Article last updated: December 2018 by Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer
I clean myself and find my measurement type to take 5 measurements:
Once I’ve taken my measurements I step on my scale and weigh myself.
I perform this routine every Sunday morning, and the outcome sets the tone for the day.
Today, the outcome was very good.
In the past 6 weeks I’ve made the following progress:
- Waist: -0.56″
- Shoulders: +1.17″
- Chest: +2.28″
- Arms: +0.28″
I gained sized all over my upper body, while keeping my waist tight.
This is all a result of doing a short cycle of cutting followed by a short cycle of bulking.
In this article, I will first show you how my measurements changed on a weekly basis and yearly basis, and then take you through my diet and training routine used to achieve this progress.
6 Weeks of Gaining Size While Staying Lean
The picture above shows the recent “progress” I’ve made.
I emphasised progress, because it’s not 100% REAL progress.
The before picture represents me after several weeks of focusing on hard cardio training and experimenting with a diet that was lower in fat but higher in carbs.
I had lost some size and “fullness” because I was training for the obstacle run, Toughest.
Toughest requires a high amount of endurance, therefore I had to focus my training around cardio to get a decent time.
This in turn resulted in me eating more carbs to fuel those training sessions.
In the beginning, it was all okay. I felt good and didn’t lose much size, but once the event was over, I felt fatigued and couldn’t perform my regular gym sessions.
I slowly started losing size, and had to take it easy for a few weeks at the gym to let my body recover.
However, once I was recovered (around 12-15 October 2014), I decided to go back to my regular training and eating, and that’s when I made some VERY good progress.
You can see the progress below…
3 weeks of cutting and 3 weeks of bulking:
Things to keep in mind
- The first 3 weeks (12 Oct. 14 to 03 Nov. 14 were spent cutting. The final 3 weeks were spent bulking).
- All measurements are REAL. I didn’t add an inch here or there to make myself “look” better.
- All measurements are taken without a gym pump. A gym pump can easily add an inch to your measurements.
- I don’t hold any fat in my shoulders, chests and arms, therefore the measurements represent my LEAN mass in those places.
- I measured arms flexed to get an idea of the muscle I gained. The rest of my measurements were taken in a relaxed state.
- Finally, my newest measurements were all taken with no carbs in my system since I ate low carb yesterday, and took them before breakfast today. (Carbs can add a good amount of size to your measurements too).
In other words, those are legit lean measurements, and show the exact progress I made as an advanced lifter in just 6 weeks of training.
If you’re a beginner or intermediate, you can probably make much better progress.
Progress summary for 6 weeks:
- Bodyweight: -1lb.
- Waist: -0.56″
- Hips: 0
- Shoulders: +1.17″
- Chest: +2.28″
- Arms: +0.28″
Measurements Do Not Tell The Whole Story
If you compare the change in measurements with the change in my physique, you probably think that this is bullshit.
The only measurement that changed a lot was my chest measurement, while the others barely changed.
This is because after a certain point in your training, it takes an extremely small amount of “change” to go from “normal” to “ripped”.
When I lose a quarter inch of size around my arms it is visible.
Once you combine that with a 1 inch loss around the shoulders, a 2 inch loss around the chest and some fat gains here and there the physique can change dramatically!
This is why I train for hypertrophy like a bodybuilder with high reps and many sets, rather than focusing on endurance and strength.
When I train for performance I lose that small edge that makes me look like I lift.
Furthermore, you have to keep in mind that I lost some size prior to those 6 weeks, so part of those gains were simply a result of me regaining the muscle I had prior to that.
Regaining muscle is much easier than gaining it in the first place because of “muscle memory”. If you used to carry a given amount of muscle mass at one point, you can quickly regain it.
This can be seen by looking at the change in my arm size between 09 Nov. 2014 and 16 Nov. 2014. During this time-frame I gained almost 0.5″ around my arms in just 1 week.
This gain is actually just me regaining the muscle I had prior to the obstacle run. I regained it quickly by going back to training my arms with Serge Nubret Pump Training.
