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How I Gained 65lbs Of Lean Muscle, Shredded Fat & Became Happy (And How You Can Too!)

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how i gained muscle

I'm excited to share with you an inspirational fitness transformation from SJ, founder of Ignore Limits.  SJ has been a follower of PLM and one of my coaching clients for quite some time now, and he's done a remarkable job transforming his physique and building his brand online.  If you enjoy what he has to say here, I highly recommend that you visit his blog and start following him – he's doing some amazing things!

Over the past 4.5 years I’ve completely changed my life, and I want you to know that it’s possible, you can too!

But first, let’s go right back to the beginning so you can see my story…

It’s July 2010… I’m 18 Years Old, 135lbs Soaking Wet And Have No Goals In Life.

I was starting to come to terms with the fact that I’d remain skinny for the rest of my life, I assumed I was one of those unlucky guys that wasn’t blessed with good muscle building genetics or six pack abs.

skinny transformation

I woke up every day without any drive or ambition, going through life like a mindless drone.

In late July 2010 I was reunited with an old friend at a party; I hadn’t seen him in years and I barely recognized him! We used to look quite similar, however during the couple of years we lost contact he had put on just over 30lbs of muscle, gained confidence and emitted an aura that demanded respect.

From that day forward I decided that was it! I was going to give it everything I had to transform my physique and create a life of choice.

At the time I couldn’t afford a gym membership, instead I managed to pick up an old bench press, barbell and squat rack in the local classifieds for 200 bucks.

As soon as I got it home my family helped me assemble the bench and squat rack, it was time.

I spent the next few months performing my own ‘routine’ that consisted of bicep curls, sit-ups and bench press.

I quickly became discouraged as I wasn’t seeing the results I came to expect.

I picked up a bunch of different men’s fitness and bodybuilding magazines, talked to other gym-goers and looked up routines and information online.

I Was Bewildered.

question markEveryone was giving me conflicting information…

How do I gain muscle? How do I lose fat?

The magazines were telling me I needed to spend hundreds of dollars on supplements if I wanted to get any results. I was being told to do high reps to get those toned muscles, while others were telling me to throw away the barbell curls and work on my squat.

I had paralysis by analysis, there were far too many options and I’d wasted a heap of money on supplements that weren’t doing much for me.

I’m sure you can relate to this.

I decided the only person I could trust was myself.

I’d had enough of the sneaky marketing inside men’s fitness magazines and the empty promises the supplement industry was feeding me.

I learnt that the majority of these magazines are either owned by or heavily invested in by the supplement companies themselves, the magazine wasn’t there to help me, it was simply an advertising vessel to upsell me on some overpriced supplement.

I decided the only person I could trust was myself, I spent the following months reading and researching nutrition, training methods and effective supplementation via credible books and studies.

I experimented with different workout regimes and dieting approaches, finding out what my body responded best to.

My Weight Slowly Began To Climb…

+5lbs

+15lbs

+25lbs

+35lbs

skinny fitness transformation

The results I was seeing motivated me to keep pushing through the intense workouts and stay consistent with my diet.

Family and friends started to notice the results I was getting, I received more compliments, people begun asking me for fitness and weight loss advice.

I still look forward to stepping into the gym every day. Transforming your physique involves a change of lifestyle, it’ more than just a hobby.

Here’s The Techniques I Used To Transform My Physique

I wish I knew about these principles when I started, these are the methods I've studied and implemented into my regime that have netted me the best results.

Focus On Compound Movements

The majority of beginners (myself included) waste time performing isolation exercises such as bicep curls. Instead, focus on learning and performing compound exercises (such as the squat, bench press, deadlift and overhead press) with correct form. These exercises are the primary mass builders, and are the foundation of any admirable physique.

Research indicates that free weight exercises are far more effective for building muscle as opposed to machines.

Consider it as if your body is a house, you’ve got to lay the foundation correctly before you start honing in on the minor details (isolation).

