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Things that have worked and those that haven’t
#1
To me it would very interesting to hear from you the training programs, philosophies and approaches that have worked well in the past and also the ones that didn’t work. Also would be nice to know how and why you think they worked or didn’t work. Maybe simple positives and negatives kind of thing. Hopefully this isn’t something that already has a thread. But anyway, I’ll start.

I have been training quite a long time. The first training “program” I remember was very simple. I was a young kid (under 10 years) when I started Aikido with my friend. I don’t remember that much about Aikido, but what I do remember is that we did a little bit of strength and conditioning stuff during every session. To me the strength stuff was always the highlight of the whole session. It was a very basic circuit kind of a thing, pushups, abs, stretches in between, things like that. I liked it a lot and I often felt I wanted to more.

So very quickly I started to implement the same stuff at home. Pushups vere easy to do at home, but abs were more difficult to do because without a soft pad, they fuck up the skin of your back. Then I got an exercise mat as a present. The mat had pictures of couple of exercises on it with rep and set recommendation. I don’t really remember how but I eventually ended up with the following “program”:

Pushups 4 x 25
Ab crunches 4 x 25
Floor Hyperextensions 4 x 25
It took some time and trial and error to get to those numbers. I think I experimented with daily training and higher numbers, but in the end, 4 x 25 every other day seemed to be the best.

Positives:

-         This was my first “own” program, it felt good to figure it out all by myself even though it was very simple (this was before the internet etc.)
-         I think it build my chest at least a bit, can’t never be sure about it, but chest is still after decades by far my best musclegroup
-         I learned some basics of strength training, not the worst starting point, especially for a child
-         I felt really good when doing this stuff, maybe this was the start of my exercise addiction
-         Friends flet that  I looked “muscular”

Negatives:

-         The program was very unbalanced (no pull, no legs)
-         My technique wasn’t the best, the more I did, the quicker I started to go through the movements

Overall, at times I still feel i could go back to this. I think it would be enough to look okay. The program was easy to start and do, took very little time and you could pretty much do it anywhere and without much equipment. I don’t really do the IF-Then thinking too often. But the biggest regret about this program is that it was so unbalanced. IF I would have incorporated something for legs and some pulling stuff THEN I would have had a pretty decent baseline going on. But at the time all of us kids were very active and outside all the time, so legs got a ton of exercise daily, running, playing, cycling etc. so that wasn’t really too bad. But the lack of pulling was a bad thing, and unfortunately it continued many years for me.

In hindsight I learned that the technique wasn't really that important when you get familiar with the exercises. I did the movements pretty fast, but I felt I was in control, and I got some results out of it, even friends saw those results (at least they said they did). Although the level of competition wasn't very high. Last thing I'll say is that I think bodyweight / calisthenics stuff really work well for kids, especially now that I have a young kid of my own. Some people are afraid of kids doing any strength training, but in my opinion they really should be doing that from a very young age, at least a little bit.
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#2
Second thing that “worked” for me was when I actually did some strength training in gym for the first time. I started playing soccer when I was about 10 years old. Couple of years after that our team started to go to a gym once a week during offseason. That gym would probably be considered as a storage room for historic equipment today, but I think it was a pretty common gym at that time. The big gym companies didn’t really exist, at least in my country, so most of them were very different compared to todays gyms. The space wasn’t very big. There were free weights, dumbbells and barbells, cable things, pullup bar etc. And I think there was a rowing machine too.

At the time there still wasn’t an abundance of information readily available, so none of really knew what we were doing. The coach thought he did, but I’m not really convinced he did. But what we ended up doing was a some kind of circuit training system. Coach decided an exercise and then we would change exercises according to the clock. So there was a timed work interval and a rest interval, and during the rest interval you changed to next exercise. Don’t really remember all the exercises there were but what I do remember is that there were barbell bench press, cable crossovers, bench hyperextensions, squats, pullups, some cable pulley exercises and some isolation stuff for legs, leg extension, hamstring curls and hip adductors and abductors.

Positives:

- In circuit, I got to do and know many exercises in a short period of time
- Again, chest exercises worked for me well, probably because of the pushups I had done earlier
- First touch to bench press was good
- Cable crossovers felt very good
- Bench hyperextensions worked well, probably because they were kind of familiar exercise for me, like pushups
- Isolation machines worked for my legs well

Negatives:

- Timed intervals in a circuit probably were favorable for soccer, but not really for actual strength training
- None of us had no clue how to squat
- We all sucked at pullups
- Pulling exercises still sucked for me

Overall this was a nice introduction to weight / strength training. Although I wouldn’t really do this nowadays. It’s also pretty much impossible to do in a crowded gym. It’s funny that although we were young (early teens) and very athletic and most of us already had decent legs, we all sucked with squats. Same with pullups. In our team there was only one guy who was able to do pullups and we all were mad about it. He was very thin and he was also the most unathletic guy in the team. But yeah, he did probably more pullups that the rest of did together. I still didn’t really get the pulling exercises. I was able to go through the motions but didn’t really feel them.