Finally, I also started training my obliques (muscles on the side of your waist), just to see how it will look one me.
I originally didn’t train them, since they make your waist wider, but I figured that training them may give me a tighter waistline with a more visible adonis belt.
This has shown to be the case. I gained muscle around my waist, yet my waist measurement still dropped with 0.56″, therefore, the loss in waist size understates the amount of fat I lost there.
The muscle I gained around my waist is the reason to why my waist looks much tighter now despite an insignificant change in my waist measurement.
To sum this up, there were small factors that ended up affecting my measurements, however one thing is 100% certain:
I’m much bigger around my chest now than I have ever been, and my abs have never been so visible at the end of my bulks.
The biggest my chest had ever been to this bulking cycle was 44″. Now it’s 45.28″!
Small Gains Add Up
The section above shows why I have a hard time telling you how much muscle you can gain in X amount of weeks.
It depends on so many factors!
I can’t even predict it for myself, so how would I predict it for YOU?
However, the point I want to make is that even the smallest gains are GOOD.
You should be proud of gaining just 1 inch around your chest or shoulders during a bulk, and a quarter inch on your arms.
During the past 6 weeks I trained my ass off 4-6 days a week, spent almost 1000$ on food and cooked daily.
In other words, I spent most of my evenings on cooking/training/eating and most of my money on food.
This is a big sacrifice, but this is what it took me to gain 1.28″ around my chest, so I’m proud of that 1.28″.
For some of you, that may sound insane, but that’s why you need to find a way to train and eat that you enjoy.
I only eat meals I enjoy and I train in a way that is enjoyable. This is the only way I can get in enough quality food and enough quality training sessions during my bulks to grow.
Furthermore, you want to keep in mind that small gains add up.
In the past 6 weeks, I gained an inch here and there, but how about the entire year?
My progress in 2014
- Bodyweight: +7lbs.
- Waist: +1.19″
- Hips: +1″
- Shoulders: 2.17″
- Chest: +3.94″
- Arms: +0.28″
As you can see in the picture, the difference in my physique is not huge, but it is still visible.
My upper body is slightly bigger all over while my abs are slightly more visible.
This is the type of progress I aim for each year.
I want to get bigger in the right places, while keeping my waist tight.
Lessons I’ve Learned In My 5th Year of Training
The progress picture above shows the progress I’ve made in my 5th year of training (so far).
Ironically, that progress is better than the progress I made in my first year:
This shows that the whole idea of “after 2 years of natural training you will make minimal gains” is bullshit.
This idea is bullshit, because it lacks context.
Yes, your measurements may not change much after the first 2 years of your training, but those small changes that occur are VERY visible.
Once you go past through a certain point in your training, those small quarter-1 inch gains become really visible – especially if you stay lean.
The reasoning for this is that going from having no muscle mass to an average amount of muscle mass is NOT impressive, however once you go beyond the point of average it starts looking pretty damn good!
Another important thing to keep in mind is that after you have built a base of strength, you need to train and eat like a bodybuilder if you want to continue growing.
There’s a reason to why bodybuilders train with high reps and many sets for the pump: it works. This is by far a faster way to gain muscle than training heavy with 1-3 reps.
I found that doing around 10 quality reps with maximum 1 minute rest between sets is best for muscle gains on most exercises.
Furthermore, you want to find a few exercises for each muscle group, and get really good at those.
I have about 2 exercises for each muscle which I love doing because I never get the bad kind of pain from them, and I feel the muscle working very well.
When I consistently do my favorite exercises I progress in my training. Whenever I start doing new exercises and forget the basics, it goes the other way.
Finally, you want to be strategic about your training. If you bulk and make some good gains in 3 weeks, don’t get greedy and keep going for another 4-5 weeks.
When you get greedy you end up putting on too much fat, and that will set you back over the long term since you will have to cut for longer!
This is what happened with me over the summer.
I ate too much while bulking, and I kept pushing myself at the gym to gain more muscle, but after a certain point, the gains start going to your waist instead of muscles.
It took me several months to cut off the excess fat and “reset” my body for bulking again.
Be proud but stay hungry,