Lift Heavy

“If you must use dumbbells for daily training, use heavy ones with fewer repetitions rather than light bells with numerous repetitions”Arthur Saxon, 1906

If you want to get big and strong naturally (without any steroids!) you have to lift heavy. By default most newcomers lift in the 10 – 12 rep range on all of their exercises as this is what the majority of men’s fitness magazines will tell you to do in their regimes. I have personally noticed the biggest increase in both size and strength when lifting in the 4 – 6 rep range on all of my major compound lifts (squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press).

A study published by Ohio university had 32 men split into 3 different groups, each group was to utilize a different repetition range in their training for a period of 8 weeks.

Group 1: 3 – 5 reps

Group 2: 9 – 11 reps

Group 3:  20 – 28 reps

With no surprise group 1 (3 – 5 reps) gained substantially more size and strength than the convention 9 – 11 rep group and there higher 20 – 28 rep group.

Count Calories

Learn how to count your calories and macronutrients, you can find my complete guide on calculating calories for your own body here. Regardless of whether you want to bulk up and gain muscle or slim down and burn fat calculating your daily caloric intake is a must (and it’s a lot easier than you think!).

There are so many different approaches to dieting out there but at the end of the day mass gain or fat loss comes down to the number of calories you are consuming within a 24 hour window.

As soon as I stopped guessing how much food to eat each day and instead calculated my calories and found foods that fit (which can be anything you like!) my weight began to increase on a consistent basis.

Don’t Neglect Micronutrients

Ensure you are getting sufficient vitamins and minerals in your diet. I personally derive 80% of my calories and macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) from healthy sources, while still allowing myself the remaining 20% to eat snacks and other food I enjoy.

Yes, you can lose weight or gain muscle simply by eating whatever foods you can find that fit your caloric intake, but your focus, energy levels and overall quality of life will decrease.

Supplement Wisely

The supplement industry is a big multibillion dollar industry with greedy supplement companies selling pixie dust via persuasive marketing campaigns to lazy gym-goers who are expecting quick results.

The only ‘supplements’ that will give you sure-fire results are anabolic steroids.

Over the counter testosterone boosters?

Absolute rubbish.

That said over the course of the past 5 years there have been a few supplements that have aided me on my journey. As the name suggests though they’re merely supplements – designed to supplement an already solid workout regime and diet.

Supplements For Weight Gain

I used the following 2 supplements (switching between the 2 based on availability) to help with my initial weight gain from 135lbs to 175lbs. Keep in mind that these aren’t essential, and I could have got the same results from eating food – however the convenience of getting 1200+ calories in 1 liquid shake that only takes a minute to drink as opposed to sitting down and eating 2 large meals is well worth it in my opinion.

Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass

Dymatize Nutrition Super Mass Gainer

Whey Protein Supplements

Through my own research and tests I eventually came to the conclusion that whey protein is whey protein. I have not found any noticeable benefits using pricey ‘whey protein isolate’ or ‘hydrolized’ whey protein (provided the nutritional content per scoop is congruent with both).

That said I do prefer to use naturally sweetened whey (with stevia) as opposed to artificially flavoured whey.

Supplements for Getting Shredded

I have never and will never use a traditional ‘fat burning’ supplement (you can find out why here.)

That said there’s 2 little inexpensive supplements I do utilize when in a cutting phase…

Green tea extract and caffeine.

Both of these supplements have been the subject of hundreds of studies all of which report an increase in exercise induced fat loss, increased metabolism, increased strength & endurance and more.

200-400mg of caffeine per day, 400mg of green tea extract and a calorie deficit in my diet were the key to getting and maintaining those shredded abdominals.

You can check out the specific brands of these supplements I use here:

Green Tea Extract

Caffeine

General Health & Well-Being Supplements

It isn’t all just about looks, a good physique is a healthy physique.

Fish Oil

Fish oil contains EFA (essential fatty acids) and is available in both capsule and liquid form (I opt for capsule). Fish oil has many health benefits, including improved blood cholesterol profile and improved bone health – no more squeaky joints! It also assists in protecting against major diseases such as cancer. Further, fish oil assists in increasing the serotonin levels within your body which results in an overall increase in happiness and well-being. Recent studies also show that fish oil may have an influence on muscle protein synthesis.