I still felt pretty good at the gym so I started to go there in my own time every now an then. I got my father with me couple of times too. He showed my proper “manly” exercises (yeah right). We basically did bench press, E-z curls and wrist curls. So yeah, a proper wankers program. But it was still fun. One thing I got to say about soccer is that it really grows legs well. Especially later for me when I started to focus more into soccer. And as said it showed very well in the gym. We all sucked with squats but we had good legs, and it wasn’t because lot of running. I think it was the explosive stuff that did it, kicks, sprints jumps etc.

Unfortunately at the age of sixteen I suffered a bad leg injury and for my legs it was downhill since then. But until my mid teens and before the injury my legs were very good and squats etc. had jackshit to do with it. A positive thing about the injury was that after it I started to do some “real” bodybuilding stuff Smile .
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#3
Third thing that worked for me came at the of sixteen after I had suffered a bad leg injury. Injury required a surgery and a very long rehab. When the leg had healed a bit and I didn’t have much to do, I figured out I could train my upper body. I got my uncle’s old bodybuilding book “Winning Bodybuilding” by Franco Columbu. I didn’t even know who the guy was but I read and reread the book and went to work.

The book had three programs for different levels, beginner, intermediate and advanced. As a stupid youngster I of course picked the advanced one. I don’t really remember fully the program but I now know it was the usual Golder era high volume stuff that Franco, Arnie and the fellows had done in the past. I think the program was pretty much the same as described here: https://steelsupplements.com/blogs/steel...-diet-plan.

I remember that Mondays were chest days and we (my friends from high school often came to the gym too) always started with bench press, and it was done as described in the link above. First light weight and high reps, then pyramid weights up while reps go down. I think we often went pretty long with the sets and weights, so the reps per set were like 15, 12, 10, 8 , 6. I don’t think we often went under 6-8 reps. We were able to quickly get up to pretty nice weights. Although most of us highschoolers only weighted about 60-80 kg / 130-180 lbs we were bench pressing about the same amount of weights. Some of us even got to 90 kg / 200 lbs press. Although then the reps were pretty much only 1 or 2.

Otherwise I remember that the program went pretty much like in the link, so chest was like this:

Superset 1 (3 Sets)
Barbell bench press (15, 10, 4 reps) *
Cable crossovers (20 reps)

Superset 2 (3 Sets)
Dumbbell flyes (20, 15, 6 reps) *
Cable crossovers (20 reps)

Superset 3 (3 Sets)
Incline bench press (15 Reps)
Barbell pullovers (25 Reps)
Dips (to failure)
Cable crossovers (25 Reps)

Of course most of us were unable to stomach all of this, let alone what was still left for the workout Big Grin I remember always swearing that this time I’m going to make the whole workout, but I think that after chest I usually felt so bad that I didn’t have anything left in the tank. Sometimes I was still able to get the shoulders done according the program:

Standing dumbbell lateral raise (4 sets, 10 reps)
Bent lateral raise (6 sets, 10 reps)
Behind-the-neck presses (4 sets, 10 reps)
Alternating dumbbell front raises (3 sets, 8 reps)
Cable lateral raise (3 sets, 10 reps)

But I don’t think I was ever able to dot the arms according the program, at that point I was so burned that I just couldn’t do it. But that shows the craziness of programs of that era. At the time I was young and able, I was athletic and my testosterone levels were up through the roof (at least judging by the amount of wanking I was doing). I didn’t have any responsibilities except studying and school and I had to take the dog out. Otherwise I was free to do what I wanted. I ate at school and mom cooked at home. So basically I had all thins going for me to be able to workout as much as I wanted. But still, I didn’t have any chance with Franco’s program. And at the time I had even started to eat more, so calories weren’t a problem. Just goes to show that you probably need a little bit of something “extra” to be able to do this kind of volume.

Legs program I couldn’t do properly because of the leg injury, I remember I tried to do the leg press and leg extensions, but the heavy lifts I sadly couldn’t do. But I tried to follow it as much as possible:

Barbell squat (7 Sets, Reps: 20, 15, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2)
Leg press (4 sets, Reps: 50, 25, 15, 8)
Leg extensions (6-7 sets, 20 reps)
Barbell lunges (2-3 sets, 12-15 reps)
Deadlifts (6 sets, Reps: 5, 5, 5, 3, 1, 1)
The back workout was the following:
Pull-ups (Wide Grip) (6 sets, 10-15 reps)
T-Bar row (4 sets, 10 reps)
Seated cable row (4 sets, 10 reps)

Superset (3 sets)
One-arm dumbbell rows (10 reps)
Hammer grip pull-ups (10 reps)
You can complete hammer grip pull-ups like Columbu by attaching a parallel-grip cable to a pull-up bar.

