The last time you read something from me was probably a while ago. I have a few cycles to talk about, and a few changes to go along with what I have learned. I am in the middle of a bulk which I had sort of set to the side until I finish this semester, more on that later. I have data from my second bulk a little bit on my cut.
Beginning with my second ever bulk, it was globally a success I did in fact gain weight, about 10 pounds. The scientist in me really wants to add some sort of body fat percentage calculation to really round out my data, but I do not have access to a measuring device at this time. Adding this metric is ideal because I would have a better idea of what the composition of the mass I gained, muscle or fat. I know that both are increased during a bulk, and without a measurement I have to assume. I am going to assume that I gained half muscle and half fat, so over an 8 week period I gained 5 pounds of muscle and 5 pounds of fat. I have a few data tables and charts I would like to talk about. The tables are just the raw pre and post cycle values that I collected. I took each measurement twice and averaged the two scores. My mother was so nice as to take the circumference measurements for me using the same tape measure both pre and post cycle. My weight was measured on the same bathroom scale pre and post. My pre-cycle RM’s are all 3 rep maximums converted into 1 RM’s via the Brzycki equation while my post RM’s are true 1 RM’s.
Fig. 1 Pre-Cycle Data Table
|Pre-Exercise Measurements||Pre-Exercise Value|
|Right Bicep Circumference (in.)||12.0|
|Right Thigh Circumference (in.)||21.1|
|Waist Circumference (in.)||32.3|
|Hip Circumference (in.)||36.8|
|cDL 1 RM (lbs.)||238.3|
|BB BP 1 RM (lbs.)||159.4|
|DB BP 1 RM (lbs.)||60.0|
|BB Squat 1 RM (lbs.)||265.0|
Fig. 2 Post-cycle Data Table
|Post-Exercise Measurements||Post-Exercise Values|
|Right Bicep Circumference (in.)||12.0|
|Right Thigh Circumference (in.)||23.0|
|Waist Circumference (in.)||32.8|
|Hip Circumference (in.)||38.0|
|cDL 1 RM (lbs.)||275|
|BB BP 1 RM (lbs.)||195|
|DB BP 1 RM (lbs.)||70|
|BB Squat 1 RM (lbs.)||315|
cDL – Conventional Dead Lift
BB – Barbell
BP – Bench Press
The next two figures are graphs of my weight as it changed over time. One includes every data point, or day, and the other includes only the reference days (change per week).
Fig 3. Daily Weight Change
We can see the line trend up as would be expected since we know I gained 10 pounds. I want to draw attention to how jagged the line is. This means that every day my weight would fluctuate up and down; some days I would lose 4 pounds, and some days I would gain 4 pounds. This is normal because our bodies are in a constant tug-of-war to keep us where we were the day before. Our bodies do not want to change they want things to stay, this is known as homeostasis. My parameters for taking my weight on all days of the week other than Sunday were simply, get it down no matter what time or circumstances. I usually took it in the morning, but some days I did forget, and that could account for the, sometimes, massive fluctuations. On Sundays, or reference days, I had specific parameters for when to weigh myself, so that I would better exclude unwanted variables like time of day, meals, colon contents, hydration status and others. I weighed myself on reference days at 8:00 AM regardless of when I actually got around, and after I had used the restroom one time, but before I have eaten breakfast. These parameters were followed for each of the 8 reference days that marked a week from the previous reference day.
Fig. 4 Weight Change Per Week
Notice how I stayed the same weight for the first three weeks of the bulk. The first week I was also doing cardiovascular (HITT) exercise as well. I had actually lost weight each day of that week, and I was more physically exhausted than I had ever been when playing competitive soccer. I changed my program to remove the cardiovascular exercise. At the end of the second week I was still not gaining weight although I was feeling much better. At this point I doubled my carbohydrates and protein for the remainder of the bulk. From then on I gained about 2 pounds a week. My goal was to gain 1 pound per week. This is one reason why I think that my fat-protein composition is about 50-50% gain. Biochemically it takes our body time to build muscle, but this weight gain happened very quickly, 10 pounds in 5 weeks. For next time I will maintain my protein, but reduce my carbs so they will be 1 and 1/2 times what they were to start this bulk.
The main metric I used for judging my composition change was a subjective examination of pre and post-cycle pictures. They are below.
