The gluttonous month of Mass March has come to an end and this year’s 6 contestants put on a combined weight of 47lbs!
With 12.6lbs gained, I was able to regain my Mass March title. Admittedly my bodyfat did raise by 3 percentile (from 12 to 15), but it was still a MUCH cleaner bulk than 2 years ago (gallon of homo milk a day).
1. Eating more food than I ever imagined possible. Again and again and again.
I seriously shudder when I think about the meals I consumed over the past 30 days. It was on more than when occasion when consuming a meal brought me to the verge of tears. The pain was often unbearable, pushing one’s stomach well past the limit not once, not twice, but three times a day. Then add two liquid meals on top of that, because chewing five supersized meals was out of the question. I was almost always bloated, slow, and sluggish from constantly being in a state of digestion.
2. A disciplined regimen, planned out for every day, meal, and workout.
I followed this regimen (with a few minor changes, all made beforehand and saved in an excel spreadsheet) taken from Tim Ferriss’ health blog featuring a program by GSP’s trainer Dr. John Berardi. It’s very comprehensive and NOT for the faint of heart. Having a detailed plan for all 30 days meant there was no reason to falter.
3. A lofty goal.
I set my goal for 20lbs and although I was 7lbs short, 12.6lbs is the most weight I have ever gained in one month, making me the heaviest I have ever been. Setting a lofty goal serves more like a vision, it allowed me to really push it and break my previous record. As Bruce Lee once famously said:
Well folks, it’s the third annual Mass March, the month when only the manliest of men take 30 days to pack on as much as lean muscle as we can.
It’s all about transformation and putting our bodies’ to the test. People often frown upon it, but for many of us it’s harder to put on weight than it is to lose it. Without further ado, here are this year’s contestants–who will have the iron will this year and be crowned the Mass March Champion of 2014?
Reigning champ (7.4lbs)
City of residence: Vancouver, BC
Starting weight (March 1st): 76kg (168lbs)
Mass Goal: 4.5kg (10lbs)
Motivation: “Defending the title!”
Diet: Simple. Calories in > Calories Expended. 5000 calories per day, with a few clever natural supplements to establish a bit of an edge.
Workout: 5-3-1 protocol (3 weeks of progressively increasing major lifts, with a “deloading week” to prevent plateauing).
City of Residence: Krakow, Poland
Starting Weight (March 1st): 84.2kg (186lbs)
Mass Goal: 3.6kg (8lbs)
Motivation: “Hate what you see in the mirror!”
Diet: Eat healthy, I don’t count calories. Eat when I am hungry. Protein every 3 hours.
Workout: Lift any weight I see for that particular day. I do isolation workouts. Day 1 Arms, Day 2 Chest, Day 3 Back, Day 4, Shoulders, Day 5 Legs. Repeat, no rest days, you get enough rest in your sleep. Abs every other day, no cardio.
City of residence: Winnipeg, Canada
Starting weight (March 1st): 96kg (212lbs)
Mass Goal: 6.8kg (15lbs)
Motivation: “Live to lift, love to eat, bump the beats and pray for gains.”
Diet: Backload, Warrior style diet, No Carbs in the AM to up regulate fat burning and heighten insulin sensitivity, Carbs during/prior to training, Mini Skipload’s (Eat as much high GI carbs in a 3hr window) when I feel flat or the pump is lacking at the gym (usually EoD due to very physical job), Protein from Eggs/Beef/Chicken/Fish, Low GI Carbs from Yams/Whole Oats/Jasmine Rice, Fats from Free Range Whole Eggs/Fish Oil/Coconut Oil, Skiploads include Chips/Pop tarts/Children’s cereal/Baked Treats/Chocolate Rasins pretty much anything high GI while watching fat content.
Workout: No days off, 4 day split, Legs/Arms/Chest+shoulder/Back rinse an repeat, MTUT, Tension over time, resistance bands, chains, heavy weight, high volume, reverse sets, foam rolling, 10-12k speed walk 5 days a week. The pump is the cure!
City of residence: Vancouver, British Columbia
Starting weight (March 1st): 178 lbs
Mass Goal: 3lbs of muscle; playing it loose with total mass goal
Motivation: “‘Ishes don’t care about cardio!”
Diet: Eggs in the morning, EVOO in the shake, skim milk and trail mix all day, red/white meat at night
Workout: Four no-excuse-are-you-a-hunk-or-not early morning workouts per week (+regular squash, soccer, football, dball intramurals) TIME TO GO TO WERKWERKGOTOWERKK. Push-pulls, legs and shoulder/arms/abs.