Needless to say, this had to be modified a bit Big Grin None of us were able to do wide grip pullups for 6 sets with 10-15 reps. I’ve actually never met a person who could do that, especially when the rest periods were to be kept short. But I remember we experimented with this a lot. I remember using that parallel grip thing for hammer pullups too and then my fiends wanted to try it out. I also remember that we had a good thing going in the gym overall, we were helping each other while we also had a healthy competition in the lifts. There were no phones and cameras. People were doing things together, talking to each others.

Positivies:
-       The bench really worked well with the pyramid thing
-       This was the first touch for me with proper bodybuilding, rep ranges etc. and heavier loads
-       A lot of free barbell and dumbbell stuff, and a lot of calisthenics too
-       I made visible results that other people acknowledged too, especially with the pushing muscles
-       We had a nice group in the gym, competitive spirit
-       I started to eat more calories even though not that strict stuff
-       The moment for muscle mass was perfect, age etc.
-       Supersets worked for me well and they stayed with me

Nevgatives:
-       Too much volume, too frequent training
-       Couldn’t really train legs
-       I didn’t still really get the pulling exercises, mostly felt everything in arms
-       Because of the high volume I was never really able to get to proper arm training according the program
-       The program didn’t allow me to take full advantage of the age I was, a more even basic program would have don the job better and it would have maximized results at a very crucial phase

Overall this program was kind of nice to experiment with. The volume was insanely too much, but I still got visible results. Mostly results showed in my chest and maybe shoulders. One of my high school friends who had started powerlifting saw me at the gym’s dressing room and told me that I had changed into a bull. And the results came quickly (couple of months or so). I think that this was the only time in my life that muscle really seemed to stuck with me. And as said, It was probably because of my age.

So needless to say, I have some regrets about this time. I often think what would have happened if I’d had a proper program at that age. I think that although I was still a growing youngster, this was exactly the right age to do some bodybuilding. A simple full body push, pull and legs couple of times a week would have probably given me better overall results. And they would have translated into sports better. Speaking of sports. When the time came that my leg was healed I went back to competitive soccer. I had always been very fast in the field, difficult to tackle but if I had to go side to side with any bigger guys, I didn’t have the size and strength to hold my ground. After the bodybuilding training and eating more, I was a different player. When it came to one-on-one situations, I usually won in strength. But my biggest advantage, the speed, was gone. I also needed much more oxygen, and for that reason my endurance went down.

In soccer I later suffered couple of other big injuries which required surgeries. My other leg was the second thing to go, and shoulder was the third. After all the injuries during the years I got really tired of exercise and sports in general. I still did some weigh training every now and then but I didn’t really have a program, I also found drinking and fast food, so there were kind of dark years for me. That all translated in to the famous permafatsoswinebulking. But in my mid twenties I found new motivation and I got the best overall results in my life with a new approach.

P.S. I still warmly recommend Franco’s book. It’s an entertaining read, and it actually has a lot of good stuff in it. Sadly he didn’t include their steroid cycles in the book. If the books was updated with that, I would definitely by a reprint. And the program was actually pretty good at the end. By splitting the routine to more days and training more infrequently I could still see myself using it if I still went to gym.
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#4
The fourth thing that worked for me was the thing that gave me more results than anything else in terms of getting lean while keeping the muscle. I had been living the "wild" life (loads of fast food, drinking and some pot smoking) for a good while and accordingly I had gained a ton of weight. Me and my so-called friends still hit the gym infrequently and we all managed to lie to each other and to ourselves that we were getting more muscular. But then the day came when I realized that too much of our precious time was sacrificed for stupid things and we were actually all fucking fat.

I then pretty much cut my relationships to my so-called friends and started to figure out how could I get lean. I weighted over 90 kgs / 200 lbs at the time and im little short of 180 cm / 5.9 ft tall. Now that Internet was a thing, I was able to search stuff more easily than from books. I ended up with one ebook, Tom Venuto’s “Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle”. Venuto’s approach really gave me the tools to achieve my goals at the time, which were pretty much what the book’s title says, to burn the fat and feed the muscle.