Baseline Picture Position: Front, Side and Back
Post Picture Position: Front, Side, and Back
Pre and Post back pictures look significantly different, but I want to draw attention to my arm angle. My arms in the post picture are held higher in the air. From this position a couple things are different. We can see more of the front shoulder muscle in addition the lat muscles, which are found on the sides of the torso under the arm pit area. These are on stretch because they are connected to the arm. This stretch could account for the appearance of increased size around that area. Finally, there also appears to be more definition in the middle of the upper back. The shoulder blade bone is right there. This bone rotates upward along with the arm as they are brought overhead. This rotation could account for the difference in appearance.
Small gains appear to be made in the shoulders, upper arm, and the quads based on the front pictures. Quad circumference showed a nearly 2 inch increase, but bicep circumference did not change pre to post. Shoulder circumference was not measured.
Gains appear on the side views. There could be changes in trap, chest, belly, and hamstring size. Only changes in hamstring size are supported by data collected.
Based on the back views, increases in lat, upper back, and shoulder definition are small if not negligible, because of the changed arm angle and picture related error. Gains in front shoulder, upper arm, and quad size accessed by the front views are concluded to be small or negligible based on lack of data and potential sources of error however changes in upper leg size are supported by data. It was found that thigh circumference increased 2 in. thus muscle or fat may have been added to this area. Finally, overall shoulder, upper arm and upper thigh size accessed on the side views are concluded to be small or negligible. Again the upper thigh size is supported by circumference data, and it appears that these increases came largely from the posterior side of the leg. Potentially, focusing training on this side of the body might lead to continued increases in strength and size.
Some key take aways from this bulk are that I cannot train everyday of the week while in school, and even then, intensity needs to be monitored during high stress weeks, like finals. I know better where my calories and macro-nutrient distribution needs to be to gain lean muscle, and finally, something to generalize to everyone. If I program with the right concepts in mind it does not matter what happens day-in-day-out on the scale there will be results if I maintain a program over time. My recommendations for tracking weight are:
1. Reference Day – Have one day of the week where you can better control the time and other variables related to weighing in, weekends worked best for me. This helps to exclude variables that could account for changes in weight like hydration, food intake, and others.
2. Track Daily but Do Not Analyze Daily – Remember there are too many variables to keep track of in your head day-to-day. Try to analyze data at the end of the 2nd week after starting a new program then at the end of the program itself, often 6-8 weeks more. Analyzing at week 2 is a good idea to ensure you are achieving your weekly goals. My weekly goal was to gain 1 lbs. per week. If you are not meeting this goal make single, small changes to your initial program until the desired results occur. I changed both my exercise and my nutrition during this bulk, several times.
Immediately following this bulk I moved onto a 4 week cut, I significantly cut down my calories as planned to cut down a pound per week. This was 6 weeks into my semester, and things were starting to get difficult. Because of this, and the nature of cutting, I performed very poorly on my cut. At 4 weeks I had not lost any significant weight. I did learn that during my cut I was more easily frustrated, and overall was more emotionally unstable. This emotional state is unacceptable because I need, as a health care service provider, to be calm and collected at all times. I have no substantial data for this 4 week cycle. Because of my poor performance historically on cuts and unwanted emotional decrements, I am changing my “cut” to a bridge cycle. Basically I will keep my calories at maintenance, and modulate my weight loss by my exercise. This will allow me to lose weight while giving me the added ability to modulate exercise by how I feel. This cut ended October 25 with no change in weight.
I began to bulk again following this cut, on October 26th, as I have had much more success with these. It is harder to food prep for, but much easier on my performance in the gym, in school, and has better implications on my mental state. On November 4th I gave myself a tension headache during squats. I largely failed to deal with the pain and tightness, and this derailed my bulk. My programming fizzled as finals week in school and the holidays neared. I did not plan exercise or meals after this time, and I have little data for this time period, so I will forgo analyzing. At this date I stand at 150 pounds.
I have been eating a maintenance dose of calories and attempting to consume all of my micronutrients. My exercise moving forward is based on improving movement impairments I have found during school and to eliminate my neck pain and tightness. I will get back to training for performance, but I need to deal with my pain and muscular dysfunctions first.
Nick Pippert, SPT, ACE-CPT