Mass March 2012 Champ (11.8lbs)
City of residence: Vancouver, British Columbia
Starting weight (March 1st): 68.5kg (151lbs)–yeah, hot yoga will do that to you
Mass Goal: 9kg (20lbs)–20lbs or bust!
Motivation: “Changing your body allows you to understand your body, which, in turn, allows you to understand yourself.”
Diet: Eat ridiculous amounts of food. Cycled with low-cal days, high-cal days, and fasting days.
Workout: Training like a Warrior; 5 days a week; following GSP’s program, because UFC fighters know a thing or two about how to put on muscle fast.
I honestly never thought I’d say this, but I’m officially a fan of hot yoga.
Ever since yoga became a mainstream leisure activity, I frowned upon it, judged those who did it, and borderline resented it. I was dragged into it a few times throughout my university days and found it to be unbearably boring and uncomfortable.
That has since changed…
On Monday I started a 2-Week Hot Yoga Challenge; hot yoga every morning from 6:30-7:30am for 12 days straight. Today marked day 6, the official halfway point of the challenge, and I have nothing but positive things to say about it.
1. Flexibility, Mobility, and Energy
This is the cliché of yoga, which had previously annoyed me. I figured that just being active and stretching a few times a week would save you the dreaded “namastes” on a mat for an hour. However, as I reached the ripe age of 25 I found myself behind a desk for much of the day and my youthful limberness was leaving me rapidly. Gym sessions after work became torturous the morning after and weekend sports? Forget about it.
My body was taking a beating from my active lifestyle and all of a sudden crushing weights at the gym was no longer the solution (not that it had been for my women issues, but a man can dream, right?). My lower back was constantly stiff, sending a chain reaction of pain and misery down to my lower body. I can honestly say that only 6 days in yoga has really alleviated that tightness. My flexibility has improved immensely and my general gait has regained that bounce. As for the energy, that leads me to the second point…
2. The 5am Club
Nearly every self-help book out there always hammers in the fact that the most successful people wake up at 5am. World renowned motivational speaker Robin Sharma coins it as “The 5am Club”. It was something I considered trying, but the yoga challenge has finally given me that excuse to do it. The first morning was tough, but after that, it’s a breeze. Seriously. The only hard part is getting to bed at 9:30pm, but how many productive things do you actually do between 9pm and midnight?
Waking up at 5am is liberating, but also paradoxical in the sense that waking up early makes you feel less tired throughout the day. It’s that feeling of accomplishment–that you’ve done something before most people have even got out of bed. By knocking out that first positive in the morning, you’re just cruising throughout the day. At least that’s how I feel.
3. The Finer Details
Yes, it’s true what they say. As a guy, yoga is pretty awesome because you’re surrounded by fit, attractive women. Wearing skin tight clothing. Doing poses that you thought only existed on late night television…
Needless to say, I’m looking forward to week two and encourage all those who haven’t yet done it, to seriously give yoga a try.
After 3 months, here are my figures for the end of December (see original post HERE)
1. Bench Press – 175 (15 pound increase)
2. Military Press – 120 (20 pound increase)
3. Squat – 250 (30 pound increase)
4. Deadlift – 260 (30 pound increase)
Supplements taken for the first 3 months of the program have been whey protein, BCAAs, L-Glutamine, and a pharmaceutical grade Creatine Monohydrate, prepared by my brother, a registered pharmacist.
Creatine is a naturally occurring substance produced by the body’s liver and helps to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides the energy for muscle contractions. Also found in foods such as meat and fish or in supplement form, creatine is known to improve strength, increase lean muscle mass, and help the muscles recover more quickly during exercise. It is used by top tier athletes and is now being tested as a treatment for heart ailments and neuromuscular disorders.
The most important things of the strength challenge (aside from the creatine of course):
Invest in at least one private lesson with a personal trainer and go over the form for all the lifts and some good warm-up exercises to reduce risk of injury and increase performance.
The last week of every month is called “de-loading” and it is astonishingly hard to go to the gym and do 5 reps at a weight that doesn’t even a break a sweat. Trust me, it will pay dividends.
Strength gains are a long road and it’s important to stay focused on form and mental toughness. Don’t go too fast or you’ll injure yourself; but don’t go too slow or you won’t make progress. Find that steady increase which works for you.
I think one of my favourite parts about fitness is the linear transparency it has.
There are countless things in life where people say “what you put in is what you get out,” but in reality, it’s usually not true, as there are numerous variables that must be accounted for.