Venuto’s approach was and is very thorough, and it is a bodybuilding approach. He is a former competitive “natty” bodybuilder who had written the book during the years of coaching others. I think he still updates the book. But anyway, the book goes through not only diet and exercise (strength training and cardio), but every other aspect of weight loss. So it includes goal setting, motivation, emotional things etc. For me the diet was the big thing. To list things, here are only some of the things what the book recommended and what I did (at least what I remember):

Diet
- Calculation of the caloric expenditure by using a formula (age, gender, activity levels, fat percentage etc. was needed, the book showed couple of different formulas)
- Calculating the caloric deficit needed to drop a safe amount of weight per week while keeping muscle as much as possible
- Calculating a surplus days caloric need
- Pre prepping meals for the week during the weekend according to the plan
- Cycling of calories to keep muscle mass during the cut, so basically 2-3 days of deficit ,then a surplus or a maintenance day, idea was to not stay in deficit for too long periods of time
- 1-2 cheat meals during the week, so no cheat days or weekends, but meals. Ideally in the mid week and during the weekend
- Adjusting the calories / meals every week according the weight / fat percentage results of the week (weight and fat percentage were measured daily)

Tools
- Body fat calipers for measuring the bodyfat
- Basic scale
- Food scale
- Spreadsheet for the endless counting, Internet calculators work well too

Cardio
The books has limitless options for the cardio, so you can choose what you want to do and how. But the recommendation is in the HIIT type of thing. So I did that. For me it meant daily 20-30 minutes rowing sessions. One day a week was off if I remember correctly. I think rowing was seen as the best overall option for cardio, because of the muscles involved and because it’s more doable for most people than for example running. The HIIT was done to burn more calories in a short time, and to burn more with the afterburning effect. So high intensity took a lot less time, and it burned more after the session than low intensity cardio. There was an option to do the cardio during the strength session or as a separate session. I did it as a separate session because at the time I had an easy situation, I lived alone and the gym was at the office I was working in.

Strength training / bodybuilding
The books has probably one of the shortest chapters about the strength training. The idea is that it goes through the basic concepts but the reader should find out by him/herself what the different exercises really are and how to do them. Venuto’s thought is that there already are so many books about strength training exercises that it was not really needed. Funnily to me it was the perfect chapter in its simplicity. It shows the basic bodybuilding splits, full body, upper/lower, three day split and four day split. Venuto saw the 4 day split as the grandaddy of all bodybuilding programs so I used that. A great thing about the chapter for me was that it only gave you a simple table that had different muscle groups, and for every muscle group it gave you 5 different exercises. So then you can build the program, just pick the exercises you want put them to the the split you want. This also meant that I could decide what I do when I’m in the gym and I see what is available. With the 4 day split the options for weekly training were basically 4 or 5 days training, so 2 on 1 off, 2 on 2 off, or 2 on 1 off, 2 on 1 off. Otherwise what I remember are the following:

The split:
Day 1: Chest, biceps, abs
Day 2: Back, calves
Day 3: Shoulders, triceps, abs
Day 4: Quads, hams

-         9-12 sets for bigger muscle groups, so 3-4 exercises
-         6-9 sets for smaller, 2-3 exercises
-         mainly 8-12 reps, maybe a bit higher for the calves and abs
-         60-90 secs rest in between sets most of the time
-         shitload of supersets, I’m not sure if the book says a lot about these, but the author talked about those a lot in his own site. Supersets were also familiar to me from Franco’s program. I also tried to maximise the burning effect during the weight training so supersets were the thing
-         Twice a day training was an option, so I did often that because I went to the office early in the morning, so I could basically exercise in the morning, during the lunch and / or after work
-         The idea was to keep sessions fairly short, don’t remember the science but at least after an hour the muscle building effect starts to decrease. Because I did often two sessions a day, they didn’t really take much time, and I could really push. most of the time I was out after 30 minutes.
-         I think the book didn’t really recommend that much big lifts, especially when cutting the weight, so I didn’t do a single deadlift, and I didn’t really do too heavy squats either. Most of the stuff I did were with dumbbells, they were easiest to use for supersets even if the gym was busy. I also already had a bad shoulder injury, so the dumbbells were safer to use than barbells.

Positives:
-         Weight came down according to the plan
-         Same was with the fat percentage
-         Training and eating was easy because everything was planned
-         I wasn’t really never hungry
-         Results came very quickly
-         Self esteem got better, I felt supergood
-         People noticed my change, this was the only period in my life that I actually was approached by women
-         Some friends that met me for the firs time then, still remember how I looked, which is also a negative today
-         There was a feeling of control, I even knew very well how much my food is going to cost all the time
-         I didn’t really live that healthy life all time, I was actually smoking at the time and I was drinking pretty often during weekends. But when it comes to looks, this was by far the best I’ve ever looked in my life. Maybe not bi, but lean.
-         The baseline diet macronutrient ratio followed general health guidelines, so I was always eating a mixed diet and more than half of it was carbs (which isn’t that popular I guess). The books goes deep with different diet options if you are not getting results.