When selecting my fish oil I ensure it is high in EPA/DHA as these are the main omega 3 fatty acids.  I take 2 – 3 capsules twice per day.

Here’s the fish oil I use.

Vitamin D

Over the last 6 months I’ve begun supplementing with Vitamin D and highly regard it as one of the most useful health supplements.

If you spend a lot of time indoors like I do chances are you’re deficient in Vitamin D (and by supplementing you’ll notice a big difference!). Supplementing with Vitamin D has been shown to aid muscle growth and fat loss if your levels are currently deficient.

If you’d like to read more about the health and performance benefits of Vitamin D you can check out my comprehensive post here.

You can find the Vitamin D supplement I use here.

As I’m sure you know there’s TONS of other supplements out there, some will give you slight benefits in one way or another, while others are only full of empty promises.

The supplements listed above are the ones I can personally stand behind and vouch for as they’ve helped me throughout the process of my transformation and (in my opinion) offer great results considering the price point they come in at.

Stay Consistent

Consistency is key.

This not only applies to transforming your physique, but also building a business, forming a relationship and essentially anything else worth having in life.

There were days when I missed a couple of meals, didn’t get as much sleep as I would’ve liked or couldn’t get to the gym.

Transforming your physique is a marathon, not a sprint…

The key is to take action and stay consistent to the best of your ability, do not let the minor day-to-day speed bumps get in your way.

The best way I’ve found to stay motivated is to set yourself small, achievable goals each 30 – 90 days.

“I will easily squat 395lbs for 4 reps before September 1st

“I will easily cut to 7% body fat for my holiday on November 11th

I write these goals on the whiteboard in my office and look at them twice a day, once upon waking and once before going to bed in the evening.

Keep your eyes on the horizon and do everything you can to the best of your ability to achieve the goals you set for yourself.

highway to horizon

Focus On Your Weaknesses

When training you’ll more often than not notice you have a ‘lagging’ body part, meanwhile other body parts are further developed and dominant.

For me my shoulders and triceps have grown a lot quicker than my back, chest & biceps.

A good physique is symmetrical and in proportion, as preached by the greats of bodybuilding such as Arnold during the golden era of bodybuilding.

I recommend training your lagging body parts first (or twice per week) in order to get them up to speed, volume on your dominant body parts can be slightly reduced.

This principle, known as priority training is aimed at those who have already been lifting for a while, if you’re a newcomer priority training should not be a concern, instead focus on building your foundation through heavy compound exercises as I elaborated on earlier in this article.

Become Unstoppable In All Aspects Of Life

My transformation was not only physical; I also began to build an unbreakable mindset.

I stumbled upon the 30 Days of Discipline program, after completing this tough 30 day ‘bootcamp' challenge all other aspects of my life began to improve as well.

A strong body, a strong mind, confidence, accomplishment and pride all come down to DISCIPLINE.

I built a location independent business, I began to seek out challenges and opportunities.

The hard work + consistency = results equation I learnt through my time spent working out transferred into all facets of my life, I got qualified in a field I was passionate about and now enjoy waking up early every morning and continuing to better myself in all aspects of life.

Now go out there and take your mind & body to the next level…

Connect With SJ

SJ is a published author, blogger, entrepreneur and fitness fanatic as well as the founder of Ignore Limits, a blog that specializes in helping men transform both their body and their mind to become the most successful version of themselves possible.

If you enjoyed this article be sure to check out SJ's blog at www.IgnoreLimits.com

If you're prefer listening as opposed to reading you'll love the Ignore Limits podcast, available on iTunes and YouTube.

P.S. Get FREE instant access to the Bodyweight Barrage eBook, your complete guide to building muscle & burning fat without any fancy gym equipment via the banner on my site here.

How I Gained 65lbs Of Lean Muscle, Shredded Fat & Became Happy (And How You Can Too!)
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