Fitness, on the other hand, allows things to be planned and regimented to the most minute details and does well to remove a substantial amount of those variables. It’s one of the few things in life where you can set your goal, plan your course of action, and then achieve it. Achieving one’s goal is a phenomenal feeling and results in the desire and motivation to succeed in other facets of life. Success breeds success, which is why fitness is so important in one’s daily life.
For the better part of the past decade, my main goals in fitness have revolved around “gaining” (a.k.a. putting on weight, preferably in the form of lean muscle mass). Very aesthetic focused, less-focused on strength and performance. A debilitating knee injury a few years ago caused my priorities to shift more onto performance and less on aesthetics. Since then I’ve slowly phased out the bodybuilding regimens for more athlete-catered, full-body workouts.
This brings me to my current goal: Strength.
“Use your BODY every way you can, it is the greatest instrument you will EVER own.”
-Baz Luhrman (Sunscreen)
The human body is a remarkable thing. Why not push it and see what it can really do?
The Quest for SuperHuman Strength Gains
The regimen is inspired by Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 as seen HERE
The 5-3-1 is rather simple, focusing on FOUR movements. I have provided my training maximums for the “Big 4” when I started the program in October:
1. Bench Press – 160lbs
2. Military Press – 100lbs
3. Squat – 220lbs
4. Deadlift – 230lbs
The program requires 4 workouts a week, with each day based around the ONE compound movement, then followed up with other exercises of your choice, usually to compliment it. For example, on Squat day I will perform the squats as per the 5-3-1 regimen, and then finish the day with a superset of 1-legged squats, box jumps, and single leg dead lifts (all leg movements). That way I can be fully rested for chest day, if I wanted to do it the day after. The goal is to lift as much as possible, so the key is to not get carried away. Focus on the big lifts, the others are just extra.
What separates this program from all the others I’ve done in the past is its longevity. In order to see drastic strength increases, you need to put in the time. 5-3-1 is designed to be a year-long program, with steady strength increases over the course of 12 months. This may seem “less drastic,” however, a 10-pound increase each month for a year results in a 120-pound strength gain–very drastic indeed. I’m used to doing 1-month programs; the discipline for a year will be, bar none, the hardest part of this strength challenge for me.
After 4 intense weeks I finally finished the DTP program. It was very different from my previous routine but I loved it! I gained muscle and lost fat resulting in
I started the program at 178lbs and ended at 184lbs. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to calculate my body fat % at the beginning of the program, however, a few days after I finished (post 2 nights of drinking and binge eating!) I ended with 12.5% body fat. I did stick to every workout, and my diet was generally healthy. That being said, there were one or two nights out with alcohol and a couple cheat meals. I was impressed with my results and I would definitely recommend this program to anyone who has either hit a plateau or just wants a fresh change.
What I liked about the program:
The workouts were short but very intense
I could see improvements after each week (increasing weights for exercises)
Very simple to follow, and minimal equipment was required
Foam rolling significantly improved my legs, specifically calf definition which has always been a problem for me
Leg day was my favourite day, just because I have never pushed myself that hard even when I was doing squats
What I didn’t like about the program
There wasn’t anything truly negative about the program. Certain aspects of the program take time to adjust to; you have to be accommodating if you want to follow the program strictly.
The cardio sessions significantly increased my appetite, I woke up and ate 1 or 2 times in the middle of the night almost every night. This got a little annoying…
I don’t like going to the gym just for 20 minutes of cardio and not lifting weights, I felt like I could do so much more since I was already there but I didn’t
Chest and back on the same day, I did see results in the end, but I am stubborn and will return to splitting them
The day after each workout the specific muscle groups were very sore, the exercises really isolated each muscle group which was fantastic. My legs were constantly sore for the 4 weeks because of the cardio on rest days. No joke, it was a struggle to get out of bed a few times.
The mental aspect:
The absolute requirement for this program is a hard work ethic. This might sound cheesy but it’s true. To really gain muscle the last sets and reps count the most. DTP forces you to go to failure every set, at a specific amount of reps. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to drop a weight so badly because my muscles were sore. However, with a specific rep target, I forced myself to that number every time. I know a few years ago if I were to do this, I would have probably called it quits way before hitting that target, which would mean less gains. To be honest, your not working hard enough unless your making some weird faces or letting out a grunt when reaching failure. Why do you think you hear tennis players grunting after each swing of their Racquet; it’s because they are working their asses off.