Negatives:
-         A lot of time and motivation was lost doing the food preparation and all the calculation
-         I had to do laundry all the time because all of my training clothes were sweaty because of all the training
-         Life circled a lot around this, so it was difficult to suddenly changes plans. Although even if I did change something, I still seemed to maintain a high level of fitness, so a drink here and there didn’t do much, same with added cheat meals, they didn’t really wreck the ship
-         I broke the training in to too many pieces, I could’ve done cardio sessions during my strength sessions to save time but I decided to do everything separately to maximize results
-         The program is an overkill for the job for most people, especially for a regular Joe

Overall this was and still is THE program for me. I didn’t have too good of a fat caliper, but the one that I had showed that in the end I was hoovering at around 10%. At that point I felt and looked good enough for me to stop. My biggest regret is that I never really got to use these principles in to bulking. I initially thought about doing it after the cutting phase, but It didn’t happen because life got on the way. I moved to another city and didn’t really have enough money to eat or excercise properly. I managed to try the bulking for a brief moment of time, and I realized that it would cost a ton, and I would have had to eat a shitload of food. Especially the protein was kind of a problem for me already during the cut. I’m just very bad at eating a lot of protein, and because of that I had to use protein powder to get my protein high enough even during the cutting. And that was the case even though the book recommended to get as much as possible of the calories from real foods, and that was what I tried to do.

After I had moved to another city, I tried to keep up with my training and diet. I couldn’t afford a gym membership, so I started doing bodyweight stuff at home. I also tried to keep up with the diet instinctively although I didn’t have the money to really properly follow the kind of a diet I wanted to. But funnily enough, I still got a bit leaner, I don’t know why, but it felt that the program even worked for some time after I had quit it. The leanest I’ve ever been was probably about 6 months after I had quit calculating calories etc.

One caveat about the program is that it’s an overkill for the job for most. It’s like the author said about the program himself: “it’s like shooting a squirrel with a bazooka”. And that is the truth, for a regular Joe, it just a lot more than what is needed. Venuto has also written a more approachable book and program for average folks training with weight loss goals called “The Body Fat Solution.”. I haven’t really properly read it, but I’ve skimmed it through and it is good stuff too.

This also raises a good question that I’ve often thought about. Would I actually experienced the exact same results by doing a full body session 2 times a week followed by a brief cardio session, provided that the diet would have been as strict as it was. I’ll never know but somehow I think that that I probably would have ended in about the same place that I did with the four way split and daily HIIT-sessions. But anyway, I really, really, really highly recommend this approach for people who want results and have the time, money, energy and dedication. And it’s a great book even if you don’t want to make it as complicated as I did.
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#5
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The fifth thing that worked for me was plain old simple calisthenics...or progressive calisthenics to be exact. Especially it worked well when it comes to longevity because I went on to doing them for years. After doing the strict diet and bodybuilding training I was at the peak condition of my life, at least aesthetically wise. From there I wen to a shoulder surgery to fix an old injury. And from there I went to a very poor condition very quickly.
 
Because I had sustained the injury very long time ago, the rehab after surgery was very slow and difficult. I had been exploring with calisthenics stuff already before the surgery because I didn’t have access to gym at the time. While on a sick leave because of the surgery I had a lot of time to read. After some research I picked up Convict Conditioning. Yeah, probably the last reader (if there ever was one)of this threat is going to stop reading now, but that’s ok. I know that CC has been doomed in this forum a long time ago, so I’m not going to go into all the fishy stuff surrounding the book, marketing, author etc. To me it worked when it comes to the training, so I didn’t really care about all the other stuff.

While I was doing the rehab for my shoulder I started little by little to experiment with CC. The system worked well, because CC’s first progressions of exercises can be used for rehab perfectly. The book also promised that old injuries will start to heal while doing those. For me this worked especially with legs. I had lost my ability to do a full squat years ago because of soccer injuries and numerous surgeries. By doing CC, I slowly regained my ability to do a full, ass to floor squat. And I still am able to do it now, over a decade later. So that alone is a lot although I probably could have done the same thing in other ways too.

I was very adamant with the philosophy and progressions of CC. Actually too rigid. So I ended up staying too long with the easier progressions of the exercises. After my shoulder rehab ended and the shoulder was good, I eventually loosened up my form a bit so that I could really progress. The basics I was doing weekly were pull-ups, bridges, handstands, leg raises, squats and push ups. And all the time I was trying to get to a more difficult progressions of these exercises.

