Going from skinny to buff can be not only a challenge, but simply an impossible task for many young guys. That’s why when I recently saw the transformation of a young guy who started out pretty skinny and managed to train his way to a respectable physique. I asked him, Vaclav Gregor, to share his story which reminded me of the transformation of Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker in the 2002 Spiderman movie.
Vaclav Gregor: It was May 2007 and after months of thinking about it I finally decided to go to the gym. Or at least check how it all works in there. The first day I had to go with my friend, because I was pretty scared of all the big guys who are going to be there.
The first day was pretty simple, I went there, saw all the scary machines, barbells and dumbbells. However, I was determined to start going to the gym, so I asked what I need in order to start working out and went home. Two days later me and my friend finally went to the gym to have our first workout.
We asked the staff to show us which machines should we use (yes we thought machines are the best way to build muscles, but hell it was our first day), how many reps and sets should we do per each exercise, what body parts to train in each session and how to breath during the lift.
I was used to playing lots of sports, but lifting weights was something completely new to me and the stress that this movement with additional weights had on my body was enormous. My muscles were completely shocked.
I was sore for the next two weeks, just from this single workout session. But that was to be expected, because I was only 15 at that time and like I said I never lifted weights in my life. I was weak, without any natural strength and lacking muscle mass big time.
From Skinny to Buff – the Beginning
The first three months were just an introduction to weight lifting and meant basically getting comfortable with the weights. I learned how to breathe correctly and I started evaluating my strength better. Meaning I was better at picking up the right weights to the lifts based on the give amount of sets and reps.
I was going to the gym twice a week and doing full body circuits, one exercise per body part, three sets with ten reps. This would not be so bad for the beginner level in the early age.
First there is no timing of your rest time. Second in my early training days I was lead to believe that machines are better because they are safe and easier. Well, I was wrong. Machines are the worst thing to work out with.
And not only this, my lifting technique was also terrible. I was going to failure, lifting more than I should and not doing a full movement. Today I could have way more muscle mass if I knew what I know today back then.
I remember that when I was doing a bench press my friend did more work on his bicep than I did on my chest. It was just pathetic.
From Skinny to Buff – Working Out vs. Training
It always makes me cry when I see guys doing the same mistakes over and over again. From my friend John Barban I learnt that there are two types of guys who go to the gym. The first group goes there to work out and lift weights and the second group goes there to train.
My guess is that you don’t really see a difference between two groups and words like weight lifting, working out and training sounds the same to you. Well, for me they are not.
Going to the gym to work out and lift weights means that you don’t care about the workout and what effect it has on your body. You want to push something heavy on the bench press and see your biceps pumped from the curls in the mirror. This is how 96% of guys spend time the gym.
They go there to have fun, to improve their ego by trying to lift enormous weights while having their buddies sweating blood from helping them push the bar up. Then they rest for ten minutes and go do few sets of bicep curls to failure followed by some stupid crunches.
I know one thing for certain, if this is how you would describe your workout day, you are preventing yourself from building a good looking body. Here are few steps to correct this:
- Go to the gym with purpose of training not just working out. This little shift changes a lot. If you treat your workouts like this, they will suddenly have a purpose, become important, you will make sure you do everything right.
- Time your rest periods, usually something around 60-120 seconds works the best, it really depends on the workout intensity, but it’s a good start to take a timer and just have 90 seconds rest periods.
- Don’t use machines if you work out for longer than three months. If you already know the gym environment, go and pick some dumbbells and barbell. Free weights are the way to masculine body, not some fancy machines you see on TV.
- Get a workout that is designed around these principles, if you don’t have years of training experience, let somebody else who already does design your workouts, just make sure they know their stuff.
If you don’t look the way you want, it may not be your fault, nobody taught you how to train or eat. However, it’s now your responsibility to learn how to do all this to get a killer looking body. Nobody else will, you have to do the work to get the reward.
I worked out with no workout plan, without timing my rest and with terrible form for almost three years. And surprisingly enough, I looked the same. After three years of going regularly to the gym.
There was definitely something wrong. At first I thought that there must be something wrong with me. I said to myself: I’m working out like everybody else, but I still look the same, so there must be something wrong with me and I must have screwed up genetics, right? WRONG.
I May Not Have the Genetics of Arnold
but that doesn’t mean I can’t build a masculine body. It was something else. After weeks of self-pity and bitching about my crappy genetics, something shifted inside my mind and I decided to give this one more chance.
If what I am doing is not working, I must try something else. So, is instead of reading bodybuilding magazines, talking to personal trainers and spending time on bodybuilding forums I took a different approach.
I started studying biology and anatomy. I started talking to women about what muscles are attracted on men. I started researching different workout styles, especially those that are under the radar of the average fitness enthusiasts.
And instead of following advice from bodybuilders, who have exceptional genetics and are on steroids are decided to follow advice from a friend of mine who looked like an action movie star and always have his gorgeous girlfriend waiting for him after the workout.
I made friends with few female models and got into discussion with them about masculine guys. I started learning from guys who have about 15 years of experience, knew the behind doors stuff in professional bodybuilding and supplement industry. I got a workout that has very strict structure and was mainly focused on shoulders and back. After following a completely different approach I transformed my body immensely.
On the before photo I already had about three years of workout experience. However, I looked exactly the same as I did three years before taking that shot.
What to Do to Go From Skinny to Buff
It may or may not come as a surprise to you, but professional bodybuilders are not really attractive to women. I doubt that Alessandra Ambrosio fancy Jay Cutler and I also doubt that Megan Fox spends her days by thinking about Ronnie Coleman. This is just not how it works.
If you take a closer look at what is physically attractive on guys, you will notice that the guys who have the natural masculine body have dominant shoulders, and back muscles. And also happen to date the most gorgeous women.
If you want to build a good looking body, try to aim for the look that natural fitness models, swimmers, gymnasts, action movie stars have. The body shape that is shoulder dominant.
In my muscle building journey I have learnt that if you structure your workout around shoulders, back and chest you will be amazed by the results and will build the body you want. Let’s say you have a workout plan for three days a week, here is how it can look like:
- Monday: Biceps/Shoulders/Chest/Abs
- Wednesday: Triceps/Shoulders/Back/Abs
- Friday: Legs/Shoulders/Chest/Abs
And here is an example of a Monday workout session:
- Barbell Curl (3 sets x 8 reps x 90 sec rest)
- Hammer Curl(2 sets 12 reps x 70 sec rest)
- Military Press (5 sets x 8 reps x 90 sec rest)
- Barbell High Pull (3 sets x 8 reps x 90 sec rest)
- Incline Dumbbell Press (4 sets x 10 reps x 80 sec rest)
- Flat Dumbbell Flye (3 sets x 14 reps x 60 sec rest)
This is just an example of a workout structure, there are many variations, but I recommend this one as a starter. You can use this structure and apply it on all of your workout sessions yourself or you can get somebody else to do it for you. My advice is to find somebody who looks the way you want to look and get his workout.
Yavor: All right guys, I would like to thank Vaclav for sharing his experience. If you would like to know more about his training, you can visit his site Muscle Pyramid and also subscribe to his Newsletter. Most guys I’ve seen in gyms who have Vaclav’s genetics end up quitting working out altogether, finding getting from skinny to buff impossible. It’s awesome that Vaclav persevered and finally got in shape instead of quitting.