More specifics for the nerd
Before DTP, I was lifting heavy, with long rest times. DTP is a mix of lifting heavy, with high reps and short rest times. The whole idea behind DTP is to put your body into shock, making it adjust and grow in response to the shock. Let me explain:
Essentially, muscles contain two types of fibers, slow-twitch (Type 1) and fast-twitch (Type 2a + 2b)
Slow-twitch fibers help to sustain your muscles over a long activity period, these provide fatigue resistance. ex. marathon runners.
Fast-twitch fibers generate a high amount of force in a short period of time. ex. sprinters
If like me, you constantly do a high weight and low number of reps with a long break, the primary fibers strained are the fast-twitch fibers. This leaves the slow-twitched fibers unstressed. So why train the slow-twitch fibers? Well, training more muscle fibers means greater overall gains in strength and muscle mass. That is the goal of this program. By increasing the amount of reps, and decreasing the rest time, you start to strain your slow-twitched fibers. This will allow them to grow along side your fast-twitch fibers.
Overall I would give this a program a 9/10 rating, just because nothing is perfect. I will definitely be doing this again, but for now it’s time to get cutting, Ibiza in 3 weeks!
I’m halfway through my “Training Like an Olympian” challenge, with one more week to go. I have to admit, it’s gruelling and, at times, even painful–but it’s strangely addicting. It’s a different kind of hard work, but one which is very satisfying and productive. It’s been tough to balance everything, especially meals, which must be consumed in large quantities and frequently. I am loving the meals I’ve been making though, healthy and hearty to keep me fuelled through the day’s various workouts.
I’ll be honest, I’ve had to take a couple maintenance days, including a nice relaxing weekend on the lake. I came out a little Gung Ho at the start, fired up by the Olympic fever and the great montages that come with it. I had to pump the brakes after my body was screaming mercy and injury seemed imminent. Listening to your body is key, especially when you’re not used to working out for 4+ hours a day. If I’m feeling good I’ll do a gym and track workout, otherwise I’ll only do one.
After speaking with actual high calibre athletes and trainers, there is one thing which can and must be done the most: Foam Rolling. It hurts like hell, but is absolutely crucial to keep muscles limber and to speed-up recovery. They perform what is called Myofascial Release, which lengthens the connective tissue between muscles, bones, and nerves/blood vessels. The result is increased flexibility, range of motion, and circulation/blood flow. Sounds pretty good? It is, but not without a considerable amount of pain. Good pain, that is.
Bonus: Who is the hottest woman on the track?
Another great draw of the Olympics is the phenomenal bodies that grace the games. I’m torn between two of the most gorgeous women to step foot on the track: Lolo Jones and Jessica Ennis. Lolo has always been my number 1, but there’s just something so appealing about a chick who breaks records, wins gold, and, like Ennis, looks great in the process.
Let’s be honest, we’re all fired up about the London 2012 Olympics. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Olympics; it truly is the most monumental event for the whole world to behold. I see it as a corner stone of human civilization, as it brings all of the planet’s countries together to compete in various acts of human sport and competition. It is a symbol of peace, patriotism but also human spirit and potential.
In wake of these Olympics and to pay my respect for all the incredible athletes, I am going to attempt to train and live like an Olympic athlete for the duration of the games (until Sunday August, 2012).
Here is an example of British sprinter Christian Malcolm’s daily regiment (taken from MensHealth.com)
8am Wake up
8.15am Supplements. A glass of greens and a protein shake, along with a few Brazil nuts
8.30am Breakfast. A bowl of porridge plus bacon, spinach, onions and tomatoes cooked together. Peppermint tea.
Training tip A new study published in the journal Cell Metabolism found a small dose of inorganic nitrate, abundant in spinach, improves the efficiency of the mitochondria in your cells, which means your muscles require less oxygen and can work harder for longer.
10.30am-12pm Morning training. 45 minutes of warm-up drills. Over 60 metres do high-knee runs, A skips, B skips and ankle work. This is to ensure the mechanics of your movement is perfect. Then it’s on to the main session…
Sprint 30 metres as fast as you can. Rest for two minutes.
Sprint for 40 metres as fast as you can. Rest for two minutes
Sprint for 50 metres as fast as you can. That’s one set. Rest for three minutes then do four more.
Training tip Life might be a marathon not a sprint, but to boost your longevity, favour 26 metres over 26 miles. New research from Denmark found it’s intensity rather than duration of exercise that adds the biggest chunk of time to your lifespan: intense cyclists add 5.3 years more than gentle pedallers.