I ended up trying different stuff and program templates but at the peak of my powers I was doing the things below (progressions of them), on and off, never everything at the same time:

Baseline (this stayed the same all the time):
- One arm pull-up progressions, I also always warmed up with bodyweight rows when doing pull-ups
- Dynamic bridge progressions
- Handstands against the wall and wall handstand push ups
- Hanging leg raises, straight legs slowly to ninety degrees, hold on top, then slowly back down and hold at the bottom too
- One leg squat variations
- One arm push up variations

Smaller muscles:
- Wrist flexors and extensors, fingertips puhs up variations, bar hold variations, also finger holds
- Calves, one legged calf raises of a step, small circuits with different things, jumps etc.
- Neck work, wrestlers bridges
- Handstand shrugs for traps

Active Stretching:
- L-sit work
- Static bridges
- Twisting stretch for sides of the body
- Groin stretch, targeted to help with wrestlers front bridges

Skill & Strength work:
- Freestanding handstands
- Elbow lever
- Back lever
- Front lever
- Muscle ups
- Human flag

Speed & power:
- Vertical jump progressions
- Airborne puh ups
- Airborne pull-ups
- Hill sprints

As said, I never did all these things at the same time, but rather cycled things. For example i could do the baseline and then add front lever progressions for couple of weeks. Then replace the front lever with back lever etc. The baseline I did every week, but other things were added up when I felt like doing them. Adding was easy to do, usually I just added similar kind of stuff that I was already doing in any given day. For example, front lever suited well in a pull-up day.

After couple of years of good training, I managed to break the fix that had been done to my shoulder in a stupid accident (not training related). I knew instantly that I was fucked and after a small lay off I eased back into training slowly. I quickly realized I couldn’t do the stuff that I had done anymore but I was still able to do something. For example human flag progressions I couldn’t really do at all. The fucked up shoulder was too weak in both the bottom and in the top position. Because of this, I ended up staying with the following program for a very long time:

Monday: One arm pull-up progressions, 2 warm up sets, 2 work sets for both arms, 1 back off set of two handed variation
Tuesday: Bridge progressions, 2 warm up sets, 2 work sets and 1 back off set
Wednesday: Hanstand push ups and / or handstand holds against the wall. 2 warm ups sets, 2 work sets
Thursday: Leg raises, 2 warm ups sets, 2 work sets (straight legs slowly to ninety degrees, hold on top, then slowly back down and hold at the bottom too), 1 back off set of hanging knee raises
Friday: One legged squat variations, 2 warmup sets (2 legged variations), 2 work sets for both legs (usually pistols), 1 back off sets (two legged variations)
Saturday: One arm push up variations, 2 warm ups sets, 2 work sets per arm, 1 back off set per arm

At the time I had a lot going in my life, so this worked well for me because I was able to train daily (which seems to work for my mental health too) and I also was able to do sessions quickly. Most of the time I trained at the office gym during the lunch. When I was motivated, I added up smaller exercises and stretching and then my weekly schedule was usually something like this (every move was done with progressions, so for example pull-ups means pull-up progressions):

Monday: Pull-ups, calf work, L-sits
Tuesday: Dynamic bridges, neck work, static bridges
Wednesday: Handstand work, more neck work and traps, twists
Thursday: Leg raises, fingertip push ups, L-sits
Friday: Squats, calves, static bridges
Saturday: Push ups ,bar hangs,  twists

I also sometimes added explosives, but most of the time, I was only doing the six big exercises once per week.

   

This picture (sorry about the quality and bad editing and sorry if the picture can't be seen) is from fall of 2017 when I was doing only six exercises a week, mostly just 2 work sets per exercise, four when counting the asymmetrical stuff, so 2 sets per arm for one arm push up variations etc. I know I don’t look like much; I wasn’t that lean but I guess I’m ok when considering the return of investment. I remember that I took a front picture too, but I was probably too disappointed with the look because I didn’t find it anymore Big Grin I was trying to flex my back in this picture but posing isn’t my speciality, so it looks stupid. I remember though that at the time I was very fixated in my back development so that’s probably why I took the picture.

Before the COVID I had some difficult times in my life and while many people felt I should have eased up with my training, I felt like training gave me peace. I really learned that I get a lot more out of my training mentally than physically. Because of this I started to slowly ramp up the training volume and I felt better and more energetic. Then when COVID broke, I found myself adding even more volume because I had a lot more time to exercise instead of commuting to work. At the time I was doing the following weekly schedule:

Monday: Pull-ups, squats, grip work, active stretching
Tuesday: Push ups, leg raises, calves, active stretching
Wednesday: Handstand work, bridges, neck work, shrugs, active stretching
Thursday: Pull-ups, squats, grip work, active stretching
Friday Push ups, leg raises, calves, active stretching
Saturday: Handstand work, bridges, neck work, shrugs, active stretching

Basically I doubled my volume and I didn’t really experiment, I just did it. To do this I often did multiple sessions a day. So for example pull-ups in the morning, squat in the afternoon, grip work and stretching in the evening. I don’t really know why this worked so well for me even though I wasn’t really in that good a place in my life and I was probably overtraining all the time, burning the candle from both ends. I was working, studying and I had a small child at home. And I was still pushing through with the training volume. I even manage to graduate from school. The training intensity dropped somewhat, because of the added volume which is pretty natural thing to happen.

