I am 10lbs heavier in the picture on the right.
Useful Links: July 2019 Update | One Month Update | Three Months Update
I haven’t written a “bulk update” since July 2019 because there was nothing new to add. I continued to eat, gain weight at what I considered an appropriate pace, train hard, and learn more about myself as a lifter, which helped me design better and better programs for myself overtime.
No one likes to read a story that starts well and ends well, so I figured I would wait until something interesting came along.
Well, what came along was a world-wide pandemic and an order from the British government to maintain social distance and stay at home as much as possible.
My gym and all others in the UK closed down at the same time as many other fitness facilities across the world.
I haven’t done a home workout since September 2018, when I moved from London to Portsmouth, went back to university, and joined a local commercial gym. At the time, I was only three months into serious lifting, so a pair of adjustable dumbbells still posed an adequate challenge to my strength.
I am a bit further along my training career now, so, at first, working out at home felt like a problem rather than a solution.
How was I going to make progress? Was I going to make progress? How much would I eat?
Read on to find out what I chose to do and why.
When I switched from a fat loss phase to building muscle in 2018, my goal was very generic: “I want to build muscle (duh).”
More recently, my objective has taken a more defined shape.
When I began lifting seriously and started a fat loss diet for the first time since physically recovering from an eating disorder, I weighed 114.6lbs at 5” of height. I didn’t have overweight or obesity, but I was out of shape, with a lot more fat mass than muscle mass.
My current goal is to reach 114lbs again, only with a different body composition.
If my training approach and diet have been effective, then I will be able to achieve more muscle mass and less body fat at the same bodyweight.
For full transparency, I have been on testosterone therapy for four weeks in order to transition from female to male.
Testosterone is supposed to change my ratio of muscle mass to body fat, as males tend to have more of the former and less of the latter compared to females. However, these effects should not occur so soon since the beginning of therapy, although this is based on genetics.
Nevertheless, at the top of this post you can see a set of “before” and “after” photos taken before I got my first dose of testosterone. This way, when I eventually post my “before” and “after” photos at 114lbs, you will be able to tell which changes might have been influenced by the therapy, if any.
With my goal and health status in mind, let’s tackle training and nutrition.
First off, I had to overhaul my entire training program.
I live in a rented flat on the top floor of a three-storey building, therefore I am not so fortunate to have a full-blown home gym, but I luckily own the following:
My initial plan was to complete a Primer phase, a period of four weeks during which I did really low-volume training and ate at maintenance, then start another high-volume massing phase in a caloric surplus.
I was one week into said massing phase when the gym closed. After a month spent maintaining, I was really in the mood for gains, so I decided to try to adapt my massing program to the new circumstances instead of going through another maintenance phase.
What proved to be a productive choice for me was to prepare ahead of time.
On Saturday and Sunday – my rest days – I planned my home training for the week ahead. I considered the first week an “Intro Week”, during which my main goals were:
In order to provide enough stimulus for muscles to grow, you need to push each set until you have between four and zero reps left before your muscles fail or your technique breaks down badly.
Considering the low loads available at home, with the guidelines above in mind, I focused on the following:
As a practical example, these are some of the tweaks I made to quad training:
Now that I am halfway through my third week of home training, I have realised that the real challenge is not to design a program that will help me make gains. It is not to miss the gym and the barbell.
However, I couldn’t let myself get demotivated, become complacent, and abandon my goals until the lockdown was lifted.
My current program might not be one I 100% enjoy, but it is one that gets the job done.
It is also a temporary solution.
Once I came to terms with the current situation, I was able to appreciate how fortunate I am to be healthy enough to still train at all and even attempt to pursue my goals of putting on more muscle mass.
Since I stubbornly chose to keep on massing, I also chose to eat in a caloric surplus, albeit a more moderate one than what I would plan for a gym-based program.
This decision was dictated by multiple factors:
With the above factors in mind, a moderate surplus seems like a wise choice unless I start plateauing or losing weight.
Will my training program be effective? Will my diet help me achieve my goals?
Only time will tell. For now, I keep my head high and a positive attitude.
Bodybuilding ambitions aside, training keeps me grounded, disciplined, and sane. I could not ask for anything better right now.
I am also doing my best to help others stay motivated and optimistic through these difficult times. If you want to receive weekly tips on exercises you can do at home and a new free home workout I will be releasing within the next couple of weeks, sign up for my newsletter at the bottom of this page or comment below and I will add you myself.
If you want to connect with me personally, email me or follow and message me on Instagram, where I share plenty of home training tips.
How did you set up your home-based fitness program? If you need help, drop a comment on this post!
A personal trainer who likes bodybuilding, superheroes, and bread.
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