2. Overhead shot throws
Grab a medicine ball (or a 7kg shot-put, if you have one handy) and do five overhead throws backwards. Then five forwards. Then five backwards with a hop. Then five forwards with a hop.
12.05pm Post-workout super shake, containing protein, nuts, spinach, flaxseed, blueberries, blackberries, banana, almond butter and a dash of coconut oil.
Training tip A recent study published in the journal Diabetes found adding coconut oil to your diet helps to protect against insulin resistance and thus lowers your risk of gaining weight and developing diabetes.
1pm Lunch. Chicken with rice, broccoli, tomatoes, onions, peppers and beans.
2pm-4pm Gym session. Cleans, single leg cleans, bench presses, single leg squats – lots of compound moves, working on explosive power, rather than building muscle mass: 12 sets of 2-3 reps. Taking on amino acids mixed with a scoop of liquid carbs and electrolytes throughout.
Training tip “Taking branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) during training you increase the release of anabolic (regenerative) hormones and reduce the amount of catabolic (degenerative) hormones,” says personal trainer Phil Learney.
4.05pm Down another super shake.
4.30pm Massage or a hot bath with Epsom salts.
5pm Afternoon snack. Handful of Brazil nuts and walnuts.
Training tip Researchers at the American Chemical Society recently discovered walnuts contain almost double the amount of antioxidants of any other nut.
7.30pm Dinner. Steak with rice and salad.
Training tip Choose brown rice over white to fortify your ticker. It contains components which combat the endocrine protein Angiotensin II, responsible for encouraging the hardening of arteries and high blood pressure, according to recent research from the Cardiovascular Research Center and Department of Physiology at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, USA.
9pm Before bed protein shake. Whey protein with almonds and Brazil nuts.
10-11pm Bedtime. Nine or 10 hours kip is the minimum required for proper recovery.
As much as I’d like to tell myself I could do that, there’s no possible way I can safely jump into such a routine. These are world-class athletes who have spent a lifetime working themselves to such an elite level. I want to push myself, but avoid injury, so I have customized my own daily regiment as follows:
6:15am: Supplement Shake (Greens, Protein Powder, Hemp Seeds)
6:30-7:30am: Bike to Track Oval for Sprinting Training
11:00pm: Bed (full 7 hours rest, but with a little luck, I’ll sneak in a power nap at work)
The Olympic Games a true test of human spirit, I will attempt to spend 2 weeks like these incredible Olympians spend decades of their lives. Of course, I will still give myself a little bit of “Usain Bolt” leeway on the weekends (see: Partying to Keep your Mind at Ease).
Well, it was a long and gluttonous March for both Deep Dan and myself, but at the end of it all there had to be a winner and a loser. With a total gain of 11.8 pounds versus Deep Dan’s 8 pounds, I managed to take this challenge by a 3.8 pound decision.
Now I have never gained anything even close to that amount in one month, but in the pursuit of New Age Heroics, I stuck to a strict regiment of approximately 4,000 calorie days, only 1.5 hours of gym time, and consistent sleep patterns. I knew Dan was pushing hard too, but luckily I had a little more weight to gain in the first place. I have provided before and after pictures, as well as weight and bodyfat measurements, so that you can get an idea of how much muscle we gained compared to sheer fat.
February 29th 152lbs
March 30th 163.8lbs (11.8lbs gained)
15% bodyfat (.2% lost)
February 29th 190lbs
March 30th 198lbs (8lbs gained)
15% bodyfat (.7% gained)
One of the most surprising results of bulk-up was the change in bodyfat (or lack there of). Now, I’m pretty certain that my “.2%” bodyfat loss is simply a degree of error in our home caliper testing. However, with Deep Dan’s similarly minimal change in bodyfat percentage in comparison to the weight gained, it can be inferred that our bulk was considerably clean. We stayed away from bread, and fast/fried foods (with the exception of a double down on my part, but hey, a cheat day never hurt anyone), obtaining most of our calories from dairy, eggs, nuts, meat, grains, etc. By staying true and consistent to our workout regiments, we ensured that our muscles stayed hungry and elicited gains dominantly in the form of muscle mass. The before and after photos may not be staggering, but I did go up a size in jeans.
So, there you have it, the end of Mass March. Thanks for following, get ready to take part next year, we might just make it an annual event. For now, I’m glad to return to a normal diet without force feeding, digestive naps, and raw eggs before bed..
Stay tuned as we bring forth new heroic frontiers!
This month Deep Dan and myself will be attempting different, individual challenges, to be announced this week.