Needless to say the end finally came. In the summer of 2022 I injured myself once again in a stupid activity (once again not really a training related injury) and my volume training had to stop. But what followed after that was the NattyorNot-way. By the way at the time, I had already been reading Truth Seekers stuff from the beginning of NattyorNot and that really helped me a lot, because I wasn’t really expecting extra terrestrial results anymore. That really freed my training massively.

In a nutshell from this era of my training:

Positives
 -More intensity (compared to my bodybuilding days)
- Less volume, 2-3 work sets and usually 2-3 exercises per session (again, compared to my bodybuilding gym days when I did 3-4 for exercises per muscle group, and sets were anything between 6-12 per muscle group)
- Upper body development, arms and back especially
- I finally was able to feel my back when training, calisthenics really helped me with it
- Regaining the squat
- Training didn’t cost at all, only thing that cost me was a pull-up bar
- Easy to do everywhere, only horizontal bar needed, or something to hang from
 -Fun and cool stuff compared to weights (no, I’m not dissing weight training or saying that this or that is better)
- I felt really strong and functional all the time compared to my volume bb-days, this could be because I wasn’t doing as much volume
- Longer rest intervals between sets, during my bb-days I was going from set to another so quickly that the intensity and recovery suffered

Negatives:
- Legs, although I think that pistols, bridges, jumps, sprints and some calf work are more than enough for legs, gym would still probably be better
- Too much the same, I experienced at one time with simple high volume programs, like puhs ups, dips and pull-ups every day, but that was the only time in years when I got injured because of training (overuse injuries), so I can’t really recommend volume creep
- Specialization is difficult because in the end most calisthenics movements are very demanding, and it may be difficult to find moves to target certain body parts
- Sometimes my palms were fucked even if the programming was at least somewhat logically done:

   

Too much horizontal bar work from 2016.

Overall calisthenics worked well for me, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have done them for so long time. And I’m still actually doing them. I think bodyweight stuff really worked for my upper body, especially arms. Legs are a different story and I still that weights could be more beneficial for them, at least if strength and mass are the goals.

Only thing I would really shy away from with calisthenics is super high volume. Especially the kind of programs were for example push ups, pull-ups and dips are done daily, maybe even multiple times a day. Those kind of programs tend to only lead into difficult overuse injuries (wrists, elbows and shoulders).
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#6
The sixth thing that has worked for me, and still works, is what I call the “Truth Seeker’s way”. And yeah, It’s heavily influenced by Truth Seeker and this whole website. It’s still very basic calisthenics stuff but more straightforward.

In the summer of 2022, I injured myself while I was camping. From the campsite there was only a short distance to a great beach and the weather was fine. I did some sprinting on the beach with my dog. I didn’t notice any problems, but after the trip I realized that I couldn’t really workout properly because I had a strange pain that felt like it was in the lower abs region. I couldn’t really do none of the stuff I normally did. Pull-ups hurt, push ups hurt, everything was hurting. I tried not to train for a few weeks and ease back into it, but the pain was there.

I was once again too lazy and sad to do anything about the injury, but I finally went to a great physiotherapist. The physio found out that I had hurt my hip flexor, psoas muscle. I ended up going to the physio seven times all together during the following 7-8 moths. I did the rehab exercises every other day religiously. But the pain was there all the time. At some point I was able to carefully do pull-ups. Push ups still hurt like hell, but then I started doing dips. For legs I was able to do Bulgarian split squats, which was something I recalled from Truth Seeker’s writings. And of course, TS had and has written a lot about pull-ups and dips also.

I remembered a lot of good stuff from NattyOrNot articles, books (especially The End. Natty Maximization) and from this forum. One of the things that TS and members of this site had written in the past was about the strength standards. For example, the following: 

“Squat - 1.5BW
Deadlift - 2.5BW
Bench press - 1.2 BW
Press - 0.8BW

15 pull-ups in a row
20 dips in a row”

I couldn’t hit the gym and reach for all those numbers, so I thought what would happen if I only did dips and pull-ups for the upper body. So, then I began doing them with the following program: 

Monday: Pull-ups, 2 warm-up sets, 2-3 hard work sets
Tuesday: Dips, 2 warm-up sets, 2-3 hard work sets
Wednesday: Bulgarian split squats, 2 warm-ups sets, 2 work sets per both legs
Thursday: Pull-ups, 2 warm-up sets, 2-3 hard work sets
Friday: Dips, 2 warm-up sets, 2-3 hard work sets
Saturday: Bulgarian split squats, 2 warm-ups sets, 2 work sets per both legs

My work sets were tough, but only to form failure. For some time, I even quit doing warm-up sets altogether, I just did 2 hard sets with all the movements.

