lot of material to work with - I've checked Al Kavadlo, found some great progressions at fitness666.com as well, Waldo's blog too, and I think I'm going ok.


Thanks for your help, there's some good ideas there. I'll post again if there's any other help I need.

The Logros - Guardians of the First Throne itself.

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