Because there wasn’t much else to do, I also started to pay attention to my diet more. By the end of 2022 I had become so frustrated with my gut that I decided to start cutting my weight off at the beginning of 2023. One reason for this was also the fact that I was going to go for a three-week vacation in March, and I didn’t want to feel like shit while there. So pretty much from the first day of 2023 I started my diet.

The first thing I did was a rough estimate of the calories I was consuming at the time. I put my meals in an online calorie calculator and got the results. I was eating well actually, but there was too much fat in my diet, although they were the healthy kinds. I had started to add nuts and virgin olive oil to a lot of things at some point to make me feel fuller, but it had backfired. So, I adjusted the amounts, I also reduced a bit from the carbs, but I was still eating mostly carbs. I had to add a bit of protein which wasn’t a surprise because I have always been bad with the proteins. I also had started to eat mostly plant-based stuff earlier, and because of that I had to be aware of the proteins.

In about eight weeks I lost a lot of weight. I didn’t really weigh myself until I was already a lot thinner, probably at six weeks. I think I lost about 10 kilograms in total in 2 months. It felt good when I realized that most of the clothes I used when COVID started were too big for me. Oh yeah, one more thing I did was I had started to walk a lot. I walked three times daily with the dog, and then I tried to add as much as possible during the day wherever I was, shopping etc. All in all, I was doing pull-ups, dips, Bulgarian split squats, and walking. And on top of that I was eating less.

   

This is me at the tender age of 40 in a vacation on March of 2023. Nothing much to show really.

   

This picture was taken about a month after the vacation. Sorry about the bad editing, I don’t really have the know how and energy ? Once again, nothing to show. I’m a bit leaner than during the vacation. In the picture the atrophy in my right arm and shoulder can be seen very well compared to the left arm. This is because of an old shoulder injury. 

The following three pictures are taken on May 2023 and in these pictures I’m leaner than in the earlier pictures:

   

I was going after the Christmas tree look with my back but didn’t really get there ? This picture is taken after a short session during lunch so there is a small pump.

   

This picture was taken without a pump. I tried to flex the back once again but with poor results.

   

This is taken after a short session. I’m not flexing muscles, I’m a bit out of breath probably and so sucking the stomach in, so this looks a lot better than reality. The only thing I can say that my pecs stand out a bit. Which is the only thing that ever stand out in my physique. Unfortunately, the rest oft the body isn’t quite there.

In all the pictures I look like shit. But then again, I’m over forty-year-old father and before those pictures I had been doing only three exercises per week for about 6-8 months. Again, I think that the return of investment Is and has been ok.

Positives:

- I was able to do this program even with the injury
- The program was very simple to do and follow
- Dips and pullups cover the upper body pretty well
- Training didn’t take too much time

Negatives:

-         Legs didn’t get that much work
-         Imbalance compared to what I was used to do
-         If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it, so I’ve been experiencing some pains in neck and lower back which both I did train in the past
-         Boredom, doing the same stuff day in day out

Overall, I liked and still like the program because I’m still doing it. A good question is what if I had always done this little? I think I would look pretty much the same. This hasn’t of course been an option because I still feel like I need to exercise pretty much daily for my mental health. But during the last couple of years, I have many times wondered how little I could do to keep my shitty physique at the level where it’s now.

First, I thought that 2 sets of pull-ups and dips twice a week and 2 x 15-20 minutes runs would be enough. Then later I started to believe that even one session a week would be enough. Then I felt that one tough set a week would be enough. Now I feel that doing slow and controlled set of 5 reps of pull-ups and dips would really be enough. 

I'm not sure where my training is going now. I’m starting to feel that I’m kind of losing my interest in it, but I’m afraid to cut the volume even more, because I don’t know what it does to my mental health. For years I’ve felt that training is like a light for me every time things get too dark to see. I saw myself training until the later stages of my life. Now that I’m starting to lose it, it feels very strange. Like losing an old friend.
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#7
Thank you for the long and detailed posts, Sam. I think other people will find it helpful too.

I've been neglecting this place a bit and should be posting more frequently here too.
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#8
No problem. I wasn't planning on writing anything this long. Don't know what happened but for some reason I had to get it out of my system and now that I got it out I sleep better Big Grin Hopefully somebody finds this rambling helpful, it would be awesome. Sorry about all the typos, I need to fix them when I have time and energy. I've been following this forum for years and haven't really ever written much in here, so I thought that I should write at least something. Especially considering the fact that I've found a ton of useful stuff